There’s trouble brewing in the badlands of the Frontier, Teck Frontier that is, the massive oil sands mine of Teck Resources planned for northern Alberta. Teck Frontier has been under development for the past decade but now faces a critical hurdle: the federal government must decide before the end of February whether or not to approve the highly controversial project.

Teck Frontier sets two formidable eco-forces against each other: economy versus ecology. The dispute pits a vital natural resource investment in Alberta with its champion Jason Kenney, against the global threat of the climate crisis, including Canada’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) 30% by 2030, led by the Prime Minister.

When Justin Trudeau was re-elected, he was well aware that climate change was “the most significant point of tension between Ottawa and the West.” Teck Frontier happens to be the latest among these points of tension.

The premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, never acknowledges any problems with such projects and has come out swinging in support of Teck Frontier. He recently stated that rejecting the giant oil sands project would be “devastating,” adding "it's hard to overstate the response of Albertans.” The first comment rallies his supporters, and the second is a threat.

The deceptive tactics of Mr. Kenney are to divert every oil and gas decision away from the real problems of the climate crisis and other environmental issues. He does this masterfully by framing all such projects as a choice between being pro- or anti-Albertan. His patriotic fear mongering has been promoted by the right-wing press. An emotional straw man debate emerges which pushes the federal government into an untenable position.

This is not a negotiation; it is political blackmail.

The strategy has become the trademark of Mr. Kenney in discussions with the federal government, especially when it comes to oil and gas projects. Jason Kenney does this every single time!

In short, the wrath of Alberta will fall upon Ottawa if they dare reject this project. The not-so-subtle threat is that Alberta will re-examine its partnership in Confederation, if it doesn’t get what it wants. Mr. Kenney won’t directly support the “s” word, but hint: it rhymes with reparation.

Elizabeth May slammed the tactic of the Premier: “Jason Kenney and western separatists will have to recognize there is no planet named Alberta.” If Alberta did separate, the new nation would be, by far, the largest per capita greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

'Premier Kenney recently said rejecting the Teck Frontier mine would be “devastating,” adding "it's hard to overstate the response of Albertans.” The first comment rallies his supporters, the second is a threat,' writes @geraldkutney

For the noted environmentalist Bill McKibben, Teck Frontier is the line in the oil sand that cannot be crossed, where the federal government has to demonstrate its commitment to fighting the climate crisis:

If an alcoholic assured you he was taking his condition very seriously, but also laying in a 40-year store of bourbon, you’d be entitled to doubt his sincerity...

The statement, then, was tweeted by climate champion Greta Thunberg. Back in September, Mr. Kenney had refused to attend the climate-strike campaign organized by Ms. Thunberg for global action on climate change because it was “coming from the radical left.”

Alberta has the highest and fastest growing GHG emissions in the country, with no sign of slowing down. The culprit is the oil and gas industry, and within this sector the only growth in emissions between 2005 (Paris base year) and 2017 (latest available) was the oil sands, which increased from 35.5 to 80.5 million tonnes (Mt, megatonnes). The Frontier oil sands mine would add another 4 Mt annually (though Teck has given assurances that it will be carbon-neutral by 2050).

The only province (excluding Alberta, of course) with GHG emissions higher than the oil sands is Ontario, which, however, has bragging rights to the largest reductions in emissions over the same period, but these reductions were offset by the rise in the oil sands emissions.

The Teck Frontier controversy symbolizes the laissez-faire attitude of the government of Alberta that has allowed GHG emissions to soar without restraint. Alberta has a legislative cap on GHG emissions of 100 Mt, but approved projects are already pushing 130 Mt by some estimates.

Canada is having major challenges with its Paris obligations (to reduce GHG emissions to 511 Mt in 2030; in 2017, we were at 716 Mt). How can we reach our national targets if the oil sands alone are spewing out (at least) 100 Mt per year?

Then, there is the Liberal campaign pledge to be climate neutral by 2050. Canada has been talking a lot about the climate crisis (and rightly so), but when will the federal government walk the talk? At some point, all provinces have to start pulling their weight on reducing emissions with solid commitments.

Alberta is the dominant offender. The question arises how this 100 Mt provincial cap will be enforced, or even if it will be enforced. Can we trust the Premier to take action when he has never demonstrated any intention to deal with greenhouse gas emissions?

My frustration is that Jason Kenney has never accepted the science on climate change being caused by us (mainly from the burning of fossil fuels). Judging by his actions so far - including suing the federal government over the carbon tax and establishing a propaganda agency to promote the oil industry - he is simply a climate denier who will never agree to reduce fossil fuel use.

What should the Prime Minister do? The choice is easy. If Teck Frontier is approved, the extortion tactics will be used again and again with every new oil and gas project. You don’t “pay” blackmailers.

Reject Teck Frontier.

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"Teck Frontier sets two formidable eco-forces against each other: economy versus ecology."

