Of Premiers and Pipelines

In an interview with the National Observer last week, Justin Trudeau raised more than a few eyebrows by comparing B.C. premier John Horgan to former Saskatchewan premier and climate policy obstructionist Brad Wall.

“Similarly and frustratingly,” said the prime minister, “John Horgan is actually trying to scuttle our national plan on fighting climate change. By blocking the Kinder Morgan pipeline, he’s putting at risk the entire national climate change plan, because Alberta will not be able to stay on if the Kinder Morgan pipeline doesn’t go through.”

All this over a timid proposal by the B.C. government to study the effects of bitumen spills before allowing increased shipments through the province.

Clumsy “guilt by association” attempts aside, I understand what the prime minister is trying to get at. His approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, so goes the reasoning, is part of a grand national compromise. Alberta gets a pipeline (flowing through B.C.) and environmentalists get carbon pricing. Win-win, everyone’s happy. Remove one piece of the strategy and the whole thing comes crashing down.

Except that it doesn’t. The Alberta government’s willing participation — while preferable — is not strictly needed. As Trudeau himself admits, “there is a federal backstop that will ensure that the national price on carbon pollution is applied right across the country.”

Furthermore, his climate plan was a pretty rotten compromise to begin with. The federal carbon pricing requirement is set to rise to $50 per tonne by 2022, but then it stops. This is not nearly enough to get us to the 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that Canada pledged to achieve by 2030 at the Paris climate conference. To meet that commitment would require an eventual price of $200 per tonne (if pursued through carbon pricing alone). Or, at the very least, a federal government with the political backbone to say no to environmentally destructive fossil fuel projects.

The international community has agreed to limit warming to no more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That means reaching peak global emissions no later than 2020. Simply put: now is not the time to be building new pipelines.

Nobody suggests shutting down the oil sands tomorrow. But at the very least, at this moment in our history, we must stop moving so aggressively in the wrong direction. If the Trans Mountain pipeline is allowed to go forward, alongside other fossil fuel infrastructure proposals with decades-long lifespans, that would mean sabotaging the meagre gains made by our inadequate federal carbon scheme.

A transformation on the scale required demands bold national leadership. Sadly, beyond a few token half-measures, said leadership has been lacking from Trudeau. It is no ideal solution for the mantle to pass to a provincial premier, but under the circumstances, I don’t see what other options we have.

While the Kinder Morgan kerfuffle has gotten very ugly very fast, and will likely only get uglier, Canada is morally obligated to do more than free-ride on international efforts. So let’s brace ourselves for the coming ugliness and keep our eye on the prize of climate justice.

This post appears on rabble.ca.

Advertisements

Globe and Mail Letter

LetterIn today’s Globe and Mail, you will find a letter from me (fourth from the top, under the heading “In the national interest”) relating the present interprovincial pipeline kerfuffle to global efforts efforts to solve the climate crisis. Never hurts to remind ourselves how much is really at stake.

An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau on Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban

File:DC - No Muslim Ban (32443385122).jpg

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

In the wake of Sunday’s horrendous terrorist attack on Quebec’s Muslim community, I am writing to ask that you forcefully condemn not just the shooting itself, but the rising tide of Islamophobia that appears to have prompted it.

On January 27, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning the entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending America’s refugee program. It is not enough that you meekly defend the ability of Canadian dual citizens to cross the border. You must join with other members of the international community in denouncing Trump’s racist policy in the strongest terms possible.

Furthermore, Canada must put its money where its mouth is by significantly increasing its intake of refugees over and above the current target for 2017, prioritizing those who have been left stranded by Trump’s Muslim ban. We must also rescind our “Safe Third Country Agreement” with the United States.

Finally, in the event that the Trump administration continues to escalate its policies of bigotry and exclusion in the months and years to come, Canada must be willing to seriously consider measures such as expelling the American ambassador or withdrawing from practices of military cooperation. I realize this is not something to take lightly — the United States being our closest neighbour and ally — but some values must take precedence over friendship and loyalty, such as the fundamental equality of all human beings regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

A light touch is not what is currently needed. (Much less a “pivot.”) The desperate circumstances unleashed by Trump’s hateful actions require that Canada’s government be more steadfast than ever in declaring the universality of human rights.

Thank you for considering my thoughts.

Sincerely,

David Taub Bancroft

Vancouver, BC

cc: Harjit Sajjan, MP for Vancouver South

Playing to the Left: Joyce Murray and the Liberal Leadership Race

Joyce Murray

I still have nothing to say about golden boy Justin Trudeau. For the life of me, I cannot seem to form an opinion of the man one way or the other.

Nice hair, I guess. But meh.

In the wake of yesterday’s Liberal Party of Canada leadership debate, Joyce Murray is the candidate I would prefer to write about. Something interesting has happened in her case: a decade after having presided over massive provincial environmental spending cuts as Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection in one of the most right-wing governments in BC history, she now appears to be presenting herself as both the green and the left candidate in her party’s leadership race.

She claims to favour carbon pricing, protecting the BC coastline, Idle No More, pot legalization, quotas for women in cabinet and other appointments, and — perhaps most interestingly — targeted electoral cooperation with the NDP and Green Party for purposes of defeating the Conservatives and bringing in proportional representation, a strategy I have gone on record before as supporting.

These developments do not come entirely out of left field, so to speak. Long before she entered provincial or federal politics, Murray co-founded a reforestation business with her husband, and she wrote her MBA thesis on climate change in the early 1990s back before Al Gore had become a movie star.

The unreformed cynic in me cannot help but wonder which Joyce Murray it was who sold out her principles for political gain: the one-time provincial cabinet minister or the modern-day federal Liberal leadership candidate? Is she really a moderately progressive eco-capitalist or a heartless, cost-cutting reactionary?

Don’t ask me to sort out the identity issues of today’s typical politician. All I can say is that I like the policies Murray is now coming out with, and these policies are probably not wholly ephemeral. When contenders say things during leadership campaigns, they will usually water down their commitments later on during general elections, but they cannot abandon them altogether. Party leaders will always be reminded by their bases of the promises that got them such cushy positions in the first place — and pressured accordingly.

Take Mitt Romney. (Please!) By natural inclination (to the extent that the man has natural inclinations), Romney is a fairly centrist Republican. Yet he was pulled so far to the right by the primary season nut jobs of his party that by the time the Presidential election came, though he tried to tone himself down somewhat, he was stuck having to pretend to foam at the mouth over Obamacare despite having introduced a virtually identical health care plan at the state level while Governor of Massachusetts.

In other words, if Joyce Murray becomes Liberal leader based on left-of-centre promises, she will only be able to drift so far to the right come 2015. Plus, she clinched the apparent support of Lloyd Axworthy, one of Canada’s best Foreign Affairs ministers, and a major force behind the International Criminal Court and the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines. With friends like him, Murray must be doing something right.

All this being said, my soft endorsement of Joyce Murray for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada (yes, that is pretty much what this post is about) is not a particularly enthusiastic one due to her checkered past, and I reserve the right to flip-flop over the next three months. Deborah Coyne, for instance, showed uncommon courage in uttering the terrifying words “carbon” and “tax” during yesterday’s debate. (I swear I saw Justin cross himself as she said it.)

So perhaps my mind is not yet fully made up.