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For Rachel Notley to have a strong chance of re-election in a Conservative stronghold, she needed every break in the book.

Yet what happened in Alberta's election should serve as a cautionary tale for all Canadians concerned about the most urgent moral imperative we will ever face, the looming climate emergency.

These are times for hard choices, with no safe options.

Do we take our lead from the unforgiving math of an inflexible carbon equation, which dictates opposition to every political concession that fails to meet the modest Paris Agreement goals?

How to weigh the clear risk that an uncompromising stance could result in an even worse electoral outcome?

Albertans gave a short sharp answer to those who rebuffed Rachel Notley's bargain of carbon concessions for a pipeline.

Now that deal is is gambled and gone, like summer wages.

'The truism says, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. What it doesn't say is that if you want media coverage to get your message out, start a big fight,' writes @Garossino in her latest column

Jason Kenney is far too adept a politician not to see his environmental opponents as sheer political gold.

In one fell swoop he could, and did, paint environmentalists as the enemy of the people, and Notley as their hapless dupe. Notably, he failed to even mention the Indigenous opponents whose court challenges pose the greatest obstacle to pipeline expansion.

Crackdown on NGOs echoes authoritarian playbook

Yet in threatening a public inquiry into foreign funding of environmentalists, Kenney didn’t just respond to regional pressures. He hewed much too closely to a global movement by authoritarian governments to de-legitimize, limit, and ban NGO access to the international philanthropic funding and journalists.

Alberta’s sabre-rattling against environmental activists places it squarely in the company of Egypt, India, Pakistan, Russia, Ethiopia, and Hungary, which have all enacted measures to restrain or prevent local non-profit organizations gaining access to the largest non-profit granting bodies.

In some cases, such as Hungary and Pakistan, foreign agencies have been forced out of the country amid major state-sponsored efforts to discredit human rights and humanitarian groups.

All of them have followed the same playbook: stigmatize the world’s largest philanthropies as outsiders meddling in local affairs for ulterior motives.

Don’t like activists exposing human rights abuses, promoting girls’s education, gay rights, access to birth control, or labour and Indigenous rights in your country? Is NGO pressure over pollution, water contamination or climate issues discouraging investors and your party donors?

Accuse them of plotting secretly against the people and cut their money off.

Even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s contraception initiative has been targeted as a secret eugenics operation in Africa, with not-so-quiet support by the American Christian right, and even Alex Jones.

Kenney’s war on environmentalist funding is just the same strategy tailored to Canada.

Notice how little of the debate is actually about climate, GHG emissions, the Paris Agreement, and meeting national commitments--all concerns that should be of the highest national priority?

Canadian funding a tiny fraction of global foundation spend, while foreign oil companies reap billions

Instead the message is to distrust and suspect the motives of some of the world’s most eminent scientific and humanitarian foundations. As if there's something deceitful and dishonest about helping community and citizen groups with no other way to be heard.

The Hewlett, Oak, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund don’t really care about climate change, according to the narrative, but have a hidden agenda.

In fact, the agenda could hardly be clearer.

These foundations are core to a global initiative by twenty-nine major international philanthropies to grant $4 billion to combat climate change around the world. Support for Canadians who oppose oil sands expansion constitutes only a miniscule fraction of their annual budgets.

Not that anyone has taken the trouble to check those numbers.

Absent from the hue and cry over foreign financial support for Canadian climate action is the inconvenient issue of the Alberta oil economy's own much more substantial dependence on foreign investment.

Consider just one example. Over the ten year period that the Tar Sands Campaign stands accused of accepting $40 million from philanthropic organizations in the US and Europe, Imperial Oil generated some $16 billion in net income and retained earnings just to its American majority shareholder, ExxonMobil.

Or take a look at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Board chair Mark Fitzgerald is CEO of Petronas Canada, a subsidiary of the $45 billion Malaysian oil and gas giant.

In fact, despite featuring a maple leaf in its logo, CAPP's board is bristling with representatives of foreign-owned Shell, Chevron, BP, Total Oil France, Statoil, ConocoPhillips, Petronas, and PetroChina. To say nothing of the foreign hedge funds and institutional investors that dominate shareholder lists of every major player in Alberta.

That same board of governors includes representatives from oil companies whose executives held a closed meeting on April 11 in Alberta with top federal Conservatives to map out a strategy to oust the Trudeau Liberals.

The whole issue of untoward foreign influence on Canada's environmentalists is only a scandal amplified for political ends.

Jason Kenney knows perfectly well that it's all a canard, but he also knows how politics works.

Avoid questions about your weak climate strategy by attacking your critics' integrity.

Yet this controversy should also be seen as something more foreboding, about which we should all take heed come the next federal election.

Threat of inquiry into environmentalists an assault on fundamental freedoms

What lies behind the talk of a public inquiry is an assault on Canadians’ fundamental freedoms of speech and association. It’s about sowing distrust, anger and blame.

