A recent environmental audit revealed that a 2020 program intended to help corporations reduce emissions has been a complete failure. The program subsidized fossil fuel companies to the tune of $675 million dollars. In return, they were expected to not lay off any employees, and have a plan for reducing emissions. Needless to say, this did not pan out.
Unsurprisingly, almost none of the corporations that took the subsidies actually abided by these rules. According to Canada’s environmental commissioner, Jerry DeMarco, the program is extremely flawed. Due to a combination of lax bookkeeping and little oversight, the commissioner has been unable to determine if any emissions have even been cut. “The government is vastly overestimating what this program can achieve.” With 134 million dollars already paid out, the program is shaping up to be one big handout to fossil fuel companies.
This is simply one in a long line of government subsidies handed out to the capitalists under the guise of environmentalism. Despite Trudeau’s claims to deeply care about the environment, his 18 billion dollars worth of “environmental subsidies” doled out in 2020 have failed to make any meaningful headway towards reducing emissions. While the government set environmental targets and spoke about combating climate change during the recent throne speech, there is no reason to believe that the current strategy of giving large sacks of cash to private companies will achieve anything—as the audit is proving.
Liberal lies and hypocrisy
Trudeau and his Liberal government enjoy painting themselves as progressive environmental crusaders. In trying to foster this image, in the recent throne speech, Trudeau stated that the “earth is in danger.” In typical tokenistic fashion, upon taking office, Trudeau changed the title of the Minister of the Environment to “Minister of the Environment and Climate Change,” and then proceeded to adopt a policy which accomplished precisely nothing. More recently, the Liberals even appointed Steven Guilbeault, a former activist with Greenpeace and founder of the prominent Quebec environmental group, Équiterre, to the post of Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. This is all a part of an increased push to appear as though they are fighting climate change.
Steven Guilbeault openly leans on his activist credentials, stating in a recent interview that he “was and still is an activist.” This, coupled with commitments made at the recent COP26 international conference to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, are all part of the ploy by the government to wear environmentalist garb in an attempt to maintain credibility amidst widespread disillusionment.
The appointment of Guilbeault has sent Alberta conservatives in particular into a tailspin, denouncing the appointment as a “slap in the face.” However, while prairie conservatives like to paint Trudeau as someone opposed to the interests of big oil barons, this could not be farther from the truth. Trudeau has been a very good friend to the oil bosses in Canada. In addition to the billions in handouts given to oil companies, Trudeau has not been shy about his support for pipelines. There have been, in total, eight separate subsidy programs for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, Coastal GasLink, and the Keystone XL, which have amounted to 23 billion dollars since 2018. This alone shows Trudeau’s commitment to supporting the fossil fuel industry. While Liberals and Conservatives denounce each other vociferously on the question of the environment, they are really on the same team: the team of capitalist destruction of the environment.
The Liberals have also routinely attacked Indigenous people who have tried to oppose these pipelines. In 2020, the RCMP attacked the Wet’suwet’en in order to support the Coastal Gas Link pipeline. Trudeau was fully in support of this, calling for the barricades to come down. Similarly today, the RCMP has renewed their attack. This is all to support the building of new pipelines to enrich the fossil fuel industry.
No solution under capitalism
The reason for the hypocrisy of Trudeau and the rest of his Liberal government cannot be boiled down to a question of individual sins. As the Liberals are a capitalist party, the interests of Trudeau and co. are therefore also tied to those of the fossil fuel corporations. No matter how many pro-environment speeches are given, or how many commitments are made, the profits of the big fossil fuel companies will always come before the interests of Canadian workers and the environment.
In the same interview in which Steven Guilbeault stated he was an activist and remains an activist, he also stated: “My issue has always been with pollution. But I’m part of a government that has been very clear on this: We’re not going after production; we are going after the emissions.” In other words, the government accepts that the economy is in private hands. Because they accept private ownership of the main levers of the economy, they are therefore relegated to simply committing to reduce emissions. As they know that the main polluters are big private firms, they have resorted to giving them large sacks of cash to try to persuade them to not pollute so much. The only problem is that these companies have direct material interests in not reaching these emission targets. The findings of the audit have therefore shown that there is no solution under capitalism.
This is because capitalism produces for profit, not for need. Oil and gas is an extremely profitable business in Canada. This is an industry worth 170 billion dollars, or around 10 per cent of Canada’s GDP. The interests of the oil barons will always trump the interests of the average Canadian, like those facing massive flooding in B.C. There is no solution using market mechanisms like carbon taxation or subsidy programs, which as the audit shows end up being simply a handout for big corporations.
Instead, what is needed is a socialist solution to the environmental crisis. Only by nationalizing the fossil fuel industry, under the control of working people, can we move towards renewable energy with guaranteed employment for the workers impacted. Only a socialist solution can provide a permanent resolution to the climate crisis.