Alberta Politics
Big ideas for conservatives? Not so much! Preston Manning in 2013 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

A generation of impulsive right-wing politicians ruins Preston Manning’s dream of ‘green capitalism’ – what’s next?

Posted on April 03, 2019, 2:19 am
9 mins

Let’s start with a pop quiz. Who said this?

“One of the biggest issues will be the question of how much of current revenue from non-renewable resources should be saved and how those savings should be invested … so that, if the day ever comes that oil and gas isn’t as significant as it is now, there’s something to replace it.”

Nothing but denial and belligerence from UCP Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If you thought Rachel Notley, you would be wrong.

The answer is Preston Manning, once upon a time the godfather of the Canadian right. He was speaking back in 2006 in an interview with Canadian Business Magazine.

Later in the same interview, he noted “there is a growing concern about environmental conservation and I think the question is not whether you make a major effort to improve environmental quality and environmental conservation but how is it to be done? Do you rely increasingly on government regulation and intervention or do you rely more on the marketplace?”

In other words, something like the carbon tax Jason Kenney has promised to eliminate in Alberta if he is elected in two weeks and that Andrew Scheer vows to destroy if he becomes prime minister next fall, or the cap-and-trade system in Ontario that Premier Doug Ford has already torn up and tossed away.

Toronto City Councillor Mike Layton (Photo: Twitter).

Mr. Manning has spoken about this a lot over the past 20 years, although for some reason he is awfully quiet lately. He may or may not have seen that the environmental impact of unchecked capitalism threatened the survival of the planet, but he certainly figured out that a deteriorating planetary environment presents an existential threat to capitalism.

He may also have worried that a cynical new generation of Canadian right-wing politicians would not be able to resist picking the low hanging fruit offered by new taxes and higher prices, which are always unpopular at first but are key parts of the market-oriented solutions Mr. Manning had in mind.

Think about it. Mr. Manning was probably in a better position than most of us to know just what people like Messrs. Kenney, Ford and Scheer were thinking.

If Mr. Manning’s musings sounded like blue-sky rambling 13 years ago, you would think it would have a good deal more credibility on the right now in a week when we have been told that Canada’s climate is warming at double the rate of the rest of the world.

Officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada published the results of their research yesterday, and the news was not encouraging. Their report said Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, northern Canada at almost three times the global rate.

Calgary corporate lawyer Colin Feasby (Photo: Osler law firm).

And remember, this is based on actual observation, not computer models of what might happen in the future – which are easier for climate-change deniers to cast doubt upon.

But instead of a serious attempt to by the right to offer alternative solutions to climate change, we get a clown car of climate change denial and juvenile belligerence like Mr. Kenney’s attack on the modest reforms enacted by the governments of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The UCP leader apparently wants to roll it all back and sue anyone who says anything different. He’s even promised to pull the plug on the NDP’s investment in renewable energy – which might even get him off Mr. Manning’s Christmas card list!

Meanwhile, whatever voters in Alberta decide to do in two weeks, the world is waking up to what’s happening to the planet and looking for solutions. As things grow worse, those solutions will grow more forceful.

Mr. Kenney was taking credit recently for getting Toronto City Council to drop Councillor Mike Layton’s call for Canada’s largest city to explore legal ways to seek compensation for the costs of global climate change from major contributors to global climate change.

This was baloney, of course, since city councillors frequently bring up ideas like this and they’re inevitably kicked to the curb a few times before they become part of the mainstream.

British journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot (Photo:

But you can count on it that this strategy will be back from cities likely to be impacted by global climate change – New York on the Atlantic, and Vancouver on the Pacific, for just two examples. All the “war rooms” in the world aren’t going to make this go away when the waters start to rise and the forests start to burn, as the findings of the Environment Canada report suggest they will soon.

Some go even farther. Last month, journalist George Monbiot published a column in the Guardian calling for the perpetrators of grave environmental harm to be hauled before an international court and charged with ecocide.

Such an approach, Mr. Monbiot wrote, could “do for all life on Earth what the criminalization of genocide has done for vulnerable minorities: provide protection where none existed before.”

This may sound crazy now, but give it another 13 years and see what folks think.

“Climate change is real and denial is not an option for energy industry players or the lawyers who represent them,” wrote Calgary-based corporate lawyer Colin Feasby, Calgary managing partner of the Osler law firm, in December.

“The energy industry is moving quickly on climate change and most sophisticated participants are in favor of market-based policies to reduce emissions,” he explained. “Many enterprises have already accounted for the risk of climate change litigation both in their public disclosure and in the conduct of their business. Some leading industry players have adopted public policy positions that promote the reduction of emissions, such as Exxon’s championing of carbon taxation and Shell’s advocacy of renewable energy solutions.”

Indeed, that’s undoubtedly why Royal Dutch Shell yesterday revealed it is urging Canada’s energy lobby groups to grow up and stop bucking carbon taxes, else it will pull its support and participation.

But what do we get from Mr. Kenney and his modern Canadian Conservative crowd? Denial and childish threats, plus promises to turn back the clock and make the world like it.

That is one approach that is not going to work! You can take that to the bank.

10 Comments to: A generation of impulsive right-wing politicians ruins Preston Manning’s dream of ‘green capitalism’ – what’s next?

  1. Keith McClary

    April 3rd, 2019

    No worries. Kenney and Schneer have marvellous climate plans that won’t cost anything or involve any government action. They just can’t tell us what’s in them before they are elected.

    The 3 minute video from U of Ottawa in the article “A slippery slope: How climate change is reshaping the Arctic landscape” is worth a look. It includes a timelapse of a slump in action (18 days in 13 seconds).
    “In 1984, there were about 60 active thaw slumps on the island. In 2013, there were more than 4,000”

  2. tom in ontario

    April 3rd, 2019

    When the right wingers take power look no further than our grim Province of Ontario. Immediately the Ford-ites killed funding for renewable projects, contracts broken, wind turbines abandoned in farm fields. Jason is licking his chops, surprise!

  3. Geoffrey Pounder

    April 3rd, 2019

    “Some leading industry players have adopted public policy positions that promote the reduction of emissions, such as Exxon’s championing of carbon taxation and Shell’s advocacy of renewable energy solutions.”

    Unfortunately, much of this turns out to be the usual posturing, greenwashing, and lip service.

    “Oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion undermining climate action since 2015, report says”

    “Top oil firms spending millions lobbying to block climate change policies, says report”

    As regards Preston Manning and former PM Paul Martin, it’s a wonder how the old codgers have so much environmental wisdom to dispense after they have left office.

  4. brett

    April 3rd, 2019

    I believe that one of the challenges for some right wing political groups is the focus that a minority of their members place on conservative social issues. It turns many people off. In some instances it can tear a right wing political party apart. Just think back to how the social conservatives in the former Wild Rose Party undermined Danielle Smith.

    Kenney is currently challenges with the acceptability of some of his socially far right candidates. If elected, I believe that Kenney will has many challenges within his party over this issue as he will have with the Opposition. His challenge is simple. His UCP party membership has a much higher percentage of social conservatives than does the province as a whole. Most especially the key area of Edmonton and Calgary.

  5. St Albertan

    April 3rd, 2019

    Mr. Clim has proven to be an excellent armchair journalist. He’s exercised editorial restraint, and he’s policed his comment section. I say let’s elevate him to daily status! I for one, am sick and tired of Post Media! I say let’s start paying this man!

  6. Dave

    April 3rd, 2019

    I have always wondered about some of the old comments Mr. Manning made, they sounded nice perhaps even sincere and thoughtful, beyond the usual Conservative lip service to the environment which is yes, we love it, but no we won’t really do anything about it except talk a lot about vague plans that never seem to accomplish anything. Perhaps Mr. Manning was wearing his statesman’s hat at the time he said them, which fit him well given his position, before he decided he still wanted to be a political operative again, which hasn’t worked out so well for him at times. In any event it does illustrate the current dilemma for Conservatives. As voters become increasingly concerned about the environment, all Conservatives can seem to do is double down in their fight against the carbon tax. We know what they are against, but what is not so clear is what they are for.

    I suppose they hope the fight against the carbon tax will score them some cheap political points in the short term and perhaps they just can’t stand agreeing with the Liberals and the NDP, even though some of the earliest advocates of a carbon tax were conservatives like Mr. Manning. Those advocates rightly pointed out it is a more efficient way to provide an incentive to reduce energy use and rather than forcing choices on consumers, it allows them the flexibility to make their own choices as to how they get there. It is also the most direct and transparent approach. I am yet not sure what scheme the Federal Conservatives and the UCP will come up with to reduce carbon use, it will probably be a hidden indirect tax that is not as effective, but perhaps easier to sell politically as consumers are not as aware they are paying more. Maybe they will beat the miracle carbon capture nearly dead horse (or should I say unicorn) once again, the one Alberta’s previous government spent 2 billion dollars on with not much to show – technically feasible perhaps, economically not so much. The Federal Conservatives have been talking about their soon to be announced plan for almost a year now, with an election soon approaching they still seem to have nothing. Here in Alberta where we are already having an election, the UCP seems to now finally have a bunch of policies on other things, but a clear solid alternative carbon reduction plan, not so much.

    Maybe Mr. Manning should go back to being a statesman for now. At some point the ridiculousness of Scheer and Kenney’s climate change plans (or lack thereof) will become even more obvious and the Conservatives may become completely discredited on this issue. At that time, their only option may to be to dust off Mr. Manning’s old statements and pretend the whole Scheer/Ford/Kenney anti-carbon tax crusade did not happen.

    • Lars

      April 3rd, 2019

      The conservative approach is puzzling, but if you grant that reality is what you believe it is, things become much clearer. I think that what we’re seeing here is a regressive slide on the part of the right, to the acceptance of an ideology-based approach to, not only political issues, but science, art, and for all I know engineering. Facts are accepted or rejected according to whether or not the support the ideology.
      This might sound like the triumphant discovery of the obvious to many who post here, but it still stonkers me. How can a political side that, forty years ago, was conceded to be realists even by their political opponents, become such ardent post-modernists?

      • David Climenhaga

        April 4th, 2019

        It’s happened before. In the Soviet Union. DJC

        • Lars

          April 5th, 2019

          That, while absolutely true, is not reassuring.
          However, it is good ammunition when ridiculing the contemporary right.

  7. Farmer Brian

    April 4th, 2019

    Justin Trudeau’s recently applied federal carbon tax in 4 provinces will according to the Liberal’s rebate consumers more money than they spend in carbon tax. If I said to you that I would rebate all the taxes you payed on cigarettes would this inspire you to quit?

    One problem I have with a carbon tax is it is supposed to inspire us to use a less C02 emitting alternative. Look at heating your house. A gigajoule of natural gas delivered to my house costs $5.46 + $1.517 of carbon tax at the present $30 a tonne rate for a total of $6.98 per gigajoule. A gigajoule of natural gas is the equivelent amount of energy as 277 kwh of electricity. If you average my electrical bill over the year I pay just over $.19 a kwh. So for me to purchase the equivelent energy of 1 gigajoule of natural gas as electricity would cost me $52.63. A cost increase of over 750%. Does this sound feasible? I am certainly all for energy efficiency but unless you can produce and deliver electricity to my house for around 3 cents a kwh there really is no alternative in Alberta to heating with natural gas. Enjoy your day.


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