Liberals return to B.C. to pledge carbon neutrality, tax cut for cleantech firms
Liberal government would cut corporate taxes in half for companies that produce zero-emission technologies as part of a plan to make Canada carbon-neutral by 2050
VANCOUVER – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau chose once again on Tuesday to stage one of the biggest moments of his campaign in British Columbia, as he made a major climate-change announcement in the riding of his NDP rival.
After kicking off his re-election campaign in Vancouver two weeks ago, Trudeau was in Burnaby South – a riding held by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh – to announce a re-elected Liberal government would cut corporate taxes in half for companies that produce zero-emission technologies as part of a plan to make Canada carbon-neutral by 2050.
Trudeau has previously spoken of British Columbia as a kind of philosophical ally, one of the few remaining provinces led by a left-leaning government committed to fighting climate change when most other provinces have swung to the right.
But the province is also where his government has encountered the fiercest opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Trudeau’s government purchased to ensure a way to get Alberta oilsands crude to the B.C. coast.
On Tuesday, Trudeau said he believes the province’s voters understand that the federal government’s decision to buy the pipeline, and the project to twin it, isn’t out of step with his commitment to make the country a net-zero emitter of greenhouse gases.
“Canadians, particularly here in British Columbia, understand we need to grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time,” he said.
In fact, he argued the pipeline is part of the path forward to addressing climate change, by “opening up new markets to bring in new profits to invest in a greener future, in that transition towards a net-zero economy,” he said. “That’s what the path is.”
Trudeau has promised that any profits the government makes from owning or selling the Trans Mountain pipeline – it paid $4.5 billion to buy it – will be plowed into pro-environment measures.
He acknowledged that there are “strongly held views on both sides” of the debate over the pipeline, which has been opposed by B.C.’s premier and some Indigenous groups, and said his government would continue to work towards reconciliation.
Four-way fights among the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens makes the potential results in some B.C. ridings in the Oct. 21 vote particularly unpredictable.
Trudeau has chosen to spend some of the biggest moments of his campaign – the launch and Tuesday’s climate announcement – in the important battleground province, where his party is simultaneously fighting to win seats away from their rivals and retain the ones they have.
Later Tuesday, Trudeau’s plans took him to a rally in Surrey Centre, where Liberal incumbent Randeep Sarai is campaigning for a second term. The riding was created before the last election largely from the now-dissolved riding of Surrey North, which bounced back and forth between the NDP and Liberals for most of its recent history.
Some 1,000 supporters gathered in the parking lot of a banquet hall to see Trudeau run through his stump speech, applauding as he promised to increase Old Age Security and pension survivor benefits, and falling silent as he warned that a Conservative government would mean “twice the cuts for you and your family.”
In 2015, the Liberals won 17 of B.C.’s 42 seats, up from only two in 2011, and cannot afford to lose many if they want to win this time around.
Trudeau ended his speech with a plea to his supporters to knock doors.
“So please, go talk to your neighbours. Volunteer with Randeep, with Gordie, with all our great candidates. Drive to the polls. Make phone calls,” said Trudeau, who was mobbed by enthusiastic fans following his appearance.
Earlier Tuesday, Trudeau chose to make his announcement on climate change at a battery factory in the Burnaby, B.C. riding held by the NDP’s Singh, who has himself made climate change a central tenet of his platform.
But if his presence in Singh’s riding was meant to send a message, Trudeau didn’t admit it.
Trudeau didn’t mention the NDP during his hour-long appearance, choosing instead to direct his criticism at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who he said would “take Canada backwards” in the fight against climate change.
“They have no plan to reduce emissions. They have no plan for jobs. They have no plan for the future,” he said.
When asked what he thought of the Green and NDP climate platforms, Trudeau responded only that it is important that Canadians and parties are discussing the issue.
Trudeau said kids around the world, including in Canada, who have been staging climate strikes to demand more action are issuing a call every government must heed. Children, he said, just get that the world needs drastic action to halt climate change.
“Years from now I want to look my kids in the eye and say, ‘We stepped up,’ “ Trudeau said.
The Liberals also announced early Tuesday that they will increase Canada’s climate-action ambition by charting a path to deepen greenhouse-gas emissions cuts over the next decade on the way to the “net zero” target for 2050.
That plan echoes a promise made by dozens of other countries at this week’s UN Climate Summit, which Canada is not officially attending because of the election.
There are few details yet on how that will happen. Trudeau declined to give more details despite repeated questioning, but promised more answers are coming.
– With files from Mia Rabson