Now that the Alberta election has passed, the eyes of most of the Canadian political scene are looking towards this falls Federal Election as the next big political event to hit our country. And while there will be many issues that will be at play in that campaign, one of the biggest going into the campaign will be around carbon pricing. Ontario and Saskatchewan have already started court cases against the Federal government to fight it (even though it is clearly in Federal jurisdiction) and yesterday Manitoba did the same, kicking off their own court case. When he is sworn in, the next Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney has vowed to do the same, along with other things that unfortunately won’t do anything to help the actual problem. There is also the Conservative Government in New Brunswick, who is taking part too. And of course, there is also Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who seems to be following their leads down a path that he doesn’t seem to control.
But for all you can say about the futility of this flurry of court action, you can say that to date these leaders have at least looked like a unified opposition to the Trudeau Liberals. Heck they even had this memorably photoshoot, remember?
Ahhh yes, “The resistance”, standing together to fight against carbon pricing, come Hell or high water. This isn’t the first time in Canada’s history that we’ve seen a group or gang of provincial Premiers get together around an issue and fight against the Federal government. Heck, I would say it is damn near a Canadian tradition. But something that is equally as tradition as such a coalition forming is that same group falling apart, torn asunder by each partners own political interests. To date, “The resistance” has managed to avoid that fate, but that might be changing, as CBC’s Aaron Wherry pointed to today:
I really recommend reading this piece, because it’s a good analysis of the Ford Conservatives arguments that they are making before the courts. Their argument is very simple: Hey, Ontario has already done a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to reducing GHG’s, we’ve done our part, so why should we be forced to do relatively more than other provinces. That is an interesting argument, despite the fact that it is built on the work of the past Liberal government and their policies, the same ones that Ford and crew railed against and have actually started to undo. Can you really take credit for policies and ideas that you ran against and have actually eliminated since getting elected? That is an existential argument for another day. But for today, this is where we are. And hey, Ontario even provided the court with this hand graph to help make their point:
Look at that; Ontario’s GHG’s going down, while the “Rest of Canada” is much higher and lowering at a slower rate while still being much higher overall. But as Wherry points out in the piece, that “Rest of Canada” figure is a bit deceiving, as he describes here:
“Between 2006 and 2017, Ontario actually was one of six provinces to reduce its emissions. And two provinces achieved even steeper cuts: Nova Scotia managed a reduction of 33 per cent and New Brunswick’s emissions fell by 28 per cent. The other three provinces where emissions declined were Quebec (9.8 per cent), British Columbia (1.5 per cent) and Prince Edward Island (10 per cent).
In total, those five provinces reduced their cumulative emissions by 22 Mt.
So when the Ford government says emissions have increased in the “Rest of Canada,” it’s ultimately talking about just four provinces: Newfoundland, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Of those four, Newfoundland and Manitoba saw relatively small increases. In 2005, Newfoundland produced 9.9 Mt of emissions. In 2017, the province’s emissions were 11 Mt. Manitoba went from 20 Mt to 22 Mt.
The more significant spikes were further west. In Saskatchewan, emissions grew by 14 per cent, from 68 Mt to 78 Mt. In Alberta, emissions went from 231 Mt to 273 Mt, an increase of 18 per cent. Measured in megatonnes, Alberta’s increase (42 Mt) was nearly as large as Ontario’s drop (45 Mt).”
As Wherry points out, when we talk about the rest of Canada, you are really talking about two provinces who have the biggest lift ahead; Alberta and Saskatchewan. As he pointed out, Alberta’s increase in emissions is nearly the same size as the amount that Ontario’s has dropped by. That’s significant and if you follow Ford’s line of reasoning, why should Ontario keep going lower while other provinces aren’t doing their part? Isn’t that kind of Toronto subsidizing Calgary? Yep folks, that’s a big crack in this relationship.
So, lets follow this argument from the Ford Government to its conclusion; if it was accepted, yes that would spare Ontario a bigger carbon tax bill, but taking that approach would cripple Alberta and Saskatchewan, which in turn would hurt Ontario’s economy along with the rest of the country. I wonder how Ford’s friends Kenney and Moe feel about Dougie throwing them under the newly-acquired TTC bus? Probably not so cheery.
The amazing thing about Ontario’s argument before the court is that it actually makes the Trudeau plan look better and more reasonable. In this light, the Liberal plan looks like it’s trying to distribute the load more evenly, while trying to protect industry in Alberta and Saskatchewan. And on top of that, the most generous recipients of the Carbon Tax Rebates that will be coming will be going to…. tada!!!! Alberta and Saskatchewan! It’s almost as if the plan was created to account for the fact that this would be harder for those provinces, therefore they would need more help. That almost seems how a federation is supposed to work instead of being a loose collection of provinces.
All in all, I’m surprised by this turn of events but not totally shocked. After going to all this trouble to mount these legal cases I would have figured that at least they would have compared notes before stepping into the court room, to at least make sure that they weren’t knifing each other in the back. But either that wasn’t the case here (which would be sloppy) or they did and ignored it, instead pursuing their own direct personal interest (which would be a betrayal to other members of “The resistance”).
This turn of events must make the Federal government smile a bit as it now seems, to borrow a phrase we’ve heard before in Canadian politics, “the cat is among the pigeons”. I’m sure that Ontario’s position will go over so very well in Edmonton and Regina because it’s coming from a friend, right? This might be part of the reason why the expected next Conservative Premier of Prince Edward Island has decided to stay out of any carbon tax court fights. It will be interesting to see how these dueling court battles play out and how these court cases run into each other and cause each other trouble. But hey, with friends like these who needs enemies, right?