One might think a humiliating election campaign with a chastening result driving his party into a minority governing position would dampen any Prime Minister’s ambition for remodelling the country in his own image. But if his recent “mandate letters” to Cabinet members are anything to go by, Justin Trudeau’s vastly inflated self-regard remains intact. Consider his missive to the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson.
Running on in excess of 2,000 words, it includes a lengthy preamble, no fewer than 17 “top priorities” for the current term (plus two calls to “identify additional priorities”), and a peroration imploring the minister not to make the same assortment of ethical lapses and managerial blunders that plagued Trudeau throughout his first term. Our Role-Model-in-Chief once again seems to be reminding everyone, in effect, “We all need to learn from my endless mistakes.” Or, more cynically, maybe it’s, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
According to one calculation, Trudeau has identified 300 tasks in his various mandate letters. There’s nothing like a minority government to focus the mind. “Our platform, Forward: A Real Change for the Middle Class,” says Trudeau, “is the starting point for our government.” So it would appear that all those meetings with opposition leaders, premiers and mayors were as pointless as hiring a deliverology guru was the first time around. It’s still the full Liberal platform, and only that, which matters.
It seems perilous to try gleaning anything specific from a program with 17 “top” priorities and 300 tasks. Yet it’s crystal-clear that Trudeau has not decided to pay greater attention to boosting economic growth and generating employment, nor to ease up his campaign to demolish key industries. Instead he is subordinating all else to his true top priority, environmental utopianism. Trudeau is getting on his climate crazy. His environmental priorities would, as the platform states, bring about a “real change for the middle class,” that’s for sure. The real question is whether this “real change” would be catastrophic or merely impoverishing.
The mandate’s overriding priority, driven by a phantom “climate emergency,” is to move toward a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. Out is the mantra that “the economy and the environment go hand-in-hand” – if that is taken to mean that they are two equally important considerations that must be balanced against each other through compromise. Now, economic growth is desirable only if it is “sustainable” within the net-zero emissions constraint.
Resource development and interprovincial infrastructure are words that don’t even appear in the mandate letter to Wilkinson, even though we will obviously need enormous quantities of both to transition to a “green” economy. An immediate case in point was Wilkinson declaring earlier this week that he’s “wrestling” with whether to approve the new Teck Frontier oil sands project. It has already completed the regulatory process with a “go” recommendation and should be an utter no-brainer even for today’s Ottawa, creating 7,000 jobs and pouring $12 billion into federal coffers over its lifespan – if it indeed is to have a life.
Let’s not delude ourselves about the magnitude of the contemplated shift. This would be a society without petroleum products, obviously – no oil and natural gas, nor plastics, nor some fertilizers, to mention a few of today’s essentials. After setting aside 30 percent of our lands and oceans for conservation, and covering at least that much more by planting 2 billion additional trees; after cultivating land to grow the food we need to eat, and clearing more land to build new homes and workplaces for the 10 million new immigrants and as many more of our home-grown peoplekind (raising Canada’s population very close to 60 million); after all this, we wouldn’t have enough useable space left in Canada for the vast solar and wind farms and transmission corridors needed to light and heat our homes and power our transportation and devices. Imagine the size of the battery array needed to power the Greater Toronto Area on calm or stormy nights.
Where will we source the vast amounts of environmentally destructive materials needed for the manufacture of “green energy” generation? This includes concrete and steel and copper, and rare earth metals, and plastic substitutes. Surely we can’t continue to download this problem onto some poor country that is willing to destroy life on the planet as we know it. And how would we mine and process and fabricate this new “green energy” infrastructure while reducing our use of fossil fuels? And then replace it all every 20-25 years, as the shockingly short lifespans of solar panels and wind turbines expire? A lesser mind must surely boggle at the enormity of the task. Yet curiously absent from Trudeau’s mandate letter is the task of the Government of Canada finding a credible path for the nation to reach net-zero emissions posthaste – or ever, for that matter.
In the eyes of most Canadians, greater conservation and a cleaner environment only represent an advance if the benefit outweighs the cost. We are regularly reminded that nearly half of Canadians are allegedly within $200 of insolvency and, probably not coincidentally, the same proportion is willing to pay not a nickel more to reduce carbon emissions. So it looks like our new environment minister is going to have to work closely with the finance minister to find ways of extracting funds from the rich to pay for Trudeau’s environmental priorities during the resulting massive disruptions and displacements throughout the economy. It is evident that Trudeau dropped out of engineering after one term; he also seems to have missed the classes on unintended consequences, racial sensitivity, and the Dunning-Krueger effect.
Trudeau nonetheless has the utmost confidence that Wilkinson is up to planning a pathway to a net-zero emissions economy. Paradoxically, he still considers it necessary to advise him to “work closely with your Deputy Minister and their [sic] senior officials to ensure…that decisions are made in the public interest.” Also, to work in a “professional manner.” And numerous other things that one would expect even a novice to know. Is the mandate letter directed at a schoolboy in short pants or a serious intellect with the chops to run a key department of the biggest organization in Canada?
On a positive note, the environment minister is tasked with expanding the Learn-to-Camp program to accommodate 400,000 kids each year. Another objective is to create a bursary program for families in underprivileged circumstances to enable them to access national or provincial parks. These are worthwhile objectives not because camping and the outdoor life are intrinsically more worthy of pursuit than innumerable other interests middleclass Canadians might rather spend their tax dollars on. No, because the skills to survive without artificial light or heat (forget about those gasoline-powered generators and propane stoves) or even nylon tents and Gore-Tex jackets will be essential in a post-Trudeau apocalypse. We’ll need the additional 2 billion trees for firewood – although all that uncontrolled burning will release more carbon dioxide than even our decommissioned coal-fired generating stations ever did.
It’s not only the middle class that Trudeau wishes to hoodwink. Nearly every identity group imaginable is pandered to in the mandate letter – except rural Canadians, those invisibles in the fly-over regions on the way to surfing at Tofino. Next in line: “There remains no more important relationship to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.” (We long ago lost the battle of English usage and manners that once had most people writing “My friend and I” rather than “Me and my friend”, but is it truly too much to ask that our Prime Minister still put his country before his personal pronoun?)
Here at last one anticipates Trudeau might identify a real environmental priority: the mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows First Nation. But after mocking their delegation at his fundraising soiree earlier in the year, this priority is a bit delicate to bring up directly in a mandate letter. Instead, it is buried in the carefully worded task of “work[ing] with the Minister of Health to better protect people and the environment from toxins…” (Emphasis added.)
With First Nations as with everyone else, Trudeau hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest. He seems oblivious to the fact that most First Nations prefer to better their condition through resource development, if that is an option for them, especially in the oil and natural gas and mining sectors. Suncor, it must be remembered, is the largest employer of Indigenous people in Canada, and in very good, middle-class jobs, too. Northern Saskatchewan’s uranium mines have been another large-scale employer of First Nations members for decades. As will be B.C.’s liquefied natural gas facilities and associated pipelines.
Thanks to the news media’s near-blackout of pro-development Indigenous voices, it will surprise many – although it shouldn’t – that almost all of the First Nations directly affected by pipelines are in favour of building them, even owning them! Those who are hundreds of miles away from natural resource development tend to beat the drum in tune to foreign-funded opposition. In a twist on the usual formula, the stance by these uncompromising obstructionists is, “Not in your backyard.”
Another Trudeau priority is “to protect biodiversity and species at risk, while engaging with provinces, territories, Indigenous communities, scientists, industry and other stakeholders to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing Species at Risk Act and assess the need for modernization.” Yet he can’t hear Inuit communities that have been lobbying for an increase in the quota on polar bears, in part so they can make a better living as hunting guides. Nor does he listen to Canadian scientists who note that polar bear numbers have never been higher. The icon of climate change, promoted by international ENGOs, must forever remain on the verge of extinction for propaganda purposes. Ideology trumps science every time with our Dear Leader.
Probably of sharpest relevance to any region that might still attempt to steer a major project through the almost unnavigable federal regulatory process is Trudeau’s instruction that Wilkinson “apply Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) in the decisions that you make.” GBA+ is a third layer of affirmative action – on top of the Employment Equity Act and the Human Rights Act – specifically for the benefit of women and non-cisgendered folks. Indeed, Trudeau promises members of these identity groups “leadership positions” in the environment industry.
The accompanying graph depicts a gender-based analysis of what the “woke” policies approved of by Trudeau (in unintended partnership with Alberta’s former NDP government) have already accomplished in Alberta’s economy. Women and men over the age of 55 have suffered about equally. But while women under 55 have marginally and unevenly improved their prospects, men in that age group have fared poorly or suffered horribly. Promises made, promises kept on this one, it seems.
The StatsCan graph’s headline is itself disingenuous. Alberta’s employment situation has certainly been “uneven”, but it hasn’t been a “recovery” at all. Females aged 15-54 have gained perhaps 1 percent in overall employment in the past five years. All other categories have fallen. A better headline would have been “Alberta’s Great Depression has Uneven Demographic Effects”. In November, the unemployment rate among young Alberta males hit 20 percent, an event even the CBC termed “unprecedented”. You might have heard about this even outside Alberta; inside the province there’s scarcely a person who isn’t talking about it.
“We are committed to evidence-based decision making,” Trudeau insists, against all evidence. If the Environment Minister took the time to look at the evidence, he would find out many interesting things. One is that global vegetation coverage has increased markedly, by some 13 percent since 1960 (some unlikely left-of-centre publications have even been referring to a re-greening of the Earth), and that this appears linked to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the same period.
Another is that his own ministry has published evidence that flooding, forest fires, droughts, and wind have been on a steady downward march over the past 100 years or so. Indeed, lives lost to natural disasters around the world are at an all-time low. A further fascinating evidence item is that the climate models relied upon for apocalyptic predictions of global warming “run hot,” while actual satellite measurements suggest there’s nothing to fear. This evidence – and much more besides – is easy to find.
The only conclusion one can reach from this climate-related evidence, when set against the Liberal government’s policies and actions, is that our federal government is engineering the destruction of Canada’s economy – particularly its resource-producing provinces – to no positive purpose whatever. That it is supported and indeed egged on by three of the four opposition parties in the House of Commons is no excuse. Unfortunately, the 2,000 words of insufferable hubris and damaging misdirection embedded in the mandate letter are exactly what we should have expected from this two-faced Prime Minister.
Grant A. Brown has a DPhil from Oxford University and an LL.B. from the University of Alberta, taught applied ethics and political philosophy at the University of Lethbridge, practised family law, and currently runs a B&B in Stratford, Ontario.