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Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 1278
July 6, 2016

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Trudeau Climate Plan Challenged
at Toronto ‘Town Halls’

John Riddell

The first two public consultations on climate action organized by Canada's national government in Toronto, gave strong support to the demands of the People's Climate Plan (PCP), an alternative to federal climate-related proposals. The PCP's proposals are listed below.

Hundreds of people packed the room at a climate consultation in Toronto on June 17, 2016.

Hundreds of people packed the room at a climate consultation in Toronto on June 17, 2016. [Source:]

The two concepts most frequently voiced at the gatherings, held June 17 and June 24, were support for Indigenous rights and opposition to further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. Participants listened attentively to the government's presentations but offered no congratulations for its initial proposals.

At a related Toronto consultation on June 15 on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, also held by the federal government, was met by sharp and near-unanimous opposition from an audience of several hundred. If ratified, the deal would place further legal barriers in the path of meaningful climate action.

The People's Climate Plan is a tool to promote public engagement with these government initiatives and formulation of an alternative. Judging by the first two Toronto consultations, it provides a useful starting point.

A Stifled Conversation

The federal government proposes to hold climate action town halls in individual constituencies across the country. So far, initiatives have been taken in few of the 338 constituencies. The Toronto meetings were announced with only a week's notice and little publicity apart from Liberal Party email lists. At the first Toronto event, sponsored by three MPs, capacity was limited to 250. Participants had to pre-register, and after a couple of days tickets were unavailable. The second Toronto event, which drew 60 participants, aimed to encompass those excluded from the first.

The standard format excludes plenary discussion. First a government representative presents a slide-show. Then participants are divided into breakout groups to consider questions posed by the ministry. Each group chooses a reporter who has one or two minutes to summarize her group's proposals to the assembly. Finally, a government representative sums up.

The format makes it hard to present a coherent alternative. However, PCP supporters in Toronto had carried out educational and training sessions that prepared them well to make their message heard.

Ottawa's Proposals

The climate action town halls are an outgrowth of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's project of presenting a national plan for climate action by year-end. The government has presented its framework on a federal climate action website, which acknowledges in general terms the facts of climate crisis and the need for action. (For a more satisfactory treatment of these issues, see “We Are Not All in This Together” by Ian Angus.)

The government's website picks up some concepts of the climate action movement, such as eliminating subsidies to the petroleum industry (albeit gradually) and putting a price on carbon. It proposes that federal, provincial, and territorial governments join to “set a truly national target” for climate action but does not replace the totally inadequate targets of the previous administration. It does not suggest any restriction on expansion of fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure.

The website invites comments, which the Environment and Climate Change Canada ministry, is diligently recording. But we should not imagine that Ottawa's policy decisions will be significantly influenced by such comments in themselves. The “National Climate Plan” will be shaped mainly by negotiations with provincial governments and business interests. However, strong advocacy of a meaningful alternative to Ottawa's proposals helps to build the Canada-wide movement for climate justice. And this movement has a proven capacity to affect government policy, most dramatically by delaying and blocking pipeline construction projects.

The ministry's initial presentation acknowledged the urgency of climate action but was otherwise light on specific commitments. Two statements of Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna in the first assembly were noteworthy:

  1. The government would not address specific targets for carbon emissions reduction.
  2. Eighty-five per cent of the scope for emissions reduction lies in provincial rather than federal jurisdiction.

The second point tacitly implied that the Trudeau government intends not to utilize its authority to restrict or halt expansion of pipelines and other forms of fossil fuel infrastructure – a major contested issue.

Rallying for an Alternative

The presentations from breakout groups in the two town halls, while brief, hammered at some key points: support Indigenous rights, leave tar sands in the ground, no more pipelines, no subsidies to oil corporations, a just transition for oil workers, and Canada's global climate responsibilities. Mention of these points often sparked applause and cheers. The assemblies became animated rallies for a climate alternative.

In the second consultation, the last reporter from breakout groups wound up by calling for a standing vote of all those who wanted fossil fuels to stay in the ground to stand. Everyone rose amid great enthusiasm.

A listing of the points made at the two town hall meetings is appended below.

Lessons from the Town Halls

The People's Climate Plan has proven an effective tool in engaging with the government's moves on climate. Still, experience in the Toronto consultations suggests two topics where there is perhaps something to learn.

For an emissions reductions schedule

The second pillar of the PCP calls for a plan that “builds a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050.”[1] At the Toronto consultations, this point did not come through strongly. There were only six mentions of some type of prioritization for energy transition.

