The climate strikes and Alberta’s increasing isolation on climate change urgency

Albertans risk political isolation on climate change urgency

Jason Kenney Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney

While politicians like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage doubling down in defence of the oil and gas industry and abandoning provincial climate change initiatives, attitudes toward climate change in most of the rest of Canada could lead to Alberta to become increasingly politically isolated on this critical issue.

Two surveys released over the summer suggest there could be a deep divide between Albertans and most of the rest of Canada on the urgency of climate change crisis.

According to a survey conducted by Abacus Data in July 2019, only 27 per cent of Albertan surveyed believed that climate change is now an emergency, compared to 59 per cent in Quebec, 42 per cent in British Columbia, 39 per cent in Atlantic Canada, and 38 per cent in Ontario.

When asked about the threat of climate change, only 32 per cent of Albertans surveyed by Angus-Reid in August 2019 said that it is a very serious threat and 24 per cent said it is not really a threat at all. This is big difference from the 49 per cent in British Columbia and Quebec and 50 per cent in Ontario who told Angus-Reid that climate change is a very serious threat.

Sonya Savage

The overwhelming presence and influence that oil and gas companies hold over political discourse and media coverage in Alberta, especially over issues like oil pipelines and climate change, is not a surprise. 

When asked in the Angus-Reid survey what they believe should be the bigger priority overall for Canada for the next five to ten years, 60 per cent of Albertans said the oil and gas sector, and 31 per cent said climate change. Nationally, 52 per cent chose climate change and 34 per cent chose the oil and gas sector.

Seth Klein, who commissioned the Abacus poll, wrote on rabble.ca that “we see the highest level of support for bold action is in Quebec, while the lowest levels of support are in Alberta. Most of the country falls somewhere in between the two provinces.

Depending on the results of the October 21 federal election, just how out of step Albertans attitudes are about climate change may become an increasing focal point of provincial and federal politics. And as along as the oil sands remain the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in Canada, national attitudes toward climate change will have an increasing impact on our province.

Public School Board grants academic amnesty to Climate Strikers

Students from the Edmonton Public School Board are being granted academic amnesty if they have parental consent to attend the student-led global climate strikes on Friday, September 27, 2019. The strikes have been held over the past week in protest of climate change and the lack of action being taken against it by institutions and governments.

Michael Janz Edmonton

Michael Janz

The elected trustees of the Edmonton Public School Board voted 6-1 in favour of granting academic amnesty for students who participate in the international actions.

The motion to support the strike was tabled by trustee Michael Janz, who said in a statement that “Public education is the cornerstone of our democratic system and exists to create an engaged and educated electorate. Now, in the midst of a federal election, our young people are trying to urge us into action on a life-or-death issue deciding our future. As adults, we need to make sure that we get out of the way, and not get in the way of their engagement in real-life education.”

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, a former Catholic School Trustee from Red Deer, took issue with the motion and denounced Janz as an “activist school board trustee.”

Students and supporters will march from MacEwan University, the University of Alberta, and Churchill Square to the main rally outside Alberta’s Legislature Building, which is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. on September 27.

Edmonton City Council declared a climate emergency

More than 450 municipal councils across Canada have voted to declare a climate emergency, but last month Edmonton became the first and so far only municipality in Alberta to declare a climate emergency.

Aaron Paquette Edmonton

Aaron Paquette

A majority of City Councillors endorsed a motion introduced by Councillor Aaron Paquette. Paquette’s motion called for the City of Edmonton declare a climate emergency and for the City administration to “provide quarterly memorandums to Council and the public, beginning in 2020, on the City of Edmonton’s climate action progress and future actions directed by Edmonton’s Energy Transition Strategy.”

Declaring a climate emergency is a political statement that serves a few purposes:

1. These motions add to the growing list of governments and organizations building a critical mass in support of taking action against climate change by making bold statements. Hundreds of municipalities and big cities, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax and London (and soon, Toronto), have declared a climate emergency. Some city councils have taken further steps to investigate the potential for lawsuits against large fossil fuel corporations in response to climate change.

2. These motions act as a public declaration that cities can hold themselves accountable. The quarterly reports on the City’s climate action progress will be an important reminder of this commitment. It will be up to Councillors to ensure that the required action is being taken and that this is not simply incrementalism or bureaucratic lip-service to a critical challenge.


Note about the surveys referenced in this post:

The Abacus survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from July 16 to 19, 2019. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20.  

The Angus Reid survey was conducted online from August 21 – 26 among a representative randomized sample of 1,534 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

7 thoughts on “The climate strikes and Alberta’s increasing isolation on climate change urgency

  1. Jerrymacgp

    There seems to be a visceral hatred here of the Liberals and all things Trudeau, as though he and he alone is responsible for the downturn in the oilpatch. But, remember, he bought TMX after its private-sector owners walked away from the project when the investment risk grew too great after adverse court decisions threatened to shut it down completely. He’s taken a lot of flak on this from environmental activists — most recently, Greta Thurnberg — the NDP, the Greens, the Bloc, and several provincial governments — especially BC’s and Quebec’s.

    But to Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer, that apparently isn’t good enough. I think what Kenney and Ms Savage really want, is for the federal government to force the pipeline through at all costs, damn the court-ordered torpedoes, using troops if necessary. Of course, they’d have to be doing acid to think this would ever happen, so all we’re going to hear from them is impotent rage. Then on October 21st, Alberta will send 34 Conservative MPs to Ottawa to sit on the Opposition benches, probably reduced to railing against the Liberal-NDP-Green-BQ “cabal” on the Government side (a bit tongue-in-cheek here).

    As a condition of Green support for their minority government, the Grits will find a way to de-approve TMX and sell off the existing Trans-Mountain pipeline at a loss. The only people they’ll piss off by doing so are Albertans, and they can afford to do this — Mr Trudeau could kiss Mr Kenney’s rear end on the steps of the Alberta Legislature and they’d still never vote Liberal here.

    Reply
  2. Dave

    Alberta is starting to remind me of Quebec in the early 1990’s. Everything is a humiliation whether intended so or not and nothing the rest of the country does is ever good enough.

    Its probably smart politics to some extent for a provincial politician here to run against Ottawa, except after the election is over you have to work with the Federal government and the rest of the country. That is hard to do if you create or maintain an environment of hostility.

    Perhaps Alberta will put all its chips on blue in the Federal election and if so probably be more shut out and isolated in the national discussion on the environment and energy sector than it already is. I doubt the big hissy fit of the last year or so accomplish anything, but advance the careers of politicians here who want to portray themselves as anti Ottawa. I suppose it might also make it easier for other parties to move ahead with stricter environmental action if they feel they have nothing left to lose here.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Political Canadiana September 25-October 3, 2019 - Jared Milne ⋆ 10z US politics

  4. Rob Mceachran

    As Notley pointed out, without Alberta any national climate plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. The Feds know it, and unfortunately so does Kenny.

    Reply
  5. Tom Farrier

    :Isolation?
    Trudeau, if you’d care to pause and think about it, was the one to bellow out, “Climate Emergency”! Does anyone with even a modicum of information doubt how that one entered the scene in Canada? Butts. Is there a more notable climate ‘activist’, than he in Canada? Bought and paid for by American interests, World Wildlife Fund, Canada enjoyed a bloated budget by the likes of “Tides”, whose battle cry was…ready(?)….” Climate Emergency”!
    Within the last week, Trudeau, our Climate Emergency Champion, ‘announced’, funding and development for a hydrogen fuel initiative that came off the page of Norway’s hydrogen development plans (currently well underway). The difference between Trudeau’s ‘plan’ and Norway’s is… the only existing initiative to address climate change in Canada by Trudeau’s government was contained in the page he ‘lifted’ from the front page of the Norwegian government’s website; Butt’s isn’t a very clever man, but he is an activist and does know how to dance in and out of the dark side of truth. I’m betting he’s the ‘genius’, behind Trudeau Climate Emergency. (notable aside; it didn’t take Butts long to emerge from the depth of sin, did it? His declaration he was taking responsibility for the SNC Lavalin ‘affair’, and leaving Trudeau’s office and return must mean Canada forgives him for trying to thwart Canadian law).
    All the above is a necessary long-winded way of getting around to making this point: Not only were American giants funding the collapse of offshore export of Alberta oil efforts reached right into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s desk and had our PM aiding and abetting the goals of TIdes, the Rockefeller brothers and the rest of that lot of American thieves.
    And you, Dave, want to preach Kenney is fostering alienation with the rest of Canada? Any chance Trudeau’s tentacles have reached into your office…just asking?
    My bet says there’s a lot of interest in Eastern Canada in the status quo with the ‘old guard’, from Ottawa to Quebec City that have kept the prairie province colonies as hewers of grain and drawers of oil profits for the benefit of largely, Quebec (you know…where the power seat really lies).
    “Equalization” and alienation my ass.

    Reply
  6. Tom Tracey

    “Lies agreed upon”

    Dave, if you want to believe in the climate hype and think it’s ok to beggar Alberta to achieve an essentially meaningless goal, that’s fine.

    Just don’t expect the majority of thinking people to buy in.

    Reply

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