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Uzelman: Premiers propose sensible climate and energy policy

A column by Bruce Uzelman

~BW Uzelman

The federal and Ontario governments on July 6 committed to incentives for two automobile battery plants, $28 billion and counting. The deal with Volkswagen was far too costly. The Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation called the deal with Stellantis “massively expensive for taxpayers”. Industry Minister Champagne said he could add “one or two” more deals, at a smaller scale. Soon PM Trudeau announced $1.5 billion for Umicore for a battery materials plant. There are likely more to come.

The Western Premiers at their conference in June, in contrast, proposed a common sense and more affordable approach to Canadian climate action and energy and industrial development. The communique pledged that the four western provinces and three northern territories will continue to “take action to mitigate the effects of climate change,” and “to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.” They called for collaborative action on adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The communique acknowledged what the federal government will not, that the export of Canadian energy, including LNG, can aid other nations to reduce emissions. The communique noted, “International cooperation, such as exporting low or zero-emitting Canadian LNG, hydroelectricity, uranium and hydrogen can play a role in reducing global emissions.”

This sentence clearly was there at the behest of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. She was the only premier to echo it in the post-meeting press conference – twice. And she specifically referenced LNG. Premier David Eby of BC neglected to even mention LNG, though it will be a vital industry here. At the Council of the Federation meeting last week, LNG was noticeably absent in their statement. A long list of “sustainable” energy resources excluded it. That conveys that LNG is not a priority for Eby.

Significantly, the western premiers urged Ottawa to ensure provinces receive credits for low-carbon exports. “Premiers renew their call on the federal government to support emission trading credits across international borders and work with provinces and territories to finalize the rules under Article 6 ….” Article 6 of the Paris Agreement allows provinces to receive credits for exports of low emission energy. The Canadian premiers also urged the federal government to support the adoption of the credit trading system. Evidently, and perplexingly, the federal government is not pursuing this vigorously.

The western premiers requested Ottawa’s assistance to reduce emissions while the provinces develop new and existing energy sources. They called on Ottawa to help provinces obtain access to international and domestic markets, and warned that Ottawa’s Clean Energy Regulations are unattainable. And the premiers asked the federal government to respect provincial jurisdiction. Their concerns are reasonable.

Polls show Canadians are aware of and wary of climate change. Nanos Research tracks Canadians’ issue of most concern. As the wildfires advanced across the country, Environment topped the poll at 15.1%, followed by Jobs/economy at 12.8% and Inflation at 11.8%. For three years, the survey has shown Environment amongst the top four issues. Abacus Data in June found that 68% of Canadians believe wildfires are at least partly due to climate change, while 71% agreed natural disasters had increased and this is attributable to climate change. So, seven in ten believe climate change has serious consequences.

Canadians are less likely to be willing to pay for measures to contain emissions and climate change. A 2022 Ipsos poll found that only a minority of people across 34 countries supported various tax proposals on energy products. Canadians showed amongst the lowest support of all countries for the complete suite of policies, including taxes, incentives and regulation.

The BC carbon tax, introduced in 2008, was initially revenue neutral. Tax collected was returned to individuals via lower income taxes. The current federal carbon tax is complex and opaque, and is not revenue neutral for all Canadians. This likely reduces public acceptance. A truly revenue neutral carbon tax could provide simplicity, transparency and greater acceptability. It would be a useful addition to climate policy. Rebates for low income earners may be required to ensure the tax is progressive.

The western premiers correctly argue our zero or low emitting energy exports can help reduce global emissions. Canada’s hydrogen, hydroelectric, uranium and LNG industries deserve government support.

Thermal coal is used pervasively in China, India and the developing world, producing massive and rapidly growing emissions. Canada should make a commitment to financially and technically assist developing countries to introduce more sustainable energy sources, and should lobby other economically advanced countries to do the same. Wherever Canadian and other zero or low carbon energy displace coal and oil, emissions will be significantly reduced. The world cannot wait for renewables to fill the gap.


Bruce W Uzelman

I grew up in Paradise Hill, a village in Northwestern Saskatchewan. I come from a large family. My parents instilled good values, but yet afforded us, my seven siblings and I, much freedom to do the things we wished to do. I spent my early years exploring the hills and forests and fields surrounding the village, a great way to come of age.

I attended the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. I considered studying journalism at one point, but did not ultimately pursue that. However, I obtained a Bachelor of Arts, Advanced with majors in Economics and Political Science in 1982.


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