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4 Justin Trudeau Campaign Promises That Could Make Canada a Green Powerhouse

Climate

Holy smokes.

Polls are in and Canadians across the country are expressing surprise at the strong win for the federal Liberal party.

While there’s much ink to be spilled over former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reign, he’s likely locked in a bathroom now, so we’ll save that for another, less change-y time.

Canada, you have a new Prime Minister. I would say "go home, you’re drunk." But don’t, because you’re not. This is actually happening.

But wait, what is actually happening? We have a new majority government. Before the fun gets away with us, let’s do a quick reality check for what the Liberal party and incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been promising all of you on some of our top DeSmog Canada topics: climate, environment, science and transparency.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals on Climate

On the issue of Canada’s climate commitments for the UN climate summit this fall in Paris, the Liberal platform is underdeveloped. On the campaign trail last week, party leader Justin Trudeau told the CBC he would not commit to specific emissions targets.

Everybody has thrown out numbers and different targets and what they’re going to do and what is going to happen,” Trudeau said.

What we need is not ambitious political targets. What we need is an ambitious plan to reduce our emissions in the country.”

The federal Conservative party promised to reduce emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, a target that has been roundly criticized as weak. Others have pointed out the Conservative plan made no mention of the Alberta tar sands, the fastest growing source of emissions in Canada.

Although the Liberals don’t have a specific plan yet, the party has promised to establish a new climate change framework by February 2016 that includes an eventual phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies. The plan will also include investment in climate resilience, clean technology and low-carbon infrastructure.

The party will also set aside $2 billion for emissions-reducing projects through a new Low Carbon Economy Trust.

Trudeau has also promised to attend climate negotiations in Paris with all of the premiers and to work with the provinces on emissions reduction plans that are location specific.

Importantly, the Liberals have also promised to work with other countries like Mexico and the U.S. in developing shared clean energy plans.

Liberals on Environment

The Liberal party is promising to undo some of the damage done to Canada’s environmental laws and environmental assessment process for projects like pipelines.

The party promises to establish new, credible reviews for proposed development that are comprehensive and consider full and cumulative impacts, including upstream impacts like development in the tar sands and greenhouse gas emissions.

Their revamped review process promises to be evidence-based and allow for more meaningful participation by the public.

Liberal party candidate Jonathan Wilkinson, who took the North Vancouver riding with 56 percent of the vote, has also promised to scrap the current Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline review in favor of a revitalized process.

Trudeau has voiced his support for pipelines, including the Kinder Morgan and Keystone XL pipelines, but has also acknowledged “even though [it is] governments that grant permits, ultimately it’s only communities that grant permission.”

In that light, the party is also promising to engage more respectfully with First Nations during the consultation process. Considering cumulative impacts around the tar sands has been a major issue for local First Nations. On this note, the Liberals have also promised to immediately implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—something that will alter the manner in which First Nations are approached and consulted on major energy projects.

Since 2012, the Conservative party has weakened and eliminated many of Canada’s strongest environmental laws, including the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Act.

The Liberals have promised to review changes to both of these acts, re-instate what was removed from them and possibly increase protections where warranted.

Significantly for British Columbia, the Liberal party has promised a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on the province’s north coast.

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Liberals on Science

The Liberal party has taken a strong stance on the war on science in Canada, promising to free scientists to speak publicly about their work.

Trudeau has also promised to instate a Parliamentary Science Officer to ensure transparency, expertise and independence of federal scientists. This position will mirror that of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

In addition to unmuzzling scientists, the party also wants to work collaboratively with the provinces, First Nations and other stakeholders when it comes to ocean management.

This is significant in light of the Conservative government’s defunding of numerous marine science programs, including the only research being conducted into the effects of industrial pollutants on marine mammals. The Liberal party has promised to reinstate $40 million of funding for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The Liberals plan on incorporating more science into federal environmental assessments, including the consideration of climate change and environmental impacts of tar sands development on pipeline projects. Under the Conservatives, both emissions and environmental impacts of tar sands were considered "outside the relevant scope" of pipeline reviews.

The federal Conservatives also fought against First Nations and conservation groups regarding the Species at Risk Act and its implication for major projects like tar sands mines or pipelines.

The Liberal party has promised to respond more quickly and more scientifically to the issue of at-risk species. This means species will be listed faster and mandatory timelines will be put in place for species once they are listed as at-risk.

A new version of the Species at Risk Act is already on the Liberal’s environmental plan.

Liberals on Transparency

When it comes to dealing with media, Trudeau has promised to have a much more open and transparent relationship with journalists.

Through its Transparency Act, the party has promised to make access to information much easier for Canadians, including making all government documents freely available online.

The Access to Information Act will be amended to make information "Open by Default," that is, more easily available to the public, on quicker timelines and for less money.

Current requests under the act cost $5 per request but may be subject to additional fees if the request is large or requires a lot of time. The amended act will limit the possible fee to the initial $5 charge.

In addition, the act will be reviewed every five years and expanded to include the Prime Minister’s Office, which is usually exempt from disclosure rules.

Trudeau has also promised to repeal certain elements of the Conservative’s controversial anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51.

Former Prime Ministers, national editorial boardstech expertslegal scholarscivil society organizationsdemocracy watchdogs and droves of citizens opposed the bill, saying it undermined the democratic rights of Canadians.

Many were outraged at the Liberals’ decision to support it.

Trudeau has promised to “take a constructive approach to improving the bill,” including instituting greater oversight of Canada’s national security agencies and establishing an “all-party committee of Parliamentarians, to provide oversight of various agencies, including CSIS, CSE, the RCMP and DND.”

No matter what, Canadians are in for a real shake-up under this new leadership. Reuters is reporting Justin Trudeau will bring “glamour, youth and charisma” to Ottawa in the dawning of this new age. I'll reserve that kind of cheer for another moment. For now, I'll just say the Liberal party certainly has their work cut out for them.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.