By Kyle Muzyka
Just seven years ago, leader of the federal Liberal Party Stephane Dion had a legitimate shot at re-establishing his party as the face of politics in Canada.
Not only did he lose to the Conservatives in 2008, but he failed to make up ground, losing 18 more seats in the process.
Hindsight is 20/20, and with his loss surfaced a multitude of reasons why he could not usurp Conservative leader Stephen Harper.
Some cited his inability to lead; others cited his outright refusal to approve attack advertisements. But it was his main platform, which he dubbed the Green Shift, that was most intriguing.
The Green Shift was a proposal to create an ecotax on carbon dioxide emissions. According to The Globe and Mail, Dion revealed it as the main part of his platform against the wishes of his advisers. As a result, he was subjected to a barrage of criticisms from other political leaders during the election.
It essentially solidified the loss for the Liberal Party in 2008.
The good news was, at the time, Canadians were starting to care about the environment. A 2008 study by Consumerology reported that 83 per cent of Canadians said they were motivated to make changes in their personal lives in favour of the environment — a clear sign that, at the very least, it was entering conversation.
Perhaps Dion’s push for the Green Shift meant Canadians were beginning to feel the environment was important.
From an initial look, the results of 2011 federal election seemed to further support an increased amount of Canadians on board with green politics. Green Party leader Elizabeth May won her seat in the election, marking the first elected seat won by the Green Party.
Things seemed to be changing.
However, the exact opposite was the case. The Green Party saw a three per cent drop in votes between the 2008 and 2011, despite winning one seat.
Though the Green Party winning a seat in 2011 was celebrated as a huge victory for green politics, the support in Canada has waned. A 2011 study by Consumerology reported only 49 per cent of Canadians deemed the environment as very important, an 11 per cent decline from 2008.
It is likely the financial crisis of 2008 soured Canadians’ views on environmentally friendly over sheer price. If not that, then the economy’s dependence on oil and gas serves as an alternative.
Whatever the reasoning, it will be interesting to see if the 2015 election falls under the same narrative. It is easy to assume the environment will act as a tertiary issue once again in 2015, if it were to follow suit with previous elections.
Canada used B.C. as a guinea pig for a carbon tax, implemented eight years ago. According to an article written in by The Globe and Mail, the carbon tax has helped produce the lowest income tax in 2014 for taxpayers in B.C. Fuel use dropped 16 per cent.
All of this went on while Prime Minister Stephen Harper continued to label carbon taxes as “crazy.”
Whether Canadian politics will see a paradigm shift in green politics during the next election remains uncertain. What is certain is these issues will be discussed at great length, further propelling the topic into the daily public discourse.