Canada's Big Election Winner: The Climate

Canada's early summer election was substantive on climate. Notably, both the Liberals and the Conservatives promised to implement the Clean Fuel Regulations, giving weight and momentum to the nation's low carbon fuel standard for liquid fuels.
By Andrea Kent | October 08, 2021

In late September, Canadians went to the polls in what many regarded as a snap election called five weeks earlier by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The choice before voters: re-elect Trudeau's Liberals, possibly with a stronger mandate, or elect another party to power. What voters chose was to return the government mostly unchanged.

Media, pundits, and political analysts were quick to dub it an election of "losers." Trudeau called an election to win a majority and made only marginal gains. Conservatives had a new leader and favorable conditions but fared no better than they did two years earlier. Two national party leaders failed to get elected at all. But what this short election lacked in personal and political victories, it made up for in substance. And the biggest winner wasn't a name on the ballot but rather an issue; climate.

All Had Climate Plans
With a growing number of Canadian voters identifying climate as a top concern, every major party released a robust climate plan in its election platform. Of course, every party having a plan does not mean clear differences do not still exist; they absolutely do. But instead of the voter’s choice being whether a party has a plan or not, the choices are now specific.

For example, climate policy analyst Mark Jaccard, a professor at Simon Fraser University, produced a comprehensive economic and emissions modeling cited widely by media and politicians alike. There were also others by climate advocates and scientists, all equipping voters with a new level of nuance and detail. The Liberal and Conservative climate plans received the most favorable reviews from Dr. Jaccard and both included flexible biofuels regulation as a central policy tool for decarbonizing transportation.

Beyond Paris
Some parties proposed higher targets than others, but there was no question about introducing more climate policy to reach emissions reductions targets under the Paris Climate Agreement and net-zero.

Notably, both the Liberals and the Conservatives promised to implement the national Clean Fuel Regulations (CFR)—Canada's national low carbon fuel standard for liquid fuels currently in development. It shows how critical a well-designed, low-carbon fuel policy is to reducing emissions in a cost-effective (and politically viable) way.

Pricing Carbon Emissions
For the first time, all major parties supported putting a price on carbon emissions. The Liberals introduced the country's first national carbon tax on greenhouse gas-emitting fuels just before the 2019 federal election but faced pressures on how high to raise it. While an anti-carbon tax campaign worked for some provincial leaders, it fell flat for the Conservatives in 2019. So, this time, federal Conservatives changed their tune. Their proposed carbon levy may have been lower than the current national carbon price. Still, the shift in their policy spoke volumes in reaching climate commitments and appealing more broadly to Canadian voters.

What’s Next?
Overall, Justin Trudeau's re-elected Liberal minority is a status-quo scenario for Canada. Key policies that are currently in development will likely continue to fruition. New political leadership for some parties is possible by the next federal election, expected in roughly 18 months. However, what is clear is that biofuels will continue to be an essential part of climate policy portfolios, from increased blending in gasoline (projected to be E15 by 2030 as a pathway under the proposed CFR) to green hydrogen, green methanol, and sustainable aviation fuel.

As one columnist wrote, "Now, every election is a climate election and every vote, a climate vote." Canada's summer election was fast but substantive on climate. The elevated discussion and detailed debate finally turned the political page, changing the climate from a "what" issue to a "how" issue for voters. Fortunately for political parties of all stripes, renewable fuels producers continue to innovate and produce sustainable biofuel needed to take us towards a better climate and future.

Andrea Kent
Board Member,
Renewable Industries Canada
VP Industry and Government Affairs, Greenfield Global