Timing, as they say, is everything. And the timing right now for opponents of the federal government’s much-maligned Impact Assessment Act couldn’t be much worse. Arguments around the constitutionality of the act, which has been widely branded as the “no more pipelines” law by conservative politicians and premiers, are being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada this week. And Russell Brown, the justice most likely to side with the provinces, is sidelined after reports of a recent punch-up at a resort in Arizona.

That’s not all.

Imperial Oil’s tailings pond leak at its Kearl facility, one that underscores the weakness of Alberta’s regulatory environment and the need for federal involvement, is still making news. It also speaks to the need for something like the Impact Assessment Act, one that might just hold proponents to a higher standard than they’d like. The law will ensure national concerns around climate change and environmental protection are included in decisions around major economic projects. And it will mean new projects with national impacts will have to be in the national interest.

That obviously isn’t sitting well with some members of Alberta’s political establishment. Veteran Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid took a swipe at the bill, suggesting that it’s “a slippery thing. It claims to operate in federal lands but then refers to projects ‘in Canada.’ It also assumes power over projects with environmental effects ‘outside Canada.’ It promises co-ordination with provinces, but no province is reassured.”

The federal government’s abiding interest in things like climate change and environmental impacts is unnecessary, Braid writes, because provinces like Alberta already take them seriously. As evidence, he cites the existence of a page on the Government of Alberta website detailing the scientific reality of climate change — one, it should be noted, that was created back in 2016 by its predecessor NDP government and has barely been updated since.

That it isn’t actively denying the scientific reality of climate change is, I suppose, worth noting. But so, too, is the absence of an actual climate plan, one that’s been missing ever since the United Conservative Party scrapped the NDP’s Climate Leadership Plan in 2019. And in the years since, the regulator charged with protecting the public interest has allowed hundreds of millions in rural property taxes to go unpaid, the number of unreclaimed and orphan wells to skyrocket and oilsands leaks to go unreported to nearby Indigenous communities.

Worse, perhaps, is the sort of cronyism that’s rampant at the Alberta Energy Regulator. Former premier Jason Kenney’s campaign manager, an outspoken skeptic of anthropogenic climate change, is the vice-president of its science and innovation branch, while CEO Laurie Pushor is a former Saskatchewan Party political adviser who was involved in a land deal scandal. A regulator marbled with conservative ex-politicos can hardly be counted on to uphold the public’s interest — unless that interest is defined as being in lockstep with the oil and gas industry.

As to the notion the Impact Assessment Act would spell the end of any new oil and gas development, another inconveniently timed truth was revealed last week when the government of B.C. approved the Cedar LNG facility, subject to a number of environmental conditions. In addition to the impact on the environment and climate, it weighed factors like Indigenous rights and gender-based analysis, all things that industry advocates have claimed would make timely decisions — much less approvals — impossible. And yet, far from gumming up the works, the federal government concurred with B.C.’s assessment.

There’s also some deep irony in the fact that the very same advocates and politicians who love telling people about the “ethical” nature of Canada’s oil and gas industry are actively resisting legislation that would help prove their point. But that argument has always been a communications and branding operation — or, worse, an exercise in “virtue signalling” — rather than a genuine effort to uphold the highest possible standards. The almost unilateral opposition to the Impact Assessment Act is just the latest example of how big the gulf is between their talk and their walk.

Danielle Smith's government is in court right now fighting against the federal government's Impact Assessment Act — a case it's probably going to lose. If it does, it should look in its own backyard for the reason why. @maxfawcett writes

We are, whether some people want to acknowledge it or not, more than just a community of communities in Canada. We’re a country with national objectives and national interests, and our regulations should reflect that reality. Let’s hope that when it rules on the Impact Assessment Act, the Supreme Court of Canada feels the same way.

Keep reading

How can people take pipelines full of O&G every day for decades and combine it with tonnes of Oxygen already in the air to make energy, put this all up in the air for years and years, maybe centuries, and expect no change to the climate? Totally absurd. They can't believe this themselves.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it" -- Upton Sinclair

How many Albertans are old enough to remember and miss Peter Lougheed? When the major scientific announcements on climate started to hit the media late into his retirement, he warned that environmental concerns will have to be reckoned with in Alberta.

Alberta cannot rely on any current provincial leader or party to address pollution even when it assumes the mantle of a major violation of human rights in remote communities. If the identitcal spill of toxins occurred in the Bow or North Saskatchewan rivers - the water supplies of Calgary and Edmonton respectively - you can be sure the story would be different.

