Opinion » Eco Logic

Barbarians at the gate

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The election is over. Two-thirds of Canadians voted for immediate increased climate action, though you'd never know it from post-election mainstream media coverage. Meanwhile, record storms, droughts, floods and wildfires continue to impacts lives, and kids are increasingly scared to the point that 15 young people from across Canada are suing the federal government for contributing to and perpetuating dangerous climate change.

Reaction to this Writing on the Wall from neighbouring Alberta's new conservative government? To stamp their little feet like a petulant child that can't get what it wants—despite knowing what it wants isn't good for anyone, a fascinating crucible of delusion and entitlement.

Simultaneously, federal Conservatives under PM-reject Andrew Scheer act like they're somehow relevant, warning they'll use "every measure available" to bend the feds to their theatrical demands over western alienation. "Justin Trudeau has not come close to seeing the force of three million mobilized Albertans ...," said bloviating Calgary MP, leftover HarperCon, and notorious Twitter-blocker Michelle Rempel Garner. "So my message to him is giddy up."

And yet the so-called unity crisis isn't a "regional" schism, but a climate-literacy schism, increasingly deepened by the rhetoric of Conservative governments and industry.

Rempel Garner's predictable comments came only a day after Napoleonic Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blustered the province's demand for more autonomy, a plan that would see it open extra-provincial offices (presumably with redneck ambassadors), petition referendums, and create an "advisory panel"—led by RWNJ Preston Manning—to crisscross the abandoned-well-constellated landscape to consult on things like whether to establish its own revenue agency, pension, or police force.

This manufactured diversion provides cover for yet another conservative cabal—as recently ascertained by the courts—convicted of electioneering fraud, such that many have labelled Kenney's premiership illegitimate.

In an illuminating podcast with Stand.earth's erudite climate campaigner, Tzeporah Berman, Progress Alberta (the organization, not the oxymoron) digs into Kenney's other considerable smokescreen—energy entitlement. As Berman rightly points out, resistance to Alberta's tarsands isn't about shutting it down, but about the wisdom of expanding, and how the moot conversation over garnering a better oil price through more capacity to tidewater renders the Trans Mountain Pipeline a red herring. "Jason Kenney is being played. Right now he's a tool for billionaire CEOs," said Berman, excoriating oil companies for crying wolf, accepting ever more government subsidies, returning nothing, and rallying Albertans to their defense as they make money hand-over-fist, lay people off, and stash billions offshore. "But the atmosphere doesn't negotiate," she said. "The fact is we're sitting her in Alberta and those emissions are going up, not down."

In a May 2019 article in the National Observer, Barry Saxifrage demonstrated how most of Canada was close to meeting the low-ball 2020 emissions target of a 17 per cent reduction from 2005 levels set by the HarperCons (and adapted by the Trudeau Liberals) in the 2010 Copenhagen Accord. A graph shows combined emissions from 85 per cent of Canadians—representing all but two provinces—are on pace to match that target. The two outliers? Alberta and Saskatchewan. In province-by-province comparisons, Ontario led with a reduction of 45 Megatons of CO2, two-thirds of which came from eliminating coal-generated electricity, while Alberta's skyrocketing tarsands pollution increased its emissions by 42 MtCO2, erasing Ontario's climate progress from the national tally. Saskatchewan's spike of 10 MtCO2 similarly wiped out the combined climate progress of Quebec and B.C. How's that for national unity?

While tens of millions of Canadians now demand greater climate action and emissions cuts, Canada's largest oil and gas lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)—famously invited by Harper and then natural resources minister Joe Oliver to dictate a rewrite of Canada's environmental laws—continues working behind the scenes to derail efforts to address climate change. This October, Environmental Defence released a report exposing a decade of "sweeping consequences" from CAPP's lobbying efforts. It highlights three key findings, all of which have worsened since the HarperCon regime: 1) Continued axing of environmental regulations—including water protection, environmental review of industrial projects, and carbon pricing—to further oil and gas industry interests; 2) lobbyists demand for a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector; 3) industry hoarding profits (from 2000–2016, oil production in Canada increased by 75 per cent, while royalties and corporate taxes paid to government decreased by 63 and 50 per cent, respectively).

In the recent election, Canadians may have resoundingly told decision-makers to stop catering to oil and gas and their conservative proxies—yet the barbarians remain at the gate, rattling their rubber sabres.

Leslie Anthony is a science/environment writer and author who holds a doctorate in reversing political spin.

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