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Comment: Conservative leadership and the carbon price

The majority of ballots cast in the last federal election were for parties that support carbon taxes

As the results of the most recent federal election poured in, pointing more and more towards the pollster-predicted minority Liberal government, I received a text from an old contact in Regina.

He suggested the Conservative Party of Canada under Andrew Scheer’s leadership would never be able to form government. It wasn’t a unique opinion, but it was telling enough that a Scheer supporter, located in his home city, was calling for a resignation.

From the moment the election ended until the day Scheer finally resigned, those calls continued – many of them coming from inside his own party.

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Now the question of who Scheer’s successor should be is in full swing.

It is here where those in the agriculture industry should be paying particular attention, because thus far many of the names being touted as his replacement are decidedly more urban, more socially progressive and more centrally located.

While the CPC will likely continue to find strong support in Prairie provinces and rural ridings, a more urban-centric leadership would place key issues facing producers — and potentially, Prairie provinces — further onto the back burner.

It is clear there is a growing and apparent disconnect between rural and urban communities in Canada, centring around issues such as carbon pricing.

Given the majority of Canadians voted in favour of a carbon price, and the decision of some Conservative-led provinces to now go along with the plan, it is possible the next federal party leader will be one who supports a price on carbon.

How far down that path the party goes will be determined in coming weeks or months, and while it should not immediately concern producers, it is worth their attention.

Much has been made over the legitimate concerns farmers have with carbon pricing — particularly regarding the carbon offset credits and exemptions for on-farm fuels.

Ensuring that conversation does not get lost in the high politics of finding a new Conservative leader should be a priority.

More than 60 per cent of Canadians who cast a ballot voted for a party supporting carbon pricing.

Despite commentary from notable Conservatives such as former prime minister Stephen Harper, who wrote in 2018 that carbon taxes are “widely unpopular,” there is a dialogue within the party over its stance on the issue, given the 2019 election results.

People are passionate about the issue of climate change and will presumably continue to vote accordingly. Several polls demonstrate climate and environmental issues as being near or close to near the top of mind for voters.

The Conservatives are aware of this, and should be vigorously evaluating their climate policy. They would be ill served to continue to oppose a carbon price.

Tellingly enough on this front, the same person who texted me about Scheer on election night has since thrown out the name of Ontario MP Michael Chong as a good fit for being the next leader.

That would be the same Michael Chong who ran against Scheer for the leadership in 2017, on a platform that was in favour of a revenue-neutral carbon tax. He gained less than 10 per cent of the vote at the time.

But given what has happened between then and now, he — or someone else supporting a price on carbon — might have a better chance at success.

Farmers should ensure they are part of those conversations to ensure their concerns over carbon pricing are not lost.

About the author

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D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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