Despite Conservatives voting against climate motion, O'Toole says he'll have a climate plan before election

·3 min read
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says that he takes climate change seriously and his party will have a policy to address it before the next federal election.  (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says that he takes climate change seriously and his party will have a policy to address it before the next federal election. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Despite the fact that his party's members voted down a resolution to acknowledge that climate change is real, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says he'll present a plan to address climate change before the next election.

Speaking to CBC News Network's Power & Politics today, O'Toole would not say when that plan will be released, although he did offer some hints about what it would contain.

"I think when you look, literally about a third of our emissions as a country come down to about six or seven hundred single emitters," O'Toole told host Vassy Kapelos.

"So rather than taxing 30 million households, as Mr. Trudeau is — often people that are barely getting by — isn't it smarter to work collaboratively with large emitters and with provinces?"

Under the federal carbon pollution pricing system, the federal government has levied its own carbon tax in provinces that do not have their own system, but all of the money collected is returned directly to taxpayers in the form of a rebate. The federal government says 80 per cent of Canadians will get as much or more than they paid in taxes.

Some provinces have voluntarily adopted the federal system. In those provinces, the tax collected is returned directly to provincial governments.

O'Toole also suggested that increasing the use of carbon offsets would be a part of his plan, but did not offer details.

On Saturday, delegates to the Conservative Party policy convention voted against adding to the party's policy book a declaration that climate change is real and the party is ready to act on it.

O'Toole attributed the resolution's failure to its wording, saying "there were a lot of measures within that resolution that led for it not to be put forward."

Kapelos pointed out that the only other elements in the climate change resolution were statements calling on Canadian businesses to do their part and for more supports for innovation and green technologies.

"The debate is over," O'Toole said. "The Conservative Party, in the next election, will have a very serious plan to reduce emissions while also making sure Canadians get back to work."

Conservative plan will be 'serious': O'Toole

O'Toole told the Conservative Party's convention last week that he would "not allow 338 candidates to defend against the lie from the Liberals that we are a party of climate change deniers." He said he would "have a plan to address climate change" that will be "comprehensive" and "serious."

O'Toole said he is in the process of consulting industry experts and is looking at "various policy options."

"We're taking the time to get this right, because as I said in my remarks, we cannot just hope that people will come around to views that we have in the past," he told Kapelos.

Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was widely accused by critics during the last federal election of not taking the issue seriously. He did not participate in Greta Thunberg's climate change march during that campaign, choosing instead to make an announcement about new roads and transit systems to cut down commuting times.

"I don't think we spoke about the importance of the environment enough in the last election," O'Toole said Monday. "We certainly didn't tell people a timeline, a plan on emission reductions. And that's what we're going to try and get right."

O'Toole also responded to a Nanos Research Group poll for Bloomberg News earlier this month that found 33 per cent of Canadians thought the Liberals were best suited to manage the economy, compared to 24 per cent for the Conservatives.

The Conservative leader said the poll results can be attributed to the fact that "right now Canadians are looking at COVID rates."

"We've talked to thousands of Canadians right now," he said. "Most Canadians don't realize how high the deficit is."

You can watch full episodes of Power & Politics on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.