Politicians campaign in slogans but govern in everyday realities. We can only hope that the softer, less bellicose tone that Alberta premier-designate Jason Kenney struck a day after his impressive victory is one that becomes more common – for the sake of the country.
There is little question that the often caustic, combative style that Mr. Kenney forged as a candidate for the premier’s office was highly effective. It certainly echoed the anger and resentment that is palpable in his province at the moment.
But baying at every dark shadow that moves does not a leader make. Nor does it create the kind of calm, stable environment that investors crave.
This does not mean that there isn’t a confrontation looming on the horizon. There likely is – one in which the entire country is invested.
The federal government has announced that it will make a final decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in mid-June. The Liberals will likely forge ahead with the project, given that they have already spent $4.5-billion to buy the existing line and the rights to twin it – an endeavour currently estimated to cost over $9-billion.
If the Liberals do green-light the expansion, there’s a good chance someone will come along to take the project off the government’s hands. If not, Ottawa is on the hook for something in the neighbourhood of $15-billion.
That’s a lot of money for a government to spend to help out a province we’re told it cares little about. But this is where things get interesting.
Mr. Kenney is promising to repeal many of the environmental reforms brought in by the outgoing NDP administration of Rachel Notley. That includes scrapping the 100 megatonne (MT) cap on oil-sands emissions and stopping the regulatory shutdown of coal plants. These actions, of course, would naturally produce more pollution.
The federal government’s latest climate-change report to the United Nations lays bare just how big a contributor the oil sands are to the country’s overall emissions. The latest numbers in Canada’s National Inventory Report indicate the oil and gas sector was responsible for 195 MT of GHG emissions in 2017, the latest year for which data is available. That is up eight MT from the year before.
Of that amount, the oil sands generated 81 MT. By comparison, British Columbia, as a province, produced 62 MT, and Quebec, 78 MT. The report stated that Alberta’s carbon pollution increased 18 per cent from 2005 to 2017.
Now Mr. Kenney is pledging to take action that is only going to make this problem worse.
What this means, of course, is that if Canada is going to have any hope of meeting its commitments under the Paris climate accord, other provinces in Canada are going to have to carry a much bigger share of the load than Alberta. In fact, the rest of the country already does.
But that isn’t something you hear people like Alberta’s premier-designate talk much about. Instead, it’s all about equalization and how much money Alberta gives to the rest of the country. Well, people are making sacrifices on Alberta’s behalf every day.
I would hope and expect that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would deliver this message to Mr. Kenney at their first face-to-face meeting. And I would hope that he would also convey the fact that in these times in which we live, with the massive financial risks that climate change poses to not only Canada’s economy but economies around the world, enacting policies to pollute even more isn’t the smartest thing to do.
Especially if you’re about to okay construction of a new pipeline, which is only going to add to our emissions totals.
Maybe Mr. Kenney and his followers don’t care about climate change, but there are many Canadians who do. There are also plenty of investors who do as well, ones who don’t want to hand over their money to back projects in provinces with dismal environmental reputations.
Moreover, they don’t want to do business in jurisdictions that are caught in the crosshairs of an ugly environmental firefight. Activists that had for years targeted the oil sands and Alberta went mostly quiet during Ms. Notley’s reign, a nod to the measures she introduced to help clean up the province’s tawdry environmental record.
If Mr. Kenney moves to revoke many of those same actions, the war with environmentalists will begin anew. And I’m not sure that’s a fight Mr. Kenney wants or needs.