Federalism On Trial in Canada

With all of the focus on the U.S. Supreme Court last week, it’s interesting to note that Canada’s top court found itself at the center of that nation's national drama at exactly the same time. The Supreme Court of Canada held a two-day hearing on the Trudeau Government's federal carbon tax scheme. And the stakes for the nation as a whole, and the nature of Confederation, are potentially quite high.

You’ll recall that Trudeau’s Liberals, appealing to Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments to drastically reduce the nation's carbon emissions, passed a law nearly two years ago which forced a carbon tax on provinces that didn't already have one of their own. The law has been described as a “backstop," which is to say it requires provincial and territorial governments to put a price on carbon that meets minimum standards. Provincial governments can choose how to meet this benchmark, but they have to do something, and if their proposals are deemed insufficient, Ottawa will impose one on them directly.

From the beginning, Canadian conservatives -- especially Brad Wall and Scott Moe of Saskatchewan, and Alberta premier Jason Kenney -- have stood firmly against the law. They've argued, first, that the carbon tax is bad for Canadian consumers and industry, and second, that it is an unconstitutional usurpation of provincial authority.

The first of these points was put before the voters in last year's election, contributing to the Liberal's losing the their majority (along with, for what its worth, the popular vote), while maintaining a minority government. Meanwhile, the second point has been put to the test before three provincial appellate courts thus far, those of Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. In split decisions from each, the courts of Saskatchewan and Ontario found the law to be constitutional, while that of Alberta held that it was not. The appeals of those decisions is what is now being considered. 

Carbon pricing is not the only available option.

Unlike the American Constitution, whose 10th amendment stipulates that any power not specifically delegated to the federal government automatically falls under the purview of the states, Canada's Constitution Act of 1867 details which "matters" fall under federal jurisdiction (s. 91) and which under provincial jurisdiction (s. 92). Of course, constitutional grey areas arise when the “matter” wasn't an issue at the time of Confederation (carbon taxes, for instance) and is therefore not assigned to federal or provincial power.

Moreover, Canada's constitution does grant the federal government “residual powers” to pass laws for peace, order, and good government, in emergency situations or for matters of national concern. Supporters of Trudeau's carbon tax argue that it falls under the latter.

Consequently, the court must classify this matter as falling under either federal or provincial jurisdiction, and in so doing answer the question of whether the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions qualifies as a matter of national concern such that it justifies the implementation of a federal carbon tax, and in the way the Trudeau government has chosen to implement one.

Interestingly, counsel for both sides admitted that carbon pricing is not the only available option. A suite of pricing and non-pricing policy measures is at the provinces’ disposal to address this issue.  Several provinces have already put their own carbon pricing measures into place, which lends support to the argument that the federal carbon tax intrudes on provincial jurisdiction. In fact, one of the criteria of the national concern doctrine is "provincial inability," which holds that if the provinces don't have the jurisdiction to act in a matter that has extra-provincial effects, then the door is open for the feds to step in.

But the limiting factor of provincial inability is an important part of this debate. Does it refer only to constitutional inability -- that the jurisdiction to act is lacking; or is it a practical inability -- that is, that the political will to act is lacking. My reading of the relevant jurisprudence and Canadian history suggests that it is the former. As you would expect, however, counsel for the government took the opposite position, while arguing that precedent was split between the two. Even so, common sense seems to land on the constitutional side. Not acting on an issue can be an intentional choice. If the federal government can step in and legislate simply because a province has not done so -- in the case of a carbon tax --  this turns our whole understanding of federalism on its ear.

And -- a related point -- the very fact that the law is structured as a backstop, both implies that it is firstly the prerogative of the individual provinces to act, and makes a farce of federalism by penalizing provinces who act contrary to the will of the federal government.

And, listening to the hearing, it is clear that fear of being seen to support climate skeptics weighed on the justices. Justice Russell Brown made it a point to stress the issue is not whether the federal government can regulate greenhouse gas emissions but whether how it has chosen to do so is constitutional. Justice Rosalie Abella noted that the provinces “do not have plexiglass at their borders” to keep out greenhouse gas emissions. Justice Michael Moldaver expressed concern that if one province “goes rogue” and takes no action that would moot the efforts of the others.

At the same time, Justice Malcolm Rowe voiced serious concerns from the other side of the spectrum. Throughout the hearing he reiterated the danger of the law creating “winners and losers," punishing industries that use larger amounts of energy. Counsel for the appellants agreed with this view, suggesting that the law gives undue discretion to the federal cabinet to set sector-by-sector emissions costs, and thereby represents an unprecedented "federal power grab." 

