Erin O'Toole's Carbon Tax Flip-Flop

As I mentioned the other day Erin O'Toole has foolishly decided to flip-flop on the topic of Canada's carbon tax. And that's is the only way to describe this. While running for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, O'Toole signed a pledge which read as follows:

I, Erin O’Toole, promise that, if elected Prime Minister of Canada, I will: Immediately repeal the Trudeau carbon tax; and, reject any future national carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme.

That pledge, of course, was a big part of the reason that O'Toole beat out Peter MacKay for leadership. O'Toole appealed to the western provinces by calling MacKay a squish on resource issues. MacKay hit back, accusing O'Toole of secretly supporting the Trudeau climate agenda in one particularly heated debate. Here's Ezra Levant reluctantly commending MacKay for having O'Toole's number, and offering this conclusion on the current leader:

O’Toole supporting the carbon tax is disqualifying because he promised he wouldn’t, and he received support in return for that promise. So he’s untrustworthy. He’s a liar. It’s disqualifying because a carbon tax is a terrible idea, bad scientifically, bad economically.

He might have added that it specifically disqualifies him as a leader, since -- if reports from the Toronto Star and National Post are true -- his own caucus wasn't briefed on the change. “We all first heard about this from the CBC article,” one Tory M.P. told the Post. How can he ever have the confidence of parliament if he does things like this to his own members?

Of course, not everyone was upset by this development. Some were delighted. True North highlights this tweet from Trudeau crony Gerald Butts:

True North also points out a few notable and underdiscussed green goodies contained in the O'Toole proposal:

Other measures... include a study on “new taxes on frequent flyers, non-electric luxury vehicles and second homes to deter activities that hurt the environment.” A Conservative government would also spend $1 billion on domestic electric vehicle manufacturing and an additional $1 billion to deploy hydrogen technology.

Which is to say, he's all in.

Of course, O'Toole's counter to all of this is, first, that it is necessary for winning Ontario, and second, that at least his carbon tax is better than Trudeau's. I previously mentioned Dan McTeague's refutation of the first point. To the second, I would point to Derek Fildebrandt's argument in the Western Standard that the Tory plan is actually the worse of the two:

Under Trudeau’s plan, the federal government taxes consumers in provinces that do not have their own federally-approved carbon tax, and rebates a portion of it back to those consumers to spend as they see fit. Under O’Toole’s carbon tax, the federal government will impose a similar carbon tax, but instead of rebating it, will put into ‘green cards.' These green cards will be managed by a group of bankers appointed by O’Toole, and allow carbon taxpayers to spend the money collected on government-approved green purchases.... The real difference between the Trudeau carbon tax and the O’Toole carbon tax boils down to how taxpayers are allowed to spend the money collected from them. And on this front, Justin Trudeau’s plan is somehow, unambiguously better than O’Toole’s.

Several commentators think that this gamble will hurt the CPC's electoral prospects and O'Toole's career (Brian Platt mentions Patrick Brown as the nearest analogue, who outraged the conservative grassroots when he endorsed the carbon tax, so he had no one to back him up when other scandals arose, forcing him, finally, to resign). But the ever-cheerful sage Rex Murphy is concerned about its effects on the future of Canada itself:

The Conservatives are, if the rumours are true, about to enter an election, as a pale and timid version of the Liberal party, as near-partners to the NDP and the Greens. Out West voters will throw up their hands, sigh very deeply, stay at home, and really start thinking separation is the only way to go. Really, this policy is acid to Conservative support in the West and will, for some, force a rethink of their place in Confederation.

Back when O'Toole won the leadership race, I called on him to follow the advice of his fellow Ontarian, Shania Twain, to "dance with the one[s] that brought" him, meaning the Albertans and Saskatchewaners whose support gave him the 'W'. Instead, he's listened to the political consultant class who have long held that the path to Conservative victory is to copy the Liberals in every particular and to ignore the voters that they find embarrassing.

Well that choice seems to already be paying off... for Justin Trudeau. The latest polls suggest that, going into the rumored snap election to which Murphy alluded, Liberal support sits at 39 percent, six points above what they received in the 2019 General Election, which saw them barely hold on to power with a minority government. The Conservatives, meanwhile, are down seven points from the same election, at about 27 percent.

