It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When Jason Kenney announced he was running for Rachel Notley’s job, he promised Albertans his government would fight back against the oil and gas industry’s foes — and that this fight would be a winning one. But following two years of defeat after defeat, from the Biden administration’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline to his hapless War Room’s ongoing shenanigans, the Supreme Court of Canada has handed Kenney his biggest loss yet by reaffirming the federal government’s jurisdiction over carbon pollution.
In their 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada’s majority found that climate change causes harm beyond provincial boundaries, and so is a matter of national concern (and jurisdiction) under the “peace, order, and good government” clause of the Constitution. And in an interesting aside, the court also pointed out that “global climate change is real, and it is clear that human activities are the primary cause.” This isn’t something that federal Conservatives could agree on at their recent policy convention, mind you, and it sets the stage very clearly for the federal election that’s to come.
The next election will be the last stand for anyone in this country who still wants to fight the growing global consensus on climate change and carbon pricing, and you can be sure that everyone who is most heavily invested in it, from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to the Fraser Institute, will fight as hard as they can. It’s not a completely hopeless fight, either.
If Erin O’Toole can pull his approval ratings and polling numbers out of the metaphorical outhouse, and the Conservatives somehow form the next government, they could repeal the federal carbon tax and return Canada to the state Stephen Harper left it in when it comes to climate change.
That won’t help them build any new pipelines or do anything to support the oil and gas industry, and it would do tremendous damage to Canada’s ability to compete for the trillions of dollars in clean technology capital and investment that are being unleashed around the world. But it would give them a victory, Pyrrhic as it would be.
Right now, though, that seems like a longshot, and it just got longer with the Supreme Court’s decision. O’Toole has promised a “serious” climate plan, one that will help meet Canada’s targets without the use of a price on carbon, but that either means massive regulation of the oil and gas industry or empty promises about technological innovation.
We know O’Toole won’t dare propose the former. And the millions of Canadians who balked at giving Andrew Scheer the keys to 24 Sussex because of his lack of a climate plan in the last election aren’t likely to buy any new promises of climate rainbows and unicorns this time around. After spending years sowing the fields of climate skepticism, Conservatives may be about to reap a very disappointing harvest.
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As for Jason Kenney? He will almost certainly double down on his position, if only because that’s the only political strategy he’s ever known. He will continue to blame Ottawa, attack Justin Trudeau and pretend that climate policy is a conspiracy against his province rather than a global reality.
But if and when O’Toole loses the next election, he and the other holdout premiers will face a difficult choice: either they continue to allow Ottawa to levy a tax and send rebates to their voters, or implement their own form of carbon pricing that meets the federal standard.
Kenney could, for example, bring in his own carbon tax and use the revenues to cut personal and corporate income taxes, as is his preference in virtually all situations. He could use it to pay down the province’s massive deficit, as the Business Council of Alberta suggested in a recent report. And he could use it to more aggressively subsidize the oil and gas industry, which is clearly something that’s near and dear to his heart.
Or, he can continue to fight his losing battles. He’s already indicated that the War Room, fresh off its inglorious campaign against a children’s cartoon, will be handed the keys to the province’s new ESG strategy, one that will play up the oil and gas industry’s virtues. And the province continues to chase its $1.5-billion investment in the Keystone XL pipeline, with Kenney recently championing the lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Texas and Montana against the Biden administration. “I can’t comment on the prospects of success in their legal effort,” he told reporters, “but I think it’s great to see.”
Therein lies the rub for Kenney. You might think this pile of losses would change Kenney’s mind on the value of his “fight-back” strategy. But winning was never the point of Kenney’s strategy in the first place. Instead, it’s all about the fight. And in his Alberta, there seems to be no amount of losing that can change that.
"The next election will be
"The next election will be the last stand for anyone in this country who still wants to fight the growing global consensus on climate change and carbon pricing, and you can be sure that everyone who is most heavily invested in it, from the Canadian Taxpayers Association to the Fraser Institute, will fight as hard as they can."
