The big story of the week was the announcement of the NDP government’s ‘Climate Leadership Plan’, which is one part save-the-planet stuff, and two parts public relations move.
The plan includes a carbon tax, oil sands emission limits and a quicker phase-out of coal-fired electricity (which will kill coal in Alberta and possibly whole towns, but hey, small price to pay to save the planet). St. Rachael made the announcement last Sunday, and in a real coup was surrounded by heavy hitters from the oil industry, who seem to be on board (which tells me that they’re essentially off the hook).
The Wildrose, naturally, is in full battle cry, calling it the biggest tax grab in the history of humanity. As if we need further proof that the world has gone topsy-turvy, Wildrose leader Brian Jean actually said this in the legislature this week: “The NDP should stop sticking up for big business.” Honest, I swear this is true. I saw it and heard it, and not like Donald Trump remembering thousands and thousands of Muslims celebrating on 9-11, this really happened.
Much is unclear about the plan, but what we do know is that it will cost billion and billions, most of which will come from you and I, or you and me if you prefer. But the government says it will be ‘revenue neutral’ — in other words, all of the money taken out of your pocket in the form of carbon tax will be applied towards greener energy. The odds are that, given that this is a government project, the amount spent will far outstrip the amount brought in. But hey, it will save the planet, right?
Well, maybe. But what it does save is Canada’s reputation. Under Stephen Harper and Alberta PC governments, Canada has become an international climate change villain worthy of a James Bond movie. Now, we can go to the Paris climate change summit as heroes instead of zeroes, wearing the cloak of righteousness. Billions in additional taxes and the end of the coal are small prices to pay for having people like us again. I guess, I dunno. It’s all very complicated, and as usual the devil is in the details. But just to make sure we’re all “informed”, the NDP government is spending $700,000 on an advertising/propaganda campaign to sell it to Albertans. That’s on top of the more than $700,000 spent to sell the budget, which told us absolutely nothing about the budget, and which was going to pass anyway. I don’t know if the NDP is going to be any good at governing, but they’re great at spending public money to tell everyone how great they are.
The other big story of the week was the release of the federal government’s Syrian refugee plans. And, much to the delight of some, it marked Justin Trudeau’s first ‘broken’ election promise: the Liberals aren’t going to bring in 25,000 refugees by year’s end. Instead, it will take until the end of February to do it. As far as broken promises goes, this is no more than a little white lie. As discussed last week, the 25,000 target was, I believe, dreamed up in a campaign back room in the heat of an election battle. I sincerely doubt if the 25,000 figure gained too many votes for the Liberals, and I think they were wise to give this more time (although an admission along the lines of “oops, we really goofed on this” would have been nice). Also of interest is the government’s priority list. Women, children, families, and sexual minorities all go to the front of the line. Not invited to the line? Single men, who are apparently seen as a threat to our national security or something. This is brazen discrimination against one gender, but since the gender being discriminated against is men, few seem to complain. So, tough luck, guys. Even if your family was wiped out in the war, and even if you’ve got an education and a spotless record, you’re not welcome. Now, if you want to pretend to be gay, welcome, friend!
In less upsetting news, British singer Adele released a new album this week. It’s flying off the shelves, and the first single, Hello (or it might be Goodbye, I’m not sure) is unavoidable. Me? I couldn’t possibly care less, but I’ll try. In other music news, Justin Bieber’s career seems to defy the usual trajectory of teen idol stars (massive fame, followed by collapse of fan base, followed by casino appearances). ‘Biebs’ has 17 songs in the Billboard Hot 100 list, surpassing the record of 14 songs held by a little known group called The Beatles. As the kids today say … OMG.
Today is Grey Cup day in Canada, or as Americans like to call it, Canada’s Super Bowl. In fact, the Super Bowl is Canada’s Grey Cup, in that the Grey Cup is now in its CII incarnation, while the Super Bowl is only turning L. (Check out this American sports reporter’s series on the Grey Cup for a very entertaining Yankee slant on our big game.) I don’t want to jinx my team with a prediction, so I won’t say anything. But while leafing through Stephen Brunt’s book on 100 Grey Cups, I was reminded that it was 40 years ago Nov. 23 that I attended my first Grey Cup game, with my beloved Edmonton Eskimos taking on the Montreal Alouettes. The Eskimos hadn’t won a Grey Cup since the year I was born, so seeing a winning Eskimo team was still fairly novel (the Esks were in their third straight GC game, having lost the previous two). It was a fairly notorious game for many reasons. It was the first held in Western Canada, and one of the coldest ever to that time. It was about -15, with a 25-kph wind that froze me to my very marrow. I was ill prepared for the game, sadly underdressed. I damn near died of the cold, shivering uncontrollably. The weather didn’t help the game; the ball was frozen as a block of ice, and nobody could do a thing. There wasn’t a single touchdown scored, but the game was nail-biting close. But in the dying minutes, Montreal completed one huge pass to get the ball deep in Edmonton territory. Montreal kicker Don Sweet lined up for a 19-yard field goal, a chip shot, really. I remember thinking that my last hours on earth (I was freezing to death, remember?) were going to be spent watching the Eskimos lose the Grey Cup for the third time. But holder Jimmy Jones misplayed the snap, and Sweet’s attempt went wide. I remember jumping to my feet for the first time in about three hours, and being barely able to move. It was a terrible game to sit through, but ultimately a good memory. Frozen in time, so to speak.
RIP: Weslyn Mather, 70, former Liberal MLA for Edmonton Mill Woods. Wes was part of the mini-wave of Liberal MLAs (along with me) who were elected in 2004. Wes was simply the kindest, most quietly courageous person I’ve ever known. Relegated to a wheelchair due to a car accident, widowed when her husband, then-city councillor Dick Mather, died of a heart attack, nothing seemed to get her down. She went out door knocking in her wheelchair, held town hall meetings, fought hard for underprivileged kids and moms. Wes was a truly inspiring person. She will be missed … Manmeet Buhler, 35, a Calgary PC MLA. He was killed in an accident on the QEII, when he stopped to help a motorist who drove off the road, and was struck and killed by an out-of-control vehicle.