Alberta Politics
Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer promises Alberta has a “unique fact scenario” to sway the courts in its fight against the federal carbon tax (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That’s embarrassing! Alberta’s court filing in carbon tax fight says NDP carbon tax did no harm

Posted on December 17, 2019, 1:39 am
10 mins

The linked weekend revelations that the NDP’s carbon tax had no meaningful negative impact on Alberta’s economy and that 40 per cent of Albertans received carbon-tax rebates larger than the tax they paid were ill timed from the government’s perspective.

After all, the CBC’s report on Saturday of what the Alberta government’s own officials had to say about the carbon levy was published at almost the same moment as Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer was touting the government’s constitutional challenge of the federal backstop carbon tax that was put into place when the UCP kept its campaign promise and pulled the plug on Alberta’s consumer carbon tax.

Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

How did the national broadcaster find out? Its reporters simply read the province’s filings in the case Mr. Schweitzer was bragging about.

The court documents the CBC bothered to read said the Climate Leadership Plan enacted by the government of former Premier Rachel Notley resulted in an average reduction in the growth of Alberta’s Gross Domestic Product of 0.05 per cent. Basically a rounding error, in other words.

Even if the tax had been increased from $30 to $50 per tonne, the CBC reported, the difference would have been marginal. And under the CLP, about 60 per cent of households received a carbon-tax rebate, and about 40 per cent got a rebate that was larger than the tax bite.

This is a far cry from the hysteria about the damage supposedly being done by the carbon tax to the Alberta economy that was spread by the UCP during the election campaign. The government’s own documents show these claims were baloney.

Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Accordingly, over the weekend, critics gently accused the UCP of “misrepresenting” the facts. Arguably, “lied about them” would be a more accurate description.

That said, the NDP never sold the tax effectively, and responded to the UCP campaign’s deceptions as if the facts would speak for themselves, not much of a plan in a media landscape like Alberta’s.

Meanwhile, the government’s constitutional challenge is set to commence in the Alberta Court of Appeal today. Similar challenges by provincial Conservative governments launched as part of their unsuccessful joint effort to weaken Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in the lead up to October’s federal election have not fared particularly well before courts in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

But according to Mr. Schweitzer, Alberta’s claim that taxing carbon interferes with provincial jurisdiction over resources to the point of rewriting the constitution has a better chance of succeeding. “I do believe Alberta has a unique fact scenario that is not there in Saskatchewan and Ontario,” Global News quoted the Justice Minister saying hopefully.

Premier William Aberhart (Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta).

This may seem like whistling past the legal graveyard, but going to court is always enough of a crapshoot that one supposes we ought to reserve our collective judgment until the Alberta Court of Appeal renders its.

Regardless of what happens in Alberta, all three cases are bound for the Supreme Court of Canada.

Still, the fact that the government introduced a carbon tax on large emitters and successfully lobbied Ottawa to treat it as complying with the federal backstop rules suggests the province is not as confident of its legal case as the Justice Minister’s bluster would suggest.

Presumably, given its success in the election campaign persuading Albertans the NDP’s too-small-to-detect carbon tax was an overwhelming burden, they were more confident they could continue to bolster their faltering public support by screaming at Mr. Trudeau about the federal consumer carbon tax.

Along comes the CBC’s report with the message the provincial carbon tax did little harm and actually put more jingle in the jeans of those Albertans least able to pay.

One wonders if Premier Jason Kenney’s “War Room” will call up the national broadcaster and demand time and space to accuse the officials who wrote the court filings of being in league with European environmental radicals and the Rockefeller Foundation to exaggerate Alberta’s ethical greenhouse gas emissions.

Oh what a tangled we weave when first we practise to deceive!

War Room takes aim at Alberta’s last real newspaper, the Medicine Hat News

Speaking of demanding space to reply, the War Room decided to “reach out” pretty quickly when it read Medicine Hat News reporter Jeremy Appel’s excellent column Friday that concluded, as the headline put it, “Energy war room an expensive joke at best.”

Well, we can’t have that!

Medicine Hat News reporter Jeremy Appel (Photo: Twitter).

