Martyn Brown: Countering Jason Kenney’s “dirty energy” crying game

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      [Fair warning: this essay is extremely lengthy, not intended for casual readers, for smartphone reading, or necessarily for reading in one go.]

      And just like that—as certain as a catastrophic oil spill if Trudeau’s TMX goes ahead and as predictable as spring gas-price gouging—British Columbia is back in court.

      It is itching to prove that Alberta’s “turn-off-the-taps” legislation is unconstitutional, to have it declared unlawful, and to get an interim injunction from its injurious application, so as to stop it from ever being invoked.

      Thank you, Jason Kenney.

      Now we can finally put a legal spike in that fatally flawed act of political theatre.

      It will no longer be yours to wield in trying to terrorize B.C. into surrendering on the Trudeau government’s Trans Mountain Expansion project.

      Let us never forget, that TMX is after all, Justin’s baby—not yours, Premier Con/Jobs.

      The feds own it. You don’t. And all the chips are in their hands, not yours.

      So, play nice with Trudeau and don’t bite his hand that feeds you, is my advice.

      That is, if you hope to keep him as your chief ally in ramming through that pipeline for more carbon pollution, instead of converting him into that behemoth’s worst enemy, as we opponents out here on Canada’s true West Coast would love him to become.

      How should Trudeau and Horgan counter Jason Kenney’s dirty energy crying game? 

      I mean, besides fighting it in court, obviously.

      That is the subject of this essay, as it will also be in my next article.

      This piece focuses mostly on communications and campaigns; the next instalment will address the myths about the TMX and gas prices, and ways to tackle both.

      Enough of the week-kneed responses to Alberta’s bullying, I say.

      Fight fire with fire. And then some.

      For starters, Canada and B.C. should resolve to dwarf Kenney’s vaunted $30-million “war room” with counter-campaigns to win the battle for voters’ hearts and minds that both governments are now losing.

      The main reason the world is losing its cause to combat global warming is because governments everywhere have done virtually nothing to elevate, explain, and add desperately needed urgency to the problem that they are supposedly trying to “solve”.

      If Trudeau, B.C. premier John Horgan and their ilk want to lose the political fight for climate action, and lose their battle for carbon pricing, they are certainly going about it the right way.

      They need to flip the problem of climate change from its current perceived status as a largely theoretical and temporally remote concern, to the urgent political imperative it actually is for the people and communities it is actually already victimizing.

      It is a problem that even those most directly impacted have too readily discounted and understandably subordinated to job concerns that are often actually linked to the threat and reality of climate change. 

      Video: Check out the effects of a 2 ° C average temperature rise from pre-industrial times on some major world cities.

      Governments won't invest in climate change awareness

      Environmentally conscious leaders need to make that problem of climate change and its hard solutions more emotionally salient, regionally relevant, and acutely personal.

      They need to do that in ways and to an extent that no government has thus far dared to do, backed up with much more aggressive public information.

      Kenney wants to “out” the foreign interests at play in supporting Canadian environmentalists. Fair enough.

      Too bad Trudeau and Horgan can’t go likewise all out in informing Canadians about Big Oil’s “deep state” in Canada.

      But both governments could do much more to support the efforts of Canadian environmental organizations that are pretty much the only ones who can properly drive that important narrative.

      Because it’s a much more terrifying story of undue foreign wealth and political influence than anything that Tides, the Rockefeller Foundation or other international entities committed to a more sustainable world can contribute to Canadian climate warriors in offsetting the destructive pollution-for-profit agenda of Big Oil.

      As I’ve said before, Horgan’s NDP could do so much more than it has to inform British Columbians and all Canadians why his GreeNDP alliance is so concerned about the TMX vision to create a major heavy oil port in the heart of Metro Vancouver. 

      Instead his government has mostly taken it on the chin over it first 20 months in office, as it has also turned its cheek.

      Horgan has made it clear that he didn’t want the battle on Trans Mountain to distract British Columbians from his government’s “affordability” focus and plan.

      I get that, even if I did not and do not agree with that passive approach. 

      That failure to even properly communicate the NDP’s sweeping affordability measures, as I highlighted in my last article in the Straight, is now coming back to haunt Horgan.

      He perhaps wouldn’t be quite so vulnerable to the hypocritical and dishonest attacks on carbon taxes that Andy “CAPP” Wilkinson is parotting on Jason Kenney’s behalf as the root of all evil behind today’s record-high gas prices in B.C.