The same story, but with different political actors, occurred about 20 years ago when a hydrological investigation of watersheds downstream from the oil sands revealed the same toxic legacy that impacted Indigenous communities. Like today, the story was suppressed, and the effort from the very top extended to smearing the reputation of the scientists.

Nothing has changed.

This ex-Albertan has no sympathy for the pain of the mounting demand destruction for its No. 1 export. Bring it on.

Political parochialism has always been a curse - in every governance system. Petty would-be dictators have always cited the needs and concerns of "local" communities while dismissing the need for coordinated wider action
Pandering to local issues is the way to win elections and/or sway the emotions of local armed bands. This no doubt goes back to the days of upright apes stalking the savannas. Our brains have gotten bigger and more complex in recent centuries - we should be able to handle federal and global issues.

"Political parochialism has always been a curse" - careful with that. Parochialism stretches from NIMBY to indigenous rights and back again. A local viewpoint is as often a source of wisdom, championed by minorities in the right that need protection from the socially more powerful, as it is a viewpoint of the rich and powerful.

Fawcett: "That [the Government of Alberta website] isn’t actively denying the scientific reality of climate change is, I suppose, worth noting. But so, too, is the absence of an actual climate plan, one that’s been missing ever since the United Conservative Party scrapped the NDP’s Climate Leadership Plan in 2019."

The NDP’s Climate Leadership Plan was not "an actual climate plan" — not designed or intended to reduce emissions. With oilsands expansion, AB's total emissions would go up, not down. Notley's fraudulent emissions cap limited oilsands emissions at 43% above then-current levels. Making it impossible for Canada to meet its targets. Climate sabotage. A plan to fail.
AB's non-climate plan also failed to take account of the fact that the O&G industry grossly under-reports its emissions (of all types). Official stats are fiction.
Alberta's "actual climate plan" has not gone missing. It never existed.

Even today Notley publicly opposes federal efforts to strengthen Canada's climate targets. She also opposes federal plans for a "just transition".

Climate change denial comes in two flavours: explicit à la Friends of Science or implicit à la federal Liberals and provincial NDP. Both take us over the climate cliff.
Implicit denial — paying lip service to the science — is more insidious, duplicitous, and dangerous, by the very fact that it is disguised. The public — and progressives in particular — fail to recognize the deception, and that breeds complacency. The public is persuaded that we can have our cake and eat it too. Both expand oilsands production and meet our climate targets.

Petro-progressives like Trudeau, Notley, and Horgan claim to accept the climate change science, but still push pipelines, approve LNG projects, promote oilsands expansion, subsidize fossil fuels, and let Corporate Canada and the Big Banks dictate the climate agenda.

The Liberals and provincial 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.

The new denialism. Just as delusional as the old kind but more insidious. And far more dangerous.
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal)

Fawcett: "And in the years since, the regulator charged with protecting the public interest has allowed hundreds of millions in rural property taxes to go unpaid, the number of unreclaimed and orphan wells to skyrocket and oilsands leaks to go unreported to nearby Indigenous communities."

Correct me if I am wrong, but...
During its term in office, the AB NDP did nothing to check any of those trends — or remedy corruption at the Alberta Energy Regulator. The AB NDP also did nothing to address the health concerns of indigenous communities on the frontlines of oilsands development.

"Correct me if I am wrong, but... "
You are wrong in this case. The net effect of NDP's attempts to mitigate climate change in Alberta was to get the UCP elected with a landslide - and the first thing they did was go to court to try and break the gas tax law.
It's great to be able to mouth off in forums like this, but politics really is the art of the possible..

Non sequitur, Alan. My reference above was to the AB NDP's actions on rural property taxes, unreclaimed and orphan wells, oilsands leaks, and failure to report such hazards to indigenous communities.
Instead you talk about the NDP's "attempts to mitigate climate change", which I did not mention.

It's great to be able to mouth off in forums like this, but argument really is the art of the relevant and logical — not changing the channel. Please read more carefully.

Alan's comment is also revisionist history. False premise.

1) As noted above, Notley's fraudulent oilsands emissions cap — 43% above then-current levels with numerous exemptions — the NDP's "attempts to mitigate climate change in Alberta" would have boosted, not reduced Alberta's total emissions.

2) Given the context of an economy still suffering low oil prices, the NDP stood no chance against a united conservative party in 2019.