False duality. Ecological costs are economic costs. Until now fossil fuel producers and consumers have been allowed to externalize the environmental and health costs of fossil fuels. Using the sky as a free dump. Voodoo economics.
Price carbon properly, end all subsidies, and the fossil fuel industry ceases to be viable.
Until then, we shall continue to subsidize our own destruction.

Excellent points. I would also add that the current price of oil should doom this project as economically not viable. There is no evidence that the oil price will increase significantly in the immediate or near-term future - in fact it is likely to fall further, so there is no compelling economic reason why the government should endorse this misguided project. Add in the environmental costs and it is all Voodoo economics indeed!

Not to worry...Jason admitted in Monday, Feb 9 Herald that the climate situation is real and claims that Alberta is going green. Greenwash that is, since he cancelled what transition programs the Notley government had in place......but still, the admission tells us that this skilled con artist can read the polls as well as anyone.

It should also tell the Liberal government the best road forward, if they want to stay in power as the federal government, is to listen to the actual science, and do the right thing. At this juncture we do not need a new tarsands open mine twice the size of Vancouver, equipping itself to do in situ bitumen extraction for the next 50 years................we don't have that long to transition...........and destroying more boreal forest, releasing more methane......and relegating more cariboo to islands of extinction isn't the road forward. Claiming they can do it with 0 emissions is just the guarantee that they are stupider than we imagine........and so imagine citizens to be as thick. Extract fossil fuels without burning fossil fuels......a perpetual motion machine for darn sure, and what it move us toward is extinction.

If Jason wants to stoke succession dreams in Alberta, let him. Many of us who live in this province know our science as well as eastern Canadians do..........we won't vote climate denialists. And with the trouble they forment for education and health in order to recoup the money they given oil and gas corporations.........many Albertans too busy to understand the climate science.........won't either.

We only have one planet; lets act together to preserve it.

You do know that the entire Alberta Oil Industry exists only because Canadian taxpayers have for generations been burdened with the governmental subsidies that have allowed the rapacious oil/Gas sector to profit - and to ship most of those profits out of Canada via the pipelines everyone else has built for them. It is likely that similar statements can be made about oil producing "patches" everywhere in world.

Those who provide the labour to extract fossil fuels are the most expendable workers in the world. The human damage caused by this work has never been accurately assessed and the workers are intimidated into under-reporting their personal injuries as well as the failures of equipment, the poisoning of air, earth and water this sector has produced since oil became a behemoth business. And would you even guess that all this happened such a short time ago that less that three generations have passed while petroleum conquered the world with its toxins?

Now that this global empire is finally crumbling, like that earlier energy empire, the "peculiar institution" of slavery, we all have to adapt. If we don't manage this crisis any better than we managed the integration of former slaves into our lives, humanity will not survive, because adaptation is the only thing that has kept the human species from extinction.

Kenney's (and the Conservative Party of Canada's) support of the oil industry over the health the planet or even the Alberta economy is kind of bizarre. I'm baffled as to why the Harper government didn't work to diversify Alberta industry several years ago. The economic blind alley that Alberta was heading in was obvious 15 years ago. Kenney becomes Premier and immediately offers 30 million dollars in welfare, not to out of work oil patch workers but to corporations who are in the richest business in the world - to do work that the oil companies should have been doing themselves. (Hmmmm... It's only evil socialism if it goes to individuals)

It's as if the Canadian Conservatives feel the need to mirror the suicidal environmental policies going on in the United States. It seems to me that someone who put the well-being of the people of Alberta first would not be doing things this way.

Most Albertans have no idea of what's really going on in their energy sector, thinking that a pipeline to the west coast will solve all our province's financial woes. They appear to lack understanding of basic economics, or supply and demand dynamics. Many refuse to accept the fact that their traditional, and major, source of income has now become a $100 billion liability. They sit in bewilderment, wondering how that could possibly be true, refusing to understand that past Conservative governments let them down by not doing proper oversight of the energy sector. They continue to place their hope in the ones who created the problem in the first place, refusing to face the reality that their unbridled supported of past corrupt and incompetent Conservative governments makes them culpable for the current situation.

There was one conservative government that actually treated Alberta oil as rightfully owned by the people, and that was Peter Lougheed. I believe he would be appalled and disgusted at what Alberta has become since its leaders allowed themselves to become puppets of a single industry.

Dealing with the denial of this mining project now could be somewhat devastating to some now, but the preponderance of evidence supports the contention that if it is allowed to proceed it will hasten the catastrophic collapse of the Biosphere on which all life depends. That collapse is already underway in many parts of the Ecosystem, and 'picking up steam' under our present social incentives for excess on a planet of fixed size. That is what I take from the findings of Science freely available in the media! Having progeny and hoping they have a chance at a future at least as good as my past, I'm for stopping the damage and putting our skills to repair and maintenance of a viable Biosphere.

The Frontier oil sands mine would add another 4 Mt annually (though Teck has given assurances that it will be carbon-neutral by 2050)? Why do we keep falling for this? The combustion of the product is never taken into account. The project can simply not be carbon neutral.

