Left wing should question praise from CEOs and World Bank
Last week provided Albertans with one of those strange moments where you look around and wonder if maybe you slipped off into an alternate dimension while you were sleeping. The cause of this existential confusion and uncertainty? A pair of news stories that emerged within 48 hours of each other, heaping praise on the Alberta government’s energy and climate policies.
Not that seeing people praise the Alberta government’s policies is a strange occurrence in and of itself—it is actually quite common in many circles. What was surreal about these endorsements was their source, a panel of energy CEOs and bigwigs speaking at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce event, and the World Bank.
The energy bigwigs, including CEO Brian Ferguson whose company just doubled down on the Alberta oil sands by buying $17.7 billion worth of ConocoPhillips’ Canadian assets, highlighted the fact that, in their view, Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan strikes the perfect balance between working to reduce emissions and providing incentives for innovation and growth in the industry. The panel applauded the level and structure of the carbon levy, the approach to the electricity market and the virtual subsidies that will reward companies able to innovate and cut costs while increasing production.
The World Bank piece—a nine-minute video and short write-up—was titled “The Courage of Leadership: The Making of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan.” It is a feel-good piece celebrating the process by which the Alberta Government was able to bring industry and environmentalists together. Despite growing tensions and acrimony between the two sides, they crafted a compromise that would both cap emissions and ensure continued growth of the industry. The piece sets the entire process, and the resulting policy, as an example that other jurisdictions can learn from to move climate policy and economic growth forward.
What was disconcerting was seeing longtime lefties—people who have spent decades criticizing and fighting against the policy proposals of the oil industry and the World Bank—proudly and uncritically sharing these endorsements on social media as an indicator of success for an ostensibly social democratic government. How does one go from criticizing the economic and political power of the extractives industry and the role of the World Bank in increasing extreme inequality everywhere, to celebrating when those same groups heartily endorse your policies at home? Shouldn’t endorsement by those groups result in a questioning of those policies rather than a celebration of them?
Ultimately, both the CEOs and the World Bank focused their praise around the notions of compromise and balance. By not fully giving in to the demands of one side or the other—so the narrative goes—the government was able to ensure continued growth for the industry while reducing the amount to the environment over time. A compromise between the needs of the environment and the wants of the industry.
The question that seems to get lost in all of this is whether climate change and the needs of the environment are things that we can or should be compromising? Are there areas where compromise doesn’t really make sense?
Perhaps that’s why the praise from a group of CEOs and the World Bank felt so odd and confusing to me. It felt like these folks were celebrating the fact they get to keep punching us in the face, and we were somehow supposed to be celebrating the fact that we are now getting punched far less often than we were before. The fact so many on the left appeared happily willing to celebrate just that highlights what strange times in Alberta we are living in today.