The hearing has now concluded, and we will probably have to wait several months to find out which way the Court will rule. Its decision will likely affect the relationship between federal and provincial governments going forward, and at a time when the tension between them is shakier than its been in decades. I'm hesitant to guess which way they will go, though I often have occasion to think of the wise words of a professor of mine, speaking in an American context: "Never trust the Supreme Court to make the right decision."

But the justices would do well to remember two things. First, that their role is simply to faithfully interpret the constitution, and not to meddle in political questions or ensure particular policy outcomes. And second, that federalism cannot be a fair-weather friend. It is the bedrock of Canada’s constitutional structure and the courts must weather this commitment through any storm. We might not always like the outcome these two require, especially in hard cases. But as the appellants' counsel put it, “That’s federalism and that’s democracy.”

Take California -- Please

The epicenter of all things destructive, California is a tragicomedy of the highest – or lowest – order. If you are looking for something, anything, destroying America today, California is the pot at the end of your rainbow, filled today with brass, not the gold.

Although California is re-creating the car market of Cuba with the recent diktat of no more gasoline cars sold after 2035, thereby ensuring used cars stay on the road decades past when they otherwise would have been exchanged for cars of greater efficiency and less pollution, the state's forest management is way ahead of its automobiles in producing a negative impact on the climate – assuming one subscribes to current dogma, as California most assuredly pretends.

Since about 1969, my brother and I have spent a week each summer backpacking in the California Sierra Nevada mountains. Though we try to spend as much time above timberline as possible for the views, time is spent in the forest, as well, appreciating these great trees for their beauty, their shade on a hot trail, their strength in holding up one’s hammock at night. I’ve also car-camped many times through the Sierras with my own family. If one were to design a forest management system worse for the environment and climate, as well as the wildlife and visitors on foot or car, one could not design a system worse than that of California. Though this is a topic of annual summer discussion and critique, what are the numbers this year, in 2020?

The dead and the dying.

About 150 million dead trees are standing, leaning or lying on the ground in the forests of the Sierra. My experience shows that these trees are between 40-70 feet tall and usually between 10 and 16 inches in diameter: we can use 12 inches and 50 feet as an average. The average tree in the California forests now aflame weighs about 2,000 pounds, or about 900 kilograms. Burning a kilogram of wood will generate between 1.65 and 1.8 kg of CO2. Using an average of 1.7 kg, 150 million burned trees will have generated 230 billion kg, or 230 million metric tons of CO2. In an average year, California emits 359 million metric tons of CO2. Faulty forest management in 2020 could increase by 64 percent the amount of CO2 emitted by California.

When a mega-fire caused by a century of bad forest management burns through, it doesn’t burn only the dead trees. If one of every ten trees burned was dead to start, that 230 million metric tons becomes 2.3 billion and an increase of 640 percent in total California CO2 emissions. Governor Newsom may always have Paris, but the Paris climate accords aren't going to fix a six-fold increase in CO2.

Why does California reject the same forest management practices of other states? One big reason stems from the spotted owl controversy of decades ago and the subsequent California infestation of far-left environmentalists and California regulations and budget priorities limiting the ability to harvest trees or remove deadwood, “for the sake of the environment and animal habitat.”

The same California adding its wind farms has resulted in the annual deaths by slicing and dicing in windmills situated in their flight paths, of millions of migratory birds, as well as the birds of prey that feed on them. This is because birds are smart enough to use the wind to aid their migration, but climate alarmists demand their use of the wind is more important than those tens of millions of birds that have been using the wind for tens of thousands of years. Evidently, the Spotted Owl habitat must be preserved so we can chop them up later. So much for concerns about the original inhabitants of the land…

We can’t manage the forests because of its wildlife and we can’t let wildlife stand in the way of wind farms. Wildlife loses both ways thanks to California’s “environmentalists.” As a California native, camper and backpacker, I find this loathsome.

Birds beware: no pot of gold here.

But it is not just CO2 and forests burning down and wildlife burning up or being sliced into pieces by 200 mph windmill blade tips. Wood is more expensive because it’s out there burning down and not at the lumber yard ready to build a home. Add the close-the-door-behind-me housing regulations in California and the cost of home ownership is prohibitive for a new family.