War Room spokesperson Grady Semmens fired off an email to the News on Sunday morning promising to “provide a response to clarify many of the comments and inaccuracies in Mr. Appel’s column.”

“Bring it on, war room,” Mr. Appel responded in a tweet.

“I will have you something on Monday afternoon and would appreciate if you could run it an as OpEd as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Semmens, who enjoys the title Director of Content and External Relations, Canadian Energy Centre, as the government would like us to call the War Room.

As one tweeter suggested, an appropriate response would be, “Here’s our rate card if you’d like to buy an advertisement.”

After all, what’s the Kenney Government going to do if the News just says no? Pass the Accurate News and Information Act and require newspapers to print “clarifications” of stories that a committee of government MLAs decides are inaccurate?

War Room spokesperson Grady Semmens (Photo: Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.)

In case you missed it, that’s been tried before in Alberta, in 1938, and the Supreme Court told the Social Credit League government to get lost. One thing has changed since then, though. Jason Kenney has a Notwithstanding Clause to play with, something William Aberhart didn’t. Do you think Mr. Kenney would dare?

The News will be delighted, of course, with the opportunity to make news.

By the way, it will be 29 years on May 7 next since Ray Speaker, minister of municipal affairs in premier Don Getty’s Progressive Conservative Government, got up on his hind legs in the Alberta Legislature and claimed that an “article that was written by Mr. David Climenhaga of the Calgary Herald has more than one inaccuracy.”

Minister Speaker (not to be confused with Mr. Speaker) continued: “It is my intent to address those by direct letter to the author.”

Let the record show, I am still waiting for the letter. Perhaps Canada Post is to blame, although I doubt that.

Until it is received and examined, AlbertaPolitics.ca, on behalf of the author and the Calgary Herald, is standing by the story.

If the War Room has any brains, it might consider the wisdom of adopting the same strategy as that of Mr. Speaker. It is sure to cause them less pain in the long run than the fact checking — and worse, the mockery — that is bound to follow receipt and publication of their response by the News, which appears to be the last real newspaper in Alberta.

15 Comments to: That’s embarrassing! Alberta’s court filing in carbon tax fight says NDP carbon tax did no harm

  1. Dave

    December 17th, 2019

    I think ironically our current crop of Conservative politicians, who claim to be champions of free enterprise, forgot or failed their economics courses, which is why their economic arguements against the carbon tax fall apart.

    It is not so damaging to the economy because of its limited and specific nature. It is not a general tax, like an income or sales tax so its economic effects are not very significant. Yes it is politically very noticeable as all the gas stations have signs with prices and most people go to them. However it is also more avoidable than most taxes, as we can choose the type of vehicles we drive, how we drive them and where we drive them or maybe even to use other transportation modes more. Of course, that all the money raised was recycled either as energy rebates or green energy initiatives also ofset any negative economic effect.

    I suppose Conservatives also played on the feeling it is somehow disloyal in this energy producing province to want to conserve or use less energy. It is not, it is actually smart. Look at Norway, the country with the huge savings fund that dwarfs ours, which leads in having electric cars. They know oil got them a long ways, but in 25 or 50 years it will be a different world for a lot of reasons.

    We can start the transition now or we can cling to the comfortable and familiar, but it will only make that transition harder later. I know switching horses in those old westerns looks easier than it is, but fear of the future will ultimately hold us back and set us back.

    I suppose to some degree things will move ahead anyways even if the UCp tries to resist it. The courts haven’t been supportive of provincial challenges so far and a carbon tax on industrial emitters remains in Alberta. Ironically two of the provinces doing the best economically now – BC and Quebec have strong regimes in place to tax or regulate carbon emissions.

    When the consumer carbon tax comes into effect in Alberta again it will be another promise made by Kenney that he couldn’t keep. It would be best if he refrained from promising things clearly beyond his control.

    Reply
  2. Scotty on Denman

    December 17th, 2019

    I’m wondering if the “notwithstanding clause”, since it is a legislated measure, can be struck down by the courts.

    I’m assuming the right the UCP will not withstand is that of freedom of speech. You ask: would the UCP dare try to suspend one of the primary democratic rights?

