Building Consensus: What Works? Case Study: Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission

The University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy program uses the convening power of the university to bring together academic researchers and senior decision-makers from industry, government, Indigenous communities, local communities and environmental organizations to determine how to strengthen public confidence in energy decision-making.

Mockup of the report.

The study

This study from the University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy program (PDF, 5.1MB) examines the work of the Ecofiscal Commission of Canada, an organization that aimed to depoliticize the debate about carbon pricing in Canada by using one specific tool: infusing the debate with non-partisan, academically rigorous research and evidence.

The case study, authored by Positive Energy Research Director Dr. Marisa Beck, Professor and Positive Energy Chair Monica Gattinger, and Positive Energy Research Assistants Aimee Richard and Julien Tohme, suggests that Ecofiscal was successful in influencing and shaping carbon pricing policies in Canada. However, partisanship and politics restricted Ecofiscal’s success in building cross-partisan consensus. There is little evidence that Ecofiscal had immediate, significant impact on the level of polarization around carbon pricing in Canada.

Nevertheless, it might be too early to identify and evaluate the full impact of Ecofiscal on policymaking and the political debate over carbon pricing. While the organization ceased operations in 2019, its research remains in the public domain and the policy changes that Ecofiscal helped set in motion may have long-lasting effects. There is no question that the organization has left a lasting mark on the Canadian policy landscape.

This case study is one of five that aim to identify ‘What Works?’ when it comes to building consensus amid polarization over energy and climate change. Each case examines an organization, program, or initiative established to either address polarization (the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan and the Just Transition Task Force) or foster consensus-building (Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission and the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (forthcoming]).

The study in brief