The colossal battle between deniers who reject the science on climate change (Conservatives) and deniers who choose to ignore it (Liberals, AB and BC NDP).
Whatever brand of denialism you choose, the outcome is more or less the same.
New export pipelines, LNG projects, oilsands expansion, fossil fuel subsidies — and no hope or intention of meeting Canada's emissions targets.
Geoff, there's a glimmer of
Geoff, there's a glimmer of hope now that the US is finally moving. For all the suffering and tragedy that the pandemic has wrought it has also shone a huge spotlight on how mightily North America governments are failing on POGG. But it's kind of like reversing the direction of a train .. you can brace against it and burn through a few pairs of shoes and feel like you're not making a difference, but if a few people see you and enough of them starting pushing too eventually it will slow, stop and then start moving again in a better direction. The important thing is not to give up. This is existential - we don't really have a choice.
Not sure how you figure the
Not sure how you figure the Liberals are ignoring the science on climate change when they renamed the Environment Ministry to acknowledge the importance of the issue, not to mention setting up the carbon pollution pricing system that the Supreme Court just ruled on.
You can certainly argue that progress is too slow at present, but at least some of that is down to the voters who elected people like Kenney and Ford, who have shown they are perfectly willing to spend vast amounts of time and money to reverse any progress already made. Not to mention the challenges in dealing with the former US president. But despite COVID, Trump, and the best efforts of big oil, the current Federal government has done more to move us towards climate sustainability than any previous administration, and now that there's someone rational in charge in the USA, I'd say a little optimism is in order.
I'd say a little scepticism
I'd say a little scepticism is in order.
Renaming a ministry is not climate action. The federal Liberals and provincial NDP govts pay lip service to the science. That's the problem.
New export pipelines, LNG projects, oilsands expansion, endless fossil fuel subsidies, and failure to reach emissions targets do not add up to effective climate action.
"the current Federal government has done more to move us towards climate sustainability than any previous administration"
Yes, Trudeau is better than Harper on climate. Which is to say precisely nothing.
I am a better hockey player than my dog. Doesn’t qualify me for the NHL.
The Liberals and AB NDP have proved far more effective than the Conservatives in delivering on Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's agenda. Trudeau & Co. have persuaded many Canadians that we can both act on climate and double down on fossil fuels.
Trudeau and Notley moved the ball on the Trans Mountain pipeline down to the ten-yard line. Their signal achievement was to "push country-wide support for pipelines from 40% to 70%." Something Harper, Scheer, and Kenney could never dream of doing.
This is the same Liberal Govt that declared a climate emergency one day and approved the TMX pipeline expansion the next.
Trudeau: "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."
Under climate leader Trudeau, Canada's GHG emissions in 2018 hit levels not seen in a decade.
Oilsands emissions do nothing but climb year after year.
Oilsands expansion enabled by new export pipelines will prevent Canada from meeting its inadequate targets for decades.
Setting distant targets that you have no intention of meeting is just political gamesmanship. The federal govt has so far failed to provide a roadmap for reaching its targets. Canada is on track to miss its 2030 target by miles.
The govt's climate plan is a plan to fail.
Up until the last minute, the Trudeau govt was still advertising that Canada's climate plan had room for new export pipelines transporting oilsands bitumen.
Kirsten Hillman, Canada's ambassador to the U.S.: "Keystone XL fits within Canada’s climate plan"
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, Sep 26, 2016)
The UN, the Organization for
The UN, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the federal Environment Commissioner all issued warnings in 2017 that Canada is NOT on track to meet its targets. The main obstacle? Rising oilsands emissions.
OECD: "Without a drastic decrease in the emissions intensity of the oilsands industry, the projected increase in oil production may seriously risk the achievement of Canada's climate mitigation targets."
