It is easy to imagine a lot of really big decisions are made over cappuccinos and lattes by the ardently virtuous members of Steven Guilbeault’s coffee klatch in Gatineau, says Jim Warren. Photo by the Canadian Press.

Editor’s note: this column was written before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Thursday, Oct. 26, that there would be a three-year pause on the federal carbon tax for home heating fuel oil. 

 

Polls conducted by the Pew Research Center show that the percentage of Canadians who agree climate change is a serious threat has risen from just over 50 per cent in 2013 to nearly 65 per cent in 2022. But those numbers tell only part of the story. People can be in favour of lots of things until they learn they come with a price tag.

A 2023 Ipsos survey conducted in 29 countries shows that only 30 per cent of its international respondents are prepared to pay more in taxes to reduce emissions. The data point from the Ipsos research that ought to have Justin Trudeau and Steven Guilbeault sweating indicates only 20 per cent of Canadians are prepared to open their wallets to fight climate change. One can easily imagine the Canadian results have something to do with the harebrained quality of federal climate policy.

The Ipsos numbers provide a great “we told you so” moment for Pipeline Online readers. For the past two years, columns appearing in this publication have criticized the federal government for trying to move too far too fast in curbing emissions. We’ve objected to the economic madness of shutting down western Canada’s petroleum sector decades ahead of the day when renewables and nuclear can reliably fill the void. And my personal favourite is our assertion that overly ambitious emissions reduction initiatives that kill tens of thousands of jobs are bound to generate a backlash.

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The expected loss of jobs and adverse impacts on the Prairie economies and people’s lives does not occur without generating anger. In Saskatchewan the damaging effects of federal environmental policies are reflected in both job losses and threats to the economic well-being of the many communities where oil is produced or coal is mined. Adding insult to injury the federal government has no meaningful plans in place to assist people whose lives are being disrupted. There are no firm plans to assist with job retraining, expanded EI benefits, assistance with relocation costs, etc.

Worse yet, as these conditions become increasingly apparent to people on the Prairies and, as the polls suggest, most other Canadians are not enthused about coughing up cash to pay to fight climate change, the federal government either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. They remain on a damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead trajectory.

Unlike the situation in Canada, politicians who lead governments in many other developed countries have noticed the changing mood and are now turning their backs on excessively ambitious GHG reduction plans. Even in Sweden, home to Saint Greta Thunberg, the government has reversed high fuel price increases intended to cut emissions.

As was noted in two Pipeline Online stories from last month, the UK’s Rishi Sunak has postponed plans to eliminate gasoline powered cars until well into the future. Sunak has said “It can’t be right to impose such significant costs on working people.”

Sunak claims the lack of public discussion and debate that should occur in a democracy was sorely lacking when the UK’s emissions plans were concocted. An elite coalition of academics, environmentalists and climate alarmists in government designed UK environmental policy. Plans were imposed on the public like commandments handed down from Mt. Sinai. Sunak says that as a result the UK’s climate change agenda lacks democratic legitimacy.

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Do you hear the echo? Here in Canada the discussion is conducted by the chattering classes on X (formerly Twitter) and the mainstream news media. It is easy to imagine a lot of really big decisions are made over cappuccinos and lattes by the ardently virtuous members of Steven Guilbeault’s coffee klatch in Gatineau.

A column appearing in Pipeline Online last month described ham-handed efforts in Germany to force voters into purchasing heat pumps – an expensive proposition for many households. It turned out the country lacked the tradespeople required to implement the plan. Worse yet, the heat pump industry was still busy figuring out what sort of heat pumps would work best in German homes. Since that column appeared, the public backlash over the debacle forced the German government to back down. In September it postponed implementation, punting the deadline for compliance well into the future.

German voters remained angry over expensive Green-backed emissions policies despite the federal government’s retreat. In two state elections earlier this month voters clobbered parties who had aligned themselves with the Greens (the party deemed most responsible for the heat pump debacle).  The Greens and their fellow travellers couldn’t hang the losses on far right Trump-inspired climate change deniers. It was moderate centre-right parties like the Christian Social Union who caused Greens the most grief.

Remember earlier this year when the Netherlands came up with the plan to cut back on nitrogen pollution and methane generated by cattle? The government announced plans to buy out farmers and force others to drastically reduce emissions. Critics of the plan estimated it would reduce farmers’ cow herds by up to 50 per cent. Dutch farmers went ballistic. As a result, parts of that scheme have been shelved indefinitely.

A professor from Utrecht University in the Netherlands commenting on the backlash said what Pipeline Online readers figured out years ago. He was quoted in The Economist saying “Anti-green backlashes sometimes occur when environmentalists overreach by enacting policies so coercive that many people deem them illegitimate.”

There’s that echo again.

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Signs that a backlash is brewing in Canada have actually been around for a while. Back in 2019, less than a year after the Trudeau government passed the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act (Bill C-48) and the No More Pipelines Bill (Bill C-69). An Angus Reid poll conducted between Dec. 1, 2018 and Jan. 3, 2019 indicated that a 58 per cent of Canadians agreed that the lack of enough pipelines in Canada “is a crisis.” (That’s seven percentage points more than enough to win a referendum to secede in Quebec).

Quebec, as we might expect, was the skunk at the garden party. It was the only province where a majority of respondents did not think having sufficient pipelines was a crisis. Yet, it is somewhat comforting to know 40 per cent of the Quebecers polled hadn’t drank the green Kool-Aid and agreed the lack of pipelines was a crisis. Even in supposedly green B.C. a majority wanted to see more pipelines built. With the exceptions of Quebec and B.C. support for building more pipelines was over 60 per cent.

Those results may not have impressed the chattering classes at the time. Regardless of whether or not they took notice, it was hopefully a harbinger of the backlash to come.

Perhaps the icing on the cake for those of us waiting for a stronger Canadian backlash against coercive, overly zealous environmental policies can be found by checking out the latest political polls. I just looked at the 338 federal projections — the Conservatives are 12 points ahead of the Liberals today and if an election were held tomorrow they would win 205 seats – a very comfortable majority. Now that’s a backlash!

 

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Trudeau just blinked on his premier climate change initiative, the carbon tax