Brace yourselves, folks. If you thought the conversation about the federal government’s so-called “just transition” couldn’t get any dumber, you’re about to be proven wrong. That’s because Alberta’s premier, her senior staffers and most of the province’s pundit class are pretending an internal federal government document from last June contains its plan for the imminent demise of the oil and gas industry.

There’s just one small problem: it’s not even remotely close to true.

First, the non-smoking gun in question. It’s a package of committee meeting briefing materials for Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson that includes speaking notes, background materials and a list of some questions he might get and answers he could give to them.

It’s not much of a secret, given that it was posted publicly on a government transparency website last September. But buried in there is a set of figures about potential labour market impacts of the global energy transition that are being misconstrued — either through malice or incompetence — by the premier and her various proxies.

“What kind of leader intentionally throws hundreds of thousands of his own citizens on the unemployment line?” Rob Anderson, the principal secretary to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, asked rhetorically on Twitter. “Trudeau has crossed a line here.” Smith went even further, suggesting the document revealed a plan to eliminate 2.7 million jobs nationwide.

That framing was picked up by the holy trinity of Postmedia’s conservative Alberta columnists (Staples, Bell and Braid), who all carried versions of it, along with inflammatory comments from Smith, in their columns on the subject. Braid described the briefing documents as “political dynamite,” while Staples wrote: “This plan might well strike you as madness, as a federal government that has lost all humility and common sense.” Bell, in his inimitable style, cut right to the chase. “Energy jobs, about 202,000 workers gone,” he wrote. “In Alberta, 187,000 jobs toast. Read that number again.”

Curiously, none of the three included a link to the document in the online versions of their columns.

If you actually bother to read it, and clearly almost nobody has, the contents are far more benign. It does not, as Bell and Anderson are claiming, suggest the jobs in Alberta’s oil and gas industry will be eliminated. Instead, it points out that they will be impacted by the global transition to lower-carbon technology, and that the federal government should prepare to help where and how it can.

I’ve written briefing materials like these before and I understand why the language here (on Page 68, I might add) wasn’t as precise as it should have been. The staffer who wrote it had Wilkinson’s eyes in mind, not those of bad-faith politicians and pundits who would spin the lack of clarity as nefarious intent.

And just to make sure, I reached out to a senior official in Wilkinson’s office in order to confirm my reading of this particular section — that it was describing the number of jobs impacted by the transition, not the number that would be eliminated. “We as a government do not intend to eliminate a single oil and gas job,” they said.

Is the federal government planning to phase out hundreds of thousands of jobs in Alberta (and millions across the country) through its "just transition" act? Of course not. But that's not what Alberta's premier and pundits would have us believe.

But the feelings of those who already bought the Alberta government’s line — or worse, tried to sell it — won’t be swayed by these facts. They’ve decided to treat the just transition as an opportunity to strike fear and loathing in the hearts of their supporters, and as I’ve written recently, the Trudeau Liberals are helping them do it. Whether that’s on purpose or not is an open question, but either way, this pairing of ambitious policy with atrocious communications is fast becoming the Trudeau government’s unofficial brand when it comes to climate change.

The truth, not that it seems to matter, is that the global energy transition will have an impact on oil-producing regions like Alberta whether they acknowledge it or not. Indeed, it already has. Even in Texas, where proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and a Republican state government has made building oil and gas projects as easy as opening a lemonade stand, oil and gas jobs are on a clear downward trend.

Despite the post-COVID boom in commodity prices, as of August 2022, there were 201,700 people employed in the state’s upstream oil and gas business — 107,200 fewer than December 2014.

And while Albertans may want to blame the Trudeau government for the push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or even suggest it’s “killing” their oil and gas industry, that’s not what the industry’s leaders are saying.

“We’re not doing this because we’re being regulated to do it,” Pathways Alliance CEO Kendall Dilling said recently. “We’re doing this because our CEOs truly have a conviction that we don’t have a long-term future if we can’t address what’s been our Achilles heel: our greenhouse gas emissions.”

