For years, Conservative politicians from Alberta have used Quebec as a punching bag for their populist pandering. Last week, just a day after Jason Kenney’s years-long campaign against Quebec’s place in the federation culminated in an equalization referendum, the punching bag finally punched back.
In a speech delivered to Quebec’s national assembly, Premier Francois Legault announced that “the government has decided to definitively renounce the extraction of hydrocarbons on its territory.” It’s hard not to see the timing of this announcement as a rebuke of Alberta’s equalization campaign and the anti-Quebec rhetoric with which it was so visibly marbled.
Environmental activists quickly heralded Legault’s decision to ban fossil fuel development in Quebec as a major breakthrough in the fight against climate change.
Caroline Brouillette, the national climate policy director for the Climate Action Network Canada, said it was “the result of YEARS of organizing and a signal for other provinces, Canada, and the rest of the world.” Catherine Abreu, the founder and director of Destination Zero, also decided that the decision merited an all-caps response. “This is HUGE,” she tweeted.
But is it really? Quebec, after all, has never produced meaningful volumes of oil or gas, and it’s been clear for some time that it never will. Yes, they have reserves in the ground and could theoretically develop them, but Quebec has shown no inclination whatsoever to do that so far. It has already indicated it’s prepared to go to court to fend off lawsuits from owners of the oil and gas licences it has granted, at a potential cost of anywhere from $500 million to $3 billion. Its pledge to continue not producing oil and gas, then, is a bit like a lifelong vegetarian publicly swearing off bacon.
My colleague Chris Hatch argues this isn’t quite the nothingburger I’m making it out to be. “Quebec is actually making a stand here and leaving money on the table,” he writes. “Unlike British Columbia, the government has already rejected proposals for a liquefied natural gas industry.”
But unlike British Columbia, Quebec’s proposed LNG terminals wouldn’t be shipping gas produced in the same province. Instead, they’d be exporting western Canadian gas — a substantial difference when we’re talking about money being left on the table, given Quebec’s government wouldn’t benefit from royalty revenue the way B.C.’s does.
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Hatch writes that “Quebec joins a growing list of governments eschewing fossil fuel development,” and includes the names of Denmark, Spain, France, Greenland, Ireland, Belize, and Costa Rica on it. But that list accounted for fewer than 280,000 barrels per day of production in 2020, which is a rounding error on a rounding error in a global market of nearly 100 million barrels per day.
California, which Hatch also mentions, has proposed a ban on new oil drilling within 3,200 feet of schools, homes, and hospitals, a decision that will surely accelerate the decades-long decline in its oil production. But California will still produce oil for many years to come, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pledges notwithstanding.
This isn’t to suggest these sorts of political pledges have no value in the global fight against climate change. But it’s important to remember where that fight is actually taking place, and how these performative announcements might play on that battlefield.
Andrew Leach, the University of Alberta professor who chaired his province’s Climate Change Advisory Panel back in 2015-16, warned about the potential implications of Quebec’s announcement in his own province.
“With respect to climate change, we've spent three decades with commitments to near-business-as-usual framed as progress and used to shame jurisdictions trying to make tough choices and/or to frame their efforts as meaningless or insufficient,” he tweeted. “It's frustrating as hell.”
It’s also dangerous.
The victory climate activists are declaring in Quebec could easily prove to be pyrrhic, given the obvious risk of blowback in Alberta — and potentially in Ottawa.
The heaviest lifting on climate has to happen in the West, and it requires a certain level of public support for it to happen. Handing an increasingly desperate populist premier a live political grenade is likely to result in a lot of unnecessary collateral damage — and no meaningful progress when it comes to the war against climate change.
This is where the prime minister has to step in. Legault clearly has no interest in protecting the national unity of Canada or advancing its shared climate goals, and Kenney isn’t far behind him there. Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, should have those two items at the top of his political agenda. And while both Legault and Kenney would happily light the country ablaze if it helped them get re-elected in their own provinces, Trudeau has a responsibility to put these sorts of fires out.
That’s why, when it comes to the results of Alberta’s equalization referendum, which saw a 58 per cent “yes” vote on the government’s anti-equalization question, the prime minister needs to tread carefully. No, they don’t compel him to capitulate to Alberta, and they certainly won’t give Kenney anything in the way of leverage. After all, fewer than 25 per cent of eligible Albertans actually supported the government’s position, which is about where the UCP is polling right now.