      Horgan did nothing to counter Rachel Notley’s multi-million advertising campaign to build support for the TMX and to vilify his “obstructionist” efforts, even in the midst of her boycott on B.C. wines. 

      His refusal to engage cooled things down; but in the process, his arguments on TMX lost ground, even on his singular objection—the impact of oil spills on B.C.’s coast.

      Ditto for his decision to not broadly communicate his government’s legal efforts to protect Coastal communities and Indigenous people’s rights and title. 

      It was a missed opportunity, I believe, to refocus the TMX debate where it properly belongs.

      Not least of which is on the issues that remain so central to the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to quash the federal government’s initial approval of that project.

      Namely, reconsideration on marine impacts and endangered orcas, in particular, and meaningful consultation with affected Indigenous peoples, whose rights and title were trampled upon by Trudeau’s flawed process.

      Nor did climate change seriously factor into Horgan’s opposition to Trans Mountain, however important it may be to his government. In particular, to minister of environment and climate change strategy, George Heyman.

      That, too, was a missed opportunity to communicate.

      John Horgan (right) needs to get more aggressive in countering Big OIl's message from Alberta.
      Korean Cultural Heritage Society.

      Feds' inaction parallels B.C. approach

      It sold his government’s own new Clean BC climate action plan short, in failing to help explain the problem it aims to address. Including the problem of fossil fuel emissions that the TMX will only aggravate.

      Again, I understand why Horgan chose not to target that reality given his government’s hypocritical zeal for natural gas and LNG development that flies in the face of its new legislated GHG reduction targets.

      Still, if he is remotely serious about meeting those emissions targets or combatting climate change, Horgan should resolve to actively lead that imperative with an aggressive Clean BC campaign. Especially on TV and with informational videos on digital platforms.

      He should consciously target the problem of fossil fuel emissions, to drive home Alberta’s disproportionate share of Canada’s GHG “contributions”, the oil sands’ impacts, and how the TMX stands to compound that problem.

      As for the prime minister, Trudeau has been even worse in making his convoluted case for “climate action” and “ocean protection”.

      Apart from a few speeches and town-hall meetings, he hasn’t really done anything to “educate” Canadians about how his government’s $4.5-billion Trans Mountain pipeline and the additional billions required to build the TMX will somehow earn “social licence”.

      Good thing, too. It was always a shell game that had no prospect of succeeding.

      Because it makes no sense to build a dirty new pipeline that will vastly increase carbon emissions, with or without a carbon tax, which as it turns out, Trudeau always planned to impose on Albertans, with or without his promised pipeline.

      It makes no sense to build that new artery for diluted bitumen to flow across Super, Natural, B.C. that will inevitably result in a major heavy oil spill that no one has the power or technology to prevent or contain. 

      All to send more dirty Canadian oil to China and other markets abroad in an effort to command higher prices and profits for oil companies—and mark my words, higher gas prices at the pump.

      Anyway, what’s done is done.

      Trudeau bought Kinder Morgan’s floundering dogfish, hook, line, and sinker.

      But that doesn’t force him to reswallow Big Oil’s bathwater.

      It doesn’t oblige his government to reapprove that dirty outflow pipe to tidewater and the potential 300 million more annual tonnes of oil sands emissions it stands to help “liberate” under Alberta’s so-called emissions cap.

      A “cap” that even the large oil companies concede is so ludicrous in the “buffer” it provides them in excess of current tar sands emissions, it won’t curtail a single barrel of their crude production for at least the next 15 years. If ever.

      Alberta’s 100 million tonne annual “cap” in oil sands emissions represents a 43 percent increase over 2017 levels.

      To even call it a “cap” is preposterous, dishonest, and intentionally misleading to all Canadians.

      It is they who will be forced to bear the largest financial brunt in drastically reducing their own carbon emissions to more than offset Big Oil’s increased pollution.

      Justin Trudeau has being trying to ingratiate himself to Albertans for many years.
      Adam Scotti

      Trudeau continues pandering to Alberta

      In my perfect world, Trudeau and Horgan would team up to show real leadership in charting a new, cleaner course for Canada.

      One that would be cheered by most Canadians, beyond the tar sands’ “dinosaurs” who still roam this earth, east and west of Alberta’s Badlands and the Athabasca. 