And guess what? It’s the market that’s driving this change, not the government. “We know it’s what’s necessary for our long-term sustainability,” he said. “It’s also our financial institutions, our insurers, our shareholders and a host of other stakeholders who are saying that they want to see us recreate ourselves and be relevant in a low-carbon future.”

But blaming the market is an uncomfortable position for conservative politicians and pundits who otherwise worship at its altar. And while they could embrace the complexity and nuance around this deeply important issue, it’s much easier to keep seeding and harvesting the anti-Ottawa rage that grows so easily in Alberta.

May’s provincial election will be a litmus test for a number of issues, from Danielle Smith’s popularity to Rachel Notley’s ability to win over voters in Calgary. But perhaps the most important one will be just how much bullshit Albertans can be fed before their gag reflex finally kicks in.

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this is not helping Alberta or Canada. If Smith would tell the truth for the sake of everyone it would be a good step forward for everyone. What is happening with climate change and the need to make changes to save our planet and jobs needs intelligent politicians who are willing to stop playing politics and work for the sake of the people they represent.

sadly, some people (too many who are win power, Smith being a prime example ) just don't get it, or probably don't care to get it.

Smith's only chance of winning an election as premier is to be seen to defend Alberta from an evil Trudeau. The other angle is that the conservative movement is basically a tool of Big Oil. I believe that is why Conervatives put the interests of the oil industry before the interests of Albertans or Canadians. I was actually surprised when Stephen Harper doubled down on Canada as an "energy superpower". He is not a stupid man and must have seen the writing on the wall that Alberta was vulnerable to job losses but he went with Big Oil not Albertans. The reality is that once the oil price drops past a certain level - oil sands oil is some of the most expensive to produce - the industry itself will shut down fairly promptly laying off as many people as they need to. Albertans need to be ready for that and Danielle Smith will not help them because that's not where her true loyalties lie.

"May’s provincial election will be a litmus test for a number of issues, from Danielle Smith’s popularity to Rachel Notley’s ability to win over voters in Calgary. But perhaps the most important one will be just how much bullshit Albertans can be fed before their gag reflex finally kicks in."

What are the BS limits of Trump supporters? Anti-vaxxers? Obama birthers? 9-11 truthers? WEF conspiracy theorists? Do they have any BS limits?

Alberta right-wing voters feed on terminal outrage and perpetual victimhood. We are flattered by the efforts of politicians and pundits to deceive us.
Not a contest Rachel Notley is likely to win. But she can try:

"Alberta's Opposition leader Rachel Notley said she didn't agree with the federal government's plan to reduce Canada's emissions by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, nor federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh's assertion such targets weren't aggressive enough.
"'Both are wrong, and I've been very clear on that, and that has been my position and I will advocate that position with every tool and tactic that I can muster, should I be given the opportunity to do that job, because it's not practical.'"
"Federal department says 'just transition' document refers to industry size, not job loss" (CBC, Jan 17, 2023)

Good old Notley. Alberta's progressive climate champion, fighting against her grandchildren's right to a healthy planet to the bitter end.

Max Fawcett:

"But blaming the market is an uncomfortable position for conservative politicians and pundits who otherwise worship at its altar. And while they could embrace the complexity and nuance around this deeply important issue, it’s much easier to keep seeding and harvesting the anti-Ottawa rage that grows so easily in Alberta."

J.B.:

"Smith's only chance of winning an election as premier is to be seen to defend Alberta from an evil Trudeau. The other angle is that the conservative movement is basically a tool of Big Oil. I believe that is why Con[s]ervatives put the interests of the oil industry before the interests of Albertans or Canadians."

Geoffrey Pounder:

"Alberta right-wing voters feed on terminal outrage and perpetual victimhood. We are flattered by the efforts of politicians and pundits to deceive us."
__________

Nail meet hammer.

