Alberta Premier isn’t singing ‘climate change’ song—for good reason

Smith could blow up her UCP government in two minutes by sounding even faintly like federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault

By Don Braid, National Post, June 12, 2023

Danielle Smith, a very talkative premier, refuses to utter two little words: Climate change.

After her cabinet was sworn in last Friday, Smith was asked by columnist Graham Thomson: “Do you accept that climate change is driving the larger wildfire seasons, not just here but across the country?”

Smith answered that human activity causes most fires. She went on to talk about federal policies and Alberta’s agreement with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Not a word about climate change.

“Human activity causes the vast majority of our wildfires,” she said. “We’ve had 609 wildfires so far this year and 350 of them so far have been determined to be human-caused. One hundred and four were cause by lightning; 155 are still under investigation.”

She talked about people throwing cigarette butts out of car windows and making campfires. Her overall message was that if people were more careful, there wouldn’t be nearly as many fires.

That’s just common sense, but it’s bound to be controversial unless she throws in the ritual bow to human-caused climate change. She doesn’t. Why not, given her government’s agreement with the federal policy of net-zero emissions by 2050?

Conservative base doesn’t support climate alarmism

It’s all about the conservative base and support within her party. After rising from the ashes of former premier Jason Kenney’s career, Smith is keenly attuned to party dissent.

She knows it can cripple a UCP government. And there’s no shakier Alberta consensus than the balancing act around cutting emissions while preserving a net-zero oil and gas industry.

Smith could blow it up in two minutes by sounding even faintly like federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, who recently suggested Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s resistance could open him up to criminal charges. (“Come and get me,” said Moe.)

Many conservatives despise what they call “woke” language. They don’t believe you have to please the federal language patrol in order to control emissions. They note that the climate itself appears indifferent to what people say, but seems very concerned with what they do.

It’s still true, though — if you don’t chant the mantra, you’re instantly branded as a climate-change denier.

Smith may have been that person a decade ago, when her vagueness on the subject helped her lose the 2012 election as Wildrose leader. Now she seems committed to action.  As far as both the climate and the economy are concerned, all that matters is that Alberta has a coherent, sensible plan that actually deals with the problem.

The Trudeau Liberals are well aware that the province wants to find an effective plan with federal approval. But Guilbeault recently expressed his ire with “obstructionist” provinces. Everybody knew which two he was talking about.

Liberal climate goals are ‘unachievable,’ Smith says

Ottawa constantly moves the goalposts, bringing out single-sector targets within the larger goals for 2050.

“They’ve talked about bringing in a 42-per-cent emissions cap on our oil and gas industry by 2030,” Smith said. “That is unachievable. They’ve talked about bringing in a net-zero power grid by 2035. That is equally unachievable.

“Those are things that are my priority right now. We want to work together on addressing issues of emissions reduction. But we have to do it in a way that allows us to use innovation and technology, and have enough time to be able to implement it.”

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