Wah, Wah, Wah

Don’t trash Trudeau: Wall’s Twitter tantrums are the real problem

Province | by Paul Dechene

Brad Wall ended November by throwing another Twitter tantrum, this one over the federal government’s proposed carbon pricing plan. Actually, most of his really angry social media rants these days are directed at the twin devils of Trudeau and taxes on greenhouse gases.¹

This one started: “Secret PM Office poll obtained by [Blacklock’s Reporter] shows Cdns view carbon tax as LEAST effective way to reduce GHG..out of 12 options.”

It’s true. This secret <gasp!> federal government poll that Blacklock’s uncovered through an access to information request shows that only 38 per cent of the people polled felt a carbon tax would be an effective way to combat GHG emissions versus the 56 per cent who favour corporate tax breaks for using green technology.

Wall’s screed, though, ramped up from tweet to tweet until he closed out Nov. 25 with, “This is important. Feds know carbon tax WON’T help global GHG but WILL seriously hurt jobs/economy..& Cdns don’t want it. So..why?”

First off, let’s clear something up. Despite what Brad Wall keeps tweeting, the federal government is not imposing a carbon tax on the country. That’s simply not true. What they’ve mandated is that each province has to institute a carbon pricing plan. It doesn’t have to be tax, because each province gets to design their own plan. They can enter a cap-and-trade market, institute a hybrid system. Or Wall could go rogue and develop a made-in-Saskatchewan solution with a really benign name like The Climate Kitty or the Fuck You Trudeau Carbon Credit System.

Whatever a province institutes and whatever they want to call it, they get to keep the money their pricing plan generates. It’s a new revenue tool for Wall’s cash-strapped government.

I fail to see the problem here.

And the floor-price that the Liberals have set — $10 per tonne in 2018, rising to $50 in 2022 — is incredibly modest. If Trudeau’s plan fails, it won’t be because carbon pricing is a bad idea. It’ll be because the price never rises high enough to discourage fossil fuel consumption.

Meanwhile, the article by Blacklock’s does nothing to contradict any of this. In fact, from what I can tell,² it says absolutely nothing about the economic case for carbon pricing. What Blacklock’s uncovered was an opinion poll. And opinion polling on global warming, carbon pricing and climate change mitigation is worse than useless. The well of public opinion on those topics has sadly, and some would say criminally, been poisoned by decades of propaganda from the oil industry and right-wing think tanks — and by decades of political actors like Wall, who’ve happily amplified that propaganda and leant it credibility by using it to beat down any meaningful attempt to take action on climate change.

In fact, the climate situation is so urgent right now — and the federal government is imposing a carbon price — precisely because of those decades of environmental sabotage.

In other words, Brad Wall isn’t defending us from a carbon tax. He’s part of the reason we’re in this mess and something like a carbon tax is so desperately needed.

Meanwhile, we’re learning that, as suspected, Wall’s pals in the oil industry have understood for nearly 40 years the massive risks inherent in rampant CO2 emissions. As Desmog Blog reports, an internal Exxon report from 1980 reveals that the company was well aware of the dangers of burning fossil fuels back then.
“There is no doubt that increases in fossil fuel usage and decreases of forest cover are aggravating the potential problem of increased CO2 in the atmosphere,” reads the report titled, “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1978-1979.”

And instead of acting like a responsible corporate citizen and working to mitigate the harm their companies were causing, Exxon spent the next 30-plus years funding the climate-science denial industry.

With such powerful & monied interests aligned against climate action, no wonder the polls — even those beyond the one uncovered by Blacklock’s — show public confusion around how to deal with our emerging climate emergency. Fossil fuel proponents have spent decades sowing misinformation into the climate discourse and now they’re reaping the benefits of skewed, useless opinion surveys. Bravo!

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that this report was labeled with the disclaimer: “…this document should not be shared outside [the Privy Council Office/Prime Minister’s Office].” It’s a political document. Not an economic or scientific one. It’s about how the public might react to a proposed policy, not whether that policy is an economically or scientifically sound one.

And it is beyond galling that Wall would release his inner outrage kraken over this trivial bit of PR background work after we’ve just emerged from eight years of the Conservative Party of Canada suppressing actual climate science. Where was Brad Wall’s outrage kraken when Harper’s administration shut down PEARL and muzzled climate scientists?

This is important, Brad: that Blacklock’s report isn’t a smoking gun of Liberal perfidy like you suggest. If anything, it casts them in a pretty good light as it shows they’re willing to go ahead with a climate change policy despite evidence that it’ll be unpopular. That makes them look principled.
This time around, the Liberals aren’t the arrogant manipulators of an unsuspecting public, Brad. You are.

FOOTNOTES

1. Climate change wasn’t the only topic to inspire our Premier’s impulse tweeting recently. Just a week earlier, Wall was raging on Twitter against A&W’s beef: “There is another ad from @AWCanada promoting non-Canadian beef. Guess we can support Cdn beef restaurants like @McDonalds,” wrote our Premier on Nov. 19. “A lot of our ranchers are in Saskatchewan,” responded A&W — because that’s the world we live in now, where leaders of governments and fast food chains trade barbs on public media. Still, an odd fight for our premier to pick. I thought true-blue conservatives like Wall were supposed to be in favour of free trade? That door swings both ways, Brad.

2. Blacklock’s Reporter is an Ottawa-based news site that goes by @mindingottawa on Twitter. It’s a bit of strange duck. Its specialty is deep policy coverage — all the federal committee reports and fiddly regulatory work that other outlets can’t be bothered to look at. Their online subscription rates are quite high (I can’t afford them). And they fiercely protect that paywall through litigation. So I haven’t read the reports that Wall references and everything I know about the report comes from second-hand sources. Blacklock’s key markets, actually, are Canadian politicians and bureaucrats who also end up being the main targets of their litigation. As Canadaland has reported, Blacklock’s has used access to information requests to find out if government staffers have shared Blacklock’s stories within the civil service and then sued for copyright infringement. A federal judge just threw out a case Blacklock’s brought against the Finance Department because staffers there had been e-mailed an article by the head of the Canadian Sugar Institute — they flagrantly read the attachment without first purchasing a subscription, quelle surprise. Government lawyers have characterized Blacklock’s Reporter’s actions as copyright trolling.


Trumpers North

The Rebel’s right-wing protest brings American-style outrage to Canada

Speaking of propaganda: an anti-Rachel Notley protest in Alberta took a decidedly Trumpian turn last week. On Saturday, Dec. 3, protesters in the crowd of 1,500 held up signs reading things like “Carbon Tax = Sodomy”, which I mention only so I can put it on the record that I support both carbon taxes and sodomy. At one point, while CPC leadership hopeful Chris Alexander addressed the crowd, the protesters started chanting “Lock her up!” in reference to the Alberta premier. Days later, Saskatoon MP Brad Trost hopped aboard the Trump train to Deplorableville by defending Alexander on Twitter, saying, “…would’ve chanted w/ them #LockHerUp”.

The protests were hosted by the right-wing website The Rebel, which is owned by Ezra Levant, who is also a well-paid speaker at oil-industry events.

Wondering why rage-fests like The Rebel’s seem a little over the top? British writer George Monbiot has a theory. In a Dec. 1 column for The Guardian, Monbiot shares his experiences with the international misinformation machine that’s paid to protect the interests of corporations.

“I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change,” writes Monbiot. “The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realized they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.”

Turns out you have to grow hatred before you can harvest it. /Paul Dechene