3) No one did more to fuel pipeline hysteria in this province than Notley. The same hysteria swept the NDP away in the 2019 election. A political blunder.
With no hopes for re-election against a united Conservative party, the NDP had nothing to gain by shifting right on energy policy and pandering to the O&G industry. 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.
Pandering to fossil-fuel dinosaurs just fed the right-wing frenzy. Stoking Albertans' perennial resentment over pipelines and everything else under the sun only helped the UCP. Most pipeline boosters would not vote NDP if Notley built a billion pipelines. Right-wingers who want oil industry flunkies in power will vote for the real thing. Notley only alienated progressives.
The more Notley fought for pipelines, the more she fanned the flames of anger among Albertans. The blame for all our ills, real and imagined, fell 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.

As pundits and politicians recognized at the time:
• 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.
• 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."
• Reakash Walters, federal NDP candidate in Edmonton Centre 2015: "As one of two people who nominated Rachel in 2015, I am truly disappointed in the direction the provincial party has taken and that they have chosen to prioritize oil extraction in the middle of a climate crisis."
"What was Rachel Notley suggesting when she said she's not committed to voting for Jagmeet Singh's New Democrats?" (Alberta Politics, 2019)
• David Climenhaga: "Arguably, the law allowing Alberta to blockade shipments of fuel from refineries here to force B.C.'s government to ignore the concerns of its own voters and knuckle under to Alberta's demands for a pipeline was a moral and political failure by the NDP.
"Hoping the belligerent attitude demanded by Mr. Kenney's Conservatives would persuade die-hard right-wingers to grant the NDP another term in office in gratitude for legislation that horrified many of its most loyal supporters was foolhardy."
• Naomi Klein (06-Feb-18): "Alberta has a left-wing political party in power, one that has somehow convinced itself it can beat the right by being a better suck up to Big Oil."
• Markham Hislop: "Exploiting industry difficulties for political gain helps no one but Kenney and the UCP."

Alan Ball: "the art of the possible"

That excuse is getting old.
A slogan, not an argument. An excuse for failed leadership. An attempt to lower expectations and diminish responsibility. Echoed by the party faithful to discourage voters from holding elected leaders accountable.
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.
If "progressive" politicians are not willing or able to defend the public interest, why run for public office?

Some praised Notley's "pragmatism".
Our house is on fire. "Pragmatic" is putting the fire out.
Oilsands expansion and new pipelines are not "pragmatic" politics — just plain lunacy. Doesn't matter what your policies are on farm labor, GSAs, childcare, etc. If you're not progressive on climate, you're not progressive.
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.

Again, yes, in this time of crisis, I think many have started to look with some envy at authoritarianism with its unfettered ability to act unilaterally, but we are stuck with this very different system.....interestingly, the ones currently trying to undermine and/or overthrow that whole system don't give a fig about climate change either.

@Tris Pargeter: Both Notley and Trudeau won their 2015 election with comfortable majorities. As long as the government commands the confidence of the house, it is free to pass any legislation within constitutional bounds it wishes. Majority governments do not require opposition support to pass motions and create new laws.
The catch is that the government needs to sell its policies to the electorate if it wishes to win the next election and remain in office. That is where climate leadership comes in.

Notley won the AB provincial election, defeating a conservative movement split into two parties. Alberta kicked out the highly unpopular PC party after four decades in power. Not on a climate mandate per se.
As a one-term Premier, Notley had an opportunity to stand up to Big Oil, reject petro-politics, put AB on the right track, and show Albertans what principled progressive govt looks like. She declined, to put it mildly.

In 2015, Trudeau handily won a majority government with a strong mandate from voters on climate action.
Trudeau himself put paid to Ms. Pargeter's endless apologies and flimsy deflections: "But the fact is, in the last three elections, a majority of Canadians voted for parties that talked about putting a price and keeping a price on pollution. That ship has sailed."

And yet:
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 (2016): "Our challenge is to use today's wealth to create tomorrow's opportunity."
Trudeau (2017): "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."
I believe Trudeau is sincere. Why don't Liberal apologists believe him?

The Liberals' duplicity on climate is all their own.
Conservative opposition did not force Trudeau to buy the Trans Mtn pipeline.
Or promise to sell more fossil fuels to fund climate action.
Or shovel billions of tax dollars into the pockets of largely foreign-funded oil companies reporting record profits.
Conservative opposition did not force the Liberals to approve provincial carbon pricing schemes that let major emitters (e.g., in the oilsands) off the hook.

