Sonya Savage is an intelligent woman with an impressive resume in government, the legal profession, and the energy industry.
So presumably Alberta’s environment minister understands just how bonkers it makes her sound to be heard saying publicly that “just transition” is a polarizing and divisive term that Ottawa must stop using this instant.
But this is Premier Danielle Smith’s Alberta, and you have to make certain sacrifices if you want to stay in her cabinet, and sounding as if you’re halfway bonkers is presumably just part of the job description.
In case you doubt me, here are Ms. Savage’s own words, as transcribed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “The problem with the just transition, it’s a polarizing term. And they’ve been using it.”
“They,” of course, are those Liberal villains in Ottawa, whose nefarious leader, the “drama teacher” known as Justin Trudeau, bought Alberta a pipeline to the West Coast and is, as we speak, spending almost $13 billion to make it bigger.
Ms. Smith’s United Conservative Party is running against Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals for re-election because that’s safer and easier than running against the actual Opposition here in jealously sovereign Alberta, the New Democratic Party led by Rachel Notley.
Ms. Notley has had no problem resisting saying really dumb stuff like this, so that’s a challenge for the UCP.
In other words, this entire controversy is being ginned up by the folks who brought us the “Sovereignty within a united Canada Act” as part of its performative phoney war with Ottawa.
According to the logic of sovereignty within a united Canada, Ms. Savage, who used to be the energy minister when Jason Kenney was premier, could fairly be described as the “environment within a captured petrostate” minister.
As an aside, in a rapidly heating world governed by sensible people, being moved from the energy ministry to the “environment and protected areas” portfolio should be considered a promotion. Of course, in Alberta, especially Ms. Smith’s Alberta, it was the opposite.
I mention this only because it seems to have been a slow weekend for news, so the use or misuse of “just transition” to describe how to manage the move away from an economy heavily dependent on energy derived from fossil fuel to something more sustainable has become Canada’s manufactured controversy du jour.
As the CBC explained: “‘Just transition’ is a concept that emerged from the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change. The goal is to reduce the harm to workers caused by economies moving from high-carbon activities into the green economy. Some, including Alberta’s environment minister, believe it also signals the sunset of the oil and gas sector.” (Emphasis added.)
Sunset? “It means phasing out fossil fuels immediately, keeping it in the ground,” Ms. Savage clarified.
It means no such thing, of course. It means, for the lack of better words, a “just transition” for oil and gas workers when the inevitable transition comes.
It doesn’t mean waiting for the “market transition,” which is what happened to Alberta’s still-plentiful supply of beaver pelts some years ago, rendering that resource almost worthless to anyone but beavers.
“Even more than that,” Ms. Savage went on, “it means restructuring societies and economies and redistributing wealth.”
Now wouldn’t that be awful! Alas, it doesn’t mean that either, as Ms. Savage, I am certain, knows perfectly well.
Sometimes in journalism it is necessary to make people who are saying things that are completely ridiculous sound as if they are being sensible, usually owing to the official position that they occupy. The CBC story quoted above is a textbook example.
Regardless, just to show that any phrase can be made to seem controversial by the nattering nabobs of right-wing political correctness (when they are not complaining vociferously about the scourge of alleged political correctness by people who think we ought to speak in ways that are considerate of one another), Ms. Savage also admitted in the same interview with the national broadcaster that the federal government has stopped using the phrase.
Just to be perfectly clear about this, then, Ms. Savage is demanding that Ottawa stop using a phrase that Ottawa has already stopped using because, according to her, it is “a non-starter” here in Alberta.
It is, however, still on a Government of Canada web page, so that’s good enough to wind everyone up on a slow post-holiday weekend.
As a result of the brouhaha, federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says he’d rather call it “sustainable jobs.”
Well, I’ve got news for Mr. Wilkinson: This is Alberta, and we’re the Canadian equivalent of “Mikey.” We hate everything!
So we’re going to hate sustainable jobs, too, because that suggests that the fossil fuel industry isn’t sustainable, and that means that we ought to be thinking about a just transition.