This is another opportunity to reiterate the deep and abiding relevance of former Alberta MLA Kevin Taft's 2015 book, 'Oil’s Deep State: How the Petroleum Industry Undermines Democracy and Stops Action on Global Warming.'

Taft's previous book, 'Follow the Money' (2012) was equally relevant, and was a best seller in Alberta.

"Research for the book was supported by two economists: Professor Melville Macmillan and Dr. Junaid Jahagir. Drawing heavily on economic data from Statistics Canada, the book challenges the notion that the Alberta government's spending on public services is far higher than other provinces. Taft shows that total Alberta corporate profits are consistently double or more the rates in the rest of Canada or the United States. In contrast, spending on public services in Alberta is in the normal range, and the government has failed to increase the value of the Heritage Trust Fund."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Taft

In 'Oil's Deep State' Taft came right out and said that industry bought the Alberta government, lock stock and barrel, with not just the seats at the cabinet table playing musical chairs with corporate board rooms, but also the backroom policy committees taking dictation directly from oil company communications departments, namely on regulation.

I recently had a heated exchange with other commenters on a CBC online story about Smith's leadership, if you can call, it that. About six commenters from Alberta claimed Alberta has never received a single Equalization payment from Ottawa. They also claimed that Alberta dished out $600+B to Ottawa in Equalization outflow over the decades, as if Alberta is superior to the rest of Canada.

They obviously forgot to include Alberta's unfunded environmental liabilities in the $600B, which could deplete probably 5/6ths of the figure. In addition, they cannot describe out how Equalization is calculated, namely on the level of incomes. If Albertans want to pay less EQ into the federation, then clearly they have to lower their incomes. ;-)

I called the commenters an arrogant lot and pointed out the fact that in 2020 Alberta received over $10B more from Trudeau than it contributed -- info sourced from published reports by U of Calgary economists, who also reiterated that Albertans received more in per capita Equalization payments that year than Quebeckers. The funds were automatically paid after Alberta's economy dropped in 2014 with the world price of oil, followed by a planetary-scale pandemic that exacerbated the inevitable recession.

The commenters really didn't like a provable economic fact gift wrapped with the words "Trudeau" and "Quebec" in a single response. Predictably, they knocked the messenger, calling him just another Alberta "h8ter" -- who then responded that as an ex-Albertan, he loves his Alberta extended family, the beautiful landscapes and the heritage parts of Calgary and Edmonton, but detests what politics has become since Peter Lougheed left public life.

Buffoonery and subscribing to conspiracy theories and lies is not leadership.

Thanks again to Max for clearing the air and setting the record straight. On issues of climate, we should all read the science and leave Braid, Bell and that third shill for conservative nonsense, talking to themselves.

The Science is clear. Moreover, the history of Big Oil's own research confirmed it years ago, before they spent big bucks funding the denialist industries that cast doubts on the actual Science. So it might be a good thing that oil executives are behind action to reduce emissions...it might even be progress. But let's not rely on Alberta's Sun columnists to inform us of the efficacy of the industry's plans....I'm sure they'll endorse all of them, no research necessary.

Let's look into what it takes to Frack for Gas, do some of our own research on the economics of in situ mining for bitumen, the costs of upgrading said bitumen when its melted and sucked to the surface, the actual price our 'western Canadian select" fetches........and draw some of our own conclusions as to how sustainable or long lived those industry jobs are likely to be, going forward.

And then let's vote out liars, and reassure the incoming government that it doesn't have to follow that time honoured tradition in Alberta of imagining our future depends on one industry. We are rich in many things...sun and wind, geothermal and lithium among them. Not to mention arable land, the real gold in a globally insecure food system.

We may have left it too late; climate catastrophe may wipe out civilization as we know it...but at this point Nature won't be denied. We continue to warm the earth's climate, and getting our knickers in a knot about a phrase like "Just Transition" is a Daniellism. Similar to Denialism, but even Dumber.

Exactly!