This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter. 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.
Good morning. I’m Wendy Cox, the B.C. editor.
In just over 10 years, if everything goes according to plan, British Columbia will have turned its back on the oil and gas that currently provides up to two thirds of the energy powering residences, businesses and industry. Instead, the province will be electrified, switched on through a reliance on its natural bounty of hydro electricity.
To get there, the CleanBC plan – endorsed by groups as disparate as the BC Business Council, the federal environment minister and David Suzuki himself – has proposed a series of tax breaks and other incentives to ensure a monumental shift in how we live, work and get around.
To cut the province’s carbon footprint by 19 million tonnes of GHG emission, the plan calls for increasing electricity demand by 8 per cent in the next 12 years. That amounts to the equivalent of adding a second City of Vancouver to the electricity grid. And to meet the goals set out by 2030, there will be a further six-million-tonne reduction needed, with a plan for that not ready for another two years.
Justine Hunter and Ian Bailey, who covered the plan all week, note to meet the targets, the building code will have to be revised to ensure new energy-efficient designs. Infrastructure to support zero-emission vehicles will be expanded. And new power-transmission lines will offer heavy polluters the opportunity to convert to cleaner energy for production.
The province aims to reduce GHG emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 (against 2007 levels), 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050. That while still accommodating a massive energy-intensive liquefied natural gas project in the northwestern part of the province, which, when up and running, will belch millions of tonnes of GHG emissions into the atmosphere each year. The carbon tax, which is $35 a tonne now, will rise in $5 increments to $50 by 2021,
Besides the need to change behaviour, the province will have to grapple with how to provide all that electricity. The debate over whether to build Site C seems well in the past: that massive project won’t be able to accommodate the extra need. Rather, BC Hydro is going to have to build transmission lines and there will be an important role and opportunity for producers of alternative energy.
The plan doesn’t impose penalties, something Greg D’Avignon of the BC Business Council said would be counterproductive. Instead of sticks, the plan offers carrots including potential loans and rebates.
Who will pay for the carrots is not yet defined and won’t be at least until February’s budget. But Mr. D’Avignon cautioned against an aggressive approach, noting that heavy taxes and penalties will simply prompt investment to flee to a myriad of other places in the world that aren’t taking climate change as seriously. British Columbia can and must do its part. But it’s a tiny piece of a huge whole, he told Justine.
“If all of us in British Columbia walked out the door and locked it behind us, that would solve China’s GHG problem for two days.”
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.
For Alberta, the week started off with an act of urgency that some might call desperation. Premier Rachel Notley announced her government would intervene in the market and ordered the province’s oil sector to cut production starting in the new year. It is a bid to deflate a supply glut that has cratered prices and threatened thousands of jobs and it was a move that was in deep contrast with Alberta’s traditional free-market outlook.
The move had a swift impact. Monday, the day after Ms. Notley’s announcement, Western Canadian oil prices surged and they bumped up again Friday. Shawn McCarthy explained that Ottawa moved to exempt in situ oil-sands projects – which typically use steam to extract the bitumen from underground – from the list of projects that will receive a full impact assessment under Bill C-69. The bill has drawn the ire of Ms. Notley and other critics in the oil patch for amping up the environment-assessment process.
Justin Giovannetti writes about a group of First Nations leaders pushing for an Indigenous-led pipeline project that would push through Northern British Columbia with a terminus in Lax Kw’alaams territory, just south of Alaska, the home of Calvin Helin. Mr. Helin is the president of Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings and he says he has the support of all the Indigenous groups along the route, as well as the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan. But he says current legislation going through the Senate that would ban tanker traffic off British Columbia’s north coast would strike an unconstitutional blow to the hopes of Indigenous groups looking to resource development to better their communities.
It is likely a rare international competition that does not get heated, with high-strung perfectionists competing to be the top of their field. I suppose it should be no different for Calgary’s Honens International Piano Competition, but in this case, it wasn’t the competitors who are exercised. Western arts correspondent Marsha Lederman writes about the conflict between the makers of two brands of grand pianos, the kind in which sales start north of $100,000. Steinway, the 160-year-old U.S. brand, was given preferential placement by the competition, complained the people behind the Italian upstart Fazioli.
Vancouver city councillors had to grapple this week with what everyone agrees is a need to protect renters while balancing the impact those protections might have on the need to ensure developers and landlords remain willing to keep up the existing rental stock and even bolster it with new units. The motion, put forward by councillor and anti-poverty activist Jean Swanson, was mostly set aside for further study. But advocates claimed a symbolic victory: At least council is listening following hours of heart-wrenching testimony.
Gary Mason on B.C.'s climate plan: ”With this plan, B.C. re-establishes its leadership role in Canada on climate matters. This was first recognized in 2008, when then-premier Gordon Campbell introduced the first carbon tax in Canada. But the province took a step back on this file under his successor Christy Clark – although she deserves credit for pushing Site C through. And the governing NDP’s plan doesn’t happen without that project – one the party often denounced and ridiculed when in Opposition.”
Barrie McKenna on the oil crisis: Alberta, “you are free to fulfill your energy destiny. Indeed, we are glad to see you are taking steps to do just that – by announcing a province-wide oil production cut and ordering thousands of oil tanker railway cars to relieve pipeline bottlenecks. Godspeed. We all hope these efforts will help get you a fair price for your oil. But the victim-complex is getting tired. It’s nonsense to suggest that the federal government somehow wants Alberta to crash, as politicians and pundits in your province have been hollering for weeks.”
Wenran Jiang on the arrest in Vancouver of a Huawei executive: “All sides should take a deep breath right now and tread carefully before things snowball out of control, doing permanent damage to a delicate Canada-China-U.S. relationship."
David Mulroney on fentanyl and China’s role in the trade: “The fentanyl epidemic is a new kind of foreign-policy challenge for us. China is refusing to act responsibly, something that is literally killing Canadians. We need tougher talk from the Prime Minister, but we also need sustained and co-ordinated follow-up by a range of departments, agencies and jurisdictions, something that isn’t our strong suit.”