In what Postmedia columnist Don Braid calls “an important and crucial change of tone” for Alberta’s UCP, Premier Jason Kenney suddenly turns green and anti-fossil fuel. Wow. Important and crucial. But Tom Finnerty in The Pipeline offers a cynical explanation: Kenney’s waiting for one more dreary national electoral cycle to leap to the rescue of Canada’s federal Tories, and hence keeps one work-booted foot firmly if flexibly planted in the build-pipelines-save-the-economy Western camp and a sandaled one in the end-oil-save-the-planet Laurentian one. A stance Finnerty thinks is as unsustainable as it is unworthy.
Kenney’s pivot is characteristically slippery including its you-go-first line. He told an audience in Washington, D.C. that “Over the next decades as we go through the energy transition, we all know that there will be a continued demand for crude,” and “It is preferable that the last barrel in that transition period comes from a stable, reliable liberal democracy with among the highest environmental, human-rights and labour standards on earth.” So everyone else stops producing oil, and then maybe later Canada and the US do. Many years from now. After I leave office. Slick, one might say.
Braid agrees that Kenney is cunning. But he thinks it’s to grease the skids for the federal Liberals to approve the Teck Resources oilsands project. And yet he thinks the premier, while being oleaginous, is also being sincere and enlightened. How can he be both at once?
Well, Braid’s article has the usual only-idiots-disagree tone, with lines like “This will seem obvious to millions of Canadians” and “fully 60 per cent of Alberta [poll] respondents want him to find ways to shift Alberta’s economy to green over time…. the clear majority of Albertans have come to terms with the changing world.” A tone the newly pale green Kenney also takes, saying “I have a firm grasp of the obvious. There is no reasonable person that can deny that in the decades to come we will see a gradual shift from hydrocarbon-based energy to other forms of energy.”
Grasped that firmly? Good for you, because it’s one of those foggy political generalizations that dissipates as you draw nearer to it and vanishes outright up close. How gradual? How complete? What other forms? Government- or market-driven? Including nuclear? Dang. Good feeling’s gone.
In fact Finnerty shares Braid’s suspicion that Kenney might also be engaged in Teck oilsands political maneuvering. But, Finnerty insists, claiming to believe “Canadian oil and gas needs to be phased out within a few years” in order “to get Teck approved would be a serious miscalculation”. As for the possibility that Kenney might be sincere, or at least convinced by those whispering in his ear (for instance Mark Cameron), he does concede it. But his article ends with this warning about Kenney, “if he trades the oil and gas industry for theoretical support in Ontario somewhere down the line, will he really still have Alberta locked up?... It seems more likely that the men and women of Alberta who depend on oil and gas for their livelihoods… will remember more than anything else the moment when he surrendered.”
Our view is that somebody needs to pin Kenney down, no mean feat, and ask him “Do you or do you not believe that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are primarily responsible for dangerous climate change?” And stand by for an answer that starts with “Well” and never gets to “yes” or “no.”