Amid a climate-change parade, Brad Wall casts himself as Harper Lite

A day after Alberta announced new policies to fight climate change, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall strikes a more fretful tone

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall speaks to reporters before a meeting with premiers hosted by the Council of The Federation in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. (Justin Tang/CP)

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall speaks to reporters before a meeting with premiers hosted by the Council of The Federation in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. (Justin Tang/CP)

There had been two questions about Syrian refugees, and Brad Wall—Saskatchewan’s premier—had responded. And then there was an awkward pause without a new question. And so Wall filled the space with something he apparently wanted to say.

“Can I just make a bit of comment about—we’re going to be talking about climate change here in a moment, for this day, for the meetings that are upcoming and I just want to offer this thought,” he said.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Saskatchewan’s western neighbour had made a dramatic announcement of a new carbon tax, a cap on emissions from the oil sands and an end to the use of coal to generate power. The premiers were now gathering in Ottawa to meet with the shiny new Prime Minister to discuss a co-ordinated approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with the new federal government looking at its predecessor’s goal as its floor. The first ministers will then spend the weekend in Paris, meeting with each other and the world, to further discuss how they might proceed together. Hopeful noises are being uttered hither and yon.

But Brad Wall would strike a rather fretful tone.

“According to some industry estimates, there is upwards of around 30,000 direct layoffs in the energy sector in this country,” he said. “Indirectly it could be much greater than that, but suffice it to say there have been tens of thousands of job losses. And these are middle class families in western Canada, not only in Western Canada, the impact has been felt across the country, because the energy sector is important to all of Canada, but these are middle-class families that are going into Christmas without a job in these particular cases. And there has not been, if I may say, to me, a lot of coverage about that, a lot of attention paid to these massive layoffs in Canada. And I wonder if that might be the case were it another sector in the country. I don’t know if it would. But I say that to say, to offer this, we need to do better in terms of our record on climate change, our province needs to do better, and I can talk a little bit about that, but we can’t forget the economy.”

The Prime Minister and the other premiers might quibble with any suggestion that they are forgetting about the economy, but perhaps somebody had to be “that guy” at this party. With Alberta’s turn towards climate change and the defeat of the Conservative government in Ottawa, there is not presently anyone in a position of power standing athwart history yelling “I’m not sure about this!”—except, apparently, for Wall. Indeed, now Wall—previously cited as something of a hesitating voice—would sound like a lighter version of Stephen Harper.

“We cannot forget the jobs that quite literally are at stake in a sector that’s undergoing a lot of stress right now due to $40 oil,” he said. “We’ve got to find that right balance, because that economy and those jobs are broadening our tax base and paying for the quality of life that we want for all Canadians. And so that’ll be the context anyway for the remarks that I bring, for whatever it’s worth, for the input I have, to this meeting as well.”

By per capita emissions, there are two provinces, blessed and burdened of significant resource development, that stand out: Alberta and Saskatchewan. And so in any discussion of a federal approach to climate change, Alberta and Saskatchewan are significant questions. But while Notley is currently the good cop—even invited by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address the premiers at the start of today’s gathering—Wall sounded like the unenthusiastic cop. (Saskatchewan has, as Wall noted, invested significantly in carbon capture and storage, a system that would collect carbon emissions and store them underground. The province has also passed legislation that would charge certain emitters a carbon levy, much like Alberta’s previous policy, but Saskatchewan has never enacted those regulations.)

Related: An economist on what we know and don’t know about Alberta’s climate-change plan

Even on the matter of Alberta’s announcement yesterday, the Saskatchewan premier seemed less than completely thrilled. “Alberta has to make their own decisions and they’ve come to this decision obviously after a lot of consultation,” he said, adding that the new policies should take away an excuse from those who oppose pipelines from Alberta. Compare that to Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard who gushed that he wanted to “congratulate Premier Notley on her determination to act in a really substantive way.”

Three months out from the deadline the Liberal government has imposed on itself for a national plan, there are myriad questions about how a new deal on climate change will work and how any new target will be achieved, probably even for  provinces like British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta which have already acted, or will be acting, to implement carbon-pricing policies. The players here are all potentially significant. But perhaps Brad Wall is now the one to watch.


Amid a climate-change parade, Brad Wall casts himself as Harper Lite

  1. Brad Wall the only Sane Adult in Canada…..

    • NAH he’s just dragging his feet. gonna have to be done Joe, like it or not.

