Mr Kenney and Bill No. 1
There comes a time for politicians who spent the campaign trail foaming with righteous indignation to transform into thoughtful representatives of the people who elected them.
Sadly, for Mr Kenney that time did not come before he rose in the Legislature to speak to Bill No 1, An Act to Repeal the Carbon Tax.
Mr Kenney started his speech by saying his party had been created “for this moment, the opportunity to remove this huge dead-weight cost that punishes hard-working people living ordinary lives in this province.” And here we thought his purpose was to unite the conservative movement and conquer Ottawa…oops, sorry, Edmonton.
Given Mr Kenney’s majority, one would have expected the premier’s speech to be relatively straightforward, but it didn’t unfold that way.
Rather than sticking with the “promise made, promise kept” story line, Mr Kenney started with an angry description of the “history” of the carbon tax—it was “a huge act of political deception” imposed on Albertans without their democratic consent to punish them for the “crime” of heating their houses and filling their gas tanks. Now, now Mr Kenney, the 600,000 plus Albertans who voted NDP in the 2019 election didn’t see it that way.
After this salvo Mr Kenney tried to calm himself.
He promised to be “objective and fair” in representing the views of Professor Andrew Leach and others who said a carbon tax is more efficient than regulation and can be an efficient form of environmental policy if it is applied in accordance with four principles.
Then he set out the principles the NDP carbon tax failed to meet.
Battle stations everyone, logical fallacies in-coming!
Principle #1: Carbon taxes are more efficient than regulations
Mr Kenney could not refute the fact the NDP met this principle: it imposed a carbon tax instead of regulations to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions so he threw red herrings around the room, starting with the NDP carbon tax not being a “utopian carbon tax” (did anyone say it was?) and falling back on campaign rhetoric (see “history” above). He noted the tax was not revenue neutral which may be true but isn’t relevant in the context of the principle that a tax is better than a regulation.
Principle #2: Carbon taxes must replace offsetting regulations
Mr Kenney made this one up. It’s part of his red-tape nightmare scenario. While it wasn’t clear exactly what point Mr Kenney was trying to make it sounded like he expected the government to reduce or eliminate regulations concerning the health, safety and environmental impacts of energy exploration, production and transportation simply because it implemented a tax to reduce GHG emissions.
Principle #3: Carbon taxes should be “notionally progressive”
Mr Kenney lost it with this one. He said the NDP talked “ad nauseam about rebates” but only 40% of carbon tax revenues were rebated back to “a select number of individuals in about 60% of Alberta households.”
If you ignore the indignant preamble, it’s obvious Mr Kenney agrees that the NDP carbon tax satisfied Principle #3.
In fact, the NDP carbon tax raised $1.8 billion, which was either rebated to families earning less than $95,000/year and singles earning less than $47,500/year or reinvested in green projects.
Higher income Albertans didn’t get rebates. That’s how progressive taxes work.
Given that Mr Kenney failed to make his case on the facts, he embarked on a flight of fancy alleging the NDP were in cahoots with the Trudeau Liberals who were going to increase the carbon tax to $300/tonne. This was an irresponsible misstatement. The federal carbon tax started at $20/tonne in 2019. It will rise by $10/tonne per year until it reaches $50/tonne in 2022 where it will stay.
For good measure Mr Kenney implied the NDP were secretly planning to raise the carbon tax to $5000/tonne in accordance with a paper published by the UN International Panel on Climate Change.
Where does he get this stuff?
Principle #4: A carbon tax must be of general application to be effective
This is Mr Kenney’s attempt to justify doing nothing while we wait for the world to catch up. He argued Alberta is the only jurisdiction “of the world’s 10 largest oil and gas producers … to have imposed a carbon tax on itself,” and pointed to Saudi Arabia, Russia, Qatar, Iran and Venezuela as examples of jurisdictions without a carbon tax, snidely remarking that Venezuela must have missed “the memo from Socialist International”.
However, he failed to mention Norway, the world’s second largest oil producer, which implemented a carbon tax in 1991 (starting at $US 51/tonne) and set up a sovereign wealth fund which at $1 trillion is the largest rainy day fund on the planet.
Leaving aside the moral argument that we can’t be a leader in mitigating climate change if we don’t practice what we preach, it’s disingenuous for Mr Kenney to argue no other oil producing jurisdiction has a carbon tax when we can google it and prove him wrong.
Having failed to score points on his “four principles” argument Mr Kenney threw in the accusation that the carbon tax failed to buy social licence.
By now he’d really built up a head of steam.
He said the NDP believed the carbon tax would turn pipeline opponents like David Suzuki, Elizabeth May and the BC NDP into pipeline proponents, but not “a single person, entity, government, party, or interest group moved from no to yes on pipelines as a result of the NDP carbon tax.”
