EcoLog,  11/27/2020

COLUMN: Canadian companies that compete with US goods should take note of Biden's proposed initiatives

by Colin Isaacs

Some commentators in the media have suggested that the change of administration in the United States (U.S.) may have a significant impact on government climate and environment policy and programs in Canada. While almost any economic and regulatory initiative in the U.S. has some impact on Canada, it seems unlikely that very many of the Joe Biden administration’s proposed environmental initiatives will be adopted here or will have a direct impact on businesses operating only in Canada. 

The economies and environmental regulatory systems of the two countries are different. There is no carbon tax or cap-and-trade in Biden’s plans. On the other hand, with the strong focus on buying American-made goods and American expertise, it is not at all clear where Canada and Canadian businesses might fit, or not fit, into president-elect Biden’s vision of a greener American economy. 

During the election campaign, Biden laid out what must be one of the most extensive environmental plans of any major party in any election campaign in the western hemisphere. The plans, contained in two documents — the 25-page “The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice”, and the 11-page “The Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future” — include more than 100 proposals, almost all of which have a primarily domestic focus and many of which are proposals to study or consult to seek solutions. 

Clearly, Canada could copy many aspects of the Biden plans, but some of their proposals are not a good fit for the Canadian structure of three or four levels of government, and others are not particularly relevant to Canada. 

Biden’s plans begin by listing key guiding principles. As with the more detailed descriptions of the planned initiatives, most of these are presented as constructive ideas rather than restrictive regulatory initiatives, perhaps reflecting the Biden approach to government.

Amalgamated from both documents, these guiding principles include: 

A selection of the proposals that may have some impact on Canadian companies includes: 

It remains to be seen how quickly these plans can be implemented, either with or without the support of Congress, or to what extent the buy-American goals affect partners, such as Canada, in this hemisphere. However, the plans certainly include enough initiatives that most Canadian companies that compete with U.S.-made goods either in Canada or in the U.S. might well be advised to take notice.

Colin Isaacs is a scientist and analyst with CIAL Group who focuses on sustainable development for business. He was selected by Environment Canada to be the principal author of the waste management chapter in the report The State of Canada’s Environment 1991. Colin can be reached at (416) 410-0432 (phone), (416) 362-5231 (fax), and (e-mail).

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