But that’s OK, because the left hates families anyway and finds children worse than useless so they don’t have any. Children have to be educated, yet California ranks 37th out of 50 in education, which seems odd when you think of the California tech titans and the size of the California economy; the only possible reason is that Democrat single-party governance of California just doesn’t care.

(For more on how California committed suicide, please see the first chapter of Michael Anton's new book, The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return.)

Remember: Democrats have owned education for over 50 years; if they wanted better education, we would have better education. Research also shows that kids turn out better when Mom stays home with them when they are young (what family in California can get by on the earnings of only one adult?) And we have too many people anyway. Besides, families want a house, not an apartment (the left hates the suburbs), and then they need water, electricity, and they'll probably want to heat and cool their homes and cook their meals, all of which require an amount of energy bird-Cuisinarts can’t provide.

California is the home to two large university systems, the University of California, and the California State University. What is being taught? Socialism: Anti-capitalism. How is a clean environment created? Wealth. How is wealth created? Capitalism. How is wealth destroyed? Socialism. “Ecocide” (the killing of the ecology)  is the term that had to be invented when we got a look into the ecological catastrophe created by the socialist paradise of the USSR after it destroyed itself via… communism.

No drilling please, we're Californians.

California’s rejection of oil drilling -- the industry that helped makes its fortune -- is widely known. Rarely discussed is that by refusing to drill under the strong environmental strictures enforced in a wealthy first-world country, oil drilling is forced into third world countries with little or no environmental restrictions. Results: Dead people and a dirtier environment.

And then there’s Big Tech, using its breadth of contact and ability to censor – often without the knowledge of the audiences – to ensure the magnification of propaganda supporting socialism and denigrating capitalism. Result: A dirtier environment.

The server farms of these massive tech companies (Google, FaceBook, etc.) consume enormous quantities of electricity as they proselytize against energy use.

According to the SMART 2020 report, server farms create carbon footprints that grow more than 7% per year, making them one of the greatest challenges faced by the proponents of green IT. Data centers need numerous auxiliary systems, including storage devices, power supplies, and cooling systems. In 2010, over 10% of electricity in the U.S. was due to computer and IT equipment usage. At the current rate we're going, analysts and experts figure that 10% of the world's power bill will be spent on running computers.

To give a more concrete example of how much energy this is, Dixon shows that one 50,000 square feet data center uses about 5 megawatts, but continuously. This energy output would satisfy the needs of 5000 homes. In another staggering example, assorted US data centers use a collective 7000 megawatt data centers from seven different plants; this is more power than is used by the State of Mississippi. Even more surprising is that this astronomical power consumption is just by the plants themselves - cooling systems use as much energy as the plants.

Maybe Big Tech want us to heat, cool, transport and feed ourselves with windmills because they want all the base load electricity?

To summarize, California voters continue to perpetuate in office those whose climate and environmental polices are destroying millions of acres of forest, emitting into the atmosphere billions of tons of CO2 , chopping millions of migratory birds into pieces and burning millions of mammals unable to run from the fires these officials refuse to act to prevent, sending oil drilling to places that lack the wealth to control it, educating children that the economic system that everywhere and every time destroys standards of living, learning, wealth and the environment, somehow is superior to a system that generates the wealth required to improve these standards, while BigTech is using enormous quantities of non-green base-load electricity to manipulate the information and voters to continue this mess all in the name of…

… saving the environment for future generations the left refuses to have.

And that takes a lot of brass.

Driving Towards Utopia, Skidding on ICE

“Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain, O’Sullivan,” my grammar school teacher, quoting Goethe, would say as he handed back my weekly essay with helpful comments. “So what chance do you have against it?”

They said things like that in those days. And I have often wished that Mr. Hughes were both around and in a position to “mark” the policy announcements of various governments painting the glorious future they were shaping. Her Majesty’s Government headed by Boris Johnson especially needs his dry and weary judgmentalism.

Last week I contrasted two things: first, HMG’s apparent decision that, having already announced a ban on the sale of petrol- and diesel-fueled vehicles by 2035, it would bring forward that timescale to 2030; second, the substantial reasons why electric cars might not be the inevitable future—consumer resistance, the vast expense of expanding the electricity network to cope with EVs, and the possibility that a new battery needed to make EVs cheaper and more efficient might not materialize for a future as near as 2030.

That’s a tough contradiction. But it was resolved on the day I wrote it by the adverse reactions of both specialist writers and the market to Elon Musk’s “Battery Day” announcement that Tesla hasn’t come up with that hyped-up battery yet but it will soon.

