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Shutting down oil

13 Mar 2019 | OP ED Watch

In the National Post former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall offers a novel take on the contrast between the Trudeau administration’s hypersensitivity to the fate of SNC-Lavalin with 9,000 employees and the collapse of the West’s oil industry costing over 110,000 jobs. He says three years ago he asked for a federal investment to put unemployed oil workers back on the job cleaning up abandoned oil wells and “The federal government rejected it out of hand.” It wasn’t exactly the solution to all Alberta’s or Canada’s energy issues. But turning it down peremptorily does show an attitude problem.

It would be easy to poke holes in Wall’s proposal, especially as he wanted $156-million from Ottawa to put 1200 people to work, at an average cost he didn’t calculate ($130,000 a year just from the feds). And it accepted that shutting down the oil industry was a reasonable idea provided you found money somewhere to fill the hole, literally in this case as well as figuratively. That he then went after C-69 for making the big picture worse not better because “industry has said [it] will make it harder if not impossible to secure approvals for future pipeline proposals”.

That claim is almost certainly true. But it’s a feature not a bug, because a great many people including the Prime Minister don’t really want pipelines, though they’ll toss a few billion into one if there are votes to be had. As Trudeau infamously said in 2017 “We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out.” But as they phase out, he will be unfazed because he really thinks we need to stop using oil. Indeed, he seems to think we need to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030 which, of course, means cutting fossil fuel use by about that much.

Trudeau later said he “misspoke” and that “I said something the way I shouldn’t have said it.” But the problem isn’t the way he said it, it’s what he said. Fundamentally, Trudeau regards Canada’s energy industry as a bad thing and he behaves consistently with that belief. Which is why people like Brad Wall really ought to be a bit more forthright about saying it’s a good one. Trudeau might still have tossed a few bucks at those displaced by its collapse. But as long as their defenders portray fossil fuels as a temporary necessary evil they cannot be surprised that their defence is ineffective.

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