“For the first time in 15 years, the last four weeks have had the environment as the top national issue of concern,” Nanos told CTV News. “More important than jobs, more important than health care, more important than immigration.”
Concerns about the environment have been rising in the public consciousness ever since a landmark UN report was put out last fall, which laid out a grim picture of the future if world leaders across the globe can’t slow down human-caused warming of the planet.
In the political sphere, the issue of how best to tackle climate change has been a source of contention, with federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and several premiers opposing the Liberal government’s federal carbon tax.
An Ontario court ruled Friday that the federal government’s carbon tax is important to the fight against climate change and is constitutionally sound. This ruling means the “the battle lines have been drawn,” Nanos said.
“This recent court decision is a direct body blow to the government of Ontario, the government of Alberta, the government of Saskatchewan, because what it says is that the feds can intervene and take leadership on environmental issues and on the carbon tax,” Nanos said. “It’s a green light and positive news for the Liberals, not good news for those provinces opposing the carbon tax.”
The federal carbon tax went into effect in April in provinces that did not have a climate change plan that met federal approval: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. It will be imposed on Alberta in 2020 due to the new provincial Conservative government’s repeal in May of the former NDP’s carbon tax in Alberta.
Nanos said that betting on a tax as a “winning issue” in an election is a “slippery slope.”
“Because people love the environment, they want to protect the environment, but once you reach into their pocketbooks and into their wallets, people start to get a little nervous,” he said. “So the Liberals have to be careful.”
The NDP and Green Party also support a carbon tax. The Conservatives released their long-awaited environment plan this month, which does not include a carbon tax or any estimates on how much their many ideas could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“For those against, they’re going to characterize [the carbon tax] as a cash grab,” Nanos said.
“So it’s going to be a classic fight between the heart and the wallet in the next federal election.”