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Alberta, post-Trump

Alberta’s aggressive climate plan clashes with Trump’s climate-change denial

Jan 3, 2017

by Michael Ganley

Everyone is still digesting the news that Donald Trump is the U.S. president-elect and what that means for everything from immigration to war in the Middle East to a woman’s right to choose. Let me focus on the private sector in Alberta.

Trump looks certain to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and to generally be a proponent of energy infrastructure. That will open markets to Alberta’s primary products and overall get producers a better price, but let’s not overstate its import: Keystone is one pipeline of many and the industry has always found, and will continue to find, ways to get product to the best possible markets. Its importance is also lessened because of Canada’s decisions on Enbridge’s Line 3 and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion, and an opposite effect will come from Trump’s plans to open new land in the U.S. to drilling, increasing competition for Albertan product. So no clear winner there.

Trump has just about killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a move that Albertan businesses could take advantage of. If the U.S. spurns international markets, as it is poised to do in many ways, there will be a vacuum to fill. He has also threatened to rip up NAFTA, although since the election has toned the rhetoric down to a renegotiation and, in any event, the deal has always been of greater import to Ontario’s manufacturing sector than to the energy industry.

The real tough issue for Alberta – and for the country – will be the climate change file. Trump has repeatedly called global warming a hoax and is trying to quit the Paris climate agreement. He is facing – as he will with a great many of his policy choices – vigorous opposition, but it’s safe to say he won’t be working to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. Alberta, on the other hand, is in the midst of implementing an aggressive climate plan which includes a new economy-wide carbon tax of $20 per tonne, which will rise to $30 per tonne next year. The federal government has managed to get every province except Saskatchewan on board with similar commitments. These moves will impose costs on economies and businesses that will not be felt by American competitors. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed that Europe impose a carbon tax on American imports if Trump pulls out of the Paris accord, but you can be sure that would invite a trade war which would be in the best interest of nobody. Squaring this circle will be one of the great challenges of the coming years.

But to consider only the economic effects of Trump’s ascension is to abdicate responsibility. Trump has taken civil discourse to new lows and won with a platform devoid of fact or depth. He seems poised to run both his political and business empires as if there can be no conflicts of interest. And we now see his race-baiting and bullying manner more and more in Canada. We have a crowd in front of the Alberta legislature chanting “lock her up” and federal Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch has entered the murky world of value-testing. We can deal with Trump when it comes to trade and economic policy, but must resist the debasing of the public square that is such a profound part of his legacy.

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