Trudeau, Scheer defend their carbon footprint on campaign trail
OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has come out in defence of his campaign team’s decision to travel from coast to coast with two planes, one for staff and media and the other for event equipment.
"In 2015, we also had two planes, we also bought carbon offsets to ensure that we could get out to meet more Canadians than any other campaign right across the country and at the same time ensure that we’re protecting the environment," said Trudeau speaking to reporters in Montreal Thursday morning.
Trudeau was forced to respond to his entourage’s preferred mode of travel on Wednesday night during the first French-language debate. He was pressed by his main opponent, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who called him a "high-carbon hypocrite."
"Only one leader has two planes for his campaign, one for you Mr. Trudeau and the media, and the other for your costumes and your gifts. That’s your choice. You’re a false environmental defender," said Scheer in the debate.
Trudeau snapped back, saying the Liberals have purchased carbon offsets for their dual plane use – something the Conservatives have not done.
CTVNews.ca reached out to the Liberal campaign for more detail on their purchased carbon offsets. The party has partnered with Less Emissions and bought offsets from the Essex-Windsor Regional Landfill Gas Capture and Destruction project.
The party did not provide specifics on how much was purchased but the General Manager for Bullfrog Power, Sean Drygas, said the party paid in advance when their full flight plan was calculated, before the writs dropped on September 11.
"They got information from their charter airline prior to the writ being dropped that said how much fuel – because I guess they had their flight plane at that point, all their destinations – they were planning to use," Drygas told CTVNews.ca by phone from Toronto.
"Now if they decide in the last three days of the campaign, ‘oh we have to get Trudeau to ridings A, B, C because those are the swing ridings in the election,’ could they deviate from the estimate? Possibly. But they told us they already have some buffer in their plan for that."
In order for a carbon offset to make a positive contribution on the environment, it must meet a variety of environmental standards – standards which Drygas said the landfill project meet, including with the Canadian Standards Association.
"[This project] captures the methane that would normally be released by all the materials decomposed in the landfill," said Drygas. "There are other projects where you can’t guarantee that any emissions are going to be over the long-term avoided, things like protecting a forest or planting new trees."
He added that offsets should always meet five qualifiers: real, additional, measurable, permanent, and verified.
The Liberal leader doubled down on his party’s carbon footprint on Thursday morning and then turned the focus squarely on Scheer, suggesting it was just another partisan attempt to change the campaign narrative.
"It’s a well-established far-right tactic to try and discredit environmentalists and people who actually want to fight the environment by distracting. This is something that simply won’t work because Quebecers and all Canadians know we need a government that will fight climate change and that’s exactly what we’ve done and what we will do," said Trudeau.
Scheer was in Fredericton, New Brunswick Thursday morning announcing a Harper-era tax credit for supplies used by volunteer firefighters and search and rescue workers.
There, he also addressed his campaign travel, striking a humble tone.
"Our plane is using less fuel than the plane that’s carrying Justin Trudeau, his staff, and the media around so right there we’re emitting fewer emissions," said Scheer. "We’ve decided to get by with just the one plane. We’ve found we’ve got more than enough space, we can make do with just one."
While both the Conservative and Liberal camps travel by plane, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May – who was absent from the Wednesday debate – has chosen to travel to the majority of her campaign stops by train and electric vehicle.
"It’s obviously much, much better not to emit than to buy the offsets," said May in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca. "We’re travelling as close as possible, given the circumstances, to carbon neutral. We take the train as much as possible, take commercial flights, and sit in economy."