    Again, could the legislation be overturned? And, I suppose, the government would be forced to appeal, perhaps to the SCoC—if it allows. That’s when it becomes the concern of all Canadians.

    I’m guessing: no, the UCP wouldn’t dare—at least to appeal it to the SCoC. With the K-Boy so strongly associated with the federal CPC, such an action would probably fix that party for good.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    December 17th, 2019

    This blog covers much ground on two issues. First of all, many Albertans, (the ones who are staunch Conservative supporters), seem to forget that it was Ed Stelmach who gave Alberta a carbon tax. This was the first time North America ever had a carbon tax. Jason Kenney did not abolish this, and he also put back in the carbon tax that Rachel Notley gave us. So, why is he fighting something he supports? Did his ‘Fair Deal’ panel member, Preston Manning, a well known long time carbon tax supporter, tell Jason Kenney it’s best to keep the carbon tax? (How much were these ‘Fair Deal’ panel members paid?) The oil companies support of the carbon tax predates Justin Trudeau being in power, by many years. The other fact that Conservative supporters will not see is that the carbon tax in Canada is a Conservative idea. Other Conservatives, such as Stephen Harper, were supporting putting a price on carbon, around $60.00 per tonne. Andrew Scheer was rather cunning in saying he did not support a carbon tax, but he disguised it with another name.
    I am aware that there are newspapers in Alberta that do not fall under the Postmedia conglomerate. Jason Kenney would love for them to tow the UCP party line. It’s a well known fact that Postmedia columnists are servants of the UCP’s ‘War Room’. I believe an Independent senator from Alberta, Paula Simons, (a former Edmonton Journal columnist), was criticizing this. Postmedia, which happens to include The Sun, has been aligned with the Conservative parties for many years already. Ralph Klein would get his right hand man, Rod Love, to chastise any columnists that condemned what he was doing, (like the very pricey boondoggles Ralph Klein denied doing, and his stupid escapades he did when he was plastered on booze). For proof, what happened to Edmonton Journal columnist Mark Lisac? He had the guts to say what needed to be said about the disastrous PC governments of Don Getty and Ralph Klein. Now, Jason Kenney is doing the same type of thing to the media, that Ralph Klein and Rod Love did. Who will challenge it? The other very bad aspect of the ‘War Room’, is that a former Postmedia employee, and UCP candidate flunkie, Tom Olsen, gets a $195,00 per year salary to combat ‘enemies’ of our oilsands. The needy are made to do with less. This ‘War Room’ is a waste of money, and can’t bring oil booms back. The Conservatives seem to be the leaders at wasting money. Other big reserves of cheaper oil are coming on the market, and what comes out of Fort McMurray can’t change that. The so called ‘NEP’ was done away with by Brian Mulroney in the 1980s. I do recall a food and wine columnist in the Edmonton Journal, Satya Days (as close as I can get to the name). He then became a business columnist for the aforementioned newspaper. Once he wrote about the ‘NEP’, and said it had nothing to do with Alberta’s economic plight. He mentioned that Texas, for example, had no ‘NEP’, and they too suffered greatly from the worldwide oil price crash. After that, I do not recall seeing other columns from him. Somebody in the Conservative camp must have gotten him removed from being a columnist. I truly think Alberta is back to a one party state with the UCP. Peter Lougheed would be unhappy with what the UCP are doing. Albertans should be unhappy with what the UCP are doing, but most simply do not care.

    Reply
  4. Bill Malcolm

    December 17th, 2019

    The other day when Morneau was giving an update on the budget rationale, during the Q&A afterwards, someone from the Epoch Times asked him about deficit spending. Morneau had to ask this dude who he represented again, obviously never having heard of Epoch Times (and neither had I personally).

    The question was framed in a way that made Alberta out to be flat broke, so that Kenney had to bravely assess the budget and make cuts to try to balance his budget, so why wasn’t Morneau doing the same? Even then, Kenney had increased his deficit from $6 to $9 billion due to the bad economic times.

