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Conservatives want climate an issue in the leadership race

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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Stephen Bliss, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – A group of environmentally conscious conservatives is offering their expertise to candidates to lead the Canadian Conservative Party (CPC) who want to advance an agenda to fight climate change. Conservatives for Clean Growth also helped candidate Jean Charest write a climate plan, which was announced on Tuesday.

According to conservative strategist Sarah Biggs, “Without a strong and credible environmental program, governors will have a hard time getting elected at the next election,” so “we have to start realizing that we need strong and credible environmental policies.”

The Quebec native, who now lives in Calgary, is part of the Conservatives for Clean Growth group, one of whose original members is Lisa Wright, a former minister in the Harper government.

Tailor-made platform for different candidates

Sarah Biggs explained to the Canadian press that her group is offering to help various candidates build an environmental platform.

“Mr. Charst has helped us, but that does not mean he is an endorsement,” the strategist said, explaining that “if a candidate contacts us, we mobilize a team to help him create environmental policies that represent him well.”

The candidate then adapts the proposals according to their campaign goals.

Regarding “Jean Charest’s plan to stimulate green growth”, which does not contain any details on implementation costs, Sarah Biggs stressed that “the details are still a bit vague”, but it is “a start”.

Ideally, the Conservative Party for Clean Growth would like to deal with several leadership candidates, but so far only Jean Charest and another candidate, whose identity has not yet been revealed, have taken advantage of their services.

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Before Jean Charest shared his new plan with The Canadian Press on Monday, no Chinese Communist Party leadership candidate had publicly addressed the issue of environmental protection or combating climate change since the start of the race, a situation that worries Sarah Biggs.

She hopes that “environmental protection and clean energy will be among the topics to be discussed on May 11 in Edmonton”, during the first debate for the Conservative leadership candidates.

However, the majority of conservative activists do not seem to place the same importance on the environment as conservative strategists.

According to an Angus-Reid survey published at the end of March, only 12% of Conservative voters who intend to vote for Pierre Boulevard consider the environment and climate change to be among the priority issues in Canada. For Pierre Boulevard’s voters, the economy, the budget deficit, taxation, health, energy resources, ethics, and access to housing, in descending order, are more important than the environment and climate.

Also according to this poll, 22% of Conservatives who intend to support Jean Charest believe that the environment and climate change are among the priority issues.

This difference can be explained by the fact that Pierre Boulevard is much more popular than his competitor in oil-producing provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Stephen Harper Effect and the Western Right

PhD student in political sociology at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) Jamila Mons points out that Pierre Boulevard has a clear ideological connection to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the right from Western Canada. This conservative right is “very close to the extractive industries, especially since the beginning of the eighties” and has managed to build a “public discourse linking the public interest, national construction and the exploitation of oil.” In this context, its proponents often view environmental protection in a negative light.

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For his part, Jean Charest, the former Minister of Environment of Canada, is “to some extent associated with the Conservative Reds, with the French-Canadian right and the traditional Conservatives of Ontario and the Maritimes, who have historically had a more balanced position on environmental issues”, summed up Jamila Mons.

At least eight candidates have taken the first step to see their names on the ballot papers that will elect the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC).

Leaders in the race are Representative Pierre Boiliver, followed by former Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown.

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