The deconstruction of Alberta’s economy is a central theme of this federal election campaign. But no eco-centric party says anything specific about how the province gets through it without economic collapse.
Three parties — Liberals, Greens and NDP — are planning upheaval over the coming years and decades.
Target No. 1 is the oilsands. They all want this world-scale resource shut down by 2050 at the very latest.
This is acknowledged with varying degrees of honesty. The Greens are at least direct about it. The NDP are direct but muddled.
The Liberals are sly and opaque, although Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau spoke the truth in Ontario two years ago when he told an audience: “You can’t make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy. We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels.
“That is going to take time. And in the meantime, we have to manage that transition.”
A few days later in Calgary, Trudeau said: “I misspoke — I said something the way I shouldn’t have said it.”
But he didn’t say he shouldn’t have said it in the first place.
Recently, a Globe and Mail columnist said Albertans “lost their minds” over Trudeau’s comments. We shouldn’t have been upset “because it’s true” — the oilsands must be shut down.
This is standard national thinking now. Because the oilsands are by definition bad, we should willingly sacrifice this major industry — one that earlier national governments, especially the Liberals, have strongly supported.
What was good is now bad and must be eradicated. We should be grateful, in fact, that our superiors are ready to do this for us.
But no functioning country can expect one province to accept the heaviest burden of change without clearly stating, in detail, what will be done to help with the transition.
There’s no sign of that.
Neither is there any recognition of the fact that oilsands emissions per barrel have been cut 28 per cent since 2000.
Suncor is currently spending $1.4 billion on a project to replace coal-fired facilities with natural gas. The company says the emissions effect will be equivalent to displacing 550,000 cars from the road.
And MEG Energy is planning a pilot project for oilsands extraction with zero emissions.
Has any automaker in Ontario ever done anything similar? Has any Quebec aerospace company? Even though they also make things that produce a lot of emissions?
Of course not. This isn’t about incrementalism; it’s about absolutism.
Now, many Albertans are in favour of eventually winding down the oilsands. Many more are vigorously opposed.
But there is something that both energy hawks and eco hawks can surely agree to — the need for detailed, specific plans outlining support for affected provinces.
The Liberals actually admit they haven’t given it a minute’s thought.
Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna, rolling out the promise to make Canada net-zero emissions by 2050, actually said: “Do we have all the details? No. We’re going to figure this out, but the first thing we need to do is we need to get through this election.”
Similarly, the Greens have nothing detailed for the provinces that will be the hardest hit, including Saskatchewan. They promise a “just transition” to be funded with $400 million a year for the entire country.
This would come with an end to all support for oil and gas, a ban on new wells and cancellation of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
And they wonder why we lose our minds.