We tried to warn him.

Canadian 'Conservatives' Offer Carbon Tax

The CBC has gotten their hands on a copy of the Conservative Party of Canada's all new Climate Change plan, and boy are they excited:

After years of criticizing the Liberal carbon tax, the Conservative party is proposing a climate plan that also puts a price on carbon for consumers.... Under [Erin] O'Toole's plan... Canadians would pay a carbon levy, initially amounting to $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, every time they buy hydro-carbon based fuels, such as gas.... The Conservative party's carbon price... would increase over time to reach a maximum of $50 per tonne.

For comparison, Trudeau's carbon tax structure (not counting the Clean Fuel Standard, a second carbon tax in all but name) has the tax increasing $10 each year until it reaches $170 per ton in 2030.

The other notable provision of the plan is, frankly, bizarre. In the Liberal scheme, Canadians can have their carbon tax expenditures (the direct ones, not the indirect, cost of living ones) rebated back to them at tax time (more or less -- what would be the point if some of that money wasn't skimmed off the top?). In O'Toole's plan, tax revenue would be diverted directly into a "personal low carbon savings account" established for every Canadian, which could be accessed for expenditures "that help them live a greener life."

This reminds me of the old joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. "Personal low carbon savings accounts" are a camel if ever I saw one, and they'd be a nightmare to administer.

But that aside, is the 'Carbon Tax, but cheaper' play a wise one for O'Toole's Conservatives? Some smart politicos think so. Here, for instance, is Matt Gurney arguing that Canadians want to feel like their government is addressing climate change, but don't really want it to affect their lives in any way. In that case, a cheaper carbon tax might do the trick -- assuaging the consciences of enough voters in the eastern half of the country to make Erin O'Toole prime minister.

But I find Dan McTeague more convincing. By McTeague's reckoning, the O'Toole plan wouldn't merely cost the CPC a few  points of support out west, it would decrease their support in Ontario -- the big fish -- by as much as 10 percent! After all, Ontario made Doug Ford premier just three years ago on the strength of his opposition to the carbon tax. For every voter in the Greater Toronto Area who might give the CPC a second thought based on this plan, two or three more in the rest of the province might just stay home, disgusted.

That's just another way of saying 'Trudeau Majority."

The Wearin' of the Green

The Conservative Party of Canada are having their (virtual) policy convention this weekend, and one potential inclusion in their new platform is causing quite a stir in that country's monolithically left-wing media. This CBC headline tells the tale: "Conservatives debate whether to declare that 'climate change is real' at policy convention."

The language recognizing the reality of climate change was put forward by the Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier riding association, which added that, "[w]e believe that Canadian businesses classified as highly polluting need to take more responsibility in implementing measures that will reduce their GHG emissions and need to be accountable for the results."

The CBC's report is hysterically transparent, spending some time gawking at delegates who would dare to oppose this change in the platform -- one attendee said "she couldn't support any green policies until the health and safety concerns of 'industrial wind turbines' are better understood," although the writer assures us that this isn't a real issue.

The story then pivots to a discussion of Conservative leader, Erin O'Toole, who is famous for taking every position on every issue and saying whatever he needs to say to get good press:

O'Toole has promised the party's election platform will contain a climate change plan that could cut greenhouse-gas emissions. To attract new supporters — especially millennials — O'Toole has said he wants a made-in-Canada net zero approach that sees government partnering with and pushing companies to bring their emissions down, and carbon pricing that targets only industries, not individuals. "You're going to see a very detailed plan... that will, I think, make our commitments probably faster than Mr. Trudeau without a running-out-of-control federal carbon tax that he's already promising."

Sounds like witchcraft to me.

It's likely that some kind of green language will ultimately end up in the CPC platform, and it will probably get O'Toole a nice pat on the head for not being as backward as his party's voters. But in the end that will just be used as a pretext for the Liberal's positioning getting even more radical, and it won't help him, or his party, come election time.

Meanwhile, Canadian businesses and Canadian workers will be the ones who suffer.

