If the next federal election boils down to a debate about environmental policies, local Tory candidate David Busch is quick to remind voters in Saanich Gulf Island about his party’s historical legacy.
“It is the party that has done the most to preserve and protect the environment,” said Busch in an interview with the Saanich News.
This legacy, he said, includes the creation of Canada’s national park system by Canada’s first prime minister John A. Macdonald, and the acid rain accord of 1991 with the United States negotiated by Brian Mulroney, whom Corporate Knights: The Magazine for Clean Capitalism, voted Canada’s Greenest Prime Minister in 2006.
Notably though, Mulroney’s environmental agenda rested in part on the work of the person, whom Busch seeks to replace as MP for Saanich Gulf Island: federal Green party leader Elizabeth May. Between 1986 and 1988, she had served as a senior policy advisor for Tom McMillan, who served as Mulroney’s environment minister from 1985 to 1988.
Following her resignation in 1988 over policy, May later praised Mulroney for his role in dealing with the acid rain problem, while also lobbying for changes herself, as founding executive director for the Sierra Club of Canada.
While Bush acknowledges May’s role, it was also ultimately Mulroney, who had the political means to push through the changes.
If acid rain was the dominant environmental issue of the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s in North America, global climate change is surely the issue of today, and Busch’s party has not exactly received high marks for its various positions, as he aims to unseat perhaps the very face of Canadian environmentalism.
For example, the party opposes a tax on carbon, contrary to the demands of environmentalists and economists, including Paul Romer and William Nordhaus, the co-winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics, for their work on climate-related economic issues. Both have argued in favour of taxing carbon responsible for climate-change inducing greenhouses gases (GHGs), prompting the question what Conservatives know that two Nobel Prize winning economists do not.
Busch said support for a carbon tax is not strong as it appears. Canada’s federal carbon tax, he said, combines the worst of both possible worlds, as it is both punitive, yet ineffective. A Conservative government under a future prime minister of Andrew Scheer would instead create incentives for private investments in new technologies that would lower emissions without imposing taxes that add to rising livings costs.
(By way of background, the Conservative plans also calls for closer environmental cooperation among various societal groups, and greater international cooperation with Tories noting that Canadian emissions represent a small fraction of total global emissions).
Overall, the Conservative plan would bring “tangible results,” while protecting taxpayers, said Busch.
Busch also supports his party’s position on the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. While the federal Liberals should have never used public money for the project, Canada’s resource economy needs infrastructure to get its products to markets, he said.
Oil use is going to rise significantly during the next 10 years, said Busch.
“It’s not necessarily a fact I like, but it’s a fact,” he said.
Busch — a father of two son, who is currently working as a lawyer, after working as a critical care nurse — also said that he would emphasize housing affordability and health care during the campaign. Among other measures, he will push for policies that promote access to family doctors.
Busch — who has been the party’s nominee for a year — will be competing in a riding that has historically voted for right-of-centre parties since 1993, before going ‘green’ with the election of May in 2011, with 46 per cent voting for May, some 12 per cent ahead of Tory incumbent Gary Lunn . In 2015, May increased her vote total, winning the riding with 54.4 per cent, 35 per cent ahead of Tory candidate Robert Boyd. In other words, Busch does not face an easy task.
Busch for his part said May’s first election in 2011 reflected the collapse of the Liberal vote, while May benefited from an anti-Harper sentiment in 2015. The riding, in other words, is far more dynamic than it appears.