Can someone peel Mr Kenney off the ceiling and introduce him to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals who approved Trans Mountain because of Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan which included the carbon tax, and the 70% of Canadians (up from 40%) who now support pipelines as a result of Notley’s climate policies.
If we’ve learned anything from arguing with our kids, it’s that an argument that begins with “no one” does X or “everyone” does Y is ludicrous.
Climate change deniers
Eventually Mr Kenney moved to what’s really bugging him.
He’s outraged by the term climate change deniers because he says “you know historically where that phrase comes from. It’s rhetoric designed to impose, frankly, moral opprobrium on those targeted by it.” He goes on to state he and his government do not deny climate science, and the anthropogenic and natural cases of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Has he talked to members of his caucus?
He wrapped up with a commitment to impose levies on large emitters to create a fund to address climate change and a discussion about the modern world moving away from carbon taxes (is it?) and the duty of energy rich countries to lift energy poor countries out of poverty.
It was a strange, illogical speech from the man who’d won an overwhelming majority just two months ago. His outrage at being tarred with the same brush as some of his MLAs was unsettling and highlights the danger of creating such a big tent to get votes that it’s unbearable to live in after you’re elected.
Mr Kenney’s performance in the Legislature on Bill No. 1 brings to mind Bob Dylan’s lyrics in Million Dollar Bash: “The louder they come, the harder they crack.”
Mr Kenney campaigned loud and proud, now we’re waiting to see if he cracks.
Source: Alberta Hansard, May 30, 2019 starting at p 246
Excellent post. A few notes, if I may:
– re “huge act of political deception imposed on Albertans without their democratic consent”: actually, the NDP’s campaign commitment in 2015 was something like this: “(1) we’re going to take action on climate change, and (2) we’re going to convene an expert panel [which they did] to advice on what that action should be”; the carbon levy was the result of that advice
– re his list of oil & gas producing jurisdictions, Alberta was the only sub-national jurisdiction on theta lost; he should have said Canada, not just Alberta: Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, BC, Saskatchewan & the Territories also have O & G industries
– re Mr Kenney campaigning “loud & proud”, I find that phrasing amusing, since it is often associated with Pride events; perhaps you chose that phrasing deliberately 😉
Thanks Jerry! Something happened to Mr Kenney since he left federal politics and washed up here.
His speech in the Legislature sounded like a pep talk at a political rally not the reasoned debate of a seasoned legislator. His outrage at being labelled a “climate change denier” is bizarre given the number of climate change deniers in the UCP. First and foremost is Mark Smith (MLA, Drayton Valley). NDP MLA David Sheppard told the Legislature that Smith financed a film denying climate change and was a head table guest at a Friends of Science event. (Smith also made headlines for making homophobic comments before the election). Why Kenney thinks these beliefs won’t stick to him is beyond me.
Good point re: Alberta being a sub-national jurisdiction, another example of Kenney’s sloppy “logic”.
I’m glad you liked the “loud & proud” reference. I slip those in from time to time just for fun 🙂
Interesting that people find him different because he has always been a lunatic as far back as I remember when he was director of the Alberta Taxpayers Association.
Back then he already had the cassette in his brain with the lowering taxes and give the companies all they want.
I have such a bad opinion of this man that I am avoiding comments so that people do not think I have some psychological disturbance, like having a seizure when someone says his name. 🙂
Carlos, your comment that Kenney has been “a lunatic” since he worked for the Taxpayers Association is bang on. What’s interesting to me is that so many conservatives didn’t see who Kenney was from the very beginning.
Here’s a classic example. I follow the conservative radio show host, Charles Adler, on Twitter. He supported Kenney for over 20 years, but when he interviewed Kenney just before the election he took Kenney to task for his homophobic actions in San Francisco and gave Kenney a chance to apologize. Kenney refused to apologize and ducked the question (3 times). Kenney’s conservative supporters clobbered Adler and called him everything from a socialist to a Red Tory.
Adler later apologized to the women (gay and straight) and gay men he didn’t listen to when they warned him about who Kenney really was. (This made the conservative right even crazier).
What amazes me is why it took Adler this long to understand who Kenney really is.
What also amazes me is the people who know exactly who Kenney is, but support him anyway because they believe he’ll fix the economy. The first group are dense, the second group are unethical.
In either case we’re in trouble.
I know we are in trouble for many different reasons but I sense that this wave of stupidity is starting to recede. Like you I am concerned because any system as resilient as it is never returns to the original state. These so called Conservatives will be in history for a coup (failed or not) against democratic values. Scheer does not know which way to go anymore. He knows that ‘a la Ford/Trump campaign is now dangerous but at the same time he wants to look as fascist as possible with his good friends in Canada. Justin Trudeau is in a bad spot but I believe Scheer is worse now and until October he could be in trouble. It seems no one cares about him.
