With Alberta Premier Jason Kenney fulminating about western alienation as a national unity crisis—after working so hard to stoke that alienation on the campaign trail—Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason says Kenney is too late. The unity crisis is already here, and its name is climate change, amped up by the extreme communications of the social media era.
“Although we may not realize it, the moment in which we find ourselves is beyond worrisome,” Mason writes. “We face a common enemy in climate change, amid a hyper-partisan age that almost by definition means our political leaders can’t come together to find a common solution.”
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At a time when “tearing down your enemy is more important than reaching across the aisle to build consensus,” he adds, “rational discussion about most issues has become even more unattainable, and now the new norm is a general discourse that pits Canadian against Canadian.”
The Trudeau government won a majority in 2015 after running on a “hard environmental agenda” that included climate action, a carbon tax, and a ban on west coast tanker traffic. But now, “Kenney and others want the Liberals to abandon those pledges and effectively give Alberta everything it wants (Or we’ll separate!),” Mason notes.
“And it’s been made clear that one new pipeline won’t be enough. This at the same time Environment Canada has revealed that some of the oil sands are releasing an average of about one-third more carbon dioