Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley addresses Alberta Teachers Association social studies teachers yesterday as environmentalist Tzeporah Berman looks on (Photo: The irreplaceable Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Rachel Notley and Tzeporah Berman present starkly different views of Alberta’s energy future

Posted on October 14, 2018, 1:40 am
8 mins

Thanks to invitations from the province’s teachers’ union, the two most influential people in Alberta presented their starkly different visions of the energy future in the same room yesterday.

I speak, of course, of environmentalist Tzeporah Berman and … Premier Rachel Notley.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

I jest. Ms. Berman resides in Vancouver.

Other than that, though – owing to the obsessive anger with which both women are regarded by Alberta’s right-wing opposition, still infuriated at unexpectedly losing the 2015 general election to Ms. Notley’s NDP and enraged by opposition by anyone to the pipelines most Albertans including the premier see as an economic panacea – this sounds about right.

This is true despite, or perhaps because of, the deep divide between the two women’s views of how the future of the energy industry in Western Canada must unfold for the sake of the planet.

High-profile Vancouver-based environmental activist Tzeporah Berman (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The rift between Premier Notley and Ms. Berman was summed up nicely by a matched set of brisk one-liners that caught the attention of the throng of reporters who showed up yesterday morning to witness their duelling keynote speeches to about 200 social studies teachers, members of the Alberta Teachers Association, at the River Cree Resort and Casino just west of Edmonton.

“Here in Alberta, we ride horses, not unicorns,” Premier Notley said, dismissing the notion there can be a prosperous future without pipelines to carry Alberta’s resources to the sea. “I invite pipeline opponents to saddle up on something real.”

“The idea that pipelines are answers to climate change is absurd,” Ms. Berman told a group of reporters in an informal scrum soon after the premier had departed. “You don’t buy more cigarettes to quit smoking.”

Despite their differences, though, you couldn’t exactly call this a debate. The two did not appear on stage together or respond directly to one another’s points.

There may have been a little tension in the room, but things never became uncivil. Ms. Berman listened carefully to Ms. Notley’s remarks and applauded at the end.

Having been subjected to death threats and constant vituperation for her views, Ms. Berman opened with a plea for all sides to listen to one another with respect, acknowledging that can be hard to do in debate like the one over the Trans Mountain Pipeline. At times, she observed, “the hate is so thick there can be no meaningful discussion about the future of energy policy.”

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Just the same, even references to United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney – the climate-change-denial elephant in the room who seems to think even listening to environmentalists is all but treasonous – were polite. For his part, Mr. Kenney was reduced to sniping via Twitter from the distant sidelines.

Ms. Notley sounded at times rather like a Progressive Conservative of yore – as it happens, she was the first serving premier to attend an ATA meeting since Peter Lougheed.

The NDP leader argued lack of pipeline capacity is what’s causing the deep discounts in the prices fetched by Alberta’s petroleum products. As a result, she asserted, the province is losing its ability to invest in a more environmentally sustainable future.

“If we write off the jobs and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of working women and men, I guarantee you we will write off the ability to move forward on climate or, quite frankly, on just about any kind of progressive change,” Premier Notley said.

Ms. Berman averred that increasing pipeline capacity is bound to increase carbon emissions. What’s more, she added, “we could build 10 pipelines and we wouldn’t fix the cost problem and we wouldn’t improve our economy.”

Both were persuasive, passionate and articulate, just as you would expect of skilled orators trained as lawyers. They had plenty of time, and larded their remarks with facts. They commanded their audience. When either spoke, you could have heard the drop of the proverbial pin.

Modern Resources Inc. CEO Chris Slubicki (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Given their rhetorical skills, I suppose it’s no wonder the United Conservatives so relentlessly attack these two women. By contrast, despite his undeniable skills as a political operator and organizer, it’s hard to imagine Mr. Kenney looking good in a debate with either.

Still, give the man his due. Had he not worked so assiduously to demonize Ms. Berman to get at the NDP for giving her a role on its Oil Sands Working Group, and then fiercely attacked the ATA for daring to invite her to speak at yesterday’s meeting, it’s unlikely the premier would have demanded time to respond.

Speaking of credit where credit is due, Modern Resources Inc. CEO Chris Slubicki had the unenviable task of warming up the crowd with his own rather predictable 45-minute disquisition on the strengths of Alberta’s fossil fuel sector. Security was noticeable – and, in the event, not required.

To decide for themselves whether Premier Notley or Ms. Berman was the most persuasive, readers will have to wait to read the premier’s speech in full. Ms. Berman’s was posted as soon as the event was over.

As to which is the most influential person in Alberta, readers can judge for themselves:

Ms. Notley tried to tie Ms. Berman to Mr. Kenney. “From both extremes, they will roll back action on climate and economic progress for working people.”

Via a misleading Tweet, Mr. Kenney tried to tie Ms. Berman to Ms. Notley. “In her ATA speech today, the Premier had a chance to finally apologize for ever appointing anti-energy zealot Tzeporah Berman to be her top oil sands advisor. Instead of just admitting a mistake, we heard more of the same excuses…”

I suspect both would prefer no one pays much attention to what she actually has to say.

13 Comments to: Rachel Notley and Tzeporah Berman present starkly different views of Alberta’s energy future

  1. Farmer Brian

    October 14th, 2018

    There was a time not that long ago that our Premier and Tzeporah would have been singing from the same hymn book but the reality of leading a province in which oil production certainly is an important contributor to the economy has changed Rachel Notley’s tune. Our Premier’s grand plan was to show Albertan’s that if we implemented a carbon tax and had a plan to curtail emissions that environmentalists would be more accepting of pipelines, well the environmentalists threw her under the bus. All that they have successfully done in my opinion is show Canadians how recalcitrant they are and that our Premier’s plan simply increases our cost of living with no better access to markets for our oil. In the long run I would have thought environmentalists would have been farther ahead with Rachel Notley in power than helping the election chances of Jason Kenney. Last week was a good example of why we need pipelines to different markets as the differential between WTI and WCS widened to $52 a barrel at one point, apparently some of the refineries in the U.S. that buy WCS oil were shut down for maintenance so an already tight pipeline situation became untenable. There really has only been one winner in all this and that is the Americans, they continue to have sole access to a cheap source of feedstock from which they make billions of dollars of profit at our expense. People from the Tides foundation and Rockefeller foundation et. al must be very happy that all the money they have funnelled into Canadian environmental groups is paying off in spades.

    One other thought, was listening to 630 ched radio the other morning and a farmer from the Edmonton area texted in his last natural gas bill from drying grain. The natural gas portion was $385 and the carbon tax was $550, yikes! Unfortunately with the short growing season we have in western Canada grain drying is sometimes necessary, sometimes to preserve quality, sometimes just to make it safe to store. The grain price we recieve is based on world markets, unfortunately we are price takers not price setters and there is no way to recover the increased costs like a carbon tax, one that our competitors do not pay. Enjoy your day.

    • Kang

      October 14th, 2018

      Geez Brian, quit trying to frighten the children. Fuel used for farming purposes is exempt from the carbon tax – that means propane, gasoline, and diesel. I would expect if the farmer using NG made the proper declarations his NG for grain drying would be exempt as well.

      You might want to actually read Ms. Berman’s submission, especially the numbers on page 41 which indicate that the O&G sector will ultimately use some 42% of Cdn’s global quota for GHG emissions. That would mean everybody else in Canada would have to cut their GHG emissions by half. This may explain why they are going after prairie beef cattle, which are a trivial source of GHGs while ignoring airlines which are a gigantic source of GHGs. Your Ag check-off dollars at work.

      The O&G sector are no friends of agriculture even if you ignore the fact most of their wealth comes from stealing access to surface rights and not paying royalties.

      Neither the NDP nor the UCP have any respect for the private property of farmers and ranchers and both of them are very happy to allow the energy sector the impunity to take and destroy anything they want.

      • Farmer Brian

        October 15th, 2018

        Kang I took a quick look on the Alberta agriculture site and farmers are NOT exempt from paying carbon tax on natural gas and propane, so in a wet fall like we are experiencing it certainly increases the cost of taking off the crop!

  2. Geoffrey Pounder

    October 14th, 2018

    Last week’s IPCC report hands Tzeporah plenty of extra ammunition — and robs Notley of hers.
    In politics, timing is everything. Tzeporah’s speech is timed perfectly with the release of the IPCC report. Notley’s oilsands promotion could not be more cretaceous.
    Wrong week to support fossil fuels. Wrong century.

    NDP supporters need to get off the fence. You can’t be on both sides of the climate change issue. Either you accept the science and respond accordingly — or you don’t.
    Where will you stand? On the right side of history and science? Or with an industry-captured out-of-touch politician?

  3. Geoffrey Pounder

    October 14th, 2018

    I’ve decided to triple my visits to McDonalds, as I transition off fast food. Call it the Notley diet.

    Doubling down on fossil fuels in the face of climate change is insane.
    Oilsands expansion only makes sense if the world fails to take real action on climate change. Trudeau and Notley are betting on failure.

    AB’s drive for fossil fuel growth is irrevocable. Oilsands infrastructure, including pipelines, takes decades to recoup its costs. There is no redemption. No going back. No path from oilsands expansion to lower emissions and Canada’s climate targets. NDP policy locks AB into fossil fuel development and rising emissions for decades.

    The science supports Berman’s position on climate change, not the NDP’s.
    We don’t have time for Notley’s pandering and Big Oil’s predatory delay.
    Climate change is a global emergency. We need to heed the alarm.

    • Kang

      October 14th, 2018

      Just a small quibble. Berman pointed out we should not expand Tar Sands production. It was Klein who issued the permits to expand the tar production which is now clogging the pipeline system. Notley is just trying to deal with the fall out of that stupidity. Just like she had to deal with the Redford stupidity of bullying through not one, but two wholly obsolete and unnecessary 500 kV DC power lines to make the world safe for coal fired electricity.
      Who was it that said “the dead hand of the past reaches out to strangle the future?”

      • Geoffrey Pounder

        October 15th, 2018

        “Notley is just trying to deal with the fall out of that stupidity.”

        Next up for review is Teck’s Frontier Mine, one of the largest oilsands mining projects ever. Plus more expansions of existing projects. All of which will blow past the NDP’s fraudulent emissions cap.
        New pipelines enable future oilsands expansion.

        “the dead hand of the past reaches out to strangle the future”
        I like that. Put less elegantly, the decisions we make now set the blueprint for future generations. Our grandchildren will have to live with our mistakes.
        Instead of charting a new course, the NDP are repeating the mistakes from the past.

        • Kang

          October 15th, 2018

          You might want to double check that. Anyway if you are correct, where is the UCP? Why aren’t they doing their job as an official opposition? Since they claim to have a lock on rural Alberta you would think they would be all over this.

          Speaking of which where is that NDP Minister of Agriculture these days? Is he as industry-captured as the NDP Energy Minister?

          • Kang

            October 16th, 2018

            My bad, should have been directed to Farmer Brian about farm fuel exemption:

            “You might want to double check that. Anyway if you are correct, where is the UCP? Why aren’t they doing their job as an official opposition? Since they claim to have a lock on rural Alberta you would think they would be all over this.

            Speaking of which where is that NDP Minister of Agriculture these days? Is he as industry-captured as the NDP Energy Minister?”

        • Kang

          October 15th, 2018

          Geoffrey: I’m glad you liked the aphorism about the dead hand. It is too bad the NDP are consulting and accommodating the same pirates that the Norwegians kicked out 35 years ago. There is a Norwegian folk saying that applies to Alberta: “things are never so bad they can’t get worse.” Come on down Kenney!

  4. Geoffrey Pounder

    October 14th, 2018

    Premier Notley: “If we write off the jobs and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of working women and men, I guarantee you we will write off the ability to move forward on climate or, quite frankly, on just about any kind of progressive change.”

    Obvious twaddle. Fossil-fuel development is the major obstacle, not the path forward to development of renewables.
    Our industry-captured Premier has signed on to the industry’s agenda of indefinite expansion and predatory delay.
    Other jurisdictions are far ahead of us on renewables and sustainability — and they don’t have an oilsands industry.

    Wealth from industries that degrade our life-support systems is illusory. Leaving the costs of climate change and fossil-fuel pollution left off the balance sheet is voodoo economics.
    Filling our pockets at the expense of future generations is irresponsible and immoral.
    We are subsidizing our own destruction.

    Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman on “predatory delay”:

    “Earth, Wind and Liars”
    “In the long run, these tactics probably won’t stop the transition to renewable energy, and even the villains of this story probably realize that. Their goal is, instead, to slow things down, so they can extract as much profit as possible from their existing investments.
    “… Every year that we delay the clean-energy transition will sicken or kill thousands while increasing the risk of climate catastrophe.
    “The point is that Trump and company aren’t just trying to move us backward on social issues; they’re also trying to block technological progress. And the price of their obstructionism will be high.”

    We simply don’t have time for Notley’s delaying tactics. “…To hold global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels, the world must cut greenhouse-gas emissions 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050. If we carry on business as usual, we won’t even come close.”

  5. David

    October 16th, 2018

    If in 10 years we in Canada are wondering how we failed so badly in dealing with climate change, I suspect we can look back to Ms. Berman’s visit to Alberta as one of the reasons.

    I am sure she is well meaning and it is not too difficult to fly in from Vancouver to tell us we must sacrifice. However, I can see how that message might not go over so well with a lot of Albertans and how well meaning BC environmetalists like her have become a lighting rod for a many Albertans, to be so effectively exploited by right wing politicians here.

    Fort McMurray is not Claquot sound and if Alberta is part of the problem then we need to feel we are part of the solution and not just being lectured to. If we get the sense some outside of the province do not really care about jobs in Alberta, then right wing populist here wlll exploit that effectively and like in the US with Trump, those on the other side will be wondering what happened after the battle is lost.

    It is good of the ATA to host this debate and to promote public discussio. I can see Ms. Berman is passionare and can be an effective advocate in some circumstances. However in this case I wonder if she might have been more effective if she didn’t bother ro come to Alberta.


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