Alberta Politics
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli (Photo: Office of the New York State Comptroller).

Jason Kenney’s ineffective COVID-19 strategy mirrors his failing response to world demand for cleaner energy

Posted on December 10, 2020, 1:35 am
6 mins

Memo to United Conservative Party issues managers: Your boss will need to take some time today away from defending his COVID-19 response to attack the New York State pension fund for its decision to dump all fossil fuel stocks in the next five years and eliminate investments in companies that contribute to global warming by 2040. 

It’s been hours since the New York Times reported the announcement by the state’s comptroller and still no insults from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney! 

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

There hasn’t even been a story on the website of the Canadian Energy Centre, our province’s vaunted $30-million “war room,” which was supposed to teach these urban green types not to mess with Alberta. 

Maybe Mr. Kenney could call Thomas P. DiNapoli “brain dead,” which is apparently the premier’s preferred epithet for American officials who don’t share his view of the benign nature of fossil fuels like Alberta’s vast reserves of bitumen.

That ought to be effective. Five days after he called Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer the same thing last June for her opposition to Enbridge’s Line 5 shipping Alberta crude through her state, she took legal action to completely shut down the pipeline in 2021. (Happy New Year, Mr. Premier!)

As political columnist Graham Thomson observed last month about Gov. Whitmer’s riposte, “in politics, there are no coincidences.”

But then, since when did being effective ever have anything to do with UCP strategy? 

While we’ve all been focused on the UCP’s hesitant response to COVID-19 – which created the conditions that led to the renewed lockdown-by-another-name reluctantly announced by the Kenney Government on Tuesday – we’ve momentarily forgotten that the premier’s management of the economy hasn’t been any better.

Mr. Kenney’s favoured approach of insulting anyone who disagrees with him won’t work with the coronavirus, which doesn’t have an ideology or care what he says, any more than it’s going to work with U.S. politicians who are worried about global temperature increases.

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

It’s all very well to tell a local reporter that his query at a news conference about COVID “sounds a lot more like an NDP speech than a media question,” but it’s doubtful many New York State politicians would even know what NDP stands for.

Anyway, according to the Times, Mr. DiNapoli resisted skidding energy stocks for a long time, but finally gave up when Premier Kenney’s favourite corporations refused to do anything to transition from fossil fuels to renewable, less-polluting forms of energy. 

“New York State’s pension fund is at the leading edge of investors addressing climate risk, because investing for the low-carbon future is essential to protect the fund’s long-term value,” the elected state official said in a statement.

That’s important because, as the Times reported, with assets of $266 billion US, the state’s pension fund is “one of the world’s largest and most influential investors.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (Photo: Julia Pickett, Creative Commons).

Said the Times: “Mr. DiNapoli, who is the fund’s sole trustee, joins other investors in concluding that energy companies that do not reshape themselves to part with oil and gas are poor long-term bets.”

And this is just a harbinger of what is to come, with a president committed to a greener economy, if not quite a Green New Deal, about to move into the White House next month. Like President-Elect Joe Biden, Mr. DiNapoli is a Democrat. 

Also poor long-term bets, my friends, are governments of petro-provinces that don’t recognize the dawning realization in world capitals that civilization won’t survive if we destroy the planet’s climate to keep pumping oil. 

Despite the timidity of their plan to use Alberta’s energy know-how to transition over time to cleaner sources of energy, at least the Alberta New Democratic Party under Rachel Notley recognized this reality and had a plan. 

Mr. Kenney’s UCP successfully booted the NDP from power in 2019 with a campaign of pure denial about that reality. 

Now the chickens are coming home to roost.

This is not so different, come to think of it, from the way Mr. Kenney set the stage for Alberta’s holiday lockdown by insisting for months COVID-19 was just “an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the elderly and the immunocompromised.”

24 Comments to: Jason Kenney’s ineffective COVID-19 strategy mirrors his failing response to world demand for cleaner energy

  1. !?

    December 10th, 2020

    I’m afraid to ask: How is the UCP is handling the fentanyl crisis?

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 10th, 2020

      Withdrawing safety measures and supports, with the exception of commercial clinics like those operated by he premier’s brother, and letting addicts die in the streets. So, basically the same as with COVID-19. DJC

      Reply
  2. tom

    December 10th, 2020

    Remember the best-before date Jason put on elderly covid patients? He’s about to discover O&G has already passed its best-before date.

    Reply
  3. Bob Raynard

    December 10th, 2020

    Thanks for providing the Calgary Herald link at the beginning of your column, David. That was quite a critical piece for a pro-Kenney newspaper.

    Reply
  4. Mike

    December 10th, 2020

    Typo paragraph 7

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 11th, 2020

      Thank you. Fixed. DJC

      Reply
  5. Kang

    December 10th, 2020

    There are thousands of oil service workers waiting to re-claim abandoned oil field junk (total cost about $250 billion). Yet the Kenney UCP have not even taken most of the one billion for the problem the Trudeau government has put on the table. When does pushing human caused global warming move from being self-interested greed to become a crime against humanity? How much of Alberta’s farm and ranch land, mountain tops, and fresh water aquifers need to be ruined by this collection of fools before they realize renewable resources should always take priority over short term extraction? No wonder investment funds looking for sustainability are abandoning Alberta in droves.