    These economic right wing hayseeds that sprout eternally in the West are amazingly blinkered people. Apparently this guy took it for granted that Kenney was right, and that Canada should follow his genius. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noted for over 40 years. It’s the “old the West wants in” resurrected. Apparently, some Albertans think that they are always 100% correct, and that the country should follow their lead, despite being not the same place overall. Alberta is but one facet of Canada as a whole, but this fact slips by the local geniuses,

    What Kenney is doing is upside down to the economic theories I learned about at university, but entirely in line with neoliberal thought which seems to be irascibly outright ideologically-driven rubbish. Morneau was nonplussed at the blinkeredness of the question and said in effect, he knew what he was doing. What he should have said was that Alberta could do what it wanted, that Canada was not Alberta, and had no need of doltishly folowing an economic policy driven by ideology rather than common sense. I mean, Morneau is as big a neoliberal as it gets himself with his gig economy and big business pals on his commitee. But even he could not see that cutting services to the bone to slavishly balance the budget made any sense, citing Canada’s favourable debt to GDP ratio for borrowing, and was polite enough not to mention the $4.7 billion tax giveaway that also has to be absorbed by Albertans even as people’s jobs are cut, salaries reduced, and doctors forced to bill in a way that cuts their income by 30%.

    The prevailing economic theory before neoliberalism was first laid on the public in the early ’80s was that you spend in bad times and cut back in the good, saving surpluses for the bad times. It was called Keynesian economics, but it neglected to take into account the need for the rich to get ever richer, or for them to grab publicly-owned natural resources and crown corporations for themselves at minimal cost. Thatcher gave away the UK’s birthright to the bankers and aristocrats and the neoliberal plot was underway. And Alberta never really saved in the good times.

    Modern Conservative “theory”, if you can deign to even call it a theory rather than ideology, is austerity. Cameron in the UK went gung ho at it from 2010, leading to the current mess. People have had it too good for too long and services need to be cut back. That’s it. That’s the theory. The extremely wealthy have to have their income tax rates cut so that, out of the pure beneficence of their hearts, they would invest their extra money into creating jobs. They did — in China. Or tucked it away in offhore bank accounts. Actually benefitting the society they live in never occurred to them. This phenomenon has passed unnoticed by ideologues like Kenney, and we get the same tired assertions repeated for the nth time about austerity and feeding the rich.

    At least Morneau isn’t as far down the rabbit hole as Kenney, and some semblance of logic seems to inform his decisions. I do not get the impression that the Feds are out to get us all in one big lump; rather they believe in the gradual general reduction of service standards from government. No shock treatment.

    But to right wing nutballs, you have to hit the general public hard, tell ’em it’s for their own good, and then stand around like the gorfs they are and insist other governments should act the same way. It’s ideological horseshit. And you Albertans are living through it, unencumbered by a fair-minded press except for the Medicine Hat News. Good luck!

    Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    December 17th, 2019

    I really enjoyed Mr. Appel’s column, David. Thanks for providing the link. I am amazed that a newspaper in Medicine Hat would print such a piece criticizing the Kenney government.

    Reply
  6. Abs

    December 17th, 2019

    Rumor has it that there has been a surge in online subriptions to the fine Medicine Hat News. I hope that Mr. Appel does not accept any offers of employment from the War Room Goliath, should they realize the error of their ways. We need David with his slingshot.

    Reply
  7. Abs

    December 17th, 2019

    https://globalnews.ca/news/6302677/alberta-war-room-canadian-energy-centre/

    This appeared today on the UCP-friendly Global-TV site, probably because of negative public perception of the attack on the Medicine Hat News, and some other articles, like a UCP MLA threatening to audit Airdrie’s school board. The elusive War Room is not in Tom Olsen’s basement, as previously thought. Some perceived threat to the War Room is why we couldn’t know of its secret lair before. No, this is not an episode of “Thunderbirds”. And instead of giving carbon tax rebates to people like cash-challenged post-secondary students like the NDP did, the War Room will divert large emitter taxes to its own coffers. You know, money that is supposed to go to clean energy and reducing emissions, and the junk-sciency carbon capture experiment thingy. Oh, and some of it will go to the deficit. If you think it sounds like yet another UCP slush fund, no you can’t look at the books. Because it is not, repeat not, money taken directly from cuts to CBE education funding or anthing, contrary to accusations on social media. This is the War Room getting in front of the story, or two days behind it. After this blows over, they’ll probably go to the Winchester.