As Canada Goes Green, Canada Goes Broke

It’s no longer news that the Liberal government of Canada under Justin Trudeau and his “social justice” cronies Gerald Butts and Chrystia Freeland have pulled out the stops in an effort to destroy the major source of Canada’s energy sector, the oil-gas-pipeline industry in the province of Alberta.

The oil sands have effectively become a dead letter. Every pipeline project has been quashed and energy companies have decamped for sunnier climes. The decline in Alberta’s GDP is pegged at 11.3 per cent. Unemployment and under-employment are rampant. The Alberta secession movement has acquired momentum and a political party, Wexit Canada, rebadged as the Maverick Party, has been formed—although the province’s Conservative premier Jason Kenney remains a staunch federalist and majority sentiment remains “loyalist.”

What Canadians do not seem to understand is that as Alberta goes, so goes Canada. For more than 50 years Alberta, Canada’s energy producing breadbasket, has been a major net contributor to the rest of the nation via the Equalization Formula in which “have” provinces subsidize their “have not” counterparts.

As Canada under the Liberal administration has now become a heavily indebted “have not” country, Alberta was its last remaining mainstay—until Alberta itself imploded thanks to the energy crushing policies of the federal government. It is now a “have not” province. 

Indeed, as Canada goes Green, Canada goes broke, forcing it to increase its debt load and enact burdensome domestic programs that will impoverish its citizens and devastate the productive classes. At a steadily approaching inflexion point, Canada will face the spectre of default—a time-honored South American prospect.

In an article for the National Post, former Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis shows why she would have been a far better choice for the Conservative nomination than the waffly, Andrew Scheer-like Erin O’Toole. Lewis reveals how the new creeping socialism operates, confiscating not our property but our wealth via various levies like a home equity tax, a ubiquitous carbon tax, a new tax on the private sale of homes costing home owners a portion of their retirement savings, and a “perpetual debt scheme reminiscent of Argentina.”

What is taking place, she warns, is “a quiet and bloodless revolution that seeks to control our lives through economic dependency.” Conrad Black believes “the government… has lost its mind”—though more likely it is acting quite deliberately, in full knowledge and intent, cleverly pursuing a soft totalitarian agenda. Meanwhile, most Canadians linger in a condition of blissful oblivion as the country they believe is theirs and continue to be proud of is being insidiously stolen from them before their very eyes.

Regardless, Canadians on the whole believe in big government and continue to vote left, ensuring that Trudeau’s Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP) helmed by Jagmeet Singh will likely retain control of parliamentary business and national policy. A recent Angus Reid poll indicates that nearly 60 percent of Canadian women would vote today for either the Liberals or the NDP under these two leaders. Such are the wages of feminism.

Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces—aka the “Laurentian Elite”—trend massively socialist, as do the major conurbations like Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. There can be no doubt that socialism is the name of the game. Trudeau has boasted that China’s “basic dictatorship” is his favorite political system and, as Spencer Fernando writes, is far too week to stand up to Chinese Communist pressure.

Trudeau, we recall, lamented the passing of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, “join[ing] the people of Cuba in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.” Similarly, Jagmeet Singh had this to say: “He saw a country wracked by poverty, illiteracy & disease. So he lead [sic] a revolution that uplifted the lives of millions. RIP #Fidel Castro.

Trudeau’s approval rating has taken a hit of late but carrots count in moving the dray electorate forward. A new Angus Reid poll indicates where his strength lies province by province. Many Canadians are happy to allow the government to borrow hundreds of millions to subsidize their idleness with a monetary COVID response package, dubbed CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit), recently increased by 20 percent, rendering it difficult for many entrepreneurs and businesses to hire service personnel who relish living off the government dole.

Nevertheless, despite his many false promises, numerous scandals, proroguing of parliament for several months on the pretext of mitigating COVID, fiscal incontinence, 600 million dollar media bribe (sugar-coated as a “bailout”), and overall economic witlessness (“the budget will balance itself”), Trudeau’s carrots to select beneficiaries enable him to retain a considerable voting constituency and markedly improve his chances of re-election.

Indeed, The Liberal Party can count on an ample war chest. A recent special report here at The Pipeline demonstrated that, of the top ten third-party spenders that influenced the previous election, eight of them were leftist groups, outspending their rivals on the right by a factor of over 15 to 1. The CBC poll tracker indicates that the Conservatives are currently trailing the Liberals by 5 percentage points but, as the propaganda arm of the Liberals and favorite son Trudeau, its results should be met with a degree of skepticism.

