For one shining moment, a Liberal minister named Gudie Hutchings was Canada’s most honest politician.
She admitted, with no apparent sense of the cow pie underfoot, that provinces with Liberal MLAs can get a carbon tax break. Those without Liberals should just get busy and elect more.
No single remark has done more to blow the doors off Liberal claims to regional fairness in climate measures.
Last week, Ottawa lifted the carbon tax on heating oil in Atlantic Canada, only four months after it had been imposed for the first time.
Premier Danielle Smith complained bitterly. So did other premiers. If the Atlantic provinces get a break, why not exempt natural gas heating from the carbon tax as well?
Hutchings, a Newfoundland MP and Canada’s minister of rural economic development, took a question about Alberta’s complaint from Vassy Kapelos of CTV’s Power Play.
“I can tell you the (Liberal) Atlantic caucus was vocal with what they’ve heard from their constituents,” Hutchings said. “And perhaps they need to elect more liberals on the Prairies so that we can have that conversation as well.”
Kapelos then asked if Albertans will have to lead less affordable lives because of the shortage of Liberals.
Hutchings dug her hole even deeper.
After some deflection, she said, “Trust me, Atlantic Canada, the Atlantic caucus, came with these options.
“They presented them to the Prime Minister, they presented them to cabinet. They said this is what we think will work in rural Canada.”
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You can see them gathered around, Liberal MPs in big trouble, begging for a local exemption from their own government’s policy, even directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Heating oil is still used mostly in the Atlantic provinces. Much of Canada, including Alberta, heats with natural gas.
Natural gas is a much cleaner fuel than heating oil, which produces 40 per cent more carbon emissions per unit of heat. But that’s irrelevant because heating oil also produces more Liberal MPs per unit of BS.
Hutchings seemed unaware that Alberta has two Liberal MPs, George Chahal from Calgary and Edmonton’s Randy Boissoneault, the minister of employment who’s supposed to figure out the “just” job transition.
Hutchings suggests they have no voice on this question of regional carbon tax fairness. Premier Danielle Smith stuck in that needle at a news conference, asking what the heck they’re good for.
The episode also pours fuel on the remarkable bonfire of the UCP government’s throne speech, which was read Monday by Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani upon opening of the legislature.
The first part of the speech was devoted entirely to the developing conflict with Ottawa.
The UCP makes the most specific promise yet to bring in motions under the Sovereignty Act, unless Ottawa abruptly changes course, especially on the demand for net-zero electricity by 2035.
“There are powerful forces in our country, including in the federal government, that believe our province must fundamentally alter our provincial economy and way of life, and that we must do so without delay or concern of cost,” the speech says.
“They seek to impose these policies on our province knowing full well the Canadian Constitution grants our province exclusive jurisdiction over the development of our natural resources and operation of our provincial electrical grid . . . Alberta’s government will not permit the federal government to inflict these destructive policies on the people of Alberta.”
This is the government’s top-line priority, even ahead of affordability, health care, addictions, public safety and other issues covered later on.
The NDP’s “alternative” throne speech concentrated almost exclusively on pressing provincial problems, including a promise “to do everything in its power” to defeat the plan for a provincial pension.
The UCP speech makes no mention whatsoever of the high-profile pension drive.
Clearly, the UCP’s main mission is to halt the most onerous climate measures and run off the Liberal government.
They aren’t hurt at all by a Liberal minister’s dangerously honest disclosure of how climate policy really works.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald