Good morning! It’s James Keller in Calgary.
One of the big questions since Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was elected this past spring would be how the province, whose economy relies on the emissions-heavy oil sands, would confront climate change.
During the campaign, Kenney acknowledged climate change is a serious threat and said the province would do its part to address it. But he also heavily criticized the climate policies of Alberta’s previous NDP government as well as those put forward in Ottawa, arguing that carbon taxes, emissions caps and other measures unfairly target Alberta’s energy sector without making much of a dent in global emissions.
And those questions were amplified by a federal election campaign in which climate change was a defining issue.
Kenney’s government has now unveiled its plan to tackle emissions, with a tax on greenhouse-gas emissions that will target the province’s largest industrial emitters, while funding technology designed to bring those emissions down. It largely mirrors the United Conservative Party’s election platform, with some notable changes.
The Alberta government has gone out of its way not to call this a carbon tax – or even a carbon levy, which is the federal government’s preferred term. But it is designed to satisfy Ottawa’s requirements that provinces impose a carbon price on their industries with a policy that Alberta’s Environment Minister says should be enough to fend off the federal tax.
It won’t, however, change the federal government’s plan to impose a carbon tax on consumers starting Jan. 1, which Mr. Kenney plans to continue fighting in court.
The plan released yesterday would impose a $30-per-tonne price on carbon for the province’s largest emitters, which is $10 more than what the UCP promised this past spring. The government also isn’t ruling out increasing the price in accordance with the federal requirements, which will reach $50 per tonne by 2022.
The plan only covers 10 per cent of a company’s emissions next year, which is down from the 20 per cent under the previous government’s plan.
The money will be partly used to fund emissions-reducing technology, though a significant chunk will go into general revenue to fund the provincial budget.
Reaction has been mixed, with critics like the New Democrats and the Pembina Institute describing the plan as a step backward, while industry groups such as the Cement Association of Canada are welcoming it as a sensible middle ground.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
Around the West:
TENT CITY VIOLENCE: The targeted shooting of a woman as she visited a homeless man at a sprawling tent city in a Downtown Eastside park underscores warnings police have been issuing for a month about escalating violence at the site, a police spokesman says. But despite the shooting and police concern, members of the city’s parks board, which has jurisdiction over the park, have rejected recommendations from the mayor to get a court injunction to clear the tent city, which now has about 300 residents.
ALBERTA CUTS: Alberta is proposing new legislation that could affect where doctors work and how much they get paid, as well as allow the government more freedom to bring in replacement workers for union jobs. The amendments are contained in two omnibus bills introduced by Finance Minister Travis Toews. The government is also seeking wage rollbacks as binding arbitration is set to resume with unions that represent more than 180,000 public-sector workers.
INCOME SUPPORT: A record number of Alberta households now rely upon income support to meet their basic financial needs, benefits that are set to erode over time following new measures introduced in last week’s provincial budget. In August, there were close to 62,000 income-support caseloads in Alberta, the highest number since the current version of the program went into effect in 2005. It’s a sign that Alberta’s labour market continues to struggle, five years after the oil shock started to decimate thousands of jobs across the province.
B.C. FINANCES: B.C. Finance Minister Carole James’s surplus budget this year is on shaky footing as a court ruling and other pending legal challenges threaten to undo the province’s efforts to rein in costs at the Crown-owned Insurance Corp. of B.C. Just weeks ago in her quarterly economic update, Ms. James downgraded economic growth forecasts amid declining revenues and reduced contingency funds by $300-million to offset changing revenues owing to slowing global growth.
TRUDEAU AND THE WEST: Anne McLellan, a one-time deputy prime minister and lone federal Liberal voice from Alberta, is among those providing tips to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he ponders how best to navigate through a second mandate with no representation from Alberta or Saskatchewan, where feelings of alienation are running high.
MEDICAL ASSISTANCE IN DYING: Over the past four years, Alzheimer’s disease had stripped Mary Wilson, 73, of her ability to drive and tell time and read the morning paper, but it had yet not stolen the memory of her children. Kelly Grant reports on the dilemma of granting an Alzheimer patient the right to end her own life and the difficulty faced by the physician who helped her. Dr. Konia Trouton knew that the law, passed by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in 2016, was vague and open to interpretation and, to her knowledge, hadn’t been applied to someone whose only illness was dementia.
WESTJET: The head of WestJet Airlines Ltd. says the airline is seeking compensation from Boeing Co. for the lost use of its 737 Max passenger jets, but that customers’ expected reluctance to fly in the plane when it returns to service makes the costs impossible to predict.
TRANSIT STRIKE VOTE: Transit operators in Metro Vancouver have served a 72-hour strike notice, potentially leaving Greater Vancouver commuters without bus, SeaBus or community shuttle service as early as Friday.
CROWDED CEMETERY: Vancouver City Council has approved changes that would allow strangers to share grave spaces at the city’s only cemetery in an effort to find space, become more environmentally friendly and make the graveyard an interesting place for the living. The proposal would permit three or more bodies in one site, establish a green burial option and would consider eliminating tombstones or markers.
SUBURB REVITALIZED: The Vancouver suburb with no downtown is about to get one through one of the largest mall transformations in North America. Burnaby, the huge city that is about four-fifths the geographic size of neighbouring Vancouver, has for decades been a place with three large malls surrounded by some apartments and no discernible centre. But that’s set to change in the coming years after Burnaby City Council finalized a plan this week.
CHILDBIRTH DEATH: The sudden death of Saskatchewan curler Aly Jenkins due to an amniotic fluid embolism sheds light on an extremely rare and serious obstetric condition that doctors have no way to foresee. Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) occurs in an estimated one to eight cases per 100,000 deliveries, but is considered one of the major causes of maternal mortality in industrialized countries, says epidemiologist Sarka Lisonkova, an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Columbia.
WINNIPEG CRIME: The police chief in Manitoba’s capital says a deadly weekend has strained resources as investigators deal with three homicides and a shooting that left four people, including an infant, in hospital. Danny Smyth says too much of the violent crime is linked to addictions and the drug trade surrounding the methamphetamine crisis gripping Winnipeg.
Rita Trichur on privatizing ATB Financial: “ATB isn’t subject to the same oversight as a regular bank, and taxpayers simply can’t afford the risk. Alberta has no business running a bank.”
Marsha Lederman on women leaders leaving Vancouver’s arts scene: “Whoever comes next in these roles, what’s clear is the need for mentorship – something all of these women talked about: how being mentored helped them and how important it is for women to mentor other women.”
Kelly Cryderman on the Alberta budget: “A whole lot has to go tickety-boo for Alberta to avoid more cuts, or to be deficit free by 2023. Not only do oil prices need to rise, but new oil pipeline capacity has to be built, even in the face of opposition. Investors have to return. The province’s strategy of forgoing government revenues to spur job creation with a deep corporate tax cut has to work. And the government has limited its options by saying no to raising money through other types of taxes.”
Gary Mason on social conservatism in Canada: “Can you expand your tent by expanding your world view? Or by expanding your world view, do you run the risk that some of the issues you are now championing scare traditional supporters out the back door? One thing seems certain: It will always be a challenge to broaden your appeal as a party behind a leader whose viewpoints on important moral issues are at odds with a majority of the public.”