Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault, pictured on Oct. 27, 2021, arriving a cabinet meeting at 111 Sussex Dr. In Ottawa. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
Climate change commitments in the recent Throne Speech have set the tone for even more vigorous environmental advocacy in this parliamentary session, following an October in which the environment was the top subject of discussion between government officials and lobbyists in federal communication reports, according to the national policy manager of the David Suzuki Foundation.
“’This is the moment for bolder climate action,’ I think was the line in the speech, and we’re really concerned now about timelines,” said Lisa Gue. “We know that this is the critical decade for action. We just can’t waste any more time in moving beyond the announcements to actually implementing these policy regulations that will require the needed emission reductions.”
The Throne Speech, delivered in the Senate by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon on Nov. 23, laid out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) plan to rebuild the country post-pandemic. The speech promised to cap and cut oil and gas sector greenhouse gas emissions, increase the price on GHG pollution, and mandate the sale of zero emissions vehicles.
Members of the David Suzuki Foundation were encouraged by the Throne Speech commitments related to gas caps and electric vehicles, and will push for swift action by the government to follow through on these priorities, said Ms. Gue.
“We all know that it’s not unusual for it to take years to finalize regulation,” she said. “We don’t have years, on the basis of the science around climate change. And we’re also very attuned to the reality that this is another minority Parliament. The last minority Parliament lasted for two years. There’s a scientific imperative, and there’s a political imperative. In this case, they both align for fast action.”
The environment led in October as the most common subject matter in federal lobbying reports, surpassing the monthly total of communication reports about economic development for the first time since June. Out of a total of 968 communication reports filed in October, “environment” was listed in 165, narrowly surpassing “economic development,” which appeared as the subject in 159 reports, according to a search of the federal lobbyists’ registry on Nov. 26.
The David Suzuki Foundation filed 10 communication reports in October, of which six listed the environment as a subject for discussion, and eight listed climate as a discussion topic. The foundation communicated with Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault on Oct. 28 with a letter congratulating him on his recent appointment to the environment portfolio, and outlining some of the organization’s advocacy priorities, according to Ms. Gue.
During October, the David Suzuki Foundation’s federal advocacy included recommendations for spending promises in the next federal budget, and how the federal government could support public transit during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ms. Gue.
“Effective public transit as an alternative to an individual’s vehicle is really important to reduce emissions,” said Ms. Gue. “Many people rely on transit to get to work, to get to appointments to get their groceries, and it’s in everybody’s best interest for transit to survive the pandemic.”
New ISSB Montreal office a coup for Canada, says CPA
The most active lobbying organization in October was Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), which filed 15 communication reports, including 14 that listed the environment as a subject for discussion. The organization targeted Soren Halverson, the associate assistant deputy minister of finance, in 12 communications between Oct. 1 and Oct. 28.
CPA Canada’s October lobbying focused on environmental and sustainability-related issues, including Canada’s potential role in supporting the implementation of global sustainability standards, according to Perry Jensen, CPA Canada’s manager of media relations, in an emailed statement to The Hill Times on Nov. 24.
Developing global sustainability standards will be the mission of the new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), which was announced on Nov. 3 by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation during the United Nations’s COP26 conference on climate change.
The ISSB will develop standards governing how information relating to environmental and social issues are disclosed by companies. The ISSB’s headquarters will be located in Germany, however the North America hub will be located in Montreal, Que.
Establishing the ISSB office in Montreal is a significant achievement for Canada, and reflects the recognition of the country’s role in sustainability governance, said Charles-Antoine St-Jean, CPA Canada’s president and CEO, in an emailed statement.
“Selecting Montreal to host an office of the new international board demonstrates that the IFRS Foundation recognizes this country’s strong commitment to sustainability governance, something showcased by the extensive support behind the Canadian bid,” he said.
CPA Canada had discussions with stakeholders from a variety of industries over the past year to gather input on how Canada can transition to a net-zero emissions economy, he said.
“One of the common messages from all participants was the need for government and the private sector to act in a coordinated way,” he said. “This requires a plan that ensures a common understanding of what ‘net zero’ means in the Canadian context and also maps the transition on a sector-by-sector basis.”
John Delacourt, a vice-president of public affairs with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, told The Hill Times that the Throne Speech sent a clear message that economic recovery has to include a focus on climate change. He said that climate action is “not simply a question for environmental advocacy groups.”
“The sense of addressing climate change, I think, touches upon the reconciliation narrative, the economic recovery narrative, and any long-term, strategic consideration…has to be about carbon de-intensification and getting to net- zero emissions,” said Mr. Delacourt, a former communications director for the Liberal caucus research bureau.
“It’s integrated and intertwined with virtually every major policy front that this government is going to advance upon as we get out of the pandemic.”
Joshua Matthewman, a director at Temple Scott Associates, said that the Trudeau government is poised to take a more “whole-of-government approach” to climate change, and advocacy organizations should keep any eye on the ministers who are “pulled into the climate file.”
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne (Saint-Maurice—Champlain, Que.) plays a role on the climate file because of Innovation Canada’s Net Zero Accelerator initiative, said Mr. Matthewman. Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan (St. John’s South—Mount Pearl, N.L.) will also likely take the lead on legislation to transition workers out of low carbon-emitting industries towards green technologies, according to Mr. Matthewman, who also served as campaign manager for former Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna during the 2019 federal election.
“For environmental stakeholders, there’s going to be a lot more key ministers and staff involved in the climate plan, perhaps, than there were in the past,” he said. “There’s just more vehicles now for the government to be talking and thinking about climate.”
Following closely behind CPA Canada in October was Universities Canada, which filed 14 communication reports. Universities Canada’s communication reports listed a broad range of topics for discussion, including immigration, infrastructure, health and economic development.
Paul Davidson, the president of Universities Canada, told The Hill Times that the organization’s communications with the federal government in October included discussions about the role research and development plays in economic development.
For example, the lipid nanoparticles drug delivery system used in the development of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines was developed by Dr. Pieter Cullis, a co-founder of Acuitas Therapeutics in Vancouver and a professor at the University of British Columbia’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology.
“Investments in research pay dividends over the long term,” said Mr. Davidson. “Where we see ourselves most clearly, frankly, is in building a resilient economy. That phrase ‘building a resilient economy,’ is really important in the Throne Speech, and behind that, for us, is the generation of talent that universities produce.”