OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer won’t say whether he thinks extreme weather events have anything to do with climate change and human activity.
Over the weekend, deputy leader Lisa Raitt tweeted a link to an article published in the Financial Post by University of Guelph economics professor Ross McKitrick.
She quoted two lines from McKitrick’s piece, claiming: “there’s no solid connection between climate change and the major indicators of extreme weather, despite Trudeau’s claims to the contrary. The continual claim of such a link is misinformation employed for political and rhetorical purposes.”
The article cited one American scientist’s research to undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus, backed by 97 per cent of climate scientists, that warming temperatures are “extremely likely” due to human activities over the past century.
Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe flagged the article as “incorrect and dangerously misleading.” The Milton MP subsequently deleted her tweet.
When asked directly if Scheer believes extreme weather events have any connection to climate change or human activity, the Conservative leader’s office ducked the question and responded with an attack against the carbon tax.
The Conservative leader “does not believe is that a punishing, job-killing carbon tax that jacks up the price of gasoline, home heating, and groceries on Canadian families is the best way to fight climate change,” wrote Scheer’s spokesman Daniel Schow in an email to HuffPost on Monday.
“Mr. Scheer believes that climate change is a real and pressing threat that requires action.”
Federal Conservatives have stuck to a message calling climate change a real and serious issue, and have repeatedly steered clear from linking the issue to extreme weather and human activity.
More details about Scheer’s environment policy, which is expected to outline his party’s plan to tackle climate change, will be revealed in a speech later this month. For more than a year, he’s been facing pressure from federal Liberals to match his criticism of the government’s policies with ideas of his own.
Raitt wasn’t the only member of the Conservative caucus who created some buzz over the weekend for laundering inaccurate and unfounded theories related to climate change through their official social media accounts.
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Conservative Sen. Denise Batters drew attention over a tweet of her own, claiming a power outage affecting 7,000 people in southern Regina is a taste of what’s to come if Trudeau’s Liberals are re-elected.
The Saskatchewan senator is a staunch defender of western Canada in Ottawa, and has been vocal against Trudeau and his government’s energy-related policies.
She declined an opportunity to explain her tweet when asked by The Canadian Press.
SaskPower told the news agency that power went out because there was an issue with a major transformer. “Approximately one-third of unplanned outages are caused by equipment failure, with weather events and wildlife accounting for the other two-thirds,” spokesman Jordan Jackle said.
Conservatives, with the exception of Ontario MP Cheryl Gallant, voted in favour of implementing the Paris accord in 2017.
But in the years since that vote signaled some cross-party support on the issue of climate change, Canada has lagged in its efforts to meet its goal of making a 30 per cent cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.
Environmental Commissioner Jullie Gelfand also took the government to task earlier this year, auditing the federal departments tasked with scrapping “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies that “undermine efforts to address climate change, and discourage investment in clean energy sources.”
After the release of a pair of blistering reports on how Finance Canada and Environment Canada has handled the file, Gelfand stated the government “is not ready to adapt to a changing climate,” just as previous federal governments have failed to do so.
Watch: Environment commissioner scolds feds for slow climate action
Unlike elections past, the environment is expected to be a source of debate ahead of the fall vote.
Conservatives have been pressing the government to take responsibility for its slow actions to address climate change and acknowledge that Canada won’t hit its Paris targets.
Environmental Minister Catherine McKenna tried to force Conservatives to vote on Paris climate targets with a motion that called the House to recognize climate change as a “real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity.”
Liberals have pointed to their carbon pricing system as an example of the government implementing measures to reduce emissions.
Conservatives, both federally and provincially, have dismissed it as a taxation tool that will have limited effect because large industrial emitters are covered by a different system intended to protect their competitive edge.
Scheer repeated the same message to reporters Monday, citing media reports that Canadians aren’t getting back what they’ve been promised in carbon tax rebates. It was also another opportunity for him to plug the party’s most recent ad campaign tagline, branding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be “not as advertised.”
When asked to respond to the federal government’s proposal to ban single-use plastics by 2021, Scheer cracked a joke.
“This is clearly just a government that’s clutching its straws trying to change the channel from its scandals,” he said, calling it “another gesture without a plan” or specifics.
With files from The Canadian Press and Ryan Maloney