Mark Jaccard, SFU: "National studies by independent researchers (including my university-based group) consistently show that Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 Paris promise of a 30% reduction by 2030 is unachievable with oilsands expansion.
Canada does not even report its emissions accurately. As multiple studies based on actual measurements show, Canada's oil & gas industry grossly under-reports its emissions — of all types. The industry's emission stats are fiction. Grossly under-reported oilsands emissions do nothing but climb year after year. AB's emissions show no sign of falling.
You can't manage what you don't measure. Although govts have known about the oilsands reporting issue for years, they have done precisely nothing to address the problem.
A carbon price set too low is mere window dressing.
AB's tiny carbon tax was a fig leaf — a cynical quid pro quo in exchange for new pipelines and the greenlight for indefinite oilsands expansion. Hopelessly contradictory policy.
"Secret briefing says up to $300-per-tonne federal carbon tax by 2050 required to meet climate targets" (National Post, Mar 30, 2017)
In his book, "The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada", Donald 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"
A brilliant exposé of
A brilliant exposé of corporate Canada, Big Green, and Gerald Butt's Liberals -- and their obstruction of environmental action.
Textbook example of a controlled opposition group. Corporate Canada took over WWF's board of directors and shut anti-oilsands campaigns down. Gerald Butts served as hatchet man:
"Before Trudeau, Gerald Butts Abandoned Tar Sands Action As Head Of WWF"
"The board was populated by CEOs, corporate lawyers, and bankers, as well as FUTURE LIBERAL CABINET MINISTER SEAMUS O’REGAN. It also included Blake Goldring, a member of the Business Council of Canada, who had previously donated $500,000 to WWF-Canada. He was the CEO of investment firm AGF Management, which advised an Oil Sands Sector Fund worth hundreds of millions of dollars. All that remained was for Gerald Butts to exercise his widely-praised skills in reading the tea leaves."
"The Liberal party plays on voters’ desire for far-reaching transformation while guaranteeing the endurance of the status quo. The Liberals effectively act as a kind of shock absorber of discontent and anger towards the elite…
"So on climate, Trudeau was presented as this kind of river-paddling environmental Adonis. He promised that fossil fuel projects wouldn’t go ahead without the permission of communities. But the Liberals create these public spectacles of their bold progressiveness while they quietly assure the corporate elite that their interests will be safeguarded. So at the same time Trudeau was going around the country and convincing people that he was this great climate hope, the Liberal party had for years been assuring big oil & gas interests that there would not be any fundamental change to the status quo.
"As early as 2013, Trudeau was telling the Calgary Petroleum Club that he differed with Harper not so much about the necessity of exporting huge amounts of tarsands internationally, but because he didn’t think Harper’s approach — which stoked divisions and an incredible amount of resistance that turned Canada into a climate pariah — was the most effective marketing approach.
"The Liberal climate plan essentially is a reworking of the business plan of Big Oil and the broader corporate lobby. …The plan is to support a carbon tax and to effectively make it a cover for expanded tarsands production and pipelines. That was a plan hatched by the Business Council of Canada back in 2006, 2007. For 20 years oil companies had resisted any kind of regulation or any kind of carbon tax and fought it seriously. But they started to realize that it would be a kind of concession that they would have to make in order to assure stability and their bottom line not being harmed. The climate bargain that Trudeau went on to strike with Alberta of a carbon tax plus expanded tarsands production was precisely the deal that Big Oil had wanted."
"How Trudeau’s Broken Promises Fuel the Growth of Canada’s Right"
As 350.org's Bill McKibben
As 350.org's Bill McKibben observes, winning slowly is the same as losing.
"Bill McKibben: Winning Slowly Is the Same as Losing", (Rolling Stone, Dec 1, 2017)
An exemplary commentary,
An exemplary commentary, Geoffrey.
