Norway Model Potential Winner For Scheer’s Conservatives

Public opinion polls are looking bleak for the federal Conservative Party, and hence Western Canada’s oil industry, now that the writ has been dropped.

CBC’s Poll Tracker — an aggregation of publicly available polling data — is now predicting the Conservatives to have a mere nine per cent chance of forming a majority government. This is likely the only way the Tories can govern given the ideological bent of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Green Party and a shortage of seats for the Bloc Québécois (BQ). The Conservatives had flirted with majority territory in the polls early this year.

If Tory leader Andrew Scheer is to turn the fortunes of his party around and have any chance of winning a majority government on Oct. 21, or at least enough seats to govern with possible BQ support, he needs to do something radical to encourage a disproportionate number of those yet fully committed to a party — up to half of the electorate — to vote Conservative.

The results of an Angus Reid Institute (ARI) poll in early September may have provided that something radical. Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians believe fighting climate change should be the next government’s number one priority, but counter-intuitively to many, 58 per cent said oil and gas development should be a top priority alongside climate change.

Since the Conservatives are the only party viewed as pro oil and gas development — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long since burned that bridge for the Liberal Party — the Tories should get serious about climate change and adopt the Norwegian climate-energy model: a vibrant oil and gas export industry to help finance a rapid shift to a low-carbon domestic economy (see Canada Should Follow In Norway’s Energy Footsteps) — to do an end run around the Liberals and other left-wing parties.

Lay of the land

According to Poll Tracker, the Liberals currently have a 42 per cent probability of forming a second consecutive majority government in October, compared to the previously mentioned nine per cent chance for the Tories. The Grits also have a 26 per cent probability of winning the most seats but not a majority, three percentage points more than the Conservatives.

But the Tories are in fact ahead of the Liberals by a nose in terms of popular vote. Poll Tracker presently has the Conservatives with 33.9 per cent of the committed vote, the Grits with 33.7 per cent, and the NDP, Green Party and BQ with 14 per cent, 10 per cent and four per cent, respectively.

Based on current poll results, the Liberal Party would win 167 seats in the federal election in October, just three short of an outright majority, whereas the Conservatives are projected to win 139 seats, the NDP 16, the BQ 12, and the Green Party the remaining four seats in parliament.

The NDP and Greens are the most likely candidates to support a Liberal minority government, a nightmare scenario for Western Canada’s oil industry given their hardcore anti-oil platforms (see Trudeau Minority Government Next?). In contrast, the BQ as much as kept Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s two minority governments in power from 2006 to 2011, given historical animosity between Québécois separatists and the federal Liberals.

Tory climate platform

Scheer presented the Conservative Party’s long awaited climate platform in June, and it was immediately panned, if not outright mocked, by a wide range of experts and pundits. “Sixty pages,” Scheer said, holding the document aloft. "Eleven thousand words."

“It is, without question, a handsome document — in full colour and featuring many large photos. There are many words in it. Some of them are in large fonts. Others are in italics,” wrote Aaron Wherry, a parliamentary correspondent for CBC News. “But unfortunately, none of them explain at any point how much the federal Conservatives hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through this plan.”

The Conservative’s “A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment” is indeed short on details, and more notable for the climate change fighting tools it negates than the ones it proposes. A Scheer government would repeal the federal carbon tax, widely regarded the most effective tool for combating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by economists, and roll back the planned Clean Fuel Standard.

Instead, the Conservatives are planning to rely on a hodgepodge of measures to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint, some of which have failed to reduce GHG emissions in the past, while lobbying to obtain international credits under Article VI of the 2015 Paris climate accord for cutting emissions elsewhere in the world. For example, for providing China the LNG needed to replace coal-fired plants with gas-fired ones.

The Conservatives main mechanisms for reducing domestic GHG emissions are: emission standards for major industrial emitters; a two-year tax incentive program for homeowners to undertake energy retrofits and more stringent, albeit voluntary, building standards; a $250-million venture capital fund focused on green technologies; and a greater reliance on carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Despite the lack of detail, Mark Jaccard, a professor at Simon Fraser University who sits on the UN’s advisory panel on climate change, has modelled the potential impact of the Conservative’s new plan. He found it would actually allow Canadian GHG emissions to increase between 2020 and 2030.

Norwegian climate-energy model

Norway ranks number one in the world for making a positive contribution to the planet and combating climate change based on the environmental sub-component of the Good Country Index — Canada trails in 17th place. This is despite being one of the larger exporters of oil and gas in the world, with its government continuously supporting development of the country’s oil and gas industry since oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in the North Sea in 1969.

The Norwegian government is at the forefront of decarbonizing transportation, oil and gas production, and manufacturing, the major sources of its energy-related GHG emissions. For example, the country has easily the highest electric car adoption rate in the world due to generous government subsidies. Hydropower provides 99 per cent of the country’s electricity.

Norway has been a global leader in CCS since the commercial-scale Sleipner gas field project came online in 1996, supported by a carbon tax introduced way back in 1991, and is now at the forefront of the next wave. The Norwegian CCS Demonstration Project is to capture emissions from a cluster of industrial plants, including a cement manufacturer and a chemical company, by 2022.

Since agreeing to its latest round of GHG emissions targets in 2008, the Norwegian government has substantially increased funding for energy research, development and demonstration (RD&D) to “exceptionally high levels” to support efforts to reduce GHG emissions in its economy.

In a 2017 country report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) wrote: “Norway is determined and, with its large oil and gas revenue, well placed to invest in developing new solutions for a low-carbon future.” For example, Norway may be the country best placed to overcome cost and other barriers to large-scale deployment of CCS, supporting its adoption elsewhere in the world.

To conclude, if Scheer wants to lead the next federal government, it’s time he and the Conservative Party have an epiphany on climate change. Like it or not, a large majority of Canadians believe combating it should be the top priority of the Feds moving forward. A wholesale revamp of the party’s climate platform to achieve a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy — especially given Canada’s massive hydropower and other renewable potential — with its already pro-oil and gas export stance, could be the Tories’ winning formula come October.