Was Prentice preparing to introduce a province-wide carbon tax in Alberta if re-elected in 2015?
Stephen Harper says “the media” is trying to bring down Jason Kenney. The UCP leader himself says elite commentators – carbon tax lovers, all – in the media are being “rejected by ordinary voters” at the polls. What the former PM and his former right hand man forget is that their former cabinet colleague and Alberta premier Jim Prentice, supported a carbon tax, as did the top five oil sands CEOs.
The comments from the conservative politicians were recorded for posterity in a Calgary Sun column from Rick Bell, that simpering cockwobble whose lips have been surgically attached to Kenney’s posterior for years.
The argument is ludicrous on its face, but even more so because it’s advanced by two pols who never cashed a private sector paycheque before clamping onto the public teat early in their careers and a professional bloviator for the Canadian newspaper cartel owned by New York hedge funds.
These are the champions of Alberta’s common man and woman? Pfft. Not a calloused palm between the three of them.
But let’s get back to their complaints about we elite commentators, a group in which I gladly claim membership.
“You could fill a library with all the columns written praising the carbon tax,” Kenney said in Bell’s column.
Given that Kenney has made criticism of the carbon levy – both the province-wide version and the industrial version called the Carbon Competitiveness Incentives regulation – pretty much the lone plank of his anemic energy platform, his attempts to ignore the strong support for carbon pricing from Alberta oil sands companies is laughable.
As I reported last week, prior to the election of Rachel Notley and the NDP on May 5, 2015 the CEOs were meeting with the executive directors of five environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) to hammer out a deal: support for carbon pricing, a 100 megatonne oil sands emissions cap, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction in exchange for no cap on production.
A “carbon for barrels” deal, if you like.
Why would leaders of Canada’s top oil companies agree to saddle their income statements with – from Kenney’s point of view – an unnecessary expense?
The answer is simple. Those CEOs know the global energy system is changing and they are preparing to be both “cost-competitive” and “carbon-competitive” – their words – in global oil markets that promise to be extra volatile in the face of rapid technology change that is transforming how we generate and consume energy.
The CEOs are embracing change, not resisting it.
In the case of carbon pricing, they have made a calculated wager that their brilliant technical staff and the highly innovative Alberta service sector can produce the technology needed to lower the carbon-intensity of oil sands heavy crude oil, making the carbon levy work for them.
Last week’s columns generated a flood of social media and email contact from former Prentice government insiders who were working on or aware of the one-time Harper environment minister’s intention to implement his own province-wide carbon tax had he been re-elected in 2015.
One source opined that 8o per cent of the Climate Leadership Plan was “sitting on the shelf” when the NDP former government. Expect to read this story in Energi News in a week or two.
One question that needs investigation is what Jason Kenney knew about Prentice’s carbon tax plans and when he knew it. Since the PC government’s intentions were common knowlege, according to my sources, it beggars belief that he didn’t know what his former cabinet colleague was doing.
Yet, Kenney remained mum. Now he’s got the anti-carbon tax religion.
What is abundantly clear is that carbon pricing in Alberta didn’t arrive like a bolt from the blue with Rachel Notley’s election three years ago.
Thoughtful leaders in both the business and political communities have been thinking for some time about how energy is changing, how best to prepare Alberta for the future, and the role of carbon pricing in the policy mix.
Prentice, a smart guy who was part of the conservative wing looking for market-based solutions to emissions that coalesced around Preston Manning, appears to have been poised to go all in on a carbon tax. Prentice died in a 2016 plane crash.
Watch for Energi News reporting on just how far he was prepared to go if re-elected.
According to Kenney and Bell, providing this kind of context for the Alberta public discussion about carbon pricing makes me an elite commentator who is out of touch.
I prefer to think of reporting about that context as basic journalism, a skill Bell has forgotten after many years spent licking the boots of conservative politicians like Kenney.
Instead of asking puffball questions of Kenney, here are a few Bell might have asked:
If the carbon tax and climate policy are part of the deal to secure the federal government’s support, shouldn’t Kenney be worried that if he axes the carbon tax on his first day as premier and replaces CCIR with the old specific gas emitter regulation that he will damage Alberta’s chances of having new pipelines approved?
If the oil sands companies see carbon pricing as part of their long-term market developemnt strategy (many have been pricing carbon into their budgets for years), why does Kenney insist that carbon pricing must be done away with?
Does Kenney understand that Ottawa has backstop policies for every carbon levy and climate policy enacted by Alberta, and that eliminating the provincial version only guarantees the imposition of the federal program?
But why would Bell ask those questions? His job is to carry water for Kenney, not his readers.
Markham’s note: Some readers will be upset because I called Bell a simpering cockwobble, among other things, arguing that such language is unprofessional. Prior to the emergence of Donald Trump they would have been correct. But Trump has changed the tone and tenor of public debate, including writing by journalists like myself.
Sometimes harsh language is required. Sometimes pointed comments are necessary. In my opinion, this is one of those times.
Readers, as always, are free to disagree.