Last week, Greenpeace Canada offered the Liberals a draft of the Speech from the Throne outlining a transformational progressive and sustainable economic agenda. The analysis below details how the actual Throne Speech measured up against our recommended policies, along with what needs to happen next.
The Liberals matched only five of 21 key policy areas recommended by Greenpeace, while failing outright in five areas (see overall ranking here). In most areas, the Liberals made some indications of progress but simply lacked enough detail for analysts to determine whether their plans truly made the grade. As expected, promises of social safety net expansion and justice for pandemic-impacted communities were prioritized above more ambitious environmental goals, though a commitment to making climate change a cornerstone of a strategy to create one million new jobs was a standout promise.
Unfortunately, a number of lacklustre environmental policies and promises from the 2019 election platform and before were recycled in the speech, underscoring a disappointing lack of progress. At the same time, over the last few weeks, the Liberals have indicated that they plan to roll out green measures alongside a host of dirty “false solutions”: measures that sound green, but actually cause environmental damage. Specifically, they indicated they will: expand fracking (natural gas) and roll out unproven and risky nuclear reactors. This kind of greenwashing — which was perhaps couched in the Throne Speech’s language of “next-generation clean energy and technology solutions” — threatens to undo the gains from decarbonization measures.
Safeguarding the environment
Analysis by Sarah King, Head of the Oceans & Plastics Campaign:
The Throne Speech did not provide any new information on the federal government’s year-old promise to tackle single-use plastics. And meanwhile the plastic industry continues to lobby for increased investment in plastic production and false solutions.From production to disposal, plastic pollutes, threatens human health and exacerbates the climate, biodiversity and waste crises that are worsening around us. Ensuring more recycling will be futile without massive cuts to production. Canada cannot reach net zero emissions, zero plastic waste, or achieve meaningful water and ocean protection without getting serious about banning the full array of problematic, polluting and unnecessary single-use plastics, and investing in zero waste, reuse systems that help transition the economy to a truly circular one.
Analysis by Shane Moffatt, Head of the Nature and Food Campaign:
One thing the Throne Speech got right is how much nature matters to so all Canadians during this pandemic. But when it comes to protecting Canada’s natural environment, this government has a lot of catching up to do. Recycling an old promise to plant 2 billion trees is not going to cut it. We need a massive investment in “nature jobs” to restore our forests and clean up our rivers. This would also be a major contribution to fighting climate change and global wildlife extinction.
At the same time hunger is on the rise in Canada, in particular for lower income, Black and Indigenous communities. So it was deeply disappointing that the Speech made no mention of a Universal Basic Income, which is essential for addressing poverty, the root cause of hunger. I hope to see this return in the Fall budget, along with concrete support for the Canadian farmers decarbonising our economy by shifting to organic and plant-based food production.
Analysis by Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist:
Many of the energy-related measures announced in the Throne Speech were recycled from the 2019 election platform or the 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change, which is why we are keen to see them implemented rather than simply proposed.
We also need to go further. On electric vehicles, for example, the government should introduce a zero-emission vehicle mandate and a date for a ban on the sale of new internal combustion-powered vehicles (as California has done).
The proposed new climate plan will have to ‘show us the tonnes.’ We need to see how the measures will achieve sufficient reductions to close the gap and then surpass the current 2030 target. It should also have a requirement that any province or industry group proposing that a specific measure be weakened should have to present their counter-proposal for where the missing tonnes could be made up.
Social justice and equity
Analysis by Jesse Firempong, climate justice spokesperson
Addressing the “she-cession”, expanding social safety nets and decarbonizing society in ways that make life healthier and more affordable are welcome steps forward. While we support plans to strengthen community resilience against climate-fuelled extreme weather, we also see missed opportunities. A universal basic income, national sick leave minimums, clear commitment to citizenship for migrant workers and unequivocal respect for Indigenous rights would go far in building resilience against crises of all kinds.
At the same time, defunding the police, a more robust polluter-pays system and concrete plan to end fossil fuel subsidies would fairly free up funds to realize such investments and catalyze decarbonization. With millions of households vulnerable to extreme weather — the health costs of which now top $1.6 billion a year — it’s unconscionable that pandemic-related fossil fuels spending outpaces green spending at a rate of about four to one.
Mandate letters should task Ministers with defining clear and equitable plans for transitioning off fossil fuels, including ensuring that the wealthiest and biggest polluters among us pay their fair share.
Transform social safety nets
Justice for women, Indigenous Peoples and racialized communities
How we pay for it