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COMMENTARY: Fighting climate change on someone else’s dime

WATCH: One of the top three priorities for voters in this upcoming election is climate change. Priya Sam took to the streets of Toronto to find out voter’s opinions on the issue.

What kind of green matters more to you: the planet or your wallet?

According to the latest Ipsos poll, Canadians will take the cash, thanks.

The poll found that a full 46 per cent of us aren’t willing to spend a single cent to save the planet. Of those who would chip in, only 12 per cent would pony up more than $500 a year — the equivalent of a pair of Leafs tickets. Twenty per cent would spend between $100 and $500 a year — the cost of a couple of spa treatments. And a further 22 per cent would forego dinner for two, for up to $100.

READ MORE: Canadians want to stop climate change — but half don’t want to pay an extra cent, Ipsos poll says

We better hope Greta Thunberg doesn’t see these numbers, or who knows what tirade she will unleash when she visits Montreal this week. But the reality is, when you can’t afford to pay your rent, fix your teeth, or put gas in your car, you aren’t really inclined to splash out on a cooler planet, even if the apocalypse is really around the corner. Which is why the Liberals will crow that their carbon tax is the ticket, because it’s rebated to taxpayers by the federal government. But the reality is, their tax doesn’t just hit gas or home heating prices. When the carbon tax makes it costlier for industry to produce, transport and sell its products, those costs get passed along to the consumer in a myriad of ways. Will a Liberal government really account for every single increase the tax represents, when the party can’t even cost its own platform?WATCH BELOW: Canada’s party leaders on climate change The Conservative approach is to oblige industry to find ways of using less carbon by investing in technology. Those costs will end up being passed along as well, though presumably they will also reduce an industry’s carbon footprint, which a straight-up tax would not. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms of the Liberals’ tax is that it won’t make the planet any cooler, or get Canada closer to its climate goals: it’s just another revenue source for a spend-happy government.And spend it would. Justin Trudeau’s latest promise of the campaign consists of “free” $2,000 camping trips for “less privileged” Canadians. In a photo op reminiscent of his late father, Pierre Trudeau, the Liberal leader canoed up to a podium and announced that the government would create a national “Experience Canada” program to help 75,000 lower-income families spend up to four days in one of Canada’s national or provincial parks every year. Forget reading and writing — every young Canadian needs to now learn the “skills to camp” by Grade 8.WATCH: Trudeau canoes before making announcement in Sudbury, Ont.
Federal Election 2019: Trudeau canoes before making announcement in Sudbury, Ont.
Federal Election 2019: Trudeau canoes before making announcement in Sudbury, Ont.
And you thought the Liberals’ “25 per cent off” cellphone discount was shameless. What’s next, a new Prius in every driveway?Actually, yes. The NDP and Greens’ environmental proposals both include a promise to help voters afford an electric car. The NDP would also create a “climate bank” to increase green energy investments, while the Greens would mandate energy retrofits for all building by 2030. That should do wonders for the affordability crisis in housing, but policy coherency never was the Greens’ strong suit.And speaking of housing, both the Liberals and Conservatives are also promising green retrofit programs — the Liberals in the form of an interest-free loan of up to $40,000, the Conservatives in the form of a 20 per cent refundable tax credit on green renovations costing between $1,000 and $20,000. Time to get new windows, folks, and have someone else pay for them. A report from the parliamentary budget office estimated the Tories’ measure would cost the federal government a total of $1.8 billion until 2021-22.READ MORE: Here’s what Trudeau, Scheer, May and Singh have promised so far on climate changeThe remaining two parties offer a cheaper approach. The Bloc Quebecois wants to end fossil fuel subsidies and give Quebec a veto over any pipelines in that province. As for the People’s Party of Canada, its leader Maxime Bernier once described carbon dioxide as “food for plants,” so he’s pretty much locked down the climate change denier vote.
While Canadians say they won’t spend their own money fighting climate change, it remains to be seen whether they’ll take their neighbour’s money to do so. At least, that’s what most of the political parties are banking on. Green plans indeed.
Weep, Greta, for the whole sorry spectacle.

Tasha Kheiriddin is the founder and CEO of Ellipsum Communications and a Global News contributor.

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