Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau fought Wednesday for the high ground on who was best suited to fight the ravages of climate change, a battle that exposed the wide valley in their approaches.
The Conservative leader re-announced a tax credit for homeowners who make energy-saving renovations, such as installing new windows or better furnaces. Scheer said his plan was not only the best way for Canada to meet its greenhouse gas reduction commitments, but would adhere to the core tenet of his campaign: putting more money into the pockets of hard-working Canadians.
The Liberal leader announced a series of measures to mitigate the threats posed by repeat flooding, including employment-insurance benefits and a national plan to relocate at-risk homes from high waters. Trudeau reiterated his view that tackling climate change is the core political issue of the day — and that he is the only viable alternative for Canadian voters compared to Scheer.
Neither he nor Scheer could provide detailed analyses of how their plans would bring down greenhouse-gas emissions, or the related costs.
Green Leader Elizabeth May opened Wednesday’s campaigning by offering a detailed spending breakdown her party’s platform, pledging to balance the federal budget by 2024.
May proposed a series of new tax measures that she said would draw tens of billions into federal coffers. Among them was what she called a “very small tax on financial transactions” that she said would raise $18 billion by 2025.
May said the Greens would increase corporate taxes, close “capital gains loophole” that taxes investment income at lower rates than employment income, apply a wealth tax to Canadians with more than $20 million and eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies.
Scheer has also promised Canadians a balanced budget, but has yet to explain exactly how he would produce it. Trudeau says he is committed to investing in the future of the country, and has made no apologies for running deficits to do that.
Scheer pivoted his campaign to the environment on Wednesday, after Trudeau went on the attack a day earlier and attempted to brand him as a climate-change laggard.
Scheer said his 20 per cent refundable tax credit could be worth up to $3,800 annually, as he shot back at Trudeau’s promise from the previous day to achieve zero net carbon emissions in Canada by 2050.
“The other key part of that is helping make life more affordable for Canadians,” Scheer said in Jonquiere, Que. “And when Canadians can take advantage of this homes tax credit to make renovations in their home, their own lives will become more affordable as the cost of living is reduced, because their energy consumption will go down.”
Scheer said Trudeau isn’t on track to meet Canada’s greenhouse-gas reduction targets for 2030, so there’s no point in taking his plan for 2050 seriously. He reiterated the new Conservative plan would give Canada the “best chance” to reach the 2030 targets, but his announcement carried no detailed analysis of how. The national target calls for a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
“Canada is not the problem. We can shut down our entire economy here and within a matter of days, the production in China would replace everything that we produce here — all the emissions that we emit here.”
In Delta, B.C., Trudeau promised to develop employment-insurance benefits for people struck by natural disasters such as floods, pledged to develop a national plan to relocate Canadians whose homes are at risk of repeat flooding, and promised interest-free loans to make homes more energy-efficient.
Major flooding struck New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec earlier this spring for the second time in three years.
Trudeau promised a national employment-insurance disaster-benefit program for people forced out of their jobs or their homes because of floods and forest fires.
“This will become a greater concern for many people. That’s why we want to give families more support,” said Trudeau.
“The Andrew Scheer Conservatives have the same do-nothing approach on the environment that Canadians remember from Stephen Harper, with a so-called plan that will do less and cost more.”
On Tuesday, Trudeau branded Scheer as backward and out of step on fighting climate change, linking him to Conservative politicians such as Doug Ford and Jason Kenney, the Ontario and Alberta premiers.
It was part of an attempt by Trudeau to reframe the election around the environment after last week’s revelations of his history dressing up in black- and brownface. He has linked himself to the rising protest of young people around the world that is gaining momentum through the bitter scolding of world leaders that teenaged climate activist Greta Thunberg levelled at the United Nations this week.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, also in British Columbia, promised a “new deal” for that province Wednesday. He said an NDP government would take action and put forward funds to tackle money laundering and speculation in the housing market.
He said he would dedicate a unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to fight money laundering and create a national registry to prevent companies from hiding profits they make from real estate.
People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier also began a western tour Wednesday, his first extended trip of the campaign, with an appearance at the Surrey, B.C., board of trade. Bernier was greeted by shouting protesters and delivered a speech focused on immigration. He said he was against “mass migration” but is not anti-immigrant.
—With files from Camille Bains in Surrey
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press