Andrew Scheer plans to be the only major federal leader to sit out climate protests taking place at more than 140 different places across Canada Friday.
At a press conference in Montreal Thursday, the Conservative leader said the Tories will have “representation,” in the form of local candidates, at a massive climate march set to take place in that city Friday.
The event is expected to draw thousands of people, including Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg. Earlier this week, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May urged leader to put their swords away and attend the Montreal rally, saying the climate crisis is “more important than partisan politics.”
But the Tory leader said that while he will be “sending my support to them,” he is booked with campaign events in Vancouver (where another climate strike will be held.)
“Our party will be supporting these types of demonstrations of a real desire for action. And I really sympathize with people who are frustrated with Justin Trudeau’s failure on the environment file,” Scheer said. “So, we will have representation there.”
“I look forward to marching with thousands of Canadians in Montreal, like people are marching right across the country and around the world, to fight for the environment,” he said.
Trudeau praised the “extraordinary” mobilization of young people calling for action on climate change. He also touted the actions his government has taken in the fight against global warming, from putting a price on carbon to phasing out coal. He did not mention his contentious decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Thunberg criticized the Liberal government in a June tweet for re-approving the pipeline one day after the House of Commons passed a Grit motion declaring a climate emergency.
The Liberal leader also called on Scheer to commit to banning single-use plastics, as his government pledged to do by as early as 2021.
“It is time for Conservatives to understand that the world is demanding climate leadership. We get that. They don’t,” Trudeau said. “We will continue to step up.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters in Campbell River, B.C. that he will participate in a climate march in Victoria.
“I’m not surprised that Mr. Scheer’s not going. He doesn’t seem to understand the severity of the problem,” Singh said when asked to weigh in on Scheer’s decision.
The NDP leader said that he is “moved” by young people who are worried about their future and who are calling for political leaders to do more.
He also threw a dig at Trudeau for attempting to seize the mantle of climate leadership despite purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline.
‘We’re done with the pretty words of Mr. Trudeau’: Singh
“We’re done with the pretty words of Mr. Trudeau who says one thing then buys a pipeline,” he said. “The pretty words and empty promises are not sufficient. They’re not good enough. They’re wrong. They’re actually a betrayal of young people and their future.”
Climate change has been central to Liberal, NDP, and Conservative promises this week.
Trudeau promised Tuesday that a re-elected Liberal government will cut tax rates for companies that produce zero-emissions technology, such as electric cars, and that he’ll get Canada’s net greenhouse-gas emissions to zero by 2050. The proposal yielded a terse, four-word response from the NDP: “You. Bought. A. Pipeline.”
On Thursday, Trudeau promised that Liberals would conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s land and 25 per cent of its oceans by 2025.
New Democrats pledged this week to create a $15-billion “climate bank” to support businesses fighting climate change, and to provide money for a cross-Canada corridor for clean energy.
Scheer touted a proposal Wednesday, he first unveiled when he released his climate plan in June, to bring in a 20 per cent refundable tax credit could be claimed by anyone who spends between $1,000 and $20,000 on energy-saving home renovations. The Tories said that could amount to savings of $3,800.
And May said Thursday she would cancel the Trans Mountain expansion and redirect funds to expand and refurbish the national electricity grid.
With files from The Canadian Press