Rivers: Environmental change; we are all in this together.


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

March 14th, 2019


“The governments of Alberta and Canada are close to getting it right on tackling carbon emissions…” Janet Annesley, senior vice-president, Husky Energy

Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, was back in her home town. She took time from a busy schedule of meetings, including Hamilton’s mayor and the steel industry, to shake hands and meet with some supporters at Hamilton’s Innovation Centre.

McKenna Catharine

Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna,

She expressed confidence that the court challenges over federal carbon pricing by Saskatchewan, last month, and Ontario, next month, will be settled in favour of the federal government. The other Conservative-led provinces of Manitoba and New Brunswick are also backing Ontario’s fight against the federal program.

Alberta’s Jason Kenny has promised to join them and to kill his province’s existing carbon tax should he win the upcoming provincial election there, expected to be announced soon. But Kenny is out of touch. Eliminating the carbon tax would put him markedly at odds with his province’s biggest industry.

Canada’s big oil got floor time at CERAWeek, a conference in Houston sometimes dubbed the Super Bowl of the world’s energy sector. And when they got to the podium they congratulated the Alberta and federal governments on their adoption of carbon taxation. Addressing 4000 delegates from over 70 countries, Janet Annesley and other senior executives were unambiguous.

International investors, even in the oil industry, favour a carbon tax. So what is it that our own Doug Ford, Alberta’s Kenny and the federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer don’t get? Are they just stuck in the past? Or are they just playing partisanship, hoping for one of those wedge issues?

Sadly that is the flavour of opposition politics today, especially by the Conservative camp. Just look at the socially destructive vitriol being discharged over the so-called SNC Lavalin affair. There is no Lavalin affair. The company is going to trial. And even if the attorney general (AG) had decided to instruct the prosecutor to elect a remediation agreement, it would still have been a legal outcome. Please follow the link below titled ‘Hypocrisy’.

Counting angels on the head of a pin gets tiresome eventually. As we move towards that October federal election date there are real issues which deserve discussion. For example, 2018 wrapped up with an economic rate of growth three times as high as when Trudeau first came into office. Unemployment is at its lowest level in an entire generation.

Manufacturing, despite the walloping US steel and aluminum tariffs, is again leading our growth. Consumer confidence is high again, in part thanks to the tax cuts for middle class Canadians and despite threats about carbon pricing by Ontario’s premier. But there is an expectation that the boom may be nearing an end and our growth rate will be declining. What corrective policies should we now be expecting, and what does that mean for deficits ad our rising national debt?

Ontario and Quebec have been the biggest beneficiaries from the Liberals stimulating our economy, but even Alberta has come back somewhat. Still Alberta is landlocked and its failure to productively engage with its provincial partners, primarily in BC and Quebec, are mitigating against its desire to move more oil to overseas markets. What can be done to further assist that province?

Oil futures will never be as bright as they had been in oil’s history. And the oil industry gets that. They know that the federal approval for, and its ultimate acquisition of, the Trans Mountain pipeline was in recognition of Alberta embracing carbon taxation. That policy enabled Canada to sign onto the international Paris climate agreement.

We’re in this together – climate change knows no regional nor national boundaries. Once considered an enemy, Alberta’s NDP premier has shown herself to be a good friend to the oil producing sector. And her carbon tax helps unite rather than divide. That is as true within the province as it should be within the country.

As the Husky oil executives put it at the Houston conference, “The nice thing about the current policy is that it is deemed equivalent from the federal government,” “We would like to see policy that is recognized nationally, and ideally at the international level, in order to support our trade diversification and pipeline goals.”

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.


Background links:

Carbon Tax –    Notley’s Oil Patch –    

Unemployment –     Hypocrisy

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9 comments to Rivers: Environmental change; we are all in this together.

  • Ray Rivers

    In the interests of critical thinking, here is a perspective from Conrad Black on the SNC issue.


    • Faser: aka D.Duck

      Jeepers Ray,

      Most would consider Conrad Black to be a verbose author who equates himself as an infallible oracle. Outside of that, he is a pompous, arrogant, hedonistic, convicted fraudster.

      This is like having Trump or David Duke as a character witness when you are being charged with racism.

      Even in this article, Black uses the term ‘native’ instead of ‘indigenous’ which is preferred in Canada.

  • Ray Rivers

    Peter – thanks for your comments – I’d add that “What’s truly tiresome is partisan writing and uncritical thinking.” works both ways.

    With regards to OECD here is a good accounting of their role…. https://business.financialpost.com/news/fp-street/canadas-real-corruption-scandal-how-ottawa-bungled-a-flawed-oecd-anti-bribery-code-and-triggered-the-snc-crisis….

  • Peter

    The Trudeau government’s self-congratulatory but limited action on climate change has us sleep walking to global catastrophe. Their actions are panned as “highly insufficient” (https://climateactiontracker.org).

    The report says:
    The “Highly insufficient” rating indicates that Canada’s climate commitment in 2030 is not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, and is instead consistent with warming between 3°C and 4°C

    The Trudeau government is adding to the catastrophe with their “decision to move ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline to transport oil from Alberta’s oil sands to export ports.”

    The writer desperately wants the Lavalin affair to go away, yet even Trudeau and PMO staff know the legal peril they’re in, hiring lawyers in the event of an RCMP investigation.

    And the OECD Working Group on Bribery is so concerned with Trudeau and the PMO’s prosecutorial interference, they’re requiring Canada submit to a “Stage 4 review” to ensure compliance with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

    We don’t need op-eds that simply re-package the government’s message track. What’s truly tiresome is partisan writing and uncritical thinking.

  • Fraser: aka D.duck

    Then again,

    Junior & family go down to Florida for a vacation on ‘Can One’ (which is fine) but Junior flies back on Monday and returns to Florida on Tuesday via ‘Can One’!! So much for the environmentally friendly PM. Has he not heard of Skype???

    If you talk it, then walk it. Be the role model!!

  • Fraser: aka D.Duck

    Federal/Provincial carbon tax lacks clarity and this is what scares the individual. Use the KISS principle and compare the economic outcomes and greenhouse benefits by examining & publishing Scandinavian countries that have used this for years. If it works there, and it does, implement the same type of carbon tax. Don’t recreate the wheel!

    The next problem is that the Trudeau gov’t has a major problem with credibility and transparency. Hence people don’t believe what they say.

    As for other initiatives:

    – stop all plastic straws
    – stop all plastic plates, utensil, styrofoam chips
    – no further plastic grocery bags
    – REFUNDS for electric cars worth less than $60,000 (don’t supplement the rich Tesla owners) and the middle class will buy these cars (Norway has almost 50% EV on the roads due to this initiative alone)
    – no coal burning generators
    – scrubbers for smoke polluting industries
    – Tree bylaws
    etc, etc, etc

    KISS principle and common sense will help immensely. But we are lacking in this at the gov’t level due to inflated egos.


    • Stephen White

      You make a number of excellent points Fraser!

      If environmental change is a high priority, and I certainly believe it is, then just outright ban products that exacerbate pollution, and reward through refunds and tax breaks behaviours and actions that minimize environmental degradation. By example, I purchased a package of batteries this week, and the packaging they came in was ridiculous. They were sealed in hard plastic, encased both sides in heavy cardboard, and secured with another complex layer of plastic inside. It took five minutes just to cut through the packaging. Simply absurd.

      I’m not sure if it is inflated egos that precludes the adoption of simpler approaches to public policy, but I suspect some of it has to do with featherbedding and ensuring consultants are rewarded with lucrative contracts.

  • William Boyd

    Thanks, Ray, for the update (aka reality check).

    Elsewhere I’m reading of Alberta’s transition out of coal extraction and the consequent circumstances faced by miners. One key line I’ve admittedly cherry-picked that aligns, I believe, with your thoughts is as follows: “…the Coal Workforce Transition Program, set up by the Government of Alberta — it involves a $40-million fund, funded by the carbon tax, for communities and workers affected by the phase-out.”

    Do you reckon that senior officials elsewhere will comprehend such benefits of the tax?

    If you need the source of the above, let me know as you do know where to find me (yeah, in Virginia, but also by email).

    Bill in mid-continent North America

  • Susan L.

    “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.” —President Obama September 2014