However, that still leaves the principles vs. math quandary unresolved in our current electoral system. Vote Green or NDP in competitive ridings and you'll split the progressive vote with the mainstream conservative or conservative-lite candidate waltzing up the middle. Greens and NDPers refuse to talk, let alone work together like adults to develop a working electoral strategic plan based on the huge overlap between their respective platforms.
This is the dilemma in my riding, Vancouver Granville, currently represented by Jody Wilson Raybould who is an awfully quiet, generously paid Independent. She won as a Liberal in 2015, the beneficiary of strategic voting to defeat Harper, and in 2019 to diminish Trudeau's majority due to his empty promises, a strategy that hasn't worked as imagined, but is certainly better than an absolute majority for either major party.
Strategic voting is superior to voting on pure principle in a vacuum of proportionality, which was a promise Trudeau killed so soon after running it as a main policy plank in the 2015 campaign. With proportional representation, one is liberated to vote in accordance with their conscience and be rest assured that their preferred party will be elected in a direct relationship with the actual vote results, and have the opportunity to form a coalition that holds the 2/3 moderate-progressive majority that Canadians consistently vote for.
Strategic voting means compromise. It also means that non-political means to fight climate change are that much more important to help make up for the climate credibility deficit in senior governments. Using a family budget to shop, work and play with climate abatement as the foundation is entirely possible, as is acting locally despite pipeline politics. Changing out an old gas furnace for an electric air-source heat pump is one step, commissioning a super energy efficient Passive House is a larger step. Imagine entire neighbourhoods converting to that level of efficiency.
The world financial community is turning significantly away from fossil fuels irrespective of government conniptions and rhetoric here and abroad. Trudeau will need to play catch up with other leaders who have a much clearer and more honest commitment to defeating global warming. Cities enacting policies to inject more efficacy into their urbanism are leading the way for senior governments. Vancouver achieved a 53% transit-walk-bike commuter mode share and built a high-density walkable downtown well before the pandemic. Benjamin Barber wrote 'Cool Cities', a highly intelligent book that reveals the huge collective power of cities all over the world to fight climate change.
If you need to defeat the oil sands and fight the political power backing fossil fuels, and if you cannot accomplish this goal through voting without doing the electoral math / compromise, then counter it by influencing the market to lower the demand for carbon fuels. Go clean electric in every way possible within your family budget, and support specific initiatives through donations, positive commentary, memberships and other elements that foster genuine progress. Follow the money when politics fail you.
There are no easy answers.
There are no easy answers. In FPTP we usually need to vote for the least-worst candidate. But that doesn't mean that we give up on championing electoral reform. On climate change, we do our best to both walk-the-talk in our own lives and to influence policymakers. With COVID we wear masks to protect others and ourselves, while advocating for the best policy approach, a green zone approach. There's no either-or here in any of these situations, it's got to be all-of-the-above.
fossil and its minions see
fossil and its minions see OBSTRUCTION of any move to renewables and disinvestment in oil tar, gas , whether in courts or markets ,as job one! If you understand this, Kenney's actions make sense, as much as psychopathic behaviour can be said to "make sense"
Putting a price on carbon is
Putting a price on carbon is very rational, and making it 'tax neutral' is brilliant, but ... Has anyone todate received a carbon tax rebate?
Didn't you file your taxes
Didn't you file your taxes last year??? You got a rebate just like I did.
The sad part is, pig heads
The sad part is, pig heads don't learn new tricks easily............so a lot more good money will likely be thrown after bad, trying to find ways to institute a 'made in Alberta' carbon tax that benefits the tarsands, and other sources of 'jobs' that spew carbon. Open pit mountain top removal to get at our second rate coal on the eastern slopes comes to mind.
O'Toole: We will have a
O'Toole: We will have a climate plan!
O'Toole [taken aback]: Umm. A vague plan?
CPC [quieter]: booo
O'Toole: A vague, secret, empty plan that won't be implemented!
CPC [grudgingly]: yaaay