But if Trudeau wants to deliver on his climate plans and promises, he can’t afford to have Alberta pulling with all its might in the other direction. That’s even more likely now that he’s appointed Steven Guilbeault, a longtime Quebec environmentalist, as his new minister of environment and climate change.
That means he needs to call Kenney’s bluff here and deliver additional federal dollars to Alberta in areas where it probably doesn’t want to spend them. Maybe that’s more financial support for cleaning up abandoned wells, and maybe it’s funding dedicated to developing new low-carbon sources of energy. Either way, by giving Alberta a superficial win on fiscal reform and equalization, he can help avert a much more important loss on climate.
After 11 years of activism, I
After 11 years of activism, I'm glad Premier Legault finally announced that we are «off» hydrocarbons.
The next battle here will be against Gas companies who wants outrageous amounts for what they have the gall to call «expropriation». Between 2006 and 2010, these companies obtained the claims at the outrageously low price of ten cents per hectacre; this is according to the law about mines(loi des mines) that dates back to 1880. This was done behind closed doors; the whole maneuver smells fishy!
Published in 2011, the official report of the BAPE (Québec's environmental assessment agency) says that we lost 5 billions on the sale of these claims (BAPE # 273, page 201)
IPCC and the conference in Glasgow proclaim that we are in the fight against climate change. Why should we pay the companies for their stranded assets!
For more information, please read my text (en français) about this problem «https://www.rvhq.ca/lheritage-spolie/ »
Fuzzy logic. Alberta
Fuzzy logic. Alberta conservatives have been complaining about Quebec for decades. Ottawa is the enemy eternal. Creating division and polarizing Canadians is the PC's/UCP's modus operandi. Useful distractions from mismanagement and dumpster fires. Not going to stop now. Alberta accepts support from Ottawa only reluctantly. Don't expect gratitude.
Alberta and the oilpatch will never shut down production voluntarily, accept the science, or co-operate on climate change — either under Kenney or Notley. Doesn't matter what Quebec says or does.
Big Oil, the Big Banks, and the Trudeau Liberals are all betting on climate action failure. The only scenario where oilsands expansion makes any sense. A world still consuming 100 MMbpd in 2050 — that's the climate disaster scenario. Oilsands expansion blows Canada's targets out of the water.
An industry raking in billions of dollars does not need taxpayer support for cleanup. Big Oil does not deserve our dollars to reduce emissions. The oilpatch will not respond to bribes from Ottawa. Of course, CNRL, Suncor, and Cenovus are more than happy to take our money to boost their bottom line.
"'We’ve got all this cash': Analysts expect oil companies to keep buying their own shares in massive rally"
"Oil and gas companies expected to generate $21 billion in cash flow in excess of expenses over the course of next year" (Calgary Herald, Oct 27, 2021)
Alberta's complaints about
Alberta's complaints about equalization are largely spurious. Under the federal tax system, Albertans are treated no differently than other Canadians. The same tax rates apply to Canadians across the country. What "superficial win" is Ottawa supposed to give Alberta?
As Fawcett points out, one in four eligible Alberta voters voted YES to Kenney's pointless referendum. Why give Kenney and his sham referendums credence they do not deserve?
P.S. UofA Prof. Andrew Leach seems to have deleted his twitter account. After tweets like this, I'm not surprised:
"If you're a single-issue climate change voter, in my view there's only one #elxn44 vote that makes sense: the Liberals. They're the only party that understands both the challenge of climate change and the path to a solution for Canada."
Andrew Leach is deluded. Pipelines for climate change. Destroy the world to save it.
If you boost pipelines and support fossil fuel development, you're not progressive. If you support the Liberals' and provincial NDP plan to fail on climate, that's on you. The Trudeaus, Notleys, Horgans of the world are the problem, not the solution.
Sorry, it's not up to
Sorry, it's not up to taxpayers to pay for industry clean-up, reclamation, and reducing emissions. That's on industry. The polluter-pay principle.
Clean-up is a normal cost of doing business. If you can't afford clean-up and pollution control, you should not be in business. The oilpatch can well afford to clean up after itself.
Free-market advocates should not support corporate welfare. Free-market goes out the window if taxpayers prop up industry, and advantage some industries over others.
If I take a load to the dump, I pay for it. If my business uses the landfill, the business pays for it. Until now, fossil fuel producers and consumers have been using the sky as a free dump. Time to halt that practice.
