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