      Excluding “in situ” oilsands developments from federal environmental assessments under Bill C-69, as Trudeau is planning to do if Kenney scraps Notley’s oilsands emissions “cap”, is an unforgivable step in the opposite direction.

      It’s appalling, given that that process for oil sands extraction accounts for most of the oil sands emissions and other negative environmental impacts that Canada should regulate with even greater vigilance.

      It makes a mockery of the federal government’s new environmental assessment regime and Trudeau’s already woefully inadequate climate action plan. 

      Across this country, I dare say, millions of Canadian progressives are quietly wringing their hands in frustration.

      Imagine the possibilities if Trudeau and Horgan actually had the courage of their convictions to finally come to grips with this reality: that on this issue, as in all things political, campaigns matter.

      It is one thing that Jason Kenney certainly understands very well.

      Those who refuse to engage in campaigns or fight them as if they matter ultimately get killed.

      Because politics is always a blood sport that leaves only losers lying the dust, if they are too feeble to adequately parry their opponents’ more committed and deadly thrusts.

      Campaigning in silence is no campaign at all.

      Firing back solely in defense is a fool’s folly. It is guaranteed to lose, especially without comparable fire power.

      Stoicism is fine and well, philosophically. But as Karl Marx so famously said, “the philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point is to change it.” 

      And sometimes, that takes matching force with greater force. Especially in politics.

      In this Game of Thrones, it’s time to roll out the dragons.

      It’s time to blow back with real heat that will make Kenney & Co. realize they can’t win with their threats aimed at making B.C., Quebec and Ottawa “bend the knee” to Big Oil. 

      Watch this CBC News report on Jason Kenney's threats to challenge Bill C-69 in court.

      Conservative are driving the agenda

      Right now, it is Kenney cons—Scheer, Ford, Pallister, Moe, and Higgs who are winning that political fight, focused against the carbon tax.

      Although, predictably, they have already lost Round One of their legal battle in court, as Saskatchewan's highest court backed Trudeau's tax in a 3-2 split decision, affirming its constitutionality.

      Kenney reinforced that alliance today (May 3) in his public call to arms for more pipelines and a war on Trudeau’s carbon tax, together with Ontario’s premier.

      In any case, Canada’s ethically challenged Boy King must now know that he is the Tiny Tories’ real target across this fair land.

      Never has he been so vulnerable, given his plummeting stock in the polls.

      Whatever it takes to win this war for meaningful climate action, is my motto.

      Sticking our collective heads even deeper into the tar sands won’t wish that problem away; it will only make it worse.

      I would much rather Trudeau simply grow an honest “green spine” and choose to put his political neck out where his mouth is on climate action. To be a true leader, as it were.

      I would far sooner he saw the light on his dead-end road to Damascus. 

      Indeed, I would be the first to cheer him if he resolved to help lead, fight and win that climate battle and the fight to protect Canada’s Pacific Coast, as his cause célèbre.

      Like the Green party’s Elizabeth May truly would and like the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh claims he would.

      But this is Justin Trudeau we’re talking about, so I’m not optimistic. 

      Appealing to his political survival is likely the only conceivable way to convince him to finally do what’s right—for him and his party—and also happily, for Canada’s environment and for our rapidly cooking planet.

      If Justin had even half of Jason’s political acumen, he would see that his best and perhaps only hope for winning the October election is to throw in his tattered towel on the TMX vision.

      He would take hard political action to stop the oil companies’ gas gouging, without abandoning his carbon tax, and fight for serious climate action like his life depends on it. 

      Because, politically, it does. As does all life on Earth.

      For as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the assures us, it is a burning global war that is being lost in no small measure due to the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, courtesy of Canada’s tar sands industry and its largely foreign oil lords. 

      We perhaps have 12 years at best to avert climate change catastrophe, the world’s top scientists tell us, by somehow holding the global temperature to between 1.5 ° C and 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels.

      Our planet is already virtually on life support, the overwhelming evidence suggests. Global carbon emissions actually rose in 2017 for the first time 2014.

      The math tells the story at the Moana Loa Observatory on Hawaii.

      Climate problems intensify

      You want to get a picture of what rising sea levels could actually mean to global cities? Check out these videos

      And they don’t even begin to contemplate the problems higher sea levels will cause in human death, suffering, global displacement, refugee challenges, and economic carnage.

      You want to understand what related flood risks could mean in economic costs, just to B.C.’s Lower Mainland? The Fraser Basin Council has told us.

      For more than a decade we have weathered record forest fires, unprecedented droughts and floods, the Mountain pine beetle disaster, and other “Biblical” calamaties.

      They are all problems that are only going to get worse. They are the legacy of our inaction and of our propensity to reward politicians who lack the courage to tackle them as they warrant, least of all by asking us all to change or make sacrifices that are politically challenging. 

      Nevertheless, those problems are ours, to answer and avoid, with serious mitigation and adaptation efforts.

      Exponentially increasing Canada’s production and exports of tar sands oil is no solution to those economic, social, and environmental problems.

      It is just adding more fuel to those fires that will only compound our collective costs and sacrifices in fighting them.

      Canada’s Arctic is melting faster than almost anyone predicted.

      Pumping more filthy crude out of the tar sands pits and blasting the Earth apart with steam and toxic diluents to squirt out more of the world’s dirtiest oil won’t help that. It will only make things worse.

      Someoneplease, God!needs to start making that point like it matters.

      Instead of just paying lip service to climate action, as both Trudeau and Horgan are doing, while either mostly staying mute on the real project at hand, or actively encouraging it with massive new public investments in fossil fuel development.

      Canada is betraying its Paris Agreement climate action commitments, with rising emissions that are mostly due to Alberta’s tar sands.

      We are all lying to ourselves if we pretend that there is nothing we can do about that.

      We are lying to our children and betray them and all future generations if we tell them that the problem is too great for Canada’s two to three percent of total global GHG emissions to much matter.

      We are lying to each other if we buy into the twisted logic that argues we might as well maximize our dirty oil exports that are killing the planet, because others are doing that even more irresponsibly than we hope to.

      And, hey, “There is not a country [or province] in the world that would find 170 billion barrels of oil and leave it in the ground,” as Trudeau said back in 2012. 

      As if the fact that the world is already awash in fossil fuel shouldn’t stop us from adding to its murderous emissions burdens.

      Enough is enough.

      There are only 75 southern resident orcas left in the Salish Sea.

      Trudeau's pipeline threatens orcas

      We need an honest champion to reverse that harm that all of Canada’s prime ministers have invited over the last century in search of the Holy Grail of economic growth at all costs, fueled by oil sands exploitation.

      Sooner or later, Trudeau should recognize that he has nothing to gain and everything to lose by further alienating his only Western political base with his efforts to placate the supplicants of Big Oil, instead of doubling down on clean energy as the key to sustainable growth and economic diversification.

      His carbon tax won’t do him or Canada any good if Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives form the next government.

      They will kill itjust as regressive conservatives are fighting to do in court, in five provinces.

      Trudeau should also recognize that he will never get that pipeline built without causing a hellish war with the First Nations along its path that have vowed to fight it at any cost.

      That is one long, hot summer that no Canadians should ever want to invite. 

      It could easily make OkaIpperwashBurnt Church, Gustafsen Lake,  Duffy Lake, Seton Portage, and Apex Mountain seem like minor scuffles by comparison.

      Especially on the cusp of an election, after all that Trudeau has done to alienate Indigenous peoples and set back the cause of reconciliation.

      Including by firing Jody Wilson-Raybould as attorney general and by booting her and Jane Philpott out of his caucus for having the temerity to speak truth to his power.

      As it is, Trudeau’s bungling on the SNC-Lavalin scandal, in contempt of the rule of law, stands to cost his party a lot of seats. Sixteen of them are in and around Metro Vancouver, where Puglaas is now a bona fide saint.

      Cut your losses before it’s too late, prime minister.

      If she and Philpott run for May’s Greens, as I hope they will, many of your MPs will be toast. Not just in Metro Vancouver, but in other key strategic swing pockets in Ontario, New Brunswick, PEI, and other provinces. Maybe even in Quebec.

      Trudeau should recognize that most voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan now hate his guts. There is nothing he can do to fundamentally change that reality from now to October, even reapproving his stalled pipeline.

      Politically, at least, he can afford to write off that handful of Liberal seats he won’t win anyway.

      He should face up to the fact that the TMX stands to serve as the straw that will break his party’s back, if his government persists in turning Vancouver into a major dirty oil port.

      And if it perpetuates its absurd claim that a key “strategy” in reducing Canada’s carbon emissions is to increase oil sands exports in an industry that now accounts for about 80 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

      After all, it was you, prime minister, who once said "governments grant permits, communities grant permission."