    Reply
  6. Geoffrey Pounder

    December 10th, 2020

    “Despite the timidity of their plan to use Alberta’s energy know-how to transition over time to cleaner sources of energy, at least the Alberta New Democratic Party under Rachel Notley recognized this reality and had a plan.”
    Revisionist history.
    Notley’s plan was to build new export pipelines — the Trans Mtn expansion above all — underpinning indefinite oilsands expansion. Notley had no plan to bend the curve on AB oil production, or initiate a “just transition” for oil workers, much less get AB off oil.
    Under the NDP “climate plan”, AB’s emissions would likely go up, not down.
    *
    The aim of AB’s Climate Plan was to “roughly stabilize emissions, by 2030, just above current levels”, not reduce them.
    “Absent further action, Alberta’s emissions are currently on a trajectory to grow from 267 MT in 2013, to 297 MT in 2020, and to 320 MT in 2030. Our policy architecture is expected to reduce emissions from current trends by approximately 20 Mt by 2020, and approximately 50 Mt by 2030. This would roughly stabilize emissions, by 2030, just above current levels (sc 2013) at approximately 270 Mt.
    “Many will look at these emissions reductions and claim that our policies will not place AB on a trajectory consistent with global 2o C goals, and in some sense this is true – the policies proposed for Alberta in this document would not, if applied in all jurisdictions in the world, lead to global goals being accomplished.”
    “Climate Leadership Report to Minister”, 2015
    http://www.alberta.ca/documents/climate/climate-leadership-report-to-minister.pdf
    *
    “AB’s Climate Leadership Plan has accomplished some good things, many of which were unfathomable just a few short years ago, but it’s not enough. The provincial govt recently predicted that there would be a slight reduction in total emissions by 2030, but that overly optimistic forecast depends heavily on the implementation of the federal climate plan and on oil prices remaining low. It also does not fully account for the emissions impact of upping production to fill new pipelines. Without the federal plan, or with increased prices and/or production, there is no date in sight for when we might expect AB’s emissions to actually go down.
    “The sad reality is that neither the NDP nor the UCP have produced a credible and implementable plan to meaningfully reduce AB’s total emissions over the short- to medium-term, let alone bring us anywhere close to meeting our share of Canada’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.”
    Ricardo Acuña, “Will Any Party in Alberta Support the Notion that We’re Killing the Earth?” (VueWeekly, Sep 19, 2018)
    http://www.vueweekly.com/will-any-party-in-alberta-support-the-notion-that-were-killing-the-earth
    *
    Notley took no steps to ensure that the oil & gas industry reported its emissions accurately. Study after study shows that the industry grossly under-reports its emissions. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
    Notley left office without implementing regulations for the fraudulent 100+ Mt oilsands cap — a cynical ploy to gain social license for new pipelines. Numerous exemptions boosted the cap. The cap was 43% higher than 2015’s (under-reported) levels — two thirds of Canada’s 2050 target.
    Add conventional oil & gas emissions. Add the rest of AB’s emissions. Under Notley’s plan, AB will prevent Canada from meeting its climate targets for decades.
    *
    Notley’s climate plan was NEVER going to take us where we needed to go. AB’s emissions would increase for decades. Building fossil-fuel infrastructure locks us into a fossil-fuel future.
    Pipelines and oilsands projects take decades to recoup their capital investment. Not something you can scale down or switch off. Once you sink billions into oilsands expansion, you are committed. The more fossil-fuel infrastructure we build, the more difficult the shift and the greater the delay. There was no turning back from Notley’s agenda. Only a messy collapse.
    *
    Recall Notley’s response to a question at the AB Teachers’ Association meeting Oct 13, 2018:
    Q) “You talked about the coal industry and how you have a plan for supporting those industry workers till 2030 when it becomes kind of obsolete I suppose. I’m just wondering is there is a plan long-range to support the oil industry as it, I mean yes it will grow in 20 years but it may start to deplete but what is the plan there?”
    Notley: “With the coal plan, because we very definitively said we’re phasing out coal by this day and we identified the plans and we knew what was going to change as a result of our policy we were able to identify the workers who were going to be impacted and so we put together a just transition plan, roughly $40 million dollars that’s set aside. With respect to the energy industry it’s a slower process, I actually believe that should [we] be successful in getting this pipeline built as well as the other two that I think the industry itself is going to be able to fund its own transition, support its workers, provide other opportunities. We, of course, all many of us, suffered significant losses in 2015-2016 because of the price drop and the commodity drop and it wasn’t just oil workers, it was the people whose jobs depended on oil workers to have, you know, money so since that time we’ve done a number of things to stimulate economic growth and to try to find and to try to support those workers. As you probably know since last year, last summer 2016 the Alberta economy has created 90 000 new jobs so we are making good headway there but there’s no question that the other thing that’s going to support workers in the oil and gas industry is the ability to support the industry as it transitions itself to a smarter way of doing business and finds new roles for the workers there. So, that’s sort of my answer.”
    *
    Notley neither envisions nor supports a phase-out or decline of AB oil production. She has no concrete ideas to offer on the subject. Notley’s notion that the industry will manage its own decline and fund the transition to more sustainable industries is risible.
    *
    Notley redefined the space of acceptable, realistic, pragmatic public discourse in AB. Excluding the only rational sane responses to our global emergency — reduce emissions and stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.
    Notley’s oil-soaked “pragmatism” foundered on delusion and denial.
    Our “climate leaders” are betting on failure. The new denialists.
    “The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention” (The Narwhal, Sep 26, 2016)
    • thenarwhal.ca/new-climate-denialism-time-intervention