Trudeau is not doing anything against his will.
The Liberals' climate sins are long and many. Entirely their own responsibility.
Corporate Canada's plan to fail on climate was set in motion long before Trudeau came to power. The Liberals are delivering on that agenda willingly and effectively .

"The Rise and Fall of Trudeau's 'Grand Bargain' on Climate" (The Tyee)
"How Trudeau's Broken Promises Fuel the Growth of Canada's Right" (The Tyee)

The conservative bogeyman does not explain or justify the Liberals' long history of failure.
These endless excuses and deflections for Liberal failure do not wash.
Do not blame conservatives for the Liberals' failure on climate.

Fawcett: "As to the notion the Impact Assessment Act would spell the end of any new oil and gas development, another inconveniently timed truth was revealed last week when the government of B.C. approved the Cedar LNG facility, subject to a number of environmental conditions. … the federal government concurred with B.C.’s assessment."

Which underlines the failure of the Impact Assessment Act.
B.C. is not on track to meet its emissions targets, yet it approves new LNG projects. Ottawa is not on track to meet its targets either, and yet approves new LNG projects, new offshore oil projects, and buys and builds a new oilsands export pipeline at huge loss to taxpayers.

The Liberals' climate plan for the O&G sector — Canada's largest and fastest growing source of emissions — is based on fake climate solutions: taxpayer-funded white elephants like carbon capture, SMRs, and blue hydrogen that are expensive, inefficient, don't exist yet, or don't work.

Ottawa is not doing anything to protect the health of indigenous communities on the frontlines of oilsands development either. Instead, it is dreaming up ways to release treated oilsands effluent from toxic tailings ponds into the Athabasca River and Mackenzie River system.

The European Investment Bank just did their annual climate survey, I'm reading in Bloomberg Green, and 70% of people in the E.U., U.K., U.S. and China said governments are too slow in acting on climate change.
So there's the sanction, along with that last IPCC report. Time to be bold and just blow right past the deniers of all stripes because this is ALL their fault ultimately. They KNEW, and rather than act on it they actively covered it up instead, for decades when we could have been transitioning. Now we're locked into catastrophe and existential dread, reduced to just another iffy species on this planet, which we have of course always been. But all the arrogant, greedy, power-hungry men with otherworldly egos who inhabit a different reality see it differently, men like Putin, the little maggot who embodies this vile contingent ever among us. Such monstrous men seem beyond reason in that they are basically incapable of changing their minds for the life of them, even when proven wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt. It's like religious faith, which we have had far too high a tolerance for in such an unprecedented time of "post-truth." But we now know that this scary trait is one they share with far more other people than any of us had imagined before social media, so that other new, and similarly horrifying reality requires a concerted effort to wield the weight of democracy while we still have it.
Although there was much speculation when Putin invaded Ukraine regarding his mental status, and most insisted that he was probably "sane," clearly we need a new measure, a new assessment at what feels like a dangerous inflection point.
Another heat dome summer should convince more people about THAT existential reality you'd think, but again, probably won't; that is where we are now.
Albertans happen to live in a country with a federal government that has some real intention to ACT like a bona fide government, but because of our democratic system has been curtailed at every turn by conservatives who ignorantly choose to regard them as enemy number one. But a rule of thumb for these cretins is that every accusation they make, every condemnation is simply a deliberate deflection from who and what THEY actually are. That jig really should be up by now.

It's hard to reconcile your continued view that Conservatives are to blame for this with the lack of climate action detailed by Mr. Pounder. Even now, with a Liberal/NDP federal agreement that means they could move very quickly on climate, they are not. The Conservatives have no power to stop them. Canadians want it.

Losing the next election is a very bad excuse for locking in apocalyptic suffering; any party in power for 8 or 10 years is likely going to lose their next election.

If the Liberals were at all serious on climate, they would act boldly and also move quickly on electoral reform, which would remove the concern that "the next government will undo everything we've done."

