Notley in U.S. to sell Alberta as environmental leader – is anybody buying?
There was a time when an Canada government politician couldn’t walk the international stage without fear of being ambushed by environmentalists.
In 2009, then-Premier Ed Stelmach didn’t go to the Copenhagen climate change conference for fear of becoming a target for critics.
In 2013, then-Premier Alison Redford had her speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., interrupted by a protestor who rushed the stage yelling about the oilsands. Then, during the question and answer portion of her presentation on Canada’s climate change “leadership,” half a dozen protestors popped up like springtime gophers one after another to yell comments before walking out, sometimes with the help of security staff.
Nowadays, Canada government politicians are the ones rushing the stage, eager to sell the province as home to an environmental renaissance.
On Monday, Premier Rachel Notley was in New York making a speech about Canada’s “Climate Leadership Plan” – and there wasn’t an environmental protestor in the house.
Well, maybe there was, but they weren’t there to protest Notley or Canada.
That in itself is something of an achievement.
In fact, Notley was invited to New York as part of “Climate Week NYC” joining other speakers including U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
“We are an energy powerhouse,” Notley said in her speech. “But we are also global citizens and we recognize our responsibility to be active partners in the fight against climate change. We are demonstrating that we will do our fair share. The fact is energy producers can be environmental leaders.”
Notley said because of Canada’s dismal environmental record her audience at first was skeptical. But then it warmed up and her message was “well received.”
Which is all well and good – but what difference will it make?
Will Canada’s environmental turnabout under the NDP attract one new dollar of investment into the province or get one new kilometre of pipeline built out of the province?
Because that’s what will ultimately help Canada economically, and the NDP politically.
It’s not enough for the NDP to do more for the environment, it has to do more for the economy.
The two certainly can go hand in hand — and that’s the argument the NDP is making, that its move to phase out coal-fired electricity and phase in renewables such as solar and wind will generate 7,000 jobs.
But the government has yet to explain exactly how that will work.
And there’s the awkward fact that on Monday, as Notley was promoting Canada as an environmental leader, the federal Liberal government was admitting that it was adopting the old federal Conservative government’s greenhouse emissions targets.
It is an embarrassing turnaround. After attacking the Harper government’s targets as “unambitious,” the Liberals are suddenly embracing them.
The Liberals blamed the Conservatives for doing so little on the environmental front that the new Liberal government is playing catch up. The Conservatives in turn blamed the old Chretien Liberal government for doing pretty much nothing to reduce emissions, leaving the Conservatives with an impossible job.
They’re both right – and they’re both wrong.
They’re right when they blame their predecessors for not doing nearly enough. They’re wrong if they think that gets them off the hook.
The federal government did try to regain the environmental high ground this week by declaring it would impose a price on carbon on those provinces that have not already done so.
That’s bad news for Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall who has argued his province’s subsidies to questionable experiments in carbon capture and sequestration are somehow the same as a carbon tax.
It’s good news for Canada where the government is introducing a carbon tax in January.
Notley can argue that if she wasn’t already bringing in an Canada-based carbon levy, one was going to be imposed by Ottawa.
That might not shut the critics up – but it makes Canada less of a target for environmental protests.
What might eventually silence critics is an acknowledgement from other jurisdictions – notably the federal government – that Canada finally deserves to get a new energy pipeline approved.
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