This may be because the 2050 target is too distant; it does not demand anything of the present government.

The meaning of the renewables goal can be clarified by pointing to the need to adopt specific targets for yearly reductions of at least 5% in total carbon emissions, starting immediately.

Canada's global responsibilities

One of the six most frequently mentioned themes in the Toronto consultations was, “Protect victims of climate change worldwide.” This concept is not in the PCP. Granted, the PCP consists of only three sentences and cannot say everything. But we can globalize the PCP's scope by inserting four words into this point.

The final phrase of the PCP calls for a climate plan that “takes leadership from those hit hardest by the climate crisis.” We should amend this by adding the words both nationally and globally.

We should seek opportunities to discuss all global barriers to effective climate action, from militarism and the arms race to global trade pacts.

Next Steps

It is not clear how far the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau will proceed with its town hall project. PCP supporters may wish to call their own events, as in Winnipeg on June 25. When a Winnipeg MP cancelled a consultation at the last moment, PCP supporters held their own town hall at the same time and place. But no matter how the town halls evolve, the next six months will provide many opportunities to present an alternative, including through rallies, union meetings and demonstrations.

More generally, such initiatives form part of building a movement for what the Leap Manifesto calls a “great transition” to a society based on “caring for each other and caring for the planet.”[2]

Tally of group responses at the two Toronto consultations

  • Support Indigenous rights, implement UNDRIP — 14
  • Leave the tar sands in the ground — 13
  • No more pipelines or fossil fuel infrastructure — 11
  • No subsidies to oil corporations, polluters should pay — 9
  • A just transition for oil workers; for green jobs — 8
  • Protect victims climate change worldwide — 8
  • Expand mass transit, rail service — 6
  • For community solutions, building codes — 6
  • Renewable energy: give priority to, for rapid transition — 6
  • Against the TPP — 5
  • For carbon taxes — 5
  • Expand health services and education — 4
  • Government's policy is contradictory, two-faced — 3
  • Reduce consumption, degrowth — 2
  • Election reform — 2
  • No nuclear, no geoengineering — 2
  • Ready for civil disobedience — 1
  • Carbon taxes are not enough — 1
  • For sustainable food — 1
  • Punish those who commit carbon crimes — 1

John Riddell is a member of East End Against Line 9 and has taken part in presenting the People's Climate Plan at Toronto town halls.


1. The People's Climate Plan calls for these principles to be at the core of the National Climate Strategy:

  1. We want a plan that aligns with the science of climate change. Bold climate action ensures Canada meets its commitments to a 1.5°C world by keeping its fossil fuels reserves in the ground.
  2. We want a plan that builds a 100% renewable energy economy. Bold climate action ensures Canada transitions to a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050, creating over a million clean, safe and rewarding jobs.
  3. We want a plan that is justice-based. Bold climate action enshrines justice and reconciliation for Indigenous peoples, ensures no worker is left behind in the transition to a clean energy economy, and takes leadership from those hit hardest by the climate crisis.

2. For more information, see “A Leap Toward Radical Politics?,” and the videos from the series on ecology, economy, and social justice: “Capitalism vs. Ecology: We Need to Change Everything!”:

Related Reading


#3 Marc Bonhomme 2016-07-07 11:52 EST

La tactique de participation aux pseudo assemblées de consultation du gouvernement Trudeau est-elle celle qui s'impose dans la présente conjoncture ? Les pièges de telles assemblées font qu'elles ne s'adressent qu'à une élite militante préparée d'autant plus qu'elles sont à peine couvertes par les médias.

La campagne à la chefferie du NPD, obligée par une rebuffade des membres à la base qui a pris la droite du parti par surprise d'où son prolongement jusqu'à l'automne 2017, offre à la gauche anticapitaliste et antilibérale canadienne une occasion en or d'une campagne anti-hydrocarbure de grande ampleur à la Sanders ou plutôt à la Corbyn.

Comme l'explique l'édito récent de Socialist Project, la bourgeoisie a très bien compris ce danger. Mais il me semble que cet édito n'a pas compris qu'en découle comme tâche principale une participation de cette gauche à cette campagne sous la houlette d'une candidature crédible et mème enthousiasmante... celle de Noami Klein.

Elle et son compagnon sont derrière le manifeste LEAP, que le congrès NPD a forcé la direction à prendre en considération. Comme le PCP, la substantifique moelle en sont le refus des oléoducs, le moratoire du pétrole bitumineux et la carbo-neutralité en 2050. D'où la terreur bourgeoise.

Il faut pleinement réaliser que le Canada baigne temporairement dans une factice bise "progressiste" alors que le monde subit l'assaut d'un fort vent de droite et d'extrême-droite. L'illusion Trudeau ne durera qu'un temps. Ce sera le retour de la droite qui se reconstruira ou une nouvelle poussée d'un NPD renouvelé c'est-à-dire radicalisé pour lequel membres et électorat sont prêts.

La tâche urgente de la gauche anticapitaliste et antilibérale, à sa manière critique d'autant plus qu'elle doit confiner au raz-de-marée, est de faire pression sur Noami Klein pour qu'elle sorte de son confort de vedette internationale de l'écologie radicale et qu'elle prenne ses responsabilités historiques. À défaut, évidemment, il faudra se contenter d'un "second best" mais ce sera un rapport de forces plus défavorable.

Marc Bonhomme,,

#2 Eric 2016-07-06 19:21 EST
TPP blanked out
The TPP consultation, though little publicized by Trade Minister Freeland, drew hundreds to (appropriately) U of T's business school. Invited guests Jerry Dias and Michael Geist spoke strongly against it; a C.D. Howe Institute denizen spoke weakly in favour (it would marginally increase GDP; he didn't say how).

Of perhaps close to 50 speakers from the floor, two strongly supported TPP and two were ambiguous. Dozens spoke passionately and articulately against, including a surprising number of doctors.

As with the stealth Toronto hearing a few weeks before of the parliamentary committee on TPP, I saw no media coverage.

#1 Marc Bonhomme 2016-07-06 09:57 EST
Le combat climatique de Québec solidaire : un secret bien gardé !
À son congrès de la fin mai, Québec solidaire a adopté les résolutions suivantes (extraits) :

"[…] Afin de rattraper le retard accumulé par rapport à nos engagements internationaux et afin de contenir la hausse moyenne de la température mondiale à 1.5 degrés Celsius, il faut accélérer la transition énergétique pour la période entre 2018 et 2030 de façon à atteindre 67% de réduction en dessous du niveau de 1990. Au niveau international, il faut faire pression pour arriver à un nouvel accord légalement contraignant [...]"

" importe de rejeter les moyens d’action qui nous mèneraient vers un maintien du statu quo :
a) S'opposer aux Bourses du carbone qui sont des outils d'enrichissement des multinationales, et qui risquent de devenir un nouvel instrument spéculatif.
b) Rejeter les fausses solutions techniques qui n’engagent pas de réelles réductions d’émissions des gaz à effet de serre (les agrocarburants, la géoingénierie, le stockage du carbone, etc.).
c) S’opposer aux taxes sur le carbone qui frappent surtout les plus pauvres."

Ajoutons que la plate-forme Solidaire contient déjà la revendication de la gratuité du transport collectif sur dix ans.

Évidemment, les compte-rendus du congrès tant par les médias que par la direction du parti, et même par la gauche du parti alliée à la direction (Presse-toi-à-gauche), ignorent cette résolution radicale qui gêne terriblement leur centrisme électoraliste. Idem depuis longtemps pour la gratuité du transport public qui a pourtant la même capacité de mobilisation que la revendication de la gratuité scolaire a eu pour le Printemps érable.

Le Comité thématique du parti sur l'environnement et l'énergie fera de son mieux dans les prochains mois pour éviter cet enterrement de première classe. Mais son rapport de forces interne face à une direction centralisée et consensuelle ne lui facilitera pas la tâche.

En attendant, il faut se réjouir de ce que l'Assemblée des Premières nations du Québec et du Labrador vient de rejeter l'oléoduc Énergie est de Trans Canada ce qui légalement devrait signifier sa mort si on se fie à la logique du rejet de l'approbation de l'oléoduc Northern Gateway par la Cour d'appel fédérale à cause du manque de consultation avec les peuples autochtones.

Comme quoi, en dernière analyse, compte la mobilisation populaire dont les Premières nations sont à la fine pointe. Au point qu'au moins sur les questions des oléoducs et trains transportant du pétrole sale et de l'exploration pétrolière et gazière au Québec même, Québec solidaire s'est publiquement prononcé contre... après un temps d'hésitation.

Marc Bonhomme, militant du Comité sur l'environnement et l'énergie de Québec solidaire

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