Nonetheless, the Conservatives are likely no match for the combined electoral clout of the Left in this country. The cash-strapped, media bête noire, the People’s Party of Canada, is the best option for Canada’s (and Alberta’s) future, but it may not garner a single parliamentary seat—as was the case in the last election. This is to be expected. The Liberals may form a minority government once again, but with the NDP hitching a ride it would in any case be tantamount to a majority. Canada’s premier columnist Rex Murphy speculates, with considerable evidence, that Trudeau and Singh have formed “a (silent) concordat.”

Alberta had better get its act together before the Overton window closes. Alea iacta est.

Dwight Newman, the Carbon Tax, and Canada's 'Legal Monoculture'

Last week I wrote about the Carbon Tax Reference, a high-profile case before the Supreme Court of Canada that will decide whether the Trudeau government’s federal carbon tax is constitutional. As an addendum to that piece, I wanted to call your attention to an academic dispute which sheds some light on the case.

Back in August, the Centre for Law & the Environment at the law school of the University of British Columbia posted a paper by three Canadian law professors on its website, entitled “Responsible Scholarship in a Crisis: A Plea for Fairness in Academic Discourse on the Carbon Pricing References.” Their names are Stepan Wood, Meinhard Doelle, and Dayna Nadine Scott.

On its face, the paper seemed fairly straightforward and somewhat anodyne. The authors spoke of the importance of widely accepted academic standards in discussing this difficult topic, things like rigorous scholarly research, accurate citations to referenced sources, and conduct consistent with the highest standards of civility and integrity. 

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But they also did something noteworthy and unusual in this paper. They pointed to another article, written by a professor named Dwight Newman from the University of Saskatchewan, as an example of how legal scholarship should not be practiced. 

That paper was “Federalism, Subsidiarity, and Carbon Taxes," published by Professor Newman in the Saskatchewan Law Review in 2019. His argument was fairly technical, but essentially he averred that the federal carbon tax poses a serious challenge to Canadian federalism and called for a disciplined application of the law to “clarify and confine” federal power in a manner that respects provincial autonomy.

He also suggested that there's a contradiction in the position of defenders of the law -- including the Trudeau government -- who hold that the carbon tax is a matter of "national concern," such that it allows the invocation of the federal governments constitutional “residual powers,” but also that the provinces can opt out if they come up with something even more rigorous. Consequently, Professor Newman maintained that the carbon tax is unconstitutional.  

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This shouldn't be shocking to anyone -- a law professor has an opinion about the law, even if that position differs from the opinion of other scholars. That's what scholarship is all about. However, according to Wood, Doelle, and Scott, Professor Newman is also guilty of “distorting the published work of scholars with whom he disagrees, and portraying them in derogatory terms” as well as “selectively presenting the relevant case law to suit his purposes.”

They claim to “take no issue” with the arguments Professor Newman makes in his paper. Rather, their concern is “with how Professor Newman chose to make his argument and the implications of this choice for legal scholarship and informed public debate." 

These are grievous charges indeed. But the authors hardly make a case for their allegations. They do little more than assert their point, something which you would assume a group of lawyers would be sensitive to.

But, then, why write the article in the first place? Well, as Sean Spear recently pointed out in the National Post, Professor Newman’s paper was apparently influential in the Alberta Court of Appeal’s finding that the law is unconstitutional. Indeed, his paper is cited in the majority opinion several times.

Though the appellate courts of Ontario and Saskatchewan reached the opposite conclusion, albeit in split decisions, the timing of this article -- a draft was posted just under a month before the Supreme Court began hearing on the Carbon Tax Reference -- suggests that the authors were concerned that Newman's arguments might sway the Supreme Court as well. 