      That permission was denied by the communities in B.C. that will be most impacted by that pipeline and by the GreeNDP alliance that represents 58 percent of the provincial electorate. 

      There should be one standard for all of Canada, with no second-class citizens.

      What is acceptable for Quebec should be the standard for B.C. and all provinces.

      "There's no social acceptability for an additional oil pipeline," premier François Legault told the media the day after Kenney’s victory.

      Quebec’s National Assembly wisely just unanimously rejected any reconsideration of the cancelled Energy East pipeline that would spew forth more of Alberta’s “dirty energy,” as that province’s small-c conservative premier labelled it. 

      Why should B.C.’s formal opposition to the TMX be unfairly discounted? Why should our province and its duly elected government and GreeNDP alliance be treated as chopped liver? 

      Least of all to appease a province with less than 12 percent of Canada’s population, whose emissions account for almost 39 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

      Whose emissions increased from 233 million tonnes in 2005 to 274 Mt in 2015a surge of 18 percent, “primarily as a result of the expansion of oil and gas operations”—when Canada pledged to cut its emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and instead increased them last year, by eight million more tonnes of C02.

      Pull the plug on Trans Mountain, Trudeau, when your government decides its fate by June 18.

      Your government owns the damn pipeline.

      Do the right thing at last.

      Make a decision that is finally worthy of your lofty commitments to climate action and of your “brand promise” as a Liberal leader worthy of that moniker.

      It would be the single most dramatic and important thing Trudeau’s Liberals could do to consolidate their traditional support base among disaffected voters now likely to support the NDP and Green parties.

      It would offer young voters new hope for the future and new confidence in their prime minister, to act as the climate conscious torchbearer he purports to be.

      Wishful thinking, I know. Too progressive for Trudeau’s lost Liberals. 

      But I had to say it, at least one more time.

      Trudeau has spent the last few years promising to get that pipeline built, come what may.

      That “strategy” has succeeded only in getting his party pilloried from all sides, for its dishonest double-pandering and dithering that alienates everyone and satisfies no one. 

      The chance of him now finding his moral compass on that issue, as with most ethical imperatives, is remote. 

      It’s probably somewhere equivalent to the likelihood of the last 75 remaining orcas surviving in the Salish Sea, if his filthy oil pipeline goes ahead and 700 times more oil tankers regularly ply those ecologically sensitive and treacherous waters.

      And yet, even in the absence of such desperately needed real leadership to right his past wrongs, there are several steps Trudeau could take to help his political chances in B.C. 

      That will be the subject of my next offering, in which I will also lay out a political action plan for Horgan to counter Kenney’s dirty energy crying game.

      Watch the trailer for Neil Jordan's 1992 thriller The Crying Game.

      Zero capacity for gasoline in Trans Mountain Expansion Project

      Indeed, I am glad to hear Horgan now advocating for the idea that I suggested a week ago, on my weekly CBC radio panel, which I’m sure has been long on his non-beeping radar.

      “There is zero capacity allocated for gasoline in the Trans Mountain Expansion project. Zero,” I noted. “If the new pipeline is built there will be zero more capacity added to the existing pipeline.

      “Actually, that could be solved. Trudeau could regulate that and say what has to go through that pipe is more refined product,” I suggested.

      “He’s not doing that. And that’s not something Andrew Wilkinson’s calling for.”

      Much more about that idea in my next installment that will also challenge the myth that the TMX will somehow reduce gas prices by increasing pipeline capacity and supply.

      That “new oil pipes = lower gas prices” myth is a wonderful fantasy in Big Oil’s neverending Game of Thrones.

      One that requires us to suspend all rational thought and succumb to the sick allure of The Punisher in the Land That Time Forgot.

      But winter is coming, Canada, whether we accepts that or not, paradoxically, because of global warming.

      I am not optimistic that King Kenney’s “Hand” in Ottawa will not continue to dismember Canadians’ increasingly fictious claim to honourable action, decency, and social justice.

      But I remain hopeful that Trudeau will abandon his sworn oath to Big Oil, if he comes to see that “honouring” it will put his political head on a spike.

      Even absent more noble action to stop the TMX dead in its tracks, there are steps we could take to make that odious project less injurious to B.C. motorists and to the project of climate action.

      Steps that even Trudeau could take, as always, in his own perceived self-interest.

      Steps I will suggest in my next analysis.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at