Privatize the profits, socialize the costs. The fossil fuel industry's business model.
Subsidies offset carbon pricing. The opposite of climate action.
Andrew Leach is right though.
Andrew Leach is right though. You choose instead that ever-compelling position that is utterly "beyond the fray," full of smugly righteous indignation at what is indeed the tedious-beyond- description gamesmanship. Tell me about it. But reality intrudes.
Trudeau does SO get it; he's just "working in harness" the way every democratic political "leader" is, because NOTHING can be done unless you're elected, NOTHING, and the right wing has deliberately exacerbated the common alienation, not to mention the usual complacency, of a lot of decent people who maybe WOULD have voted if the process was more "civil," so getting that majority, even when it probably most accurately reflects the actual population, is yet another impediment. We're an emotion-driven, fractious bunch. Most people who don't follow politics, and that is also most people, claim to be "centrists," but that ship has sailed thanks to the machinations of the right, so Andrew Leach is right. You can petulantly spoil your vote, or join all the people who tune politics out, along with most of the news, but this is where we ARE as a society, period.
Anyone who insists that Trudeau and the Liberals generally are interchangeable with conservatives risks joining them as "braying intransigents."
1) A misreading of the
1) A misreading of the Liberals' policy objectives on energy and climate. As several articles in The Observer attest, Corporate Canada is banking on fossil fuel expansion and climate action failure. The Liberal Party is Corporate Canada's front office.
-"Canada's big banks are using your funds to play footsie with fossil fuels"
-"Climate activists target banks funding oil and gas in global day of action"
Pipelines to solve climate change is contradictory policy designed to fail. Irredeemable, unforced error. No one and nothing forced Trudeau to buy and build pipelines — or to throw billions of dollars at hugely profitable oil companies.
No, Trudeau does not need to win votes from Alberta or seats in Saskatchewan to win federal elections. Liberal victories depend on Atlantic Canada, Central Canada, and the Lower Mainland. Votes from the Prairie provinces not required.
The Liberals have nothing to gain electorally by pandering to intransigent Albertans and the oilpatch. Most Albertans are unshakable in their belief that Trudeau wants to shut down the oil industry tomorrow. Albertans would not give Trudeau credit even if he built a billion pipelines.
2) Liberal support for the
2) Liberal support for the oilpatch has nothing to do with winning seats in Alberta or staying in power. The neo-Liberals serve Corporate Canada and the Big Banks, heavily invested in the oilsands.
Oilsands expansion enabled by new pipelines was Corporate Canada's plan all along (see below). The Liberals and AB NDP have proved far more effective than the Conservatives in delivering on Corporate Canada's agenda. Trudeau & Co. have persuaded inattentive Canadians that we can both act on climate and double down on fossil fuels. Have our cake and eat it too.
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.
When Harper and Kenney says no to a shift away from fossil fuels, the progressive option is still ON the table. When Trudeau and Notley say no, they took the progressive option OFF the table.
When Harper and Kenney deny the science, progressives reject their arguments and head in the opposite direction. When Trudeau and Notley deny the science, progressives accept their arguments and enable their climate sabotage.
Trudeau and Notley led progressives astray to support oilsands and pipelines, downplay the science, and ignore IPCC warnings. Something Jason Kenney cannot do.
Trudeau's and Notley's brand of denialism lulls the public into a dangerous complacency and paralysis. "Progressive" denialism is more insidious than the blatant right-wing variety.
Liberal and AB NDP policy eliminate the progressive option and all hope for real climate action.
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, Sep 26, 2016)
Politics is the art of the necessary. Anybody can do the politically expedient. Anybody can govern by poll. Anybody can follow the parade. Anybody can kowtow to industry. True leaders do what is necessary, even if unpopular. They persuade people to follow. Climate leaders lead.
Scientific reality is non-negotiable. Either you accept the science and respond accordingly, or you don't.
Political parties who ignore scientific reality do not deserve the votes of responsible citizens.
Rapid man-made global warming is a disaster.
So are governments that fail to address it.
3) Trudeau and the Liberal
3) Trudeau and the Liberal power players behind the scenes are sincere fossil fuel boosters and reluctant climate warriors — not the other way around.
Trudeau (2016): "There is growth to be had in the oilsands. They will be developing more fossil fuels while there's a market for it, while we transition off fossil fuels."
Trudeau (2017): "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."