In a public reply to their paper, Newman dealt with several of the specific charges levied by Wood, Doelle, and Scott, such as they are (and reading his replies gives you a sense of how shallow they are:

"On p 7, Wood/Doelle/Scott suggest I should have read a particular article. I actually discussed that very article and showed how it had problems in its understanding of the relationship between the legal doctrines of POGG and interjurisdictional immunity." But he also dealt with the larger dimensions beyond this exchange, including that which related to the impending Supreme Court case: “accusations of irresponsible scholarship… have an even graver dimension when they give the appearance of being framed and timed so as to attempt to interfere with academic contributions to a major public debate.”

Newman rightly cautioned that “the publication of [this paper] threatens academic discourse through the intimidating effects it could have on [all] scholars.” 

Other scholars seem to agree, and defenses of Professor Newman were quick to surface. This is heartening, since the broadside against professor Newman was shameful, and the pretense of its authors that this was just about the integrity of legal scholarship, and was not politically motivated, only makes it worse. As Speer rightly put it,

The charitable read of professors Wood, Doelle and Nadine Scott’s article is that they’ve grown unaccustomed to alternative interpretations and analysis in the bubble of Canada’s legal monoculture. They’re not acting in bad faith per se. They just assume that anyone who reaches divergent constitutional views must necessarily be failing to live up to the standard of responsible scholarship.

A less charitable view is that the authors don’t like Prof. Newman’s article because it was influential with the Alberta court of appeal and contributed to a legal outcome that they don’t like. They’re determined to discredit him and his arguments before the Supreme Court’s upcoming hearings, so he doesn’t also influence its thinking.

Two ironies stand out in this whole affair, the more obvious one being that Professors Wood, Doelle, and Scott's article was purportedly about the standards of responsible scholarship, but in their quest to demonstrate those standards via negativa, as it were, by pointing to Newman's paper, they actually provided that example in their own writing. In their contention that Professor Newman had “crosse[d] a line,” they crossed one themselves.

The second irony is that their article might well have the exact opposite effect from the one intended. The controversy over Newman's essay makes it increasingly likely that everyone following the case will have read it, and even those Supreme Court justices reluctant to be seen siding with conservatives, the west, or so-called climate change deniers will have to contend with his arguments.

As the saying goes, you can't buy that kind of publicity.

SPECIAL REPORT: Third-Party Spending in Canada's 2019 Election

Our crack team of researchers have been at it again, this time compiling a report laying out the financial returns of third parties during Canada's most recent federal election last year.

The 2019 Canadian federal election (formally the 43rd Canadian general election) was held on October 21, 2019, to elect members of the House of Commons to the 43rd Canadian Parliament. The writs of election for the 2019 election were issued by Governor General Julie Payette on September 11, 2019.

The Liberal Party, led by incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, won 157 seats to form a minority government and lost the majority they had won in the 2015 election. The Liberals lost the popular vote to the Conservatives, which marks only the second time in Canadian history that a governing party formed a government while receiving less than 35 per cent of the national popular vote. The Liberals received the lowest percentage of the national popular vote of a governing party in Canadian history.

Elections Canada defines a third party as "a person or group that wants to participate in or influence elections other than as a political party, electoral district association, nomination contestant or candidate." Any third party that wishes to engage in regulated activities (which includes most public partisan activities, like advertising or promoting a candidate or party) during the pre-election or election periods is required by law to register with the Federal Government once it incurs more than $500.00 in expenses. That registration includes declaring where that money is going, and following that money trail -- be it in greenbacks, loonies, or pounds sterling -- is a central part of our project here at The Pipeline.

Of the top ten spenders, eight of them are leftist groups, one (the Canadian Medical Association) a centrist, and only one -- Canada Proud ("Working to defeat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the 2019 federal election") -- is on the right. That adds up to $5.5 million Canadian on the left versus $360,000 on the right -- $671,000 if you add in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which comes in at number 11.

Here's the full report:

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And here is a break down of that spending:

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.”

In Canada, Between a Sponge and a Soft Place

Ottawa’s orchestrated vendetta against Canada’s energy sector, located primarily in the province of Alberta, is an instance of sublime indifference to the laws of physics, the math behind energy realities, Canadian living standards and the national welfare. It is part and parcel of the campaign to bring Canada in line with the U.N.’s anti-capitalist, globalist wealth-transfer program advantaging the Third World—in actual fact, benefiting only the ruling class of these nations.

