Lougheed's dire warning.

Greenhouse gas' will trigger a crisis ten times worse than the NEP

To anyone who experienced it, the National Energy Program of 1981/82 is on a par with the Great Depression.

While Ottawa helped itself to billions of petro-dollars, Albertans lost jobs, careers, homes, businesses, marriages and savings. The unemployed fled in tens of thousands, financial institutions collapsed, and projects remained halfbuilt for a decade.

Former Alberta Premier, Peter LougheedAlbertans therefore took notice when former premier Peter Lougheed warned recently that a confrontation “ten times greater” than the NEP is now almost inevitable over carbon dioxide emissions.

Lougheed’s unpublished, untitled August 14 breakfast address to the Canadian Bar Association was extensively quoted in Canwest newspapers and the Globe and Mail.

Just as Ottawa sought to control the ownership of the petroleum industry in the 1980s, he said, today it is determined to control carbon dioxide emissions. This will produce an epic constitutional collision, pitting Ottawa’s primacy over environment against Alberta’s right to develop its resources.

“The government of Alberta,” Lougheed predicted, “with its acceleration of oil sands operations, will in my judgment be seen as the major villain in all of this in the eyes of the public across Canada.”

“My surmise is that we’re into this constitutional legal conflict soon,” he said. “And my surmise is that – and this is strong stuff – national unity will be threatened if the court upholds federal environmental legislation and it causes major damage to the Alberta oil sands and our economy.”

Though Lougheed uttered somewhat more soothing and hopeful remarks 10 days later, he did not unmake his point.

Confederation will stand or fall on federal carbon policy.  Plausible rumours have circulated for years that the federal bureaucracy has developed an environmental master plan to effectively reverse the 1930 federal transfer of natural resources to Alberta and Saskatchewan, and open a massive new revenue stream to Ottawa.

Lougheed knows better than anyone there is an unwritten federal principle more powerful than anything in the Constitution.

It is this: that outer provinces like Alberta may not grow unchecked at the expense of Ontario and Quebec.

This unwritten rule drove the National Energy Program and is now driving climate policy. And no prime minister, Liberal or Conservative, from West or East, will ever be allowed to ignore it.

Including Stephen Harper.

The Politics of CO2

Grassroots conservatives were amazed how fast Harper flip-flopped on climate change upon winning a minority government in January, 2006.

Within one month of taking office, then-Environment Minister Rona Ambrose announced that the government will include CO2 restrictions under a proposed Clean Air Act.

Previously the Conservatives had opposed, and even mocked, this idea.

Typical was the scorn expressed by Red Deer MP Bob Mills to the Standing Committee on Environment a year earlier (February 10, 2005), dismissing global-warming panic as “Chicken Little, sky is falling” science.

Not now. Since April Tory Environment Minister John Baird has been earnestly declaring, “Winter is disappearing as we know it.”

However, it becomes increasingly plain that the Canadian debate is mainly about politics, not climate – posturing rather than probabilities.

Mainly it’s about Harper versus Stephane Dion in Quebec and Ontario.

Only half of Albertans (51%) believe in restricting CO2, according to an Ipsos Reid poll in March, compared to almost everyone (86%) in Quebec.

Across Canada, 68% thought that industry (i.e. oil companies) should pay the cost of reducing emissions.

Alberta, because of its oil sands and coal-fi red electrical plants, is Canada’s biggest industrial CO2 emitter.
Quebec, powered mainly by hydro-electricity, emits less than half the amount released in Ontario or Alberta. It has been

pressing hard behind the scenes for a national system to sell “carbon credits” to Alberta.

Harper has so far resisted this. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, representing a Montreal seat, said this summer that if the Tories do not set much stricter carbon limits, he will force an election if he can.

How Harper will respond remains to be seen. So far, the federal position has been to continue negotiations with the provinces while John Baird hollers in public about winter disappearing.

But something – perhaps behind the scenes – prompted Lougheed to issue his loud alarm in August.

Meanwhile, rumours continue to circulate that the Ottawa bureaucracy is simply biding its time, awaiting the return to power of the Liberals.

From Dion’s perspective, a winter campaign in Ontario and Quebec against Stephen Harper’s pro-oil, pro-pollution, pro-Alberta, prowar, pro-American Conservatives might be just the ticket.

Cooling off on global warming

Canadians relying on news media other than the National Post could be forgiven for thinking that global warming science is “settled.”

In reality, however, global hype over man-made CO2 emissions may already have crested with Al Gore’s much-applauded and much-discredited documentary, and a series of seven largely ignored “Live Earth” rock concerts in July.

In Britain, an Ipsos-Mori poll found 56% of respondents more concerned about terrorism, crime and dog droppings than about climate change.

An official at the British Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research commented, “The public feels scientists are quite possibly over-selling the science, and you could say there’s even the beginning of a backlash.”

On the scientific front, following the expenditure of $30 billion on climate research in past years, doubts are growing and spreading that CO2 has much effect on anything, except to help plants grow.

As information accumulates, it is increasingly uncertain that earth’s surface temperature is actually rising.

It is now known that the last 10 years were not, as asserted, the hottest on record in the U.S.; that polar bears are not disappearing from the Arctic; and that global warming, if it exists, is not slowing the north Atlantic Gulf Stream.

Still largely unknown and puzzling are the contradictory effects of clouds on surface temperatures, except that clouds matter far more than CO2. The theory that temperature changes are driven by variations in solar radiation, not CO2, continues to gather evidence and adherents.

On the political front, scandals and fraud continue to beset carbon credit trading. It has been persuasively argued that subsidized bio-mass fuel alternatives produce more CO2 than petroleum by the time they are burned, as do hybrid cars by the time they are scrapped.

North American leaders at Montebello, Quebec this summer (including Harper) gave climate change short shrift. “We support an integrated approach to climate change, energy security and economic development,” said the final communiqué.

Nothing about CO2 caps and credits.

A similar non-commitment is expected at the Asia-Pacifi c conference this fall, involving Canada, the U.S., Australia, India and China, among others. Of these, only Canada has committed to CO2 cutbacks, and the Harper government as recently as last month quietly issued a statement that Kyoto targets are economically impossible.

In short, time may not be on the side of the Kyoto Protocol. If the pro-Kyoto opposition parties sense this, they will try to force an election sooner rather than later.

Stelmach's tailspin in Alberta

One of the most astonishing political developments of the year is the speed with which Alberta’s 36-year-old provincial Conservative regime is plunging in popularity.

According to a poll by the Calgary company Cameron Strategy, the provincial Conservatives had the support of only 32% in August, down from 54% in January, after Ed Stelmach became leader.

Equally interesting, none of the opposition parties is growing. Kevin Taft’s Liberals are stuck at 16%, the NDP have crept up to 11%, and the Alberta Alliance remains at 5%, down from 9% in the 2004 election.

In fact, the largest political constituency in Alberta today is the undecided category, at 37%.

An undecided response of 20% is considered unstable. A level of 37% is almost unheard of.

The question naturally arises, “What are Alberta parties doing or not doing to cause this response?”

Inevitably it comes down to educated guesses. These would be ours:

1. All existing parties favour carbon penalties, even though half of Albertans don’t.

2. All parties favour status quo federalism, even though polls have shown for years that half or more of Albertans want a provincial pension alternative to the CPP, provincial collection of income tax, and less federal fi scal outflow to other regions.

3. Most Albertans sense a serious lack of management, as though the province is adrift. They want more saving of financial surpluses, better public infrastructure, less growth, and less spent on the vast and shapeless plethora of routine provincial programs.

4. In general, there’s an oft-expressed view that all politicians are the same – meaning perhaps equally missing what matters.

The Tories have become blatantly self-serving. The Liberals remain in too many memories the party of Pierre Trudeau. The NDP are pro-union. Nobody else really registers.

Whatever the reasons, the regime that Lougheed founded long, long ago may be winding down.

The Wildrose Party and the Citizens Centre

Wildrose Party of Alberta Logo We asked in our spring newsletter if the Citizens Centre should help found a new political option for Albertans.

Response from 221 members and supporters ran over eight to one in favour of “going political.” Response was heaviest from Alberta, followed by B.C. and Ontario.

We helped organize a June 23 meeting in Red Deer which launched the Wildrose Party of Alberta, named for the emblem of Alberta’s sovereignty in Confederation.

e are also providing office and organizational services to the party while it completes its setup. It will decide its initial policies at a founding Assembly in Edmonton October 26 and 27. A leadership selection will follow that event, and the party hopes to run candidates in the provincial election expected next spring.

CCFD policy ideas moving forward Citizens Centre ideas figure prominently among the party’s 75 policy proposals. Among other things, they call for:

• Adoption of the resolutions of the CCFD’s Calgary Congress as the Wildrose Party’s position on federalism (i.e. curtail federal spending, reform the Senate, restrain the courts).

• The first major public examination outside Quebec of the net cost and benefit of the federal system (which would include such things as the cost of bilingualism).

• A full-scale Alberta government inquiry into the science of climate change.

• An Alberta constitution, to guarantee fundamental freedoms (speech, religion and association) and comprehensive property rights.

• The same federal personal income tax rate in Alberta as in Quebec (16.5% below the rest of Canada).

All proposed policy resolutions are on the party Web site, www.wildroseparty.ca.

An unparalleled opportunity

Given Alberta’s political pattern of dramatic, wholesale change, and Alberta’s enormous “undecided” factor, the right new party could form the government within five years.

We urge our Alberta supporters to assist the party. Alberta’s rules disallow political donations from non-Albertans.

However, your continued support of the Citizens Centre lets us continue to research and promote policy ideas which are badly needed in Canada.

Every so often, there come moments of strategic opportunity. Such a moment has opened for all of Canada in Alberta.

Please act now to help us use it. We need and welcome your continued support.