A pre-election chill has descended over some environment charities after Elections Canada warned them that discussing the dangers of climate change during the upcoming federal campaign could be deemed partisan activity.
An Elections Canada official warned groups in a training session earlier this summer that because Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has expressed doubts about the legitimacy of climate change, any group that promotes it as real or an emergency could be considered partisan, said Tim Gray, executive director of the advocacy group Environmental Defence.
Any partisan activity — including advertising, surveys, or any kind of campaign costing at least $500 — would require a charity to register as a third party for the election, an onerous requirement that could jeopardize a group’s charitable tax status, Gray said.
It is “discouraging” that Environmental Defence and other charities may have to zip their lips about climate change being real during the campaign period “because one party has chosen to deny the existence of this basic fact,” he added.
“Obviously climate change is real,” said Gray. “Almost every credible institution on the planet is telling us to get our act together and do something about it.”
One party has chosen to deny the existence of this basic fact
Last fall, the United Nations climate change panel, made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world, said if the world doesn’t act faster to cut global emissions the planet will face irreversible and catastrophic consequences.
Five of the six political parties expected to have any chance of winning a seat in the upcoming campaign agree that climate change is real and caused by humans. Bernier, however, is the one outlier: he believes that if climate change is real, it is a natural cycle of the earth and not an emergency.
“The main reason for climate change, it is not human activity,” Bernier said Sunday in Gatineau, Que., where his party was holding its first convention.
“There is no climate change urgency in this country.” he said in a speech in June speech. He also disagrees that carbon dioxide, which experts say is responsible for three-quarters of greenhouse emissions globally, is bad.
“CO2 is not ‘pollution,”‘ he tweeted. “It’s what comes out of your mouth when you breathe and what nourishes plants.”