Justin Trudeau offers preview of Liberal campaign at Hats Off Day in Burnaby

But will he still face a backlash from those disenchanted with his climate policies?

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      Whenever the prime minister shows up at a public event, he receives a disproportionate amount of the ensuing media coverage.

      And so it went at Hats Off Day in Burnaby, when Justin Trudeau made a surprise appearance alongside the local Liberal MP, Terry Beech, and Vancouver Kingsway Liberal candidate Tamara Taggart.

      It's the largest car-free street festival in the city, a family-friendly affair extending along Hastings Street from Boundary Road to Gamma Avenue.

      Trudeau offered an outline of the upcoming Liberal campaign, saying he's going to focus on making sure that life gets better for Canadians.

      Standing on a fire truck, he also bragged about a million new jobs being created in recent years and 825,000 Canadians being lifted out of poverty.

      But the Liberal government's decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline system and continue with a $9.3-billion publicly funded expansion project isn't going over well in parts of Burnaby North–Seymour, which Beech represents.

      Nor is the Liberal government's decision to approve the expansion project under the old National Energy Board rules, despite promising otherwise during the 2015 campaign.

      The Liberals also retained the Harper's weak greenhouse-gas emission targets and still failed to meet them, offering a ripe target for criticism.

      To try to blunt perceptions that Liberals are all talk and no action, Beech recently brought his infant daughter, Nova, into Parliament for speech on the perils of climate change.

      But again this weekend, Burnaby's popular mayor, Mike Hurley, didn't help matters for Beech by reiterating his public-safety concerns about a Trans Mountain pipeline facility near the foot of Burnaby Mountain.

      Meanwhile, the NDP has nominated a familiar face in North Burnaby–Seymour, long-time NDP MP Svend Robinson.

      He's emphasizing the Trudeau government's policy failures in addressing climate change.

      Robinson has been endorsed by David Suzuki.

      Since being nominated earlier this year, Robinson has been trying to steer the NDP's environmental policies in a greener direction.

      Last week he succeeded to a significant degree when NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh unveiled a new climate policy calling for an end to subsidies for fossil-fuel producers.

      Svend Robinson recently joined Jagmeet Singh for the launch of his autobiography at the Burnaby Indigo store.
      Gurpreet Singh

      NDP promises aggressive climate policies

      In its Power to Change: A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs document, the NDP has promised to set greenhouse gas targets in accordance to what scientists say is necessary to address climate change.

      This is something that the Trudeau Liberals have steadfastly refused to do.

      "We will revise Canada's 2030 target to make emissions reductions in line with what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate impacts," the NDP's new document states.

      To ensure that this won't be another case of greenhouse-gas emissions targets being set and then being ignored, the NDP has also promised to create an independent Climate Accountability Office. 

      It would conduct regular audits.

      "We'll work with the provinces and territories to make Canada an innovation leader on methane reduction in such areas as real-time monitoring and leakage detection, ensuring that provincial methane regulations are genuinely equivalent with the federal regulations, and increasing the ambition of those targets in the 2025-30 period," the NDP continues.

      Canada is a relatively weak federation, with provincial governments enjoying broad jurisdictional powers.

      To ensure provincial compliance with its climate policies in right-wing havens like Alberta and Saskatchewan, the federal NDP might need to apply some big sticks.

      However, the NDP document does not disclose what tools it might use—whether that could involve withholding federal transfer payments or invoking other measures.

      One of the biggest barriers to a more rapid transition to zero-emission vehicles has been the shortage of charging stations.

      In this regard, the NDP has come up with the following proposals:

      * using Canada Post locations and other federal government buildings to host charging stations;

      * working with provinces and municipalities to ensure that charging stations are incorporated into community development plans;

      * and offering up to $600 to homeowners to cover the cost of installing a plug-in charger.

      The NDP has also replicated the B.C. NDP government's call for 100 percent of all automotive sales to be zero-emission vehicles by 2040. 

      But there's no mention in the plan of doing anything for the large number of tenants in urban areas who don't have access to charging stations in their multi-unit apartment buildings. 

      But hey, the NDP's Power to Change document does include a Trudeau-style photo of Singh paddling a canoe.

      Jagmeet Singh strikes a Trudeau-esque pose to highlight the NDP climate plan.

      It's a cliché, but campaigns matter

      Events over the past few days have helped clarify the outlines of the upcoming federal campaign:

      * Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will try to show that his party is as moderate as Conservatives can be to avoid scaring the electorate with policies that most Canadians dislike. He took a step in that direction by removing Michael Cooper from the justice committee after the Conservative MP berated a Muslim community leader.

      * Trudeau will try to appeal more to so-called blue Liberals by talking up his government's record on job creation and countering poverty. Trudeau will also mouth platitudes about climate change and emphasize his full support for a woman's right to choose on abortion to try to convince voters that he's progressive.

      * The NDP will try to blunt the challenge of the Greens with an aggressive climate policy while highlighting policies to address inequality, such as a universal single-payer national pharmacare program and raising the prospect of a national dental-care plan. The NDP might even pledge a universal basic income in response to automation and the expansion of artificial intelligence.

      * People's Party of Canada Leader Max Bernier will appeal to his base by running socially conservative candidates, some with hostile views to Muslims immigrating to Canada, in an effort to siphon away votes from the Conservatives.

      * The Greens will continue talking about the climate and hope that their leader, Elizabeth May, is seen as more credible than those leading the four other parties. If she's seen as the "least worst", she could surprise people on election day.

      Right now, the media and the pollsters are of the opinion that it will be a two-party race between the Conservatives and the Liberals.

      But the last two federal elections have shown that parties' campaigns and the performance of their leaders can have a big impact.

      In the 2011 race, the NDP was lagging in third place until its leader, Jack Layton, suddenly caught voters' imagination. The NDP ended up with more than 100 seats.

      The NDP shot up in the polls and the Liberals crashed during the 2011 federal campaign.

      In 2015, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau were entrenched in third place at the start of the campaign. Yet he ended up winning a majority government.

      In 2015, the Liberals went from third to first and the NDP went from first to third over the course of the campaign.

      If enough Canadians were to decide that climate change is the most compelling issue in the 2019 election, we could expect this to hurt the Conservatives and the Liberals.

      Whether the prime beneficiary would be Elizabeth May or Jagmeet Singh is anyone's guess, in light of the NDP's new climate policy.