Here’s the summing up of Tesla’s stock gyrations over the next few days by Market Watch: “Shares fell 22%, as of Thursday’s closing price, as a widely anticipated update on the company’s battery technology failed to wow investors. The decline is worse than Tesla’s 21% drop in March, when the entire market was plummeting because of the coronavirus.”

Even Goethe had his critics.

Now, the market isn’t infallible. Some of the higher share price may have been in response to salesmanship by Musk that now looks over-optimistic.  It’s also likely that research and innovation will develop a lighter and more efficient battery and thus a cheaper EV in time, if not necessarily in line with a politically driven target like 2030.

That said, public policy should not be based on optimistic forecasting of specific innovations in technology. Which means that the U.K. government should not bring forward its ban on selling petrol-fueled cars—ICE cars in the jargon—to 2030 and should even push it forward to beyond 2035. That would give us the time needed to consider a better mix of public policies on carbon emissions and much else.

As it happens there are very solid reasons for doing so, as Professor Gautam Kalghatgi, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Automotive Engineers, who is currently a visiting professor at Oxford University, argues in his monograph, The Battery Car Delusion:

The first sentence of his summary introduction alone is a stark questioning of current orthodoxy in Whitehall: “Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) do not represent a significant improvement over internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) in terms of their carbon dioxide footprint unless all the energy for their manufacture and use is CO2 -free.”

There’s a huge cost -- as in Pounds and Dollars -- in carbon emissions as well, from building a larger and more robust system of electrification to accommodate BEVs. It’s paid not only by government but also by EV owners who would have to install battery-charging pillars in their garages and driveways in order to avoid long lines and waiting times to refuel their vehicles.

And what are the benefits to set against these extraordinarily heavy costs? Still in his summary, Professor Kalghatgi points out that “Even with a 100-fold increase in the number of BEVs to 10 million, around 85% of transport energy will still be delivered by ICEs. And this large increase will at best save about 4% of the GHGs [Greenhouse Gas Emissions] associated with transport in the UK. ”

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In short the switch to electric vehicles, even if we could be confident that they will be cheaper and more efficient for EV drivers (which we can’t be) would offer an extraordinarily modest benefit to set against heavy costs. It’s a public policy that makes no sense.

Unfortunately, if you want to get a policy changed, it’s not enough to persuade governments that it will have a net negative impact on the country. You also have to convince that them there is a policy that will also meet their aims—here it’s reducing carbon emissions—to compensate them for having to abandon their destructive approach.

In this case there is an alternative policy. It  is to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine so that it releases fewer carbon emissions into the atmosphere. It’s a very simple and practical approach to solving a difficult problem. It does not require the building of any infrastructure, let alone a massive one, in order to work effectively. For that and other reasons, it doesn’t constitute a heavy increase in expenditures by governments and consumers.  It’s already being accomplished by the research departments of automobile companies which have transformed conventional cars to an astounding extent since the 1960s.

How effective might this approach be in reducing carbon emissions? Professor Kalghatgi estimates that a 5 percent reduction in fuel consumption by ICE vehicles would obtain a larger reduction in carbon emissions than the massive switch to electric cars with all its attendant infrastructure costs. That alone would be a massive prize. But he also believes that a reduction much larger than 5 percent in fuel consumption by ICEVs could be obtained through such methods as “better combustion, control and after-treatment systems along with partial electrification and reductions in weight.”

The snag is that though these innovations are being pursued now, how long is that likely to continue if the U.K. government instructs car manufacturers that they must stop selling their product in ten years? What incentive is there for companies to maintain large R&D expenditures when they are officially told that these innovations, even if successful, will reduce  carbon emissions and make other improvements in their automobiles for only a short period before production is halted altogether?

Let's relax and think this through.

Indeed, how long will automobile companies continue to invest at all in products other than those which, unless Musk gets that elusive breakthrough, will be too expensive for most consumers to buy unless the government steps in with subsidies to help them?

It’s policy fueled by the moral vanity that Britain should lead to the world in combatting climate change by destroying a major industry, making a huge dent in the Exchequer, and contributing a reduction in world carbon emission so small that it would not register on any meter.

Against stupidity the Gods themselves struggle in vain.

Dance with the One That Brung Ya

As John O'Sullivan has mentioned, the Conservative Party of Canada has just selected a new leader: Durham, Ontario M. P. Erin O'Toole. O'Toole succeeded in edging past former Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay, as well as the more right-wing candidates, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan.

