Like many other voters, the key issue I’m following this electoral season is climate policy. I therefore paid close attention to Ottawa’s recently announced intention to ban single-use plastics starting as early as 2021. I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does the government seek to ban items made of materials such as polystyrene, corporations will also be obliged to take on the recycling of plastics they manufacture. It’s a positive step forward, but it’s not enough.
According to the executive vice-president of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, this ban « won’t affect billions of dollars in new petrochemical projects coming on stream in Alberta and Ontario ». This same petrochemical industry has « received a boost in recent years, thanks largely to incentive programs by federal and provincial governments ».
Let’s not forget that it was just months ago that the RCMP invaded Wet’suwet’en land, intending to open up the way for the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. A year ago, Trudeau’s administration purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5-billion, which the Globe and Mail dubbed « an extraordinary step in its push to ship more oil sands crude to global markets ». When I wrote to my Liberal MP expressing my concern about this pipeline, he replied that it was of « vital strategic interest to our country ».
A November 2018 article in The Guardian indicates that « Canada’s current climate policies would drive the world above a catastrophic 5C of warming ». Unless I’ve unintentionally been living under a rock, there has been no seismic shift in the government’s policy since then. So while the plastics ban is most definitely good news, it’s one bright spot in a pretty dismal overall track record for M. Trudeau.
Additionally, announcing such a ban mere months before the election should set off a warning bell for everyone: it’s pretty characteristic of greenwashing. Trudeau could be trying to paint himself as an eco-friendly politician to gain votes, or maybe he just genuinely believes that pipelines and plastic bans can go hand-in-hand. And while the slow, compromising approach to the energy and waste transition might have worked if we had started forty years ago, when scientists had first warned about climate change, it’s too late now.
We have eleven years to cut global emissions in half. We can’t afford to compromise, and we certainly can’t afford to vote for someone who thinks building pipelines is in the national interest.