OTTAWA (CCN) — While many positive steps have been taken on poverty reduction and climate change, real action has been deferred to 2018 and subsequent years says Joe Gunn.
“On climate, we think 2018 is a big year,” said the executive director of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ).
Canada has been working with Britain in efforts to phase out coal, Gunn said. “There’s a bit of posturing on Canada’s part, where we haven’t significantly lowered our own emissions yet.”
“We have to show our own best practices at home,” he said. “In 2018, it’s important to see some real gains there, and that has yet to come to reality.”
CPJ had hoped promised government plans for carbon pricing, a key pillar to fight pollution and mitigate climate change, would be in place early in 2018, Gunn said. But the environment minister announced Dec. 20 the plan, which involves the provinces, will go into effect in September.
“Now the market-friendly idea of charging for pollution that will reward good behaviour by companies” has been postponed, even though “80 per cent of Canadians live in provinces already implementing a price on carbon,” Gunn said. “This can is kicked down the road.”
Also Canada’s targets for reducing emissions clash with the approval of billion-dollar projects that rely on fossil fuel production, such as the approval of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline and others.
Some billion-dollar projects will not be going through, either because the government did not approve the project, or, in the case of the Energy East Pipline, its backer, TransCanada, pulled the plug because the approval process got bogged down.
Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Cardus, said it will be important to watch the “balance or tightrope on economic development, the national resource sector and the environment.”
The process of gaining approval of big projects is “not straightforward.”
“How do we go about getting approval in an age of evaluating approval based on how people feel in the absence of rights and wrongs,” he said. “We see it most starkly in the area of pipelines and the environment.”
Getting a license for a project “is no longer straightforward,” once you’ve fulfilled certain obligations, Pennings said. “The rules are changing, and they’re changing quickly and a lot of people are uncertain about what that means.”
It’s also an “age of looking back and apologizing for things done in the past,” he said. “There’s a lot of virtue-signalling and a lot of symbolics.”
Gunn, however, disagrees.
“The old process didn’t work, everybody knew that,” Gunn said. “The government proposal was to make the process a lot easier” by having “one desk where you could go for approvals.”
However, this desk was about “look at more stringent criteria, a range of issues,” such as “the impact of producing fossil fuels on climate change.”
The review was supposed to be “more encompassing,” and include Aboriginal rights, something “absolutely needed,” Gunn said. “How it rolls out in the real world, that’s what we have to see in terms of legislation and how it operates.”
“At least there’s been a consultation process and the report seems to push the right buttons,” Gunn said.
On the issue of Canadian mining overseas, “it looks like the government is moving towards setting up an ombudsman in 2018,” Gunn said. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Development and Peace are among groups that have called for an ombudsman to adjudicate complaints against Canadian companies for environmental and human rights abuses.
Gunn said it is good news the government has announced it will index the Canada Child Benefit to inflation and add $500 million to the Working Income Tax Benefit to enhance the program that helps the working poor.
“What we hoped was having promised poverty reduction plan promised when came to power in 2015,” Gunn said. “That is nowhere to be found yet.”
Public consultations on a plan ended last summer, but there has been no report on it, he said.
“We did hear last week from a staffer we might be able to expect the plan later in 2018. We would certainly hope so.”