"Canada leads G20 in financing fossil fuels, lags in renewables funding, report says" (Canadian Press, Oct 28, 2021)
"A new report from Oil Change International found Canada provided an average of almost $14 billion a year in public support for fossil fuels between 2018 and 2020.
"The report finds Canadian renewable energy received about $1 billion in public financial support — far less than the support offered by many other countries.
"On average, the report finds G20 countries provided about 2.5 times more support for fossil fuels than renewables. In Canada, the ratio is 14.5."
Trudeau and Notley 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. Oilsands expansion enabled by new pipelines was the plan all along.
Big Oil's climate plan permits oilsands expansion enabled by new export pipelines in return for a nominal carbon tax that would not impair their profits and a fraudulent oilsands cap. Window dressing.
A plan to fail.
"The Big Stall traces the origins of the govt's climate change plan back to Big Oil. It shows how, in the last fifteen years, Big Oil has infiltrated provincial and federal govts, academia, media and the non-profit sector to sway govt and public opinion on the realities of climate change
"This is how Big Oil and think tanks unraveled the Kyoto Protocol and how Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau came to deliver the Business Council of Canada's energy plan. Donald Gutstein explains how and why the door has been left wide open for oil companies to determine their own futures in Canada, and to go on fracking new "natural" gas wells, building new oilsands plants and constructing new pipelines.
"The Trudeau govt's purchase of the TM pipeline in 2018 illustrates how entrenched neoliberalism has become. Under neoliberalism, the role of govt is to create and enforce markets and prop them up when they fail, just as Trudeau did."
"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"
"Gutstein reports in The Big Stall that six months after the Winnipeg Consensus was drafted, in 2009, heavy hitters involved in the energy industry and representatives of a small number of environmental organizations met in Banff.
"Among them was the Pembina Institute's Marlo Raynolds, who later became chief of staff to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
Another person at this event was Gerald Butts, president of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, who is now the senior political adviser to Trudeau. D'Aquino's successor, former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, was also present.
"But the biggest news from Banff was the presence of six representatives of a new player on the scene, the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC)," Gutstein writes. "This organization was incorporated the same month the Winnipeg Consensus was reached, October 2009. It had the backing of Canada's largest fossil fuel companies, like Shell Canada, Imperial Oil, Canadian Natural Resources, and Suncor Energy, pipeline companies TransCanada Corporation and Enbridge, plus the major fossil fuel industry associations and especially the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers."
"Gutstein told the Straight that he believes Manley was groomed for his position as president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada because he would be well positioned to endorse a carbon tax as part of a grand bargain that would also ensure a Liberal government would include pipeline projects in any national climate plan."
(The Georgia Straight, Nov 14th, 2018 )
"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" (The Tyee, 4 Sep 2019)
Many good points you make
Many good points you make that certainly jive with what I have long perceived about men in power; it's like the ultimate sports team except with a lot more polish and reach. Trudeau is a pugilist albeit from the upper class, and doing the usual thing of trying to live up to a famous father, in this case both much older, more of a grandfather, also a formidable intellectual and an actual political phenomenon, so a truly tough act to follow. And he does seem to suck up too much to powerful men in the corporate world; conservatives have a point about his eager to please, youthful boyishness that has always worked for him because he's physically attractive, naturally enjoys people, and is generally "cool" as well, the ultimate anathema to stodgy conservatives. And yes, his entitlement is glaring, but I do NOT see him as being incapable of learning, or of changing his mind or his approach, which is what always sets progressives apart from the rigid right. I thought the election was partly about that-- outing and airing their marked intransigence in the context of both the pandemic and the growing urgency around climate change that shifted this summer, possibly helped by covid's obvious parallels. And irritating as Trudeau can be, I also give anyone who can withstand the relentless petty bullshit of conservatives day in and day out full credit; no one can blame him for wanting to gain the upper hand. So I think he's open enough and hopeful enough to ride the swell coming from all quarters, with his signature confidence and energy.
The playbook for a long time,
The playbook for a long time, to be sure.
My wonder about Albertans is if they reckon all the money from the other 90% of the country that's been throwing those billions and billions and billions of dollars a year at Alberta Oil ... with everyone along the way benefitting, from the local office receptionist to the CEOs and shareholders. Just not the rest of the country that's been providing those billions and billions and billions of dollars a year,
As with Covid, they refuse to hear the stats, and probably cannot be reached with fact. OTOH, they're hearing nothing homegrown that would suggest where the truth lies.
