OTTAWA — NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says his party will cut Canada’s emissions almost in half over the next decade as he tries to stake out a claim to the climate change agenda in the looming federal election.
The pledge is one contained in an NDP motion in the House of Commons that will lay out eight broad strokes of the NDP’s climate change platform. The motion asks for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare “an environment and climate emergency” as well as pledge to cut emissions more deeply, eliminate government aid to the fossil fuel industry and cancel the planned expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
UPDATE: Singh’s motion was defeated on May 16 by a vote of 227 to 42.
“We want to reflect the urgency people are feeling,” Singh said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Watch: Singh says Green byelection win shows voters care about climate change
That urgency for him means a slow end to the Canadian oil sector, which Singh says is on its way out whether Canadians like the idea or not.
"This is the direction the world is headed," he said.
The motion comes just one week after the Green Party earned a resounding victory in a Vancouver Island byelection which most political observers – Singh included – believe was a message from voters for politicians to start taking climate change more seriously.
Singh however insists today's motion is not an attempt to beat back Green support, which would affect both NDP and Liberal fortunes in the fall.
In fact Singh insists whatever message voters were sending last week in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, it was to the governing Liberals, not the NDP, even though the NDP won the seat in 2015. The byelection was triggered when Sheila Malcolmson resigned after just three years as an MP to run provincially in British Columbia.
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The Green Party's Paul Manly now represents the riding, only the second Green MP ever elected in Canada. The NDP finished a distant third and the Liberals an even more distant fourth.
"When voters want to send a message it's to people making the decisions," he said. "It's encouraging to see people sending a message on climate change."
Last October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned drastic cuts to emissions are needed in the next decade to prevent global warming from becoming catastrophic. That report suggested Canada's Paris climate change commitment, which would mean cutting annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 28 per cent compared to where they are now, is nowhere near enough.
Singh won't put a specific number on his targets yet but he agrees the motion is "subtly suggesting" the NDP would aim for the UN targets, which would mean Canada has to cut emissions almost in half by 2030.
Liberal plan falls short of existing goal
The Liberal government's climate plan, including the carbon tax, getting rid of coal as a source of electricity and subsidizing the purchase of electric cars, still leaves Canada nearly 90 million tonnes shy of hitting the existing goal.
To slash more deeply would require more drastic action in Canada's energy sector. Oil and gas production and refining accounts for about one-quarter of all Canada's emissions, but also more than six per cent of the economic activity and more than half a million direct and indirect jobs.
New Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has warned of the separatist angst growing in Alberta as the energy sector has struggled in recent years, but Singh said the NDP would ensure there is a plan to transition Alberta workers to the new-age economy.
"We need thousands and thousands of people to work to fight climate change," he said.