And it is, of course, a scheme for enriching investors and "green" industrialists for whom the Green Technology adventure has become a government-fed cash cow, abetted by public gullibility and self-righteousness. Conservative Alberta is now at risk of bankruptcy. 

(Wikipedia).

Canada’s great conservative thinker, George Grant, wrote in Lament for a Nation that "Canada was predicated on the rights of nations as well as on the rights of individuals.” He might also have written “the rights of provinces.” The book’s subtitle, The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism, bespeaks Grant’s abiding fear that the country had forgotten its conservative origin in communal solidarity and had sold its future to a managerial elite wedded to the notion of unmitigated “progress.”

A devout traditionalist, Grant was skeptical of unrestrained capital markets and of what he called, in Technology & Justice, “technological ontology.” Liberals—and some Conservatives—consider him out of touch with modernity, a throwback to a pre-modern age. But his emphasis on individual responsibility and commitment to the values of truth and justice remain the core of conservative thinking. In the “Afterword” to Lament, his widow recalls one of Grant’s “simplest statements: ‘It always matters what each of us does.’”

Modern Canadian conservatism owes much to Alberta-born Preston Manning, founder of the Reform Party, which was succeeded by the Canadian Alliance and ultimately by the Conservative Party of Canada. As articulated in his The New Canada, Manning believed in fiscal prudence, the need to control the deficit and to live within our means, in doing away with redistributive economics and progressive taxation and relying instead on market forces and job creation. He believed in the reduction of federal power and in the provincial management of political and economic responsibilities. For advocating such ideas, Manning said, “We were called everything under the sun, from fascists to traitors to racists.” How such a sensible and mature platform can be condemned as “far right,” extremist, or as some sort of nascent fascism boggles the mind. 

Preston Manning (Wikipedia).

Manning understands energy and its crucial importance to priming the engine of prosperity, facilitating job creation and strengthening the Canadian economy across the board. He urges provincial cooperation to “put enormous pressure on the Federal government to get pipeline rights of way to both the Pacific and the Atlantic.” In his new book Do Something!: 365 Ways You Can Strengthen Canada Manning writes: “[W]e need unobstructed transportation corridors to the Atlantic, Pacific and the Arctic to move our resources to tidewater and world markets. We need a federal government that’s supportive of these kinds of measures rather than one that obstructs.”

Manning is also deeply concerned about the corrosive prospect of growing Western alienation. “The problems with the energy sector,” which he lays at Ottawa’s door, “and the inability to get resources to tidewater and world markets are all fueling Western alienation.” He is right. Wexit is picking up momentum and Wexit Canada is now an official political party.

Former Conservative PM Stephen Harper (aka “Harperman,” as the socialist rabble and environmental scientist Tony Turner maligned him) was often tarred as “far right” for his fiscal prudence (which steered us through the 2008 financial meltdown) when, to be accurate, he was a “conservative centrist” some of whose policies—maintaining high immigration rates from Muslim countries, or refusing to re-open the abortion debate—consorted with Liberal positions. Some have criticized him, too, as being somewhat ambivalent on the oil patch, neglecting to build a sufficient pipeline distribution network. Harper did not govern as effectively as he could have, but as a trained economist he understood the industry that contributed massively to the country’s prosperity.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is leading Canada to an Argentinian-type default and economic collapse, setting his sights on net-zero in more ways than one, is no friend of George Grant, Preston Manning or Stephen Harper; he is much closer to his father’s socialist influence Harold Laski, who was Pierre Trudeau’s mentor at the London School of Economics. Laski held that capitalism inevitably led to internal contradictions, economic crashes and depressions, and proposed the socialist control of natural resources and property to be shared by all of society’s stakeholders.

Harold Laski (1893 - 1950), circa 1940.

The predictable irony, of course, endemic to all socialist regimes, is the splintering of society into warring interest groups, the eventual imposition of top-down single party rule, and the disintegration of a common culture once based on historical precedent and loyalty to one’s neighbor. As we see in the Western world today—Canada is no exception—the sense of unity has been replaced by entitlement categories like ethnicity, race, gender, creed, class and selective political persuasion.

