This fall, in my seventh year as a volunteer climate change lobbyist of a “little power pony” called Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada, I asked myself: “Do I have the resources and energy to go to Ottawa for the third time to once again lobby MPs, Senators and aides for a revenue-neutral price on pollution? Back home three or four others and myself had spent hundreds of hours of the last seven years meeting with all but two of our Nova Scotian MPs and many MLAs, leaders of political parties, people in the faith, business and government policy bureaucrat communities, as well as hundreds of fellow citizens to get for Nova Scotians, especially low and middle income households, a fair shake if and when we would begin to price carbon pollution. That could only happen with a system where the revenue collected on a steadily increasing cost of fossil fuel products would be given back as rebate cheques to the citizens.
I looked at my bank account and said: “I just can’t do it.” Then I did something I’ve rarely done, I asked my fellow citizens for help to get to Ottawa and stay with a billet for four days. Donations of $250 from a city councillor, $210 from four fellow climate activists and $100 from a faith community came in over the next few days. I felt so supported in a government climate that had mostly ignored what we had been saying for so long. It was one of those times when you feel all warm and fuzzy like when you fall backwards into the interlocked arms of a group in one of those group dynamics’ trust exercises. I can’t thank those five individuals and one church body enough for catching and catapulting me to Ottawa.
I was about to face an intense four more days in the long journey of a citizen of a democracy where, despite evidence that we, the people, have little sway in the matters that affect us (compared with oil executives and those in their back pockets), we feel compelled to act tenaciously with patience and discipline (a motto a very smart businessman told me that is the creed he lives by ‘TPD,’ he calls it) to “be the change.”
Off I went, yes, using a lot of fossil fuels to get there. Please spare me the fallacious ‘ad hominem’ ‘You’re a hypocrite!’ attack. Until we have hemp biofuel and high-speed trains, I am forced to use what I have depended on and squandered in my misguided, brainwashed practise of focusing on my wants, rather than my needs. I am told my generation was the worst offender. I wear it. I own it. But anyone from my generation can counteract what we didn’t realize we shouldn’t have been doing. In the late 1970s, most revoked our commitment to clean energy under the avalanche of the Reaganomics-led corporate takeover that killed the electric car and manufactured the self-centred materialist “yuppified” 1980s.
Back in the future present, for four days, from October 13-16, I paid my penance as a gas and oil chugging baby boomer as one of 55 volunteers of at least four generations, who met with 54 Parliamentarians (talk about jet fuel junkies!), including cabinet ministers, both opposition critics for the environment and most members of the All-Party Climate Caucus.
Prior to lobbying, we spent 16 hours learning from a stellar line-up of climate change and communication experts including Mark Cameron from Canadians for Clean Prosperity – which produced a groundbreaking report in late September showing that the vast majority of Canadians would come out ahead with carbon fee and dividend. At the end of the weekend, three new Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapters were activated in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Oro-Medonte, ON, and Saskatoon, SK.
It turns out seven (years lobbying) and thirteen (national meetings) are my lucky numbers. This time, we heard a rumour on the hill that implementation of our preferred plan (carbon fee and dividend) was going to be announced as the official backstop policy for pricing carbon pollution. Independent Senator for Alberta, Grant Mitchell (who CCL’s former national director, Cathy Orlando and team have been lobbying since 2011) (since November 2011) announced (in her meeting with him), “You are one of the most successful lobbying groups I have worked with because you are about to get what you lobbied for.”
So it came to pass. On Tuesday, October 23, 2018, Prime Minister Trudeau announced (announced) “It is free to pollute, so we have too much pollution.” He presented the solution simply: “Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. We are going to place a price on the pollution that causes climate change from coast to coast to coast. We’re also going to help Canadians adjust to this new reality” in response to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which released a report on October 8th of this year. Its heartbreaking bottom line is that we have just twelve years left to reign in the climate crisis with severe consequences of inaction being felt by as early as 2040. That urgent message was brought to parliamentarians. On Monday, October 15, while on Parliament Hill, an emergency debate on the IPCC’s 1.5C report happened. Many CCLers watched in the House of Commons Gallery including eleven-year-old Sophia, who concluded afterward, “I wish they would cooperate.”
Using one province as an example, the PM stated that a family of four would receive $307 with their tax return this spring, more than doubling to $718 by 2022. Eight in ten families will get back more than they pay. The policy also includes extra support for small, rural and remote Canadian communities. Trudeau emphasized that every nickel of this revenue (Climate Action Incentive
)would be returned to Canadians.
And so it was that Canada became the first country in the world to enact a carbon fee and dividend policy. The story is far from an “…and they all lived happily ever after” ending. With a national election coming up next year, political attacks on the policy are already coming fast and furiously, so the job of generating political will for carbon fee and dividend is by no means finished in Canada for the sitting government. Success will hinge on their continued approach of persistent and respectful engagement that eschews partisanship.
As one Conservative MP told the group, “We like you because you are nonpartisan.” As another MP said, “We need you volunteers to tell the public far and wide about this.” I say, how about this government restoring the funding for the Canada-wide provincial Environmental Networks, like the NSEN, which former PM Harper eliminated and PM Trudeau hasn’t reinstated. Now would be a good time to do so because those networks would get the word out in theri climate change caucuses if they had a little money to catch them.”
I told you it was a long journey.
by Joanne Light