The story of Bill C-12 is pretty simple. The Liberals proposed a piece of climate accountability legislation that was, like most Liberal climate policy, just ok. It lacked teeth, had a lot of potential to be hijacked by the fossil fuel lobby and delayed the most meaningful action far into the future. Naturally, the NDP, Greens and the Bloc all came forward to criticize the bill and suggest ways it could be made stronger. The Conservatives, eager to change the channel on their reputation as climate deniers, even suggested they might support the bill (provided of course, it included some major concessions to Big Oil).
As the bill moved forwards, things started to shake out.
Various climate action groups across the country began speaking up in support of measures to #StrengthenC12.
The Conservatives turned against the bill because of a successful people-powered campaign against putting oil and gas executives on the Net Zero Advisory body that this bill sought to establish. The NDP and Greens agreed with the idea of climate accountability, but saw the current bill as insufficient. Though the two parties disagreed on the specific measures needed to strengthen the legislation. For the Greens, the bill was so insufficient it needed to be radically rewritten or abandoned altogether. While, for the NDP, the bill was insufficient, but if amended, would at least be better than nothing.
This led the NDP to pursue a deal with the Liberals to change the bill, and led the Greens to pursue a public campaign to call for mass support for their ideas to change it.
Unfortunately for the NDP, this meant making compromises with the Liberals that while improving the bill, still leave it significantly less forceful and binding than climate accountability laws in other countries. For example, while amendments to the bill add a requirement for a near term, 2026 climate target, the bill still lacks serious teeth if a government fails to meet its climate targets. And, while the bill has some stronger language about the climate crisis, it’s still based on Justin Trudeau’s deeply flawed approach to “net-zero” emissions, relying on of unproven techno-fixes and ineffective offset schemes rather than stopping fossil fuel expansion.
Unfortunately for the Greens, their call for mass pressure in favour of Green amendments never materialized into action, and so they come off as just yelling on the sidelines. Unfortunately for all of us, we’re stuck with climate legislation that is, like most Liberal actions, best described as better than a Conservative plan.
Imagine if, instead of a combined 27 seats, the NDP and Greens actually held the balance of power in the House of Commons. If the parties, together, could actually set the terms of debate from the outset. Instead of arguing over amendments and having to go to the Liberals as a junior partner, they could actually set terms well ahead of these debates. Aligned behind a shared vision of a Green New Deal for Canada, they could break us out of the choice between insufficient Liberal climate policies and non-existent Conservative ones.
This is possible. But, it requires the NDP and Greens to take off their partisan blinders and put people and the planet first. That’s exactly what thousands of people across the country are demanding by calling for a Climate Emergency Alliance between the two parties.
If the two parties came together and formed a public Climate Emergency Alliance, they could win over 100 seats in the House of Commons, far more than either party could win alone. And, that projection isn’t based on the flawed idea that votes would simply move from one party to the other, but on a sophisticated model that accounts for second choice voting and a riding by riding climate swing informed by riding level polling.
In an article published on June 2, the NDP and the Greens both slammed the Liberal climate record and, both expressed some regret that Bill C-12 won’t be more ambitious. To Jagmeet Singh, the amendments to C-12 were the best they could get, explaining that “on C-12 we used our position to make it better, that’s the reality… It’s still not what we would do as New Democrats, (but) we took it from where it was and made it better”.
Annamie Paul slammed the Bill, accusing the Liberals and NDP of a backroom deal to push it through, saying the bill “lacks any substance whatsoever that will lead to accountability, (and) it doesn’t match the best practices, or the gold standards of our international partners.” The sad fact is they’re both right, but neither of them have an actual plan to change the Liberal status quo that’s the reason for their comments. Lucky for them, we do. It’s called a Climate Emergency Alliance, and it’s past time that the NDP and Greens took a serious look at why they’re failing to deliver on climate change.
Photo Credit: Allan Lissner