  2. Brad Wall is an ideologue disguised as regular grassroots guy. He is not only Harper Lite he is going to be running for Harper’s old job. That becomes more and more apparent every day. He is a closet climate change denier who’s main consideration is the oil companies not the workers. There have been many massive layoffs over the years literally destroying hard working families all the result of corporate bottom lines – shareholder bottom lines. The oil companies have been given a free ride for many decades while other sectors suffered. The vagaries of the free market economy will always result in these kind of kind of situations.

    • Have you seen the price of oil? Layoffs are a guarantee with prices as low as they are now. You have an alternative to the free market I suppose?

  3. The question becomes how Mr Wall can occupy the trouser pockets of two Koch brothers simultaneously.

    Quite the ‘trick’ Mr Wall.

    • Is there anything to indicate that Brad Wall is somehow indebted to the U.S. Koch brothers?

      • Take the blindfold off friend, half of the Tories are in the pocket of the Koch brothers. Compare the interests of their ridings with the holdings off the Koch brothers.
        They all but own the Republican side of government in the US and nothing will stop them from spreading their Libertarian
        nonsense into Canada.
        The reason Canada became as unrecognizable to so many people towards the end of the Harper/Koch regeim was because of the Koch brothers influence in the country.

        • They have yet to invent tinfoil thick enough for your hat. Koch brothers own Saskatchewan. Now I’ve heard everything.

        • I’m still hoping to read some actual evidence of this.

  4. Are the scientists you climate drama queens criminally exaggerate also only 99% certain the planet isn’t flat and that smoking causes cancer?
    Is this how you want your kids remembering you?
    Who’s the neocon again?

    • Only 34 more years of climate action delay and global disbelief is certain and unstoppable.

    • Yes, scientists can only say that there is a very high probability that smoking causes cancer.
      That’s how science works. But you know that as you’ve been told it over and over again.
      I hope your stand-up material is more original.

  5. The issue isn’t totally about climate change. I don’t get worked up about what we should do as long as China and the US are many times worse (16.1 million tons of added atmospheric carbon for Chin10 or so for the US and way down the list Canada with 1.6. Haper and Brad Wall LL both have a valdi point that until we see real change in China and the US and not just announcements we are cutting our economic throats to go too fast.

    • Except China and the US aren’t “many times worse”.
      2011 emissions:
      US 17t/person
      Canada 14.1t/person
      China 6.7t/person

      • Again with the meaningless per capita stats. Canada’s overall output is just a blip on the radar. Who cares what per capita works out to for one of the most sparsely inhabited countries in the world when China is more than 38 times our size in population.

        • Right. Per capita stats are “meaningless” because if you happen to live in a country with a small population you’re entitled to a greater share of emissions than someone who happens to live in country with a large population just cuz.
          It’s why you can just dump your garbage right in the ocean – your garbage is just a ‘blip’ on the radar.

          • By continually citing per capita stats, you are arguing that emissions is a function of population. Where is your proof of this? Seems to me that Alberta’s emissions are what they are because oil and gas is its primary economic driver, not because of the 4 million or so residents that live there. You might as well offer stats on emissions per chimpanzee as it would be equally relevant.

          • “you are arguing that emissions is a function of population.”

            Ah, no. You’re not making any sense. Emissions are a function of burning fossil fuels.
            Per capita statistics tell you how much different people are using of a globally-shared resource (the atmosphere’s capacity to accept emissions).

      • Your per capita comparison is bogus given the climate differences between us and China and the US.

  6. This guy is just another conservative dinosaur who would trade jobs and investment in Canada for the lives of millions of citizens throughout the world. There is no middle ground here.
    Bury the tarsands and find work in the green sector for the displaced.

    • Green sounds like a religion. Maybe it’s coming but in the meantime take a look at the figures. Canada , including the oilsands are just a pimple o the US and Chinese bottom. Why don’t you preach to the real carbon emitters? Don’t you get it?

    • Sure the green sector will replace all those resource jobs. Stop embarrassing yourself.

      • Any way you look at it, with Trudeau and Notley and their crazy tax and spend programs under the guise of “pricing carbon”, the province of Alberta will be much poorer in the years to come. I had some real estate in Edmonton I promptly sold when the NDP took power. Now, that real estate is worth $50k less than when I sold. The province of Alberta is going to shrink. Last one out, turn out the lights.

  7. There is significant unemployment in Saskatchewan, but it certainly it is not all in the oil patch. The Wall government’s history on dealing with unemployment is not great. Well, not even good. But he’s focusing on only the oil patch unemployed in his latest provincial whine.