O'Toole himself ran as essentially the "Buckley Rule" candidate, referring to the founder of National Review's mid-'60s proclamation that his magazine would support "the rightwardmost viable candidate" in a given election. Despite his not-particularly-conservative voting record, O'Toole leaned hard on his military service during the campaign to sell himself as "True Blue O'Toole," manly patriot, not like progressive pretty boy like MacKay (who was famously named 'Canada's Sexiest Male MP' by The Hill Times in the early oughts, a fact which should have disqualified him from the start), who can actually hold Justin Trudeau to account in opposition (unlike Lewis, who doesn't yet have a seat in parliament) but is moderate enough (unlike, according to some, Sloan) to win a general election.

There's a lot of balancing going on in that pitch, one that sticks close to the political consultants' standard playbook: right-wing enough to win out west, centrist enough to pick up a few more seats in Ontario and then form a government.

That is, of course, a tenuous balance. That playbook also advises conservatives to go all-in on green initiatives to win in the Greater Toronto Area, and offer Western Canada... well, nothing. Except not being Trudeau that is. But western Canadians have a fiercely independent streak, and they've acted on it before, breaking off from the Progressive Conservative Party in the '80s (in rebellion against a Tory leader who they felt was unresponsive to their interests) to form the Reform Party, which supplanted the the P. C. Party within five years.

The "unite the right" movement of the early 2000s healed that divide and led to the creation of the modern Conservative Party, but it would be foolish for O'Toole to assume that's the end of the story. Consequently, O'Toole made it a point to launch his leadership campaign in Calgary, and he's racked up western endorsements, including from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who proclaimed that O'Toole is "committed to a fair deal for the West and a strong future for our resource industries."

Only time will tell whether that is an accurate assessment. O'Toole has been all over the place on the resource sector, initially calling for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies -- a questionable description of industry-specific tax deductions for one of the largest contributors to Canada's economy, especially since the so-called renewable energy industry against which it is competing wouldn't exist without massive government subsidies -- before backing away from that pledge. He's also advocated repealing the Liberal's carbon tax, which he pledged to replace with "a national industrial regulatory and pricing regime," essentially a carbon tax by another name.

Alberta's support was definitive in O'Toole's beating out MacKay, and as much as he's likely being told to break left right now to appeal to the Toronto suburbs, he should heed the advice of a fellow Ontarian, and "dance with the one that brought" him. Because Alberta's economy has been hit harder by Covid-19 and the lockdowns than any other, and western discontentment have the potential to tear the party and the country apart.

House 'Climate Plan' Not Really About Climate

One would reasonably expect that a report entitled “Solving the Climate Crisis,” issued last month by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, would focus on ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that committee members believe endanger life as we know it. The report does contain some discussion about ways to lower those emissions, but its also a blueprint for remaking America socially, economically and politically in accordance with the progressive wish list. The report subtitle makes it clear that the Committee is interested in a lot more that manipulating the temperature of planet earth: “The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America.

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Turns out that the “climate crisis” is not just about the climate, but is also the root cause of just about everything that is wrong or will go wrong in America. This being the case, one can justify just about any action, in any sector of society, so long as it’s framed in such a way so as to appear to be another weapon with which to battle "climate change."

The result is a plan that calls for massive expansion of federal power and programs in virtually every sector of the economy, with trillions of dollars worth of goodies to pass around to favored beneficiaries. But not to worry, every dollar spent is really an investment sure to return profits a hundredfold thanks to the cutting edge new programs to be implemented under the wise direction of that most skillful of money managers: the United States Government.

Consider, for example, antiquated concepts like city planning and zoning. The climate crisis demands federal intervention to ensure that cities are designed with “..safe and convenient access to services, including health care facilities, childcare, education and workforce training, affordable housing, food sources, banking and financial institutions, and other retail shopping establishments.” (Page 107). The Department of Transportation will take care of that, thank you very much, once Congress has expanded the DOT’s budget commensurate with its new responsibilities.

Presumably these redesigned cities will include “complete streets,” defined as a new roadway standard that will require consideration of “…all potential users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit riders, children, older individuals, individuals with disabilities, motorists, and freight vehicles.” (Page 108). Federal aid will be made available, but only to recipients “meeting strong labor standards” that pay due homage to other progressive causes.

Most people agree that the nation’s transportation infrastructure is in need of attention. Many of us thought that was because a lot of it is aging, nearing the end of its useful life. Thus, repairs and replacement are required. Silly us. Turns out that infrastructure improvements are necessary because the consequences of climate change are going to put the transportation system in grave danger. (Page 114). Who knew?

The committee is very concerned about methane emissions, or at least that portion of methane emissions that originate from the oil and natural gas industries. (Page 200). According to the EPA’s latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, methane emissions from oil, natural gas and petrochemical sources account for about 0.1 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas inventory. This is the opposite of low-hanging fruit, in other words -- unless one’s objective is to continue to demonize the fossil fuel industry. Fortunately the Committee assures us that the multi-billion dollar programs it wants to impose on the energy sector will more than pay for themselves. Odd that not one of the usually financially astute energy giants figured out the terrific return on investment associated with finding, fixing and avoiding low grade leaks.

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New pipelines? Not likely to see many if the Committee has its way. They want to be sure that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission thoroughly considers the “climate crisis” before approving new pipelines. (Page 204). Apparently upset with FERC’s unwillingness or inability to block multiple high profile pipeline projects in recent years, they want to hold the commission’s feet to the fire in the future.

Then we have a rather troubling section entitled “Invest in America’s Workers and Build a Fairer Economy”. (Page 288). Among other pronouncements we are told that: “One of the best ways to ensure that a resilient, clean energy economy is a fair economy is to strengthen workers’ right to organize a union and negotiate higher wages and better benefits.” There’s a fair bit of poorly-disguised socialism that leaks through in this section. I’ll spare readers the tedium of going through it all, but cannot help but observe that moving to socialism would indeed drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, since broken economies use far less energy than healthy ones.

Welcome to Pripyat, comrade.

Many in industry, including this author, believe that the concept of “Environmental Justice” is a wrong-headed, bleeding-heart concept that leads to economic injustice in many poor communities that would otherwise be attractive to new project developers. Well, it turns out that addressing environmental injustice is part of the climate crisis too. (Page 300). So is expanding government-funded healthcare. (Page 313). So is government support of organic farming. (Page 347). So is government interference in the use and fate of private property. (Pages 348, 367, 369, et al ).

Serious and fair scientists studying climate change, no matter where one falls on the spectrum of opinions regarding its severity, causes and importance, know that there has been no increase in severe weather events over the past twenty-plus years. The statistic the alarmists cling to when trying to make the contrary argument regards the increase in the aggregate cost of such events over the years. The increase in costs is primarily a function of: 1) increased population density in urban areas where extreme events sometime strike, and 2) the natural effects of inflation. Normalize those two factors and it’s clear that we have had a lull in extreme weather for a very long time now.

This does not prevent the Committee from creating long and tedious sections that speak to building the “climate resilience” necessary to survive in world beset by meteorological disaster after disaster. But then what else would one expect from a document that has little to do with addressing a perceived problem, and most everything to do with perpetuating a leftist agenda in the run up to the election?

The GOP's Green New Deal?

There's an old joke to the effect that Republicans are just Democrats who want their policies implemented slowly. This has certainly been the case throughout most of my life, though I'm starting to wonder if it's still accurate. That is, it increasingly seems to me that Republicans have closed the gap, and desire all sorts of revolutions on the same timeline as Democrats.

You get a sense of this from the outcomes of and reactions to the recent slate of Supreme Court decisions coming out these past few weeks. Not just the fact that the suddenly-reliable-liberal John Roberts pulled a novel constitutional principle out of his hat, namely that an executive order cannot be undone by another executive order ( at least if it deals with illegal immigration) unless he satisfies the Supreme Court that his motives are pure, and that -- under the largely imaginary doctrine of "stare decisis" -- a case that he dissented from just four years ago, established a strong enough precedent that it can never be overturned. Nor just the precedent-setting decision in Bostock authored by Trump's prized Scalia replacement, Neil Gorsuch, which legally redefined the word "sex" to include meanings which would never have occurred to the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (It isn't for nothing that Justice Alito said, in his dissent, “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation.”)

More than those examples is the relief they seemed to have occasioned among the Republican elites like Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, the latter of whom responded to Bostock by saying "It's the law of the land. And it.... probably negates Congress's necessity for acting." Oh good.

Another counter-example: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his support for a new conservative climate plan. Though it claims to be an attempt to move the climate conversation beyond Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, its proposals read like the GND for squares. It eschews "debilitating taxes or punitive mandates," but calls for investment in new technologies which will reduce carbon emissions, including currently not-super-effective carbon-capture technology. Most notably, it calls for the U.S. to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, putting the GOP leadership on exactly the same timeline as the Democrats.

