manitoba climate crisis

Dereliction of Duty: The Province of Manitoba’s Response to the Climate Crisis

In All Posts, Environment, Politics by Callum Goulet-Kilgour

As world leaders and experts gather in Poland today for the start of COP24 (the bi-annual United Nations Conference on Climate Change), Canadians should examine the progress of our federal and provincial efforts to combat climate change. In Canada, the past few years have seen a steady decline from the restored hope after Justin Trudeau declared that “Canada is back” at the Paris Climate Talks and the world came together to sign  the Paris Agreement in 2015 to a recent Maclean’s cover showing the rise of Canada’s “resistance” opposing serious climate action.

To their credit, the federal Liberal government has done more than any previous administration through their creation and implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework and the forthcoming carbon tax. However, they also purchased a $4.5 billion pipeline on behalf of the Canadian taxpayers! A recent Globe & Mail article noted that Canada is not on track to meet its current emissions targetof reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030and that this target is nowhere near tough enough to adequately fight climate change.

As one of the top ten emitters (per capita), Canada has a moral duty to become a world leader in the fight against climate change. We also have a duty to protect our vast biomes:  Manitoba’s large lakes, rich natural resources, and the Indigenous, rural, and Arctic communities that rely on these resources deserve bold action on this issue, as they are already witnessing environmental degradation and suffering from the damages. 

The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba committed to developing a climate action plan that included carbon pricing in their 2016 election platform, and in March 2018, the party introduced legislation to implement a $25-per-tonne carbon tax. Since then, however, the government’s position has changed. Earlier this fall, Pallister suddenly canceled the tax for what appears to be disagreements with the federal government and, perhaps, a wave of populist opposition to action on climate change across the country. Pallister was recently included on the Maclean’s cover with other conservative politicians as being part of the carbon tax “resistance.” The provincial NDP, Liberal and Green party have all been critical of Pallister’s handling of the climate change file but have been unable to make a substantial impact in the legislation of bills or amendments. The PC Party have since released a statement saying they are ready to “move forward with its Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green plan, without a carbon tax.” The Government claims that this measure would “threaten jobs and economic growth”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Carbon Pricing

Carbon pricing is not a radical solution- it’s a market-based approach. The 2018 Nobel Prize for economics was jointly awarded to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer for their work on carbon pricing and government-driven innovation, making it an award-winning idea! Nordhaus has been advocating for a carbon pricing scheme for almost 40 years, arguing that it is the most effective strategy to reduce emissions and hold large polluters to account. A carbon tax (or some varying scheme) has already been implemented successfully in numerous jurisdictions around the world, including in India, Germany, the United Kingdom, and British Columbia. While many other drastic measures must be introduced to combat climate change, putting a price on carbon is an essential first step that Manitobans should wholeheartedly embrace.

Manitobans Don’t Trust Pallister

The most recent provincial throne speech failed to seriously discuss the issue of climate change, mentioning only that “the imposition of an unfair, escalating federal carbon tax on Manitobans will be opposed.” Details of the provincial government’s plan remain highly ambiguous.

As a result, Manitobans don’t trust Pallister when it comes to climate change information. A recent Angus Reid Poll found that 74% of Manitobans do not trust the provincial government when it comes to information about climate change and global warming, which was the highest level of distrust held by any province regarding climate change information.

Moving Forward

As we approach the 2019 federal election and 2020 provincial election, members of the electorate must demand that our policymakers consider climate change as one of the most – if not the most – urgent issues of our time. Manitobans must push for bold solutions; simply acknowledging the scientific consensus that anthropogenic climate change is occurring should no longer be considered sufficient. Society will greatly benefit if all political parties embrace drastic action to combat climate change. Until the day when we have removed all the plastic from our water, halted the planet’s warming, and stopped driving ourselves towards extinction, our governments – and, by consequence, us – will have failed in our duties. The time to act is now and the place to act is right here in Manitoba.

Take Action

If you want to learn more or get involved on climate action in Manitoba, here are a few resources to get you started:

  • Read Winnipegger Clayton Thomas-Müller’s brilliant National Observer piece on the Good Work Guarantee – a new vision for climate action in Canada. Then, sign and share 350.org’s petition calling on Justin Trudeau and Canada’s premiers to support it.
  • The Prairie Climate Centre has been tracking and modeling the impact of climate change on areas ranging from urban centres to farming. Their website includes an interactive map that allows users to see for themselves the science and analysis used to monitor and predict climate trends.
  • Volunteer with Wilderness Committee Manitoba! They also have an online letter-writing campaign where you can “Raise your Voice for Climate Action in Manitoba.”
  • If you’re a student or faculty member at the University of Manitoba or the University of Winnipeg, join their divestment groups to encourage transitions away from fossil fuel dependency! You can learn more about U of M’s here and U of W’s here.
  • Take a peruse through Climate Change Connection’s website! This page on where Manitoba’s emissions come from is a great place to start.
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