In a foreshadowing of the coming federal election, Kenney’s true target was right there in his acceptance speech. All grace and goodwill to the defeated premier, he took direct aim at the granddaddy of Canadian environmentalism, David Suzuki.

Cue the tumbrils.

The depressing reality about all of this is that conflict and division fuel news coverage, while stories of unity and inspired common purpose line bird cages.

Yet unity is what we will need more than anything to meet the challenge we all face. Canadians hunger for inspiration and hope.

The truism says, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.

What it doesn't say is that if you want media coverage to get your message out, start a big fight.

It was always going to be a tough slog for Rachel Notley to be re-elected. Yet had more environmentalists supported her bargain of a pipeline in exchange for a sweeping series of carbon concessions, Canada's climate plan might not be in such dire shape today.

The costs of making the perfect the enemy of the good might be a lesson to remember come the federal election.

Keep reading

"It was always going to be a tough slog for Rachel Notley to be re-elected. Yet had more environmentalists supported her bargain of a pipeline in exchange for a sweeping series of carbon concessions, Canada's climate plan might not be in such dire shape today. The costs of making the perfect the enemy of the good might be a lesson to remember come the federal election."

Nothing could be further from the truth. This fairy tale is worthy of Postmedia scribes. It does not belong on The National Observer.
No way was this Notley's bargain. Notley and Trudeau merely signed on to Big Oil's plan to fail on climate — hatched years ago.

Environmentalists don't demand perfection. What they demand is science-based policy — not fraudulent climate plans designed by Big Oil.

Notley's (i.e., Big Oil's) climate plan promised to push us over the climate cliff. No virtue in Big Oil's plan to fail whatever.
Doubling down on fossil fuels in the face of climate change is insanity.

PM Trudeau and Premier Notley have been hailed for their "Grand Bargain": new export pipelines (Trans Mtn expansion) for AB's carbon tax — and the rest of AB's fraudulent climate plan, including the doomed emissions cap.
Pure theatre.

Notley and Trudeau merely signed on to Big Oil's fraudulent "climate" plan -- a deal forged by Big Oil and corporate Canada YEARS BEFORE Notley and Trudeau came to power.
A plan permitting oilsands expansion enabled by new export pipelines in return for a small carbon tax that would not impair their profits and a fraudulent oilsands cap that would not outlive the Notley govt.
A plan to fail.
The NDP left office without implementing regulations for the cap. The cap was never going to survive a NDP govt, and Notley knew it. Just a diversion.
Cynical petro-politics.

The sordid plot detailed in Donald Gutstein's book, "The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada".
Gutstein details how neoliberal "progressive" politicians like Trudeau and Notley subverted the climate change agenda and enabled Big Oil's "predatory delay":
"The Rise and Fall of Trudeau’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on Climate" (The Tyee, 14 Nov 2018)

"Justin Trudeau’s grand bargain with Big Oil exposed in Donald Gutstein's The Big Stall (The Georgia Straight, Nov 14th, 2018 )

"'The Big Stall' details how neoliberal think tanks blocked action on climate change"

Notley's climate plan would see the oilsands industry's grossly under-reported emissions rise for decades, scuttling Canada's climate plan.

Reality check: Against a united conservative party, Notley's NDP stood no chance of re-election.
Fuelling hysteria over pipelines did not help the NDP to a second term in office. Just the opposite. Stoking Albertans' perennial resentment over pipelines and everything else under the sun only helps the UCP.
Most pipeline boosters would not vote NDP if Notley built a billion pipelines. Notley only alienated progressives.
Pandering to the right was never going to win Notley a second term. Albertans who support neoliberal energy policies will just vote for the real thing.
Facing off against a united conservative party, Notley was always a one-term premier -- but her alliance with Big Oil did nothing to help the NDP and the progressive cause in AB.
UCP Leader Jason Kenney: “I’ve never believed there is a large number of Alberta voters whose ballot question is energy or pipelines who are likely to vote for the NDP. The NDP electorate is not people who get up in the morning passionate about pipelines and energy.”

David Climenhaga: "Indeed, the more [Notley] fights for the pipeline, the stronger Mr. Kenney seems to get because the file is seen, however wrongfully, by too many voters as a United Conservative Party strength.
"Sounds as if the Trudeau Liberals are listening to their Natural Governing Party lizard brain, finally" (19-Feb-19)

Markham Hislop: "Exploiting industry difficulties for political gain helps no one but Kenney and the UCP."

The more Notley fought for pipelines, the more she fanned the flames of anger among Albertans. Underlining her own failure on the file. All Albertans seemed to get out of the deal was a detested carbon tax. The blame for all our ills, real and imagined, falls upon Notley and Trudeau.
A pipeline project became the rallying flag for Albertans, whose sense of grievance against Ottawa burns eternal. Fuelling the right-wing rage machine.

"Notley's enabling of oil and gas sector poor political strategy"

Garossino is doing a disservice by peddling her fictions to The National Observer progressive audience. Please, stop the deception. You are doing enormous harm.

Who else bought into Krause's absurd conspiracy theories?