    In Saskatchewan, we have chosen to focus on a resource based economy, relying on oil and uranium, as well as potash and grain. Wall is counting on the University of Saskatchewan to build small nuclear reactors to get the heavy oil moving, instead of teaching the next generation of leaders and learners. It is a mistake at multiple levels, but it consistent with Wall’s philosophy. Maybe his nuclear option will help to move heavy oil elsewhere, and reverse the oil patch unemployment. We are yet to see a sound strategy for overall provincial unemployment.

    Welcome, Harper #2.

    • How will a generation of leaders and learners keep the lights on without resources?

      I would love to live in a world where everything was solar powered, but that’s not going to happen in my life. Or in my grandkids life. Until an effective replacement is found, we don’t have an alternative to oil.

    • You enjoy lying Rob or are you just so dumb you can’t read? According to Stats Canada, the Saskatchewan unemployment rate for October 2015 was 4.9 percent, best in the country by far. In fact, Saskatchewan has had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada during the whole time Brad Wall has been Premier. And given the large increase in population in the Province, this is very impressive.

      Don’t let facts get in the way of your made up lies Rob.

  8. ‘Carbon pricing’ will do nothing but tax the poor who will still be forced to use whatever cars, etc., are made available to them.
    In order for the problem to be solved in the most efficient way, the companies and individuals that participated in funding or promoting bogus studies promoting climate denial can’t be allowed any further voice in the discussion, they will just pose deliberately worthless ideas like carbon taxes, the companies can’t be allowed to have the time to ‘phase in’ new technology in the slowest say possible in order to maximize profits, they need to be shut down, disbanded, their executives and major shareholeders need to have their assets forfeited for endangering our planet’s ability to support life.
    The temporary profits of transnational corporations and goals such as ‘job creation’, and other concepts that only exist within the context of the current, failing, economic system can not be considered to be of even near equal importance to the future of our planet’s ability to support life.

    • 1. You aren’t exactly clear, but it sounds like you want to shut down all fossil-fuel stations, the oil sands, and all heavy CO2 industries in a hurry – without a proper debate. Removing all dissenting opinions from decision making sounds a lot like a dictator with yes-men.

      2. The state forcibly shutting down industries that disagree with it is fascism.

      3. People who propose arguments like yours don’t help the environmental movement.

    • The real issue here is while Europe, the United States and Canada go about trying to cut emissions, China is lying rampantly about their Co2 emissions. They don’t enforce regulations and coal burners simply don’t report results and the Chinese government doesn’t care. They are going to get rich while the rest of the world lowers its’ standard of living and taxes people to death. Add Russia into the mix, also under-reporting emissions, and you wonder when it ends?

  9. Really what it shows on the part of Wall is a colossal lack of judgement at a crucial time.
    No research, no facts, now he’s backtracking.

    • Here are the facts you moron – 30,000 people unemployed. Why is it a crucial time? China disagrees as it produces 3 million megatons of CO2 every 3 hours. The Alberta carbon tax will save the world, clearly.

  10. Nobody is forgetting or ignoring the massive layoffs in the oil patch. It can be an opportunity to diversify into other industries for which Alberta now has an available workforce. Many of the same skills that make people employable in exploration and extraction are desirable when building wind turbines, solar arrays, or water purification systems. It’s an opportunity for a rethink. Also if Mr. Wall is concerned about oil at forty bucks, then he’d better buy a seatbelt. When Iran comes on stream thirty bucks will be more like it. Change is here. Let’s go forward. The oil isn’t going anywhere; it only gets more valuable. Extract it when it makes better sense, and in the meantime do other things.

  11. I’ve seen plenty about the oil sector layoffs. I suppose these stories aren’t being spread much in the provinces most affected by it, though, and I imagine that has more to do with the oil industry’s ideological choke-hold over the prairies. What’s embarrassing for Brad Wall is that he fails to link these layoffs to the oil corporations themselves, and seems to be on board with the rhetoric that taxes kill jobs. Perhaps in another industry, where the commodity isn’t a natural resource and can be made elsewhere, but not in energy. Sorry prairies, don’t let Brad Wall’s designs on federal leadership distract you from the reality: corporations are the primary problem when it comes to jobs (so many middle class families gone, not enough top-level executives, which is terribly backwards and suspiciously overlooked by Wall), not the taxpayers or the taxes themselves.

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