Climate change promises fall short in election

It’s been a disappointing federal election campaign lacking in meaningful policy debate. Instead, voters have heard lots of one-off promises and opponent bashing.

One of the election issues has been climate change policy, but that has been simplistic and misleading.

One of the best one-liners in the televised English language debate was NDP leader Jagmeet Singh referring to Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer as Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately, the debate format is more designed for generating soundbites than it is for any substantive policy debate.

Many voters don’t pay close attention to policy and politics between election campaigns and they don’t spend a lot of time researching party platforms. Instead of casting a vote to choose a direction for the country, the personal appeal of the party leader has an inordinately large influence.

CBC took an interesting approach to election coverage, bringing supposedly undecided voters from across the country into the studio to go one-on-one with each of the party leaders. One exchange with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said a lot about the climate change discussion in this country.

The undecided voter from Atlantic Canada has been experiencing severe flooding on his property each spring and he attributes it to climate change. He wanted to know what a Conservative government would do on the climate change file to ensure that his property wouldn’t flood again next year.

The truthful answer to that question is that no Canadian action on greenhouse gas emissions is going to fix his problem, let alone fix it by next year. In fact, there’s nothing that countries from around the world could do that would guarantee no flooding.

Of course, Scheer couldn’t be that direct in his answers. He did note that CO2 molecules don’t respect international borders, but he had to appear sympathetic to the plight of this undecided voter.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a prairie farmer complaining about the extremes of this growing season and expecting next year to be more normal if only Canada adopts the proper climate change strategy.

Amazingly, a lot of people and probably some farmers make a direct link between Canadian climate change policy and what our weather is going to be in the short term. Of course, the Canadian contribution to worldwide emissions is so miniscule that whatever we do here is largely symbolic.

Some liken climate action to Canada’s contribution to the Second World War. We were a tiny percentage of the allied effort, but we made a big difference. That analogy is compelling, but unlike the war effort, Canadian climate sacrifices are likely to go largely unnoticed.

Isn’t it strange that nuclear power generation, which could play a major role in reducing emissions, isn’t even being discussed? Of course, those most adamant on climate action are also the same crowd most opposed to the nuclear option. And the two main parties aren’t brave enough to even have the discussion.

Climate action is most important for the NDP and the Green Party, but they don’t support GM crops that can play a huge role in growing more with reduced inputs. The NDP, born in Saskatchewan with strong agrarian roots, is out of touch with modern agriculture as they try to out-green the Greens.

Unfortunately, both parties could play a role in propping up a minority government, meaning a larger influence on policy than they deserve based on popular vote.

Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at

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