Tory grassroots vote against putting line saying "climate change is real" into policy

·2 min read

OTTAWA — Efforts to get official Conservative policy to firmly state the party believes climate change is real have failed.

The results of Saturday's vote defeating a motion that would have enshrined the idea in the party's official policy declaration will be an awkward blow to Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, who told the party's grassroots in a Friday evening speech that an ambitious climate change agenda is a must if the party hopes to win power.

The debate on the reality of climate change must end, because it is real, O'Toole said.

"I will not allow 338 candidates to defend against the lie from the Liberals that we are a party of climate change deniers. We will have a plan to address climate change. It will be comprehensive, and it will be serious."

The party's policy declaration already contains a lengthy section on the environment, and it tacitly accepts the existence of climate change, and the need for policy to address it.

But 54 per cent of voting delegates at the party's virtual convention voted against a resolution that would have placed a firm statement right into the text: "we recognize that climate change is real. The Conservative Party is willing to act."

The resolution would have further modified the party's environment policy to stress the need for highly-polluting Canadian business to take more responsibility to reduce their GHG emissions and be accountable for the results.

It would additionally have stated the party believes in supporting innovation in green technology.

During the debate on the resolution Friday, speakers opposed to the motion had quibbled over the focus on emissions at the expense of other pollutants.

"Conservatives need to lead with clarity, focus and intelligent solutions, not buzzwords," said one delegate from the Toronto-area riding of Scarborough Centre.

To make it into the party's official policy, motions need what's known as a double majority: a majority of delegates as well as a majority of delegates in a majority of provinces.

The motion on climate change had the fiercest opposition from the western provinces, with delegates from New Brunswick and Quebec showing the most support.

Ahead of the convention, the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition had circulated a "voters guide" to the resolutions and had urged its membership to vote down the one on the environment, saying "global warning alarmism" was being used to justify population control and abortion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2021.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press