This is clearly designed to win millennials over to the GOP, but something tells me that even the Harry Potter generation aren't gullible enough to fall for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without mandating anyone to do anything. "Bring on the cow-fart bans," they'll say.

So maybe that joke has outlived its usefulness. Then again, the left are currently tearing down statues and ex post facto cancelling people for decades-old politically incorrect statements, which seems to indicate that Democrats desire for change has sped up from "Right Now" to "Yesterday," so perhaps it still stands.

Erin O'Toole, Environmentalist

Back in March I drew your attention to an article by Canadian Tory insider Ken Boessenkool which argued, in the wake of an election which saw the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) pick up 26 seats, that the party needed to go all in on environmentalism.

Vote for us, the Conservatives said, and we’ll cut your taxes.

Vote for us, the Liberals said, and we will address climate change.

This worked wonders across western Canada, in rural Ontario, around Quebec City, and in a smattering of ridings in Atlantic Canada. But new polling for Clean Prosperity conducted by Conservative pollster Andrew Enns from Leger suggests climate change was a key reason why the Conservatives failed to gain ground in the 905.

I pointed out at the time that this was specious reasoning, since the Conservatives are less likely than ever to win in the Greater Toronto area because of the collapse of the New Democratic Party as a viable electoral (and vote-splitting) force, not to mention the fact that the polling he cited was done by the carbon-tax activist group Canadians for Clean Prosperity. It isn't that surprising that their conclusion was Canadians Love Carbon Taxes!

Shockingly, Erin O'Toole, purported co-front runner in the CPC Leadership race, seems not to have read my post. (He must have skipped his press clippings that morning). That is, he sounds like he's going all in on the Boessenkool theory. At last week's leadership debate, his opponents hammered O'Toole's plan to introduce a "national industrial regulatory and pricing regime" as being a carbon tax-like scheme that would harm consumers and the oil and gas industry alike.

O'Toole [replied that] the party needs a serious environmental platform for the next election. "I'm the only one who has a detailed plan. It's disappointing to see Mr. MacKay attack that. If we're not clear on the environment in the next election ... we're not going to be able to get pipelines built," O'Toole said.

It's a surprising tack for True Blue O'Toole to take. His whole campaign is built upon contrasting himself with Mr. Progressive Conservative, Peter MacKay, but here he is going all in on alienating the west.  Maybe he figures he can get away with it because they have no where else to go -- what are they going to do, vote Liberal?

But O'Toole is counting his chickens before they're hatched. He isn't leader yet, and western Canadian party members can still give that title to someone else, perhaps Derek Sloan or Leslyn Lewis.

Hopefully they do something to make it clear to O'Toole or MacKay or whoever wins that the party's base can't be ignored.

Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia

You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.

In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:

Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.

The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.

If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.

Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.

Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.

As Politico noted at the time:

In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.

In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”

Right.

A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.

Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.

Of course.

After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.

As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”

Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.

“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”

“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”

Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.

Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.

Canada: Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

Last week I wrote about the fear among Democrats that the U.S. might be heading for a significant economic recovery before the election in November, such that the Trump campaign would be able to point to "the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever" (in the words of Obama Administration senior advisor Jason Furman), and ride that good news to reelection. Well, yesterday morning we all woke up to news which suggests that that upward trajectory might be beginning. After months of catastrophe, with Great Depression-like unemployment figures, the May jobs report showed that the economy added 2.5 million jobs in that period, the most ever in a single month.

The news was so surprising that left-wing rags like the Washington Post had to frantically delete their pre-written tweets about how terrible the report was:

Of course, we aren't out of the woods yet. An unemployment rate of 13 percent is still pretty bad, even if things are heading in the right direction. And, as I argued last week, Joe Biden's willingness to squander our gains on his ideological program (or that of his advisors while he naps in the Lincoln Bedroom), including his announcement that he would definitively kill Keystone XL  pipeline upon entering the White House, should make us all wary about trusting him to save the economy.

Well, up in Canada we can see what it looks like to have people already in power whose instincts are invariably ordered toward ideology over job creation or the cost of living. We've already covered Trudeau's doubling the nation's carbon tax during the pandemic, a decision which ran counter to what basically every other nation in the world was doing. We also discussed his oil and gas aid package, which seemed ordered towards the end of an industry which accounts for roughly 10 percent of Canada's GDP.