Of course now the Green Party is on the upswing. The gurus on TV claim that is because Canadians are concerned with the environment more than ever, but I would venture to say that Elizabeth May is the only politician people still trust. People are trying to hang on the belief that we can still do it differently in Canada. Going for the Green party is to me a much better option than voting Conservative or Liberal. Unfortunately our wonderful voting system will screw the Greens really bad because there is no concentration of voters. They will end up getting for example 15% of the total vote if not more, and get 2 seats. Pathetic and only in Canada. What will it take to convince these dinosaurs in the Commons that this system is OUTDATED and it was never good anyway.
The next election cannot come soon enough.
Carol, I suspect all the UCP supporters who believed Kenney’s promises will soon be saying the same thing. When hard core conservatives like radio host Charles Adler say the Kenney they’ve known for 20 years and this Kenney are two different people you know something is off the rails.
Here’s the link: http://charlesadler.com/lets-tell-the-truth/i-cant-honestly-tell-you-that-i-really-know-who-jason-kenney-is-its-a-mystery-to-me-and-it-troubles-me/
Thank you for providing the link
Got that right !
Susan: Thanks once again for another great blog. With this carbon tax issue, it is not surprising how Jason Kenney plays off of people’s ignorance, and many believe him. It worked on many levels to get him elected, and this is one such example. Alberta already has a carbon tax, because Ed Stelmach put it there. This was North America’s first ever carbon tax, followed by Gordon Campbell’s Liberal (Conservative) government in B.C putting in a carbon tax there. The oil companies have shown their support for the carbon tax, when Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau were not even in power. There are people who claim that Rachel Notley did not campaign on the carbon tax. She did, and was giving the oil companies what they were asking for. The most right winged politician in Canada, from the last 30 years, Preston Manning, supports the carbon tax. I recall Jason Kenney saying that he does favour the carbon tax, but on large emitters. I also thought he was going to stand up to Ottawa, and fight the Liberals carbon tax. He has not done that. Premier Scott Moe in Saskatchewan tried it and failed. Now, Ottawa gets to choose where their carbon tax revenue goes. Alberta has no carbon tax, and green projects, like rapid transit developments and upgrades in Calgary and Edmonton will need to get their funding from elswhere. There were erroneous claims that the provincial carbon tax caused prices of things like utilities, gas and other items in Alberta to go up. Ralph Klein deregulated utilities in Alberta, magnifying their costs greatly. Electricity deregulation cost Albertans over $30 billion. I recall that gas prices at the pump were even 86 cents per litre, not so long ago when Rachel Notley’s carbon tax was in place. Long before any carbon tax existed in Alberta, Alberta had the highest rate of inflation in the nation. It was that way from the early 2000s onwards. This is going to be a long 4 years. The UCP is not going to help Alberta with what they are doing.
Dwayne good points. I have a question though.
You seem to say that Ed Stelmach created the carbon tax. As far as I know Rachel Notley created it. Also BC implemented way before us not after us.
This does not really matter but has a political meaning.
‘Alberta already has a carbon tax, because Ed Stelmach put it there. This was North America’s first ever carbon tax, followed by Gordon Campbell’s Liberal (Conservative) government in B.C putting in a carbon tax there.’
Carlos Becca: Ed Stelmach did put in a carbon tax for Alberta before B.C did. It was North America’s first ever carbon tax. That’s what happened. In fact, Jason Kenney did not get rid of the carbon tax for Alberta. You might want to look that up for yourself. Alberta is still not carbon tax free, according to Trevor Tombe, an expert on this matter.
Ok thank you for clarifying. I usually do not forget political events, that is why I asked the question. I am getting old I guess 🙂
Excellent points Dwayne. I think it is instructive to compare who stood with Notley when she introduced the climate leadership plan and who stood with Kenney when he announced the “energy war room” that is going to fight on behalf of the industry. Notley was on stage with CEOs from Suncor, Shell, Cenovus, and CNRL (Suncor CEO Steve Williams said Notley’s plan is “a real game changer”). Kenney was on stage with some guy in an Oilsands Strong T-shirt and blogger Vivian Krause who says the Rockefeller Foundation is trying to kill our industry by funding environmentalists. Not one oil company executive in the bunch of them.
That speaks volumes about what the energy industry really thinks about the UCP’s energy policies.
Susan: You are right. What will Jason Kenney do about still sagging oil prices? That is an issue that has been around for 5 years. He misses the reality of Saudi Arabia and the United States impacting oil prices. The energy “war room” does not address that fact. Also, there still is the issue of cleaning up the damage done by the oil companies, like abandoned oil wells, tailings ponds, and other things. This was something left behind by the Alberta PCs, and it goes back to the 1990s. There was a cost of $260 billion mentioned to deal with this. This energy “war room” would be met with criticism, if Peter Lougheed were still around. He showed disgust with how the other Alberta PC governments were recklessly dealing with oilsands development. He called Fort McMurray a mess. Peter Lougheed also knew about the instability of the oil industry, from having worked in it, when he was not involved in politics. That energy “war room” also misses that point.
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