Where’s Your Climate Plan, Andrew Scheer?

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“Of course… I will unveil a plan,” remarked Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in April 2018 when asked about the whereabouts of an alternative Conservative climate plan that will meet the Paris agreement targets.

We’re still waiting.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has turned the tables on Scheer many times in the past. She uses Question Period to ask the Opposition leader questions, such as, “Where are the Conservatives hiding their climate plan?… Where is the climate plan?”

Scheer is playing defence after months upon months of having the spotlight turned back on him.

He has shirked every opportunity as a leader, instead leaning on his title as ‘Opposition’ leader – with emphasis on opposing.

“[Scheer’s] problem is that, unless he can persuade voters he cares about the environment and has a plan for tackling climate change, he will still be the Opposition leader after the next election.”

– John Ivison, February 12, 2018

What he’s masking is a dilemma many politicians have wrestled with in opposition – when do you propose something instead of just criticizing?

Since being elected Conservative leader last May, he has said he would reverse, reject or reduce almost every proposal made by the Liberal government.

He has mastered the conservative art of being a consistent contrarian.

He has suggested, if his party was elected, that they would end carbon pricinglimit so-called “birth tourism”quash measures aiming to reduce illegal firearms, and would not support expanded safe consumption sites to deal with the opioid crisis.

He has not made serious proposals of his own to address any public policy issue.

To be fair, he proposed a non-refundable income tax credit on EI parental leave benefits. Critics have panned this so-called plan saying it does not help low-income people, those with adopted children, and people with newborns who lack benefits.

“The results show that at almost all income levels and for almost all family types, families and households would receive more money back in carbon dividends than they would pay out in carbon taxes or indirect costs.”

– Dave Sawyer, EnviroEconomics & Canadians for Clean Prosperity

During the Conservative Leadership race in 2017, Scheer outlined a platform that has gone all but dormant. In fact, it was removed from his website right before becoming leader.

Scheer can tell you what he would not do, including opposing the Quebec ban on religious symbols.

I understand that the Conservative approach is to entrust power to lower levels of government, but he is presently defined by a singular approach: inaction.

Past leaders have changed tone and posture when they moved from opposing to proposing.

Arguably, Justin Trudeau got on a lot of Canadians’ radar as an opposition leader when he moved to supporting legalization and regulation of recreational cannabis — a policy coming to fruition this week.

This happened almost two years out from the 2015 election. It was reiterated, developed, and questioned regularly — a test that Trudeau passed until opinion polls increasingly got onside with his plan.

“I’m still waiting for Andrew Scheer’s promised comprehensive detailed plan to fight climate change that won’t include a price on carbon. I think we are all waiting for that, but I think none of us should hold our breath.”

– Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, September 17, 2018

Andrew Scheer sits almost exactly one year from the 2019 election, and there’s not one policy that most Canadians consider him synonymous with. They still don’t know what he stands for and what he’s about.

The question “What’s your climate plan?” is a poignant one because–beyond a stark difference between the Liberal and Conservative environmental approach — he has yet to answer most policy questions.

Provide an alternative. Suggest something. Anything.

If you do not define yourself, your opponents will. That’s something that Stephen Harper famously took advantage of in the 2008 and 2011 elections.

When the government benches make comments like Andrew Scheer would “make pollution free again” — he is evading the opportunity to respond. It defines him.

Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives sit one year from an election rudderless and sniping from social media with memes.

Minister McKenna has repeatedly said “They have no plan.” And they cannot shy away from the fact that it’s true at the moment.

“Action on climate change should not be a partisan issue. It will affect all of us. Whether you’re rich, or you’re poor, whether you live in the north or the south. Whether you vote on the left of the spectrum or vote right on the spectrum, urban or rural. We’re all in this total and we need to come together.”

– Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKennain the House of Commons, October 15, 2018

So, asking again, for the sake of our earth’s health: what’s your climate plan? Asking for 7 billion friends.

Having a good Opposition party willing to step up to the plate with ideas is essential.

It can’t wait.

The surprise for Scheer when he finally releases an unambitious, untested, visionless platform much closer to the 2019 election will be that Canadians won’t warm to environmentally blind, bland politics.

Scheer should give proposing ideas a try by looking directly into voters’ eyes and answering the question.

Shane Mackenzie, Ensight consultant and Liberal strategist. 

(Published in HuffPost Canada on Tuesday, October 16, 2018)