What counts is not where they are in 2050, but how much they produce between now and then.
Trudeau should know that. Kenney should know that.
What we should get to know is how much the industry has donated to their campaign chests.

The time has finally come wherein the two sides of this argument will realize where we really stand as a nation of people when the future of the environment is discussed. As a nation we are giving far too much attention to the Albertan demands. Considering all of the scientific evidence surrounding the fantastic increase of carbon in the atmosphere and more importantly that this evidence clearly indicates how it is getting there, we must shut down this ridiculous greed-driven demand that Mr. Kenny and others are making. The federal government, even in minority, is in power due to the voters accepting a platform that was presented as being largely concerned with this problem and demonstrated a willingness to act. So how is it that there is even a question in Ottawa as to what the Teck decision is to be? If we people are to allow this disaster to proceed than how can the Federal Government and In BC the provincial government, expect we tax payers to continue with carbon tax burdens. It makes no sense when it surely must.

I was born and raised in Alberta and visit there regularly. I remember the strategy of Alberta Conservatives (provincially AND federally) to blame: the East, Ottawa, Ontario and Québec, Trudeau 1, now Trudeau 2... for all their problems. Financial difficulties for the Alberta government have nothing to do with the fact that there is no provincial sales tax. The fact that a series of Alberta Conservative governments wasted away enormous wealth during the boom days of oil, and did almost nothing to diversify or build alternative sectors of the economy never seems to be discussed in the Alberta media, nor the Canadian media for that matter. It is almost never mentionned in any media that Alberta had among the lowest royalties from the petroleum sector of any jurisdiction in the world and not even in the same league as Norway and other countries that saw petroleum production as an opportunity to build their economy, diversify and invest massively in a clean, environmentally friendly society. Basically, Alberta Conservatives (provincially and federally) have simply been representatives of the petroleum industry, there to ensure carte blanche extraction and exportation (without refining) and there to acquire as much financial and legislative support as possible from Albertan and Federal governments. And they have done their "job" effectively for decades. Kenney is merely the last in the long list of Alberta politicians in the back pocket of the petroleum industry. If he threatens to take the province out of Canada, I would say "go ahead and good riddance".

Here are links to a couple of 2018 videos on Kevin Taft, former Alberta Liberal Party leader and MLA, who put all this into perspective in his book, "Oil's Deep State." Very illuminating.

Yeah: and that'll certainly get their polluting fluids to tidewater.

As someone who spent nearly a quarter century in Alberta, I am dismayed at what the province has become under successive oil-saturated governments. It is now supported by the false narratives of the loudmouth right-wing media.

This came to a climax to me with the Trans Mountain expansion project and the shocking levels of overheated rhetoric, threats, lies, bombast and condescension directed at BC where I've now lived for over 40 years and which is genuinely put at risk, and at the rest of Canada which wouldn't exist without Alberta, at least according to the propaganda.

The stunts this then Texas-owned company pulled behind closed doors with the city of Burnaby were not just arrogant, but highly manipulative. They roped the subservient NEB into bypassing municipal permits. It became an utterly shameful process when the NEB allowed a small army of TMX lawyers to give a few city staff the third degree, a tactic that would be angrily rejected as contempt in any legitimate court of law. It was a kangaroo court. There is but one appeal left on the pipeline to the Supreme Court registered by Coast Salish opponents. We can only hope.

Two years ago Rachel Notley was on centre stage with Jason Kenney barking from the sidelines. Now Kenney is top dog. But not much has changed with respect to oil, except for the addition of the Alberta Department of Propaganda filled with highly paid aparatchiks living an elegant lifestyle on the taxpayer's dime. It's essentially an easy, cushy job. All their work is so obviously pre-written by industry-financed institutes specializing in climate denial, delay and doubt and in killing the messenger. Why does it take $30 million a year merely to copy and paste Heartland, Friends of Science and Krause talking points?

Now we have another oil sands monster mine in the queue, and a premier who is attempting to use extortion on the federal government to get it approved, or face the implied consequences of Alberta separation. I heard the S-word 50 years ago growing up in the suburbs of Calgary. It's old news. Let's finally call Alberta on that.

Go for it, Jason. Hold that referendum. Let's see the question. Will it be overly convoluted, such as Quebec's "sovereignty association," or simple followed by a Yes or No? What is your plan for Yes? For No? Do you understand the consequences of losing a half million youth overnight whose future is being decided? Do you really get how deeply Canadians have invested in Alberta (national parks, airports, railways, highways, urban infrastructure, social programs, military bases, post secondary institutions ...) and in the oil industry (subsidies ...)? What will Alberta actually look like after the inevitable long and painful negotiations with the feds on territory, debt, environmental liabilities, defence, border control, and so forth?

At least with a hard international border on BC's eastern flank, BC may actually benefit through the power of border permits, and even control over the transport of toxic diluted bitumen through its jurisdiction, something it doesn't have now through confederation.

Jason Kenney, call that referendum now.

Can someone explain how the Teck mine is going to become carbon-neutral any time before our sun burns out?