Theoretically Trudeau should
Theoretically Trudeau should be able to mollify ANY "provincial concerns"
when the context is not only the unity of our country, but also an existential threat for humanity itself (as I heard Suzuki clarify yesterday on CBC, it's not the planet that we have to save here; that will endure; it's US), but in an Alberta Views article, Chris Turner eloquently describes the UCP's attitude, and current conservatism generally, as "braying intransigence." At this point, the entire right wing has taken on the demeanor of a person with oppositional defiant disorder, stubbory ignorant, recalcitrant anti-vaxxers who have to be deliberately marginalized and/or rolled over top of. Because there's just no helping some people. And at this point, they're simply the enemy of the rest of us, who at least ARE the majority.
I like Max Fawcett's title, "no more Mr. Nice Guy."
Alberta should be a world
Alberta should be a world LEADER in clean energy with all the geothermal, wind and solar potential it has...no I'm not just talking about the hot air from Conservative politicians! Rather than be proud leaders in transforming the province to clean energy, it cries and complains about everything, including finances...hello...if you want more revenue for you government, do what every other province does and create a provincial sales tax! Duh! Being a native Albertan, I remember rural dayliner trains that were wonderful. Imagine a network of such trains, but electric ones? And how about a high speed electric train from Lethbridge to at least Edmonton, but even to Dawson Creek and another from Medicine Hat to Calgary to Banff. People could move between cities and to cities with ease...and avoid polluting. It's just one idea among many but when the Conservatives are in the oil and gaz industries' back pocket...it's clear thatn nothing will get done.
Absolutely, I'm also an
Absolutely, I'm also an Albertan, and currently squirming in embarrassment at how stupid we look; it's best described by the facebook page "Alberduh Freedumb Fyters."
Kevin Taft describes us rightly as a "petrostate."
Great ideas you have about trains, it would be like Europe, but Trudeau nailed it when he said "conservatives have no vision." If they were just ploddingly effective administrators it wouldn't be so bad, but they're not even that, are just fanatical, avidly evangelical, self-righteous ideologues that are mean-spirited to boot. Ever since Preston Manning poisoned our political scene with the Reform Party, we've been battling what we have called "bozo eruptions," and endlessly debating, "do they have an agenda?" I think it's safe to say that Yeah, they DO, and to say that it sucks is a wild understatement. They are actually current examples of the "banality of evil." The wannabe GOP.
Shorter Max Fawcett: Other
Shorter Max Fawcett: Other provinces have to stop doing good things in case it makes Jason Kenney look bad by comparison.
But come on, we all know Jason Kenney will manage to make himself look bad no matter what. And Alberta will also find grievances with the rest of Canada no matter what. And while, when other provinces do good things, Alberta gets resentful and "backlashes", when other provinces DON'T do good things, Alberta swaggers and doubles down on its bad behaviour. And then the media, with its strong tendency to conservatism, portrays Alberta as some sort of "leader". The backlash is preferable.
Max, the tail will never,
Max, the tail will never, ever, ever wag the dog in our confederation.
"Western" (read: Albertan) alienation has been beating the same drum for 50 years. I lived in Alberta for 22 years and remember well the moaning and bombast of the Western Canada Concept Party in the 70s. A separation referendum in Alberta will yield results less supportive than its recent vote on equalization, which leaves one wondering how many people will make for the exits, preferring to live in less radical and economically volatile and more politically mature provinces.
This ex-Albertan sees so-called Alberta alienation as nothing more than a lame excuse to bully others into paying for Alberta's mistake of having embarrassingly mismanaged wealth.
Enough chatter. Hold another referendum. Your bluff has been called.
I just finished watching a
I just finished watching a CBC EDMONTON TV ARCHIVES on Our Edmonton about renewable energy comments by Alberta Energy Minister circa 1979, my how things have changed. I don't see fireworks between the provinces. Quebec generates 99.9 % of electricity from hydro. Alberta not so. 90% from fossil fuels. And 25% of Canada's GHG from oil production. Why Alberta would care about Quebec's leave it in the ground I don't see. Quebec still has a long way to go with reducing all the other sectors of its economy using fossil fuels. But it way ahead of Alberta. End use energy Quebec 55% fossil fuels. Alberta end uses 90+ % fossil fuels. 30 years of false information from Big Oil and Alberta itself should make us proud of Quebec's decision