Indeed, in opposition to Grant’s sense of national unity, which inspired both Manning and Harper, Trudeau has stated that Canada is a “post-national state” that has no “core identity.” A country that has no core identity is not a country preoccupied with issues of national unity and the economic foundation on which it rests. Trudeau is not interested in the oil patch but in the national patchwork. He is an outright socialist—perhaps Marxist is a better term—and an aspiring globalist who lusts for a seat in the United Nations’ bloated hierarchy

Notwithstanding his sentimental effusions about the country he leads, Trudeau is, to put it bluntly, anti-Canadian, and his animus against the energy sector and the economic stability it provides is par for the course. Like a good Marxist, he is busy steering the nation into monumental debt and abject penury. Tex Leugner, one of the lay leaders of the Wexit movement and editor of the ActionAlberta newsletter, is very clear on this. “Each day,” he writes, “Canada loses between $80 and $100 million because of the failure of our Federal Government to allow pipelines to be built. At this rate, over the next 12 months that amount could balloon to as much as $36.5 billion lost to the Canadian economy! As this money is lost, our Federal debt continues to increase.” And that’s only for starters. Statistics Canada reveals that the “poverty gap” under Trudeau has grown—in figures for 2018, two years before he had a chance to do even more damage. 

The question now, following the election of the waffly Erin O’Toole to the Conservative Party leadership, is whether the Conservatives can be counted on to pursue a sane, nation-restoring agenda. O’Toole is committed to net-zero emission by 2050; if he ran an online journal, it might be called The Pipedream. Indeed, he has just signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement in a doomed attempt to out-Trudeau Trudeau. Considering that there is no hard scientific evidence that the globe is warming, that the U.S. as major signatory has pulled out of the Accord, and that, in any case, China and India, the world’s largest polluters, have no intention of reducing emissions, the Agreement is not worth the paper it is written on, though it will cost its adherents dearly. O’Toole is merely virtue-signaling for electoral purposes. 

The only leadership candidate reliably true to the tradition of Grant and Manning was Derek Sloan, who may find himself cast into outer darkness for, among other things, voicing justifiable suspicion of Canada’s chief health minister Theresa Tam’s loyalties. Hong Kong-born Tam was all over the map in her COVID recommendations, hewing closely to the China-inspired line of the World Health Organization while sitting on one of its prestigious boards.  

Justin & son.

The fact that she happens to be Chinese was (and is) irrelevant, but it was enough to generate accusations of racism from the Asian community and from Conservative MPs Gordon Chong and Pam Demoff. “[T]he Conservative Party that I know does not stand for this kind of garbage,” Chong blustered. Demoff for her part accused Sloan of “racism, misogyny, and bigotry.” The attempt to “cancel” Sloan and destroy his political career is evidence, once again, of how easily people can be duped into taking offence at reasonable skepticism—or how cynical they can be in trying to score political points. I have indicated in a previous article for The Pipeline that Tam’s behavior was highly dubious, lying about the mode of viral transmission and even removing vital information from airport message screens regarding flights from China into the country. O’Toole has not come to the defense of Sloan and is cannily playing the popularity game, which seems to make him, at best, a Diet Conservative. 

Clearly, the Conservative Party has some trouble aligning itself with true-blue conservatism represented by a genuinely conservative politician like Sloan, an upholder of traditional usages and institutions, a stringent anti-socialist, a Canadian patriot, and a vigorous supporter of the energy industry. Alberta is where the country’s energy resides. Sloan is where the Party’s energy lies. It is by no means surprising that both have come under the shadow of repudiation. 

Erin O'Toole (left).

There can be no doubt that a mushy O’Toole would make a better Prime Minister than a spongy Trudeau, but this does not change the fact that Canada’s two major energy fields have been suffering catastrophically and, barring a miracle, will likely continue to do so. One field is obviously the oil/gas/pipeline sector, which is in process of being phased out. The other is Canada’s political energy zone, presumably a national endowment, which has been going increasingly woke. With these two sources of revivifying energy—generated power and political intelligence-and-integrity—seemingly moribund, Canada would have little future to speak of.

