The 12-Year Climate Catastrophe: The Canadian Government’s Lack of Impact In A Global Crisis

(Shelby Harper, Queen’s University)

Climate change is a frightening phenomenon. The lack of action to prevent, let alone act, on this global crisis by the leaders who are supposed to be protecting us is even more terrifying.

It is easy to place blame on other nations for the global climate crisis, particularly the US government under Donald Trump. However as Canadians it is easy to overlook how our own country is, or is not, dealing with this crisis. Canada may seem like a progressive and helpful nation but as its citizens we need to take the time to reflect on the degree and effectiveness of our country’s contribution.

As citizens, we must be critical and know when to take action in order to prevent our provincial and national leaders from damaging our planet any further.

On October 8th, 2018, the United Nations declared that the world has 12 years to prevent an international climate crisis. This crisis has the power to devastate the globe and leave irreversible effects on its ecosystems, atmosphere, and even landscape.

The Canadian Federal Government has begun negotiating plans in attempt to reduce the amount of emissions produced in Canada. This was after signing the Paris Accord earlier this year, in which Canada agreed to set national targets to reduce carbon emissions all over the country). These plans may seem legitimate on paper, but even putting a price on emissions brings a complex tangle of complications.

Over the last couple of weeks, fundamental alterations have been made to Canada’s federal carbon tax plans. One new law states that companies that produce large amounts of emissions will not be subject to any consequences until they reach a level of 80% emissions of the average in their industry. This rule is practiced in most provinces, but does not reflect the actual practices of those provinces’ leaders.

Many of the alterations to the carbon tax plan stem from Ontario Premier Doug Ford. His campaign promised to end the provincial carbon tax. Ford has recently announced his plans to end the cap and trade program, calling them “no more than government cash grabs that do nothing for the environment.” Ford has made it apparent that he does not approve of any kind of emissions cutting tax and refuses to continue with the federal program, which is already in motion to begin this year.

So while the Canadian federal government may be instigating plans to interfere within the global climate crisis the often very different agendas of provincial leaders, who face backlash from their supporters because of the carbon tax plan, is blocking any real attempt at progress. On October 3rd, Manitoba backed out of the planned carbon tax even though Premier Brian Pallister was originally going to enact a $25 per tonne carbon tax within the province. This choice stemmed from the province’s ongoing pressure from the federal government to enact its own higher tax rate instead, as well as voters echoing the heavy resistance the plan received in other provinces, including Ontario.

While provinces may be supportive of instigating a carbon tax of some form, they take issue with the Canadian government cap-and-trade as a form of federal interference in provincial matters. Their issue is not with the principle of instigating an emissions cutting program, but rather with the loss of power implicit in giving jurisdiction over emissions taxes up to the federal government.

While the world is facing a climate catastrophe that will lead to devastation of the environment and the world’s population within a decade, seemingly ‘progressive’ nations like Canada are continuing to bicker with each other over what way they deem most appropriate to deal with the issue. Our leaders have forgotten that while they continue to argue back and forth regarding the best policies, the country is not actively doing anything to prevent this devastating reality.

Perhaps instead of disagreeing with one another ,which only succeeds to further divide the people of our nation, it is time to actually get something—anything—done and protect the future not only of this country but of the entire world.



Lambert, Stephen. “Manitoba backs out of planned carbon tax, says Ottawa not respecting provinces.” The Gobe and Mail, 3 October 2018

Quinn, Greg. “Ottawa eases carbon tax thresholds to help Canada’s big industries compete.” Bloomberg News, 1 August 2018.

Rieti, John. “Doug Ford is officially ending Ontario’s cap-and-trade plan, but what’s next?CBC News, 3 July 2018.

Watts, Jonathan. “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN.” The Guardian, 8 October 2018.

Weber, Bob. “Canada will meet climate targets despite emissions gap: environment minister.” CBC News, 6 March 2018.