There was an interesting juxtaposition of events in early October of this year. The Nobel Prize in economics was announced. The prize was shared by Paul Romer from New York University and William Nordhaus of Yale University. Professor Nordhaus has been urging governments for years to implement wide-ranging carbon taxes to fight the effects of climate change. Upon winning the award, Nordhaus stated, “The policies are lagging very, very far – miles, miles, miles behind the science and what needs to be done. It’s hard to be optimistic. And we’re actually going backward in the United States with the disastrous policies of the Trump administration.” The same week this prize was announced, the United Nations released the opinion of yet another panel on climate change saying, “Large changes in public policy were urgently needed to limit the catastrophic consequences of rising temperatures.” The United Nations has never been an organization to understate its case.
While all of this was going on, newly-elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford came to Alberta and had a public meeting with Opposition leader Jason Kenney. At a standing room only election-type rally at the BMO Centre, both Mr. Kenney and Mr. Ford railed on against the imposition of Ottawa’s carbon tax, calling it a job-killing tax. Opposition to the carbon tax in Canada is not limited to Mr. Ford and Mr. Kenney. On his way to Alberta, Mr. Ford met with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, and the two premiers announced they would continue to fight the carbon tax together. In addition, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced his province will not go ahead with a $25-a-tonne levy that was to come into effect in December of this year.
So, all in the same week in October, we had a Nobel Prize winner and a United Nations panel telling us if we do not implement drastic policies like carbon taxes, we are basically doomed to catastrophic consequences, while in Canada we have premiers lining up to oppose Ottawa’s imposition of carbon taxes. How un-Canadian of some of us. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau displayed his usual grasp of public policy by stating, “Pollution should not be free anywhere across this country.” Another in-depth policy discussion by our prime minister.
Throughout all of this, Premier Notley did not have much to say, apparently delegating Education Minister David Eggen to be the spokesperson on this one. Predictably, Mr. Eggen said Albertans should be disturbed by Ford and Kenney working together. Towing the party line, Mr. Eggen concluded, “Our climate action plan is very effective up to now in creating jobs, helping to diversify the economy and quite frankly is helping to reduce pollution as well.” Interestingly, Mr. Eggen cleverly avoided actually using the words “carbon tax.” It is not clear to me how any policy called a climate action plan implemented by an NDP government would actually create any meaningful jobs.
Mr. Eggen is probably more disturbed by the likely outcome of next year’s provincial election than he is by the meeting of Mr. Ford and Mr. Kenney. The winds of change are in the air.
Frank Atkins is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.