    Reply
  7. Bret Larson

    December 10th, 2020

    Its ironic that “Kenneys failing responses” is the rational for the good pay of Alberta government union workers.

    Reply
    • Maximum

      December 11th, 2020

      The real irony is that there is no rational thinking behind the rationale for any of Kenny’s responses.

      Reply
    • Athabas

      December 11th, 2020

      Hey Brett,

      Unions good – Kenney bad. Got it?

      BTW your sentence is riddled with mistakes – [It’s, and rationale]. There fixed it for you.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      December 11th, 2020

      BRET LARSON: When all else fails with the UCP, (which it is), blame the overpaid government union workers, who in fact didn’t meet a wage increase for many years, and who will also be on the UCP’s chopping block.

      Reply
      • Bret LArson

        December 11th, 2020

        That would be funny if I was blaming the over paid government workers. The wife might be a little twisted from that.

        No I blame the politicians that gave them the money. I mean really on $100 oil per barrel, do you think the government union representatives didnt get more money than the province can afford at $20 a barrel?

        Give your head a shake.

        The unions got paid, they supplied the votes. The tax base cant afford it.

        Those are the facts.

        Reply
  8. Bruce Turton

    December 10th, 2020

    As one of those “expendables” whom JK and the Used Car Party shows nothing but contempt towards, I shall muster all my still to come breaths and finger movements to tell as many others as possible about what this bunch of morally bankrupt goons is really offering – extreme neoliberal plans that do not include the majority of Albertans who actually give a damn.

    Reply
  9. Just Me

    December 10th, 2020

    Alberta’s Angry Midget of a premier seems to like throwing insults and bizarre inventions of his fevered imagination.

    And now John “The Other Rosa Parks” Carpay, a former Kenney ally is launching an array of lawsuits against the UCP government and its “unwarranted” lockdown restrictions.

    Kenney’s friends are now his enemies. What a world.

    Reply
    • Abs

      December 11th, 2020

      Up is down. Down is up. White is black is white, or some mangled quote from George Orwell. His friend is his enemy is his friend. More machinations than Hamlet.

      Reply
  10. Mike in Edmonton

    December 10th, 2020

    The War Room types have better things to do–or at least safer ones. (Remember the last time they tried to poke the NY Times with a stick?)

    They’re busy dissing the local yokels who criticize Kenney’s chaotic, slapdash, incompetent, inchoerent attempt to distribute funds for oil-well cleanup:
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bakx-cleanup-wells-srp-1.5829018

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    December 11th, 2020

    Even Denmark wants to exit from the fossil fuel business, for environmental reasons. The UCP isn’t going to be able to do much more than grasp at straws, when they see that the oilsands in Alberta are a dying thing.

    Reply
  12. Dave

    December 11th, 2020

    It seems to me one of Kenney’s bigger weaknesses is an inability to deal well very with change. He just seems to generally dig in and resist it.

    The problem is the world doesn’t revolve around Kenney and just because he wants it to stay in some imagined Conservative golden era of the early 2000′ forever, doesn’t mean it will. The world has moved on, unfortunately Kenney has not.

    Everyone gets that transition is not easy for the energy industry, but there needs to be some willingness to make some effort. Just resisting all change and pretending that will work, is not helpful.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      December 11th, 2020

      Dave, I think your comment actually applies to all of the Conservative Party of Canada. There unwillingness to develop a policy on climate change, other than to promise to do something about it, is paving the way for Justin Trudeau to win another mandate, whether he deserves it or not.

      Reply
      • Mike in Edmonton

        December 11th, 2020

        True, Bob, but the UCP resistance to change fits neatly with the attitude of too many oil guys in Calgary. They’re one-trick ponies, and the fact that the circus left town without them hasn’t registered yet.

        Reply
      • Dave

        December 13th, 2020

        In one of my more charitable moments, I decided to use the word conservative sparingly in my comments. I do think some of them are more resistant than others. Kenney, I feel, is one of the particularly more resistant ones.

        However, I agree with your comment about the Federal Conservatives. In the summer of 2019, when after much fanfare and dithering they announced their climate change policy and it was so underwhelming, I concluded after that they were probably not going to do well in the Federal election regardless of what the Liberals and Trudeau did. I suppose it is easier for the Federal Conservatives to keep playing to the base and hoping next time for better results, but I doubt it will work. O’Toole seems sharper than Scheer, but this truly is an important policy issue and half measures will not impress the voters whose support they need to gain.

        Reply

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