I agree with all that and am also very disappointed in the Liberals. I DO think Trudeau is overly fond of the fight with the braying conservatives, but if you watch question period right now, even briefly, that makes some sense. What I'm most hopeful about is the NDP agreement they've willingly entered into; I'd like to see progressives unite formally to more accurately reflect the majority of Canadians, particularly on all-important climate change.
Mr. Pounder has many quotes over the years of progressive politicians trying to thread the needle of doom by talking about the "transition," that relatively leisurely time when we are all aware and recognize the need to change, with the underlying assumption that we DO still have time. That has evolved, and although the public is definitely ahead of politicians on this, major distractions like covid and Putin have naturally intervened and drained coffers. Even the clearly progressive EU has been caught flat-footed with the reality of their heat being cut off in the winter....
However, outside of the trembling world trajectory there's also THIS reality:
Note the provincial differences in this vote, how surprisingly Saskatchewan was at 73% and Alberta only 62%. And then recall how the majority of provinces currently have conservative premiers in charge. In all fairness, this vote was also a few years ago but Poilievre is STILL insisting on eradicating the carbon tax if he wins, despite the rebates. I heard him say that yesterday in question period. And on science denialism, which party denied the seriousness of covid and actually BACKED the convoy? Remember Harper muzzling scientists? That's who conservatives still are.
Talk about a bottom line. And look at the GOP.
The political right wing is absolutely to blame for ALL of this, world-wide, and because democratic politics determines who has power, it's never been more important to vote ANYTHING but conservative.
I'm no Liberal apologist but under the circumstances I think Mr. Pounder may be a conservative one.

The barbaric cultural practices narrative, grinning photo-ops with the lawbreaking convoy occupation force, climate delay/denial/doubt on a stick, etc. etc., are the reasons that pushed me over the fence to become a strategic voter. It worked very well, first to rid the nation of the Harper government, and to create minority governments that keep the Libs in check, more or less. Trudeau has many, many aggravating flaws and is a weak-kneed hypocrite on taking climate action above the easy low hanging fruit (carbon tax), but his faults and failures do not compare with Poilievre's damaging base ideology and the Conservative's disastrous penchant for dismantling everything that contradicts their very narrow views.

Electoral math is cold, powerful and unassailable. Until we have true proportionality that will allow all citizens to vote with their principles, I will vote strategically to keep the Conservative candidate in my very competitive riding from winning a seat. If the minority government isn't working to the impossible levels of perfection some commenters on this site demand, half the blame is legitimately laid at the feet of the federal NDP, the minority partner that shares Trudeau's trait of issuing platitudes over doing the hard work, and rarely placing the common good above the interests of those who donate or are members of their party.

The reality is that the NDP is broke and low in the polls and cannot currently afford to run an election campaign under their banner. Voting on principle to take down Trudeau will not work to elevate the NDP or the Libs with the current math. Poilievre will become the PM and then dismantle all the limited progress made so far on climate, let alone social programs. That is the Canadian way as long as there is an electoral system that favours schoolyard bullying, hubris and yelling over mature debate, and that easily plays one set of principles off another to elect a third when only one single pick of choices is offered to voters.

In a slightly more perfect world, now is a good time for backroom explorations to be made between the Libs, NDP, Greens and Bloc to offer a temporary and time-limited centre-left coalition to the electorate next election. The limit could be set at three years with clear renegotiation clauses set for the end of the period. Reverting back to the old system would be the fallback for those partisan party lifers who are uncomfortable with sharing power. But sharing power is much better than losing power to the Conservative Party of their nightmares. It's also a way for parties (thinking of the Libs) to renew themselves while not losing power altogether.

The individual parties will still exist with the understanding that they will legislate on specific overlapping policies, of which there are many, for a limited period. Members of each party would have a seat at the federal government cabinet table; some currently minority opposition MPs will actually have power to rule instead of maintaining their opposition role of warming their critic's armchairs while getting ever more frustrated over the ruling minority party's direction under the current scenario. I'd love to see Don Davies as health minister, Jenny Kwan as housing minister, Elizabeth May as environment minister .....

The Bloc would, of course, have policies exclusive to Quebec, but the party has often had a positive say in national governance for years now and has some good talent mainly on the progressive side of the spectrum. Besides, what's good for Quebec on climate action is good for the entire nation.

I'd bet that a centre-left coalition government would garner 2/3 of the vote. Imagine that.

Hear hear....another excellent article from Max Fawcett.

The Alberta UCP government continues to play populist football with our Federation.......waste precious tax dollars on court cases that Albertans are bound to lose. Barring a PP win in the next election, and some massive tampering with our Supreme Court this is another waste of tax dollars brought to Albertans by the Alberta right wing fringe.

We need to factor climate change into future projects....we need to get rid of industry captured regulators asleep at the switch for over 9 months...and defeat Alberta Energy Ministers who claimed they weren't informed at all. Hope this current 'rake' gets the lot of them: right between their purposefully closed eyes.