Alberta’s dancing monkeys, Ottawa’s stubbornness, a recipe for carbon tax failure

Jean and Schulz aren’t the varsity team, Guilbeault is the wrong minister…something has to give

How would you resolve this dilemma? Canada, like most countries, has signed international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Alberta accounts for almost 40 per cent of Canadian GHGs and resists federal climate policy at every turn. All roads to a low-carbon future in this country run through Alberta, the province that almost daily tells the Prime Minister to go to hell.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announcing his party’s climate plan.

“Justin Trudeau is committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 and only Alberta stands between the Liberals and their climate goals,” I wrote a day after the 2019 federal election. “Something has to give.”

Four-and-a-half years ago, I thought the “something” was oil sands CEOs doubling down on their stated goal to significantly decarbonize some of the dirtiest oil on the planet. The companies said that lower emissions-intensity per barrel, and absolute emissions of the sector, was good for business. I took them at their word.

Well, that was a mistake.

The oil sands by themselves now account for 84 megatonnes (Mt) per year out of Canada’s total of 670 Mt. That’s a 12 per cent share. Alberta oil and gas are 145 Mt or 21.6 per cent of national GHGs in 2021. 

For comparison, the province comprises 12.5 per cent Canada’s population. And let’s not forget the global number: Alberta all by itself is 38 per cent of the country’s emissions. Alberta punches above its weight, unfortunately.

Alberta Energy Minister Brian Jean, X/Twitter.

You might think Alberta would be embarrassed by being such a horrendous climate laggard, but you would be wrong. Energy Minister Brian Jean, the ultimate oil and gas shill in a province overflowing with oil and gas shills, is on an all out public offensive against federal policies.

Claiming that the federal government wants to “shut down Alberta” while  “trying to steer Canada into socialism” is claptrap of the lowest order. Unfortunately, most (perhaps all) of his public communications in support of oil and gas are of similar quality. The man isn’t fit to run a hot dog stand in front of Calgary City Hall. Yet, he is apparently Premier Danielle Smith’s best option to manage policy and regulation for the eighth largest oil sector in the world. 

Don’t get me started on Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz. I would hardly be the first to note how odd it is that the cabinet minister responsible for protecting the environment spends all her time defending the industry most likely to damage the environment.

‘Nuff said.

In a January 12 column, I argued that federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault isn’t the right guy for the job, either. He’s a former Greenpeace campaigner and sees emissions mostly through a climate lens. “…Guilbeault made a big strategic mistake, one that the Liberals make over and over: they focus too much on climate change and not enough on the global energy transition,” I wrote

Nothing over the past three months convinced me that my view is wrong. In fact, just the opposite.

Pierre Poilievre at a recent CPC rally.

CPC leader Pierre Poilievre is enjoying political success with his “axe the (consumer carbon) tax” campaign precisely because he understands that for a huge swath of Canadians the inflation of the past 18 months has devastated their family budgets. Ottawa wants them to pay a “tax” that they don’t understand and, arguably, don’t even know that the amount rebated exceeds the amount collected from them.

They’re mad as hell and not going to take it any more. Throw in mischief from the Freedom/Convoy, that loose gang of pseudo-fascist kooks who occupied the Canadian capital two years ago, and carbon pricing politics have become highly combustible in just a few months.

Which brings us back to our original dilemma: Canada’s emissions targets conflicting with the most egregiously offending province’s efforts to avoid federal climate policies. Is there a resolution to the stalemate?

Trudeau was in Calgary yesterday and told the Chamber of Commerce that he has no intention of flinching on his oil and gas emissions cap. He’s finally reached the end of his patience. So, no obvious compromise coming from that camp.

The constant barrage from the dancing monkeys in the UCP government makes it very clear that Alberta isn’t for changing.

Someone outside the current debate has to put a game-changing proposal on the table. Unfortunately, who that someone might be isn’t obvious. Someone, anyone, better do it soon because time is running out.

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