Conservative Energy, or Canada at the Crossroads

Now that scandal-prone Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating has taken something of a hit, placing the Conservatives at least potentially within striking distance of forming the next government, the question that confronts Canada is whether a Conservative administration could honestly face the shambles that the Liberal government has made of Canada’s most important resource industry, energy production. Would it rescue the energy sector, located primarily in the province of Alberta, from its dormant condition and, at the same time, render unnecessary the budding secessionist, or Wexit, movement in a justifiably resentful Alberta, thus saving Confederation? 

The platform of the newly-elected leader of the Party, Erin O’Toole, seems at first blush encouraging for the energy sector and Alberta’s future prospects, but O’Toole is a noted flip-flopper—not particularly good news for either energy or Alberta. As John O’Sullivan writes in The Pipeline:

O'Toole has been all over the place on the resource sector, initially calling for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies…before backing away from that pledge.

How O’Toole can claim in his platform that “Climate Change is a global problem, that requires a global solution,” while at the same time stating that “Domestic energy production – including oil and gas – is an important part of making our country more self-reliant and more resilient in future” remains a conundrum. Which is noise and which is information? In other respects, his platform seems promising, but the jury will be out for some time. 

A pumpjack in a canola field keeps the lights on.

Leslyn Lewis, whose strong finish in the leadership sweepstakes may earn her a shadow cabinet position, has a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto—one of the country’s notoriously woke institutions with little professional stature—where actual climate science yields to a highfalutin iteration of cultural studies. It is, according to its mission statement, “a community that respects and values insight, creativity, justice, and diversity,” but leaves real science at a discount. Although lauded for her environmental expertise, Lewis, as a graduate of Environmental Studies, is a mere dilettante in the field. She has taken many principled social and political stands, but regrettably understands neither energy nor economics.

With the exception of failed leadership candidate Derek Sloan, who is pro-life, a believer in family and parental rights, emphatically anti-socialist, and a muscular supporter of the energy industry—and who is in danger of being expelled from the Caucus on the ludicrous grounds of  “racism, misogyny, and bigotry”—the Conservative Party as a whole, to this point in time, has been more or less devoid of positive initiatives.

Indeed, it appears to have forgotten its founding principles, as adumbrated by Canada’s great conservative thinker George Grant in Lament for a Nation: love of country, the rule of law, civil responsibility, an enduring moral order, freedom of speech, economic prudence, and restraint upon the sweeping exercise of government authority. Unfortunately, conservatism and the Conservative Party in its current incarnation do not always speak the same language. Whether O'Toole represents an answer to the Party’s dilemma remains to be seen.  

Erin, go bragh.

Meanwhile, Alberta is still holding the short end of the stick. It is for the first time in living memory a have-not province. After sending $630 billion in transfer payments to Quebec and the other provinces since 1961, it has received a federal transfer supplement (or so-called equalization payment) of $22 billion for 2020, misnamed as a “net gain.” This is total nonsense.

To begin with, in the current economic context $22 billion is a mere sop; moreover, the supplement is borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest as part of the $350 billion Canada is borrowing for this year.

Ottawa is not re-distributing domestic wealth to disadvantaged provinces, as envisioned in the national Equalization Formula, but transferring borrowed wealth. Things need to be called by their proper names. Alberta’s $22 billion does not qualify as a “net gain” but a net liability. Wexit does seem to be the only hope for Alberta, whether as a bargaining chip or a realized outcome, but the trouble is that there are too many Canadians and not enough Albertans in the province. 

A sane reclamation of the energy sector will be a difficult slog—not least because an acceptable conservative in leftist Canada, as geologist John Weissenberger writes in The Laurentian ‘Elite’: Canada’s Ruling Class, is “one who can be counted on to lose gracefully”—but Canada will reap the whirlwind in scuppering the energy industry and bankrupting Alberta in the process. Energy is gold and it resides mainly in Canada’s west. 

It will take a surge of conservative energy to restore the country to its former viability. If Erin O’Toole remains true to his commitment to revive domestic energy production, without equivocation, the future may not be entirely dismal. Perhaps we will see a strong pushback by patriotic organizations intent on restoring the energy sector. The threat of Wexit may help to awaken a sleepy Canadian electorate, who may also be galvanized by mounting unemployment, rocketing prices, extortionate taxes, social anarchy and a failing power grid. But by then it may well be too late.

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.