In a few weeks, Canadians will head to the polls to elect a new government. With the threat of climate change, the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic still looming over the country, and international crises at a boiling point, there is a lot at stake in this election.
Canada has a unique opportunity to address these challenges, but that will require strong leadership.
Here’s a look at where each of the major federal political parties stands on these issues.
Climate change has been especially important this election. With wildfires having decimated the west and global temperatures on track to rise way above their pre-industrial levels, each party has its plan to tackle this growing threat — but to varying degrees.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. The target is above the level required for Canada to meet its commitment under the Paris agreement — but it's far from the 60% target advocacy groups say is the country’s fair share towards limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Liberal Party’s platform aims to fulfill these goals with a strong focus on the oil and gas sector. In particular, the party pledges to ban thermal coal exports by 2030 and accelerate its G20 commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from 2025 to 2023.
“Let’s be realistic, over a quarter of Canada’s emissions come from our oil and gas sector. We need the leadership of these industries to decarbonize our country,” Trudeau said at a campaign event in Cambridge, Ontario. “That’s why we’ll make sure oil and gas emissions don’t increase and instead go down with achievable milestones while ensuring local economies can prosper.”
Conservatives, on the other hand, have pledged to reduce Canada’s target to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, as originally committed by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and, prior to this year, maintained by the Liberals. The party's leader, Erin O'Toole, claims that this would suffice to keep the country in compliance with the Paris agreement — but climate advocates have slammed the plan as a violation of its “spirit” of continuous improvement.
O’Toole’s party has also pledged to introduce a low-carbon savings account system for Canadians, an alternative to the current Liberal government's rebates system, with the aim of providing a financial incentive for people to cut their carbon footprints.
Setting the bar higher, Jagmeet Singh's New Democratic Party (NDP) instead calls for a 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030. Similar to the Bloc Québécois, the NDP would favour net-zero electricity generation by 2035, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and invest in clean energy to achieve this goal. The party's platform also outlines measures to address the disproportionate impact of climate change on racialized and vulnerable populations through climate financing.
The Green Party of Canada has gone further than any of the other parties by calling for a 60% GHG reduction target by 2030.
Prior to the pandemic, Canada’s international aid level had been stagnating for years at a 50-year low. Following a welcomed but temporary increase, the country's current contribution is 0.31% of its gross national income (GNI), up from 0.27% the previous year. However, this is still far below the United Nations' target of 0.7% and below the rich country average.
The NDP is currently the only major party committing to reach the 0.7% mark by 2030. The party's platform also lists several other international pledges, including increased support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, a commitment to achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and a commitment the rights of women and girls.
The Liberals also promise to strengthen Canada's position on the international stage. Although no figure was provided (and in the costing an amount of “0” is listed for the next three years), Trudeau's party has committed to increase international aid every year towards helping achieve the UN goals. The Liberals have also pledged to double Canada’s contribution to grassroots women’s rights organizations and make additional investments in sexual and reproductive health services and the global care economy. New funding for international education is also touted as a way to reaffirm Canada's commitments both at home and abroad.
Under O’Toole, the Conservatives have promised to maintain current aid levels and, as part of an extensive foreign policy platform, emphasized increasing aid effectiveness. Their platform lays out pledges to support human rights and in particular the LGBTQ+ community around the world. Improving food security is among the issues prioritized, which the platform says will be addressed in part with tougher pricing control measures and the launch of a research and development centre on food self-sufficiency.
When it comes to COVID-19, one thing is certain: Never before has the need for global solidarity been as urgent as today. The threat posed by the pandemic both in Canada and abroad means that any new government will need to take the lead in stepping up Canada’s commitments and marshalling international support.
While much of the domestic conversation has centred around vaccine mandates, hundreds of millions of people in the world's poorest countries have yet to receive a single dose.
Over the past year, Trudeau has pledged CAD $545 million to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility as part of its more than CAD $1.3 billion in funding for the broader ACT-Accelerator initiative. This makes Canada one of only a few countries to commit their fair share for global pandemic response needs in support of the poorest countries this year. Canada has also pledged in-kind to donate 40 million surplus vaccine doses to COVAX over the coming months.
Under its new platform, the Liberals have pledged to donate “at least 200 million vaccine doses to vulnerable populations around the world” through COVAX by the end of 2022. Additional funding is also planned to help low- and middle-income countries ramp up their testing and vaccine production capacity, but details are lacking.
The NDP and the Bloc Québécois have notable pledges to support the suspension of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines to help increase global supply and access.
The Conservative platform promises to implement a “Post-Pandemic Compact for Growth Plan” that makes brief mention of leveraging “investment, innovation and infrastructure around vaccine distribution and long-term health security in the poorest, most disadvantaged regions of the world.”
Whichever party wins the election, it's safe to say that Canada's next government will need to start tackling the many challenges that face us today. And with so much at stake, Global Citizens across the country will be there to hold them to account.
Interested in learning more about the election and taking action? Check out our campaign hub here.