    “The TIER Fund would be used for new and cleaner Alberta-based technologies that reduce emissions, like improved oil sands extraction methods and research and investment in carbon capture, utilization and storage. It would also be used to reduce Alberta’s deficit and support the province’s energy war room – which is now incorporated as the Canadian Energy Centre.”

    From: https://www.alberta.ca/technology-innovation-and-emissions-reduction-engagement.aspx

    Reply
  8. Colino

    December 17th, 2019

    “After all, what’s the Kenney Government going to do if the News just says no? Pass the Accurate News and Information Act and require newspapers to print “clarifications” of stories that a committee of government MLAs decides are inaccurate?”
    Like I said in the comments on your last article about the War Room. If you don’t agree with them they’ll send the Gestapo.

    Reply
  9. Just Me

    December 17th, 2019

    Who knew that the antics of ole Bible Bill Aberhart would be making such a furious comeback? I guess “prosperity certificates” can’t be too far behind if that’s the way things are going.

    But that’s where Alberta is now…

    Schweitzer is defending pretzel-logic legalities that are so out there, one wonders what kind of legal background he has. I guess all this proves is that serving in a UCP government makes you stupid.

    And…the notion that a member of the government or an agency of the government can demand fairness by ordering a publication to print a retraction to a well-researched piece, replacing it with government-approved partisan hack-piece just goes beyond the pale. One can safely presume that there will be demands for the acceptance of hack-pieces for approved science, law, and everything.

    I guess if this goes any further, the UCP will just simply create their own reality; you know, the one where the dinosaurs and humans peaceful co-existed. Coming soon… “The Flintstones” will soon be approved as documented evidence of that fact.

    Just when the weird was supposed to stop, it’s started to get weirder.

    Reply
  10. Lars

    December 17th, 2019

    “…a unique fact scenario…”

    Would this scenario consist of alternative facts?
    Just asking.

    Reply
  11. Farmer Brian

    December 17th, 2019

    Alberta’s GHG emissions in 2014 were 268.6 mega tonnes, in 2015 266.9 mega tonnes, in 2016 262.9 mega tonnes and in 2017 273 mega tonnes(source Environment and Climate change Canada). Interesting to note the NDP carbon tax was implemented on Jan. 1, 2017. 2017 is the most recent year available for Canada’s and Alberta’s GHG emissions. It is certainly revealing that the carbon tax had so little affect on Alberta’s GDP. The fact that 40% of low income earners benefit from the tax and that emissions went up in 2017 shows it was more successful in redistributing income than lowering emissions. If I lived in the city and could use public transit I think a rising carbon tax would be less of a problem. On the farm there is presently little technology available to me to significantly lower the carbon tax I will pay. Recent cold wet falls have necessitated the drying of my grain to make it sellable. This fall there was no carbon tax on the natural gas used to power the dryer, that will change January 1. The imposition of this tax will not lower my natural gas consumption as this is dictated by the weather, it will only increase my costs, costs I can’t recover because my grain price is set by world markets not by me. So while this tax may put jingle in some Albertan’s jeans it will not put any in mine. Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • PIGL

      December 19th, 2019

      “The fact that 40% of low income earners benefit from the tax and that emissions went up in 2017 shows it was more successful in redistributing income than lowering emissions.”

      No. It does not show anything of the kind.

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        December 20th, 2019

        Okay PIGL, high income earners recieved no carbon tax rebate and pay on average more carbon tax. According to Dave 40% got a larger rebate than was payed in tax. So it is a net negative to high income earners, a net positive to lower income earners, looks like wealth redistribution to me but on a limited scale. As statistics show Alberta’s GHG emissions went up in 2017 after the imposition of the carbon tax so please explain to me how what I said wasn’t true?

        Reply
    • zalm

      December 19th, 2019

      Haw! That’s setting the record, straight, Tom!

      Guest snivel, more like….

      Reply

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