Krause: "I have been working since July 2018 with Notley’s govt to provide information and assist her team in taking the necessary steps to break the pipeline gridlock."

"'I’m frustrated by it, of course,' Notley says of the [anti-oilsands] campaign. 'Vivian Krause (the B.C. researcher) and people like her have done a good job of really laying bare the details of this and really showing us the degree to which this had been going on and building over time.'"

Question for AB progressives:
Notley was on side with Vivian Krause. How about you?

It's bad enough when "conservatives" swallow Krause's schtick. It's even worse when progressives fall for it.

Agree with Mr Pounder in that I don't buy for a minute that Alberta would have re-elected Notley if environmentalists and Indigenous groups had waved this pipeline expansion through. The pipeline requires a multi decade investment in fossil fuel expansion to justify its costs, and once it was built (expanded), there'd be an enormous hew and cry if anyone suggested not taking advantage of it to expand oil excavation, after all the sunk costs, after all. At least rail lines and rail cars can be repurposed when the market inevitably dies off for this very expensive oil from Alberta. The fewer billions invested in pipelines, the better, as an acknowledgement of the need to turn to renewables asap.

Time to stop treating facts as opinions. Any news organization or government that continues to claim facts are partisan, or that they don't "believe" in climate change, should be called out for what they are: dishonest and ignorant. The world's most eminent and qualified scientists have informed us clearly: we need drastic and urgent change. No time or excuse to walk together, if the wilfully ignorant are walking us off a cliff. We need to go fast, and we need the political will, rather than more fake leaders driving around in their saggy jeans and big fat trucks, pretending that people who care more about the future of their children than about the oil industry's right to keep earning billions, must be "radical Marxists", and similar bollocks.

Meanwhile, parts East are experiencing unprecedented multiyear flooding, the predicted cost of climate change, while Ford and fellow incompetents drive around and take selfies at gas pumps, whining about 4 cents a litre more for gas.

To some extent I can understand the full-bore linear panic that stampeded Alberta voters into the UCP/Kenney corral. The pity of it is that a corral is just another name for a trap. Now Alberta's voters/taxpayers are ripe for the gelding, branding and "breaking" by their bought-and-paid-for political puppets of the big oil companies. The same companies who have already put them into billions of dollars of debt for the unfunded liabilities scattered across the province in the form of abandoned leaking wells, poisoned fresh waters, contaminated lands and the yet to be determined health costs created by the petro psychopaths. All this without once mentioning the climate disasters knocking on the door!

If I were an Albertan I'd be panicking too. When you have bet every thing you have on the illusion of oil wealth; you've just made a bargain with Rumpelstiltskin. I'd probably be looking for the sorcerer of fairy tales to get me out of the fix. Well, Kenney is probably the sorcerer of nightmares and about as useful in this situation as tits on a bull!

And you can only get rid of Rumpelstiltskin when you've figured out his name. Unfortunately, the name of this Rumpelstiltskin is one that we've all been trained to desperately avoid hearing: Capitalism.

Is fossil fuel industry really about power or is it about contempt for life? Are psychopathic politicians really about winning at all costs or about the final tantrum - if I can't rule the world I shall destroy it! Is politics about leadership and survival or isolated egos? Shakespeare's Iago had no other goal other than to destroy Othello. Hitler and Stalin mostly focused on who to kill not how to build. Are our Parliaments now just swamps for megalomaniacs? We need to know.

I second everything Geoffrey Pounder and SE wrote. This piece has some important insights in it, but overall its main message is incredibly disappointing to see turning up here of all places! In fact I'd love to see Mr. Pounder's several comments revised into a counterpoint op-ed of its own. Ms. Notley fell into the trap so many other surprise-majorities these days do, of imagining that they could somehow keep their false majority by continuing to play the same old game that unexpectedly landed them in power in the first place, not recognizing that the very novelty of that outcome was a sign of those old rules breaking down.

The system is creaking louder every year under the ever-growing pressures of worsening climate change and late-stage capitalistic avarice increasingly well-insulated from any semblance of fairness or justice, and in the absence of a convincing plan to actually make things better, people are scared and looking for someone to at least just tell them how all their problems are someone else's fault, which is something today's crop of conservative populists does almost as instinctively as breathing.

Notley had a choice four years ago, she could either try to be "the Progressive Conservatives but with slightly more competent governance" and hope that people would somehow love her so much they'd just decide to turn her party into the new 50 year dynasty, or she could've taken her majority for the fluke it was and treated those 4 years in power as a treasure not to be wasted, spending every second of them wrenching the province's economy and political culture onto a different and long-neglected track (e.g. the Leap Manifesto) while finding ways to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to backslide after her overwhelmingly likely defeat (something else modern Conservative parties seem to excel at). Unfortunately she chose the managerial option with a side of culture-war (all the misguided focus on the UCP's bozo-eruptions and anti-gay seepage which were essentially free UCP advertising to members of the public already inclined to feel that way), which unsurprisingly inspired nobody. What an unforgivable waste.