This is the path Trudeau has committed his nation to, and it doesn't seem like it is going to slow down anytime soon. Dan McTeague, president of the indispensable Canadians for Affordable Energy, has been writing recently about the return of Justin Trudeau's college drinking buddy, Gerald Butts, who grew up to be an environmental activist, director of policy for then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, and eventually Trudeau's chief adviser. Butts, you may recall, was forced to resign in the run up to the 2019 election for his role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Now that that election is over, McTeague reports that Butts is back in Ottawa serving on a new task force called Resilient Recovery. "The task force," explains McTeague, is "made up of green industry and environmental leaders [and] says its goal is to help seize a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to build things in a “better” way post the COVID-19 pandemic." If you guessed that that means taking advantage of a crisis to get Canada even more entangled in the Green Energy industry than it already is and make it harder for oil and gas companies to operate, you win.

Butts: I'm ba-ack.

In the course of two articles, McTeague argues that Canadians should be aware of, and concerned by, this "green energy at any and all costs" task force, and especially by Butts' inclusion in it. Butts has the ear of the prime minister and a history of making life harder for Canadians. McTeague has taken the time to remind us of that history. In his first piece, he examines Butts' work in the McGuinty government in Ontario:

Gerry Butts is known as one of the architects of Dalton McGuinty’s disastrous Green Energy Act. The GEA hurt Ontarians (and is still hurting them), resulting in energy bills increasing by 70% from 2008 to 2016. Ontario’s claim to fame became its high energy rates - the highest in all of North America. Big manufacturers across the province began to flee for friendlier economic climates. Even former premier Kathleen Wynne said in her 2018 campaign that because of the Green Energy Act many families were having to choose between paying their energy bills and feeding their families.

The GEA originally promised the creation of 50,000 green energy jobs. The government later admitted that that number was not based on any formal analysis, that many of the jobs would be temporary, and that it did not account for the lost manufacturing jobs due to the increased energy prices. Wind and solar were incredibly expensive to produce... and the consumer was the one who had to make up the difference. How? Through a hidden tax euphemistically called the Global Adjustment Fee which suddenly started to appear on Ontario energy bills. A Global News article from 2016 stated that for every $100 in usage that appeared on your bill, $23 was actual electricity cost, while the other $77 was from the “Global Adjustment Fee”.

After a few years out of government, Butts jumped onboard the Trudeau train after the Liberals won their majority in 2015, and brought his wealth of experience making everyday life more expensive for Ontarians to Canadians more generally. That part of his career is covered in McTeague's second piece:

The costs of Butts’ climate agenda are apparent in the policies that the Trudeau government put in place during its first term, the most important (and destructive) of these being the carbon tax. It is no surprise that the mastermind behind the Ontario green energy debacle would help create expensive and ineffective policies at the federal level. The carbon tax adds at least 7 cents per litre of gas at the pump for Canadians. Because it applies to all energy sources, the hidden costs – on food and services and our competitiveness – will be even greater, and the carbon tax will increase annually by large increments.

Other expensive and anti-industry policies that were launched during Butts’ time in Ottawa include Bill C-69 (an overhaul of Canada's regulatory and resource project approval system) and C-48 (the oil tanker moratorium act). These have meant significant new and unnecessary regulatory burdens that restrict resource development, drive away investment, and have the effect of making energy more expensive.

Though Canada's May jobs numbers crept up somewhat, just like America's, Canada is still experiencing record unemployment. Bombardier just announced that they'ree laying off 2,500 workers. This is still a time of crisis, and for any recovery to be really resilient, it needs a laser focus on getting people back to work and getting the economy back on track. Gerald Butts' resumé speaks to the fact that he is more than willing to prioritize environmentalist virtue signalling over the benefit of ordinary Canadians.

This Is What Desperation Looks Like

I mean, someone is in denial:

If you're not familiar with his life and work, Gerald Butts is Justin Trudeau's college drinking buddy who grew up to be an environmental activist and, eventually, Trudeau's chief adviser. He was forced to resign back in 2019 for his role in the SNC-Lavalin affair, amid accusations from former Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, that he had improperly pressured her to drop corruption charges against the Montreal based engineering and construction firm.

Now he's back environmentalizing, and probably pulling in a lot more green than he was while he was in government. But that money isn't going to flow for too long if Canadians despair of the future of Green Energy, which is exactly what Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs new documentary will make them do.

No surprise, then, that he's hoping it will all just go away.

Oh, by the way, watch what Butts calls the "last wheezing gasp of climate denialism," also known as Planet of the Humans (which currently has more than 6 million views -- some wheezing!) before Butts' fellow leftists get it taken down.