This article outlines the reaction of some of the provinces to the federal government’s stated intention to impose a carbon tax on January 19, 2019 on any province that does not meet Ottawa’s standards on carbon emissions.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, politics, man in society

Key Questions to Explore:

  • Why has there not been a national carbon control policy prior to this?
  • What are the differences between the plans outlined by the provinces?
  • Why are the Liberals threatening to impose this national standard?

New Terminology:

Cap and trade, carbon tax, OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)

Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the students

Learning Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The lack of a national strategy to address carbon pollution is the direct result of the previous Conservative government’s refusal to address the issue. In response to this lack of federal leadership, the provinces began to take on this role and the result is a mixture of plans spread across the country with varying degrees of carbon reduction requirements. Under the Paris Agreement signed at the COP21 meeting in Paris on December 12, 2015, Canada agreed to reduce its GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. To date, Canada has been lagging behind this commitment, but with this new directive from the federal government, it could meet its commitments, or, as some claim, even surpass them. Various provinces, however, have their own plans in place which vary in the degree of compliance required and some are vehemently reacting to Ottawa’s threatened imposition of a national plan. What are these provincial plans and how demanding are they? These are two of the questions that this lesson will require the students to address.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they are aware of the reason that some provinces are so angry with the federal government.
  • Get their responses and then indicate that the latest cause for upset is the stated intent of the federal government to impose a carbon tax in any province that does not have a pricing plan that meets Ottawa’s standards.
  • Indicate to the students that there are varying plans in place with different requirements and the that focus of the lesson will be to examine this medley of plans.
  • Tell the students that they are going to do this by playing a group activity called “Heads Together”

(If you have not engaged in this activity before it simply involves the group closing in together to discuss quietly an answer to a question once they are told “Heads together”. After a few moments, they will be told “Heads apart” and it will be expected that a group will provide an answer. Other groups can then add to the explanation if appropriate. To encourage some competition between groups the teacher can award group points for the answer and bonus points to any other group that can either correct or enhance the answer given. Once all questions have been answered, a winner can be declared.)

  • Divide the students into six groups and inform them that they are going to be given an article to read and that all questions will be based on this article.
  • How they prepare for the contest is up to the group but all group members must have the same knowledge.
  • Give them copies of the article and allow them time to prepare.
  • Begin the competition by asking a question from the list of questions below, then calling “Heads together” and allowing a few minutes for them to construct an answer.
  • Then call “Heads apart” and ask a specific group to answer. They will appoint a speaker and the answer will be given.
  • Other groups will then have a chance to challenge the answer or improve upon it.
  • Points will be awarded and the process repeated for the next question.
  • The questions are:
    • Who sent the letters to the provinces?
    • What four provinces already meet Ottawa’s standards?
    • Which provinces have a cap and trade plan
    • What is Saskatchewan’s plan?
    • What is Manitoba’s plan?
    • What is New Brunswick doing?
    • What is Nova Scotia promising?
    • What did the OECD announce last week regarding Ottawa’s plan?

Consolidation of Learning:

  • The groups will answer the question and respond, if necessary, to any challenges from other groups.

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Outline Ottawa’s intention.
  • Explain what various provinces are doing to address GHG emissions.
  • Explain what Canada’s commitment was at COP21.

Confirming Activity:

  • The students can write a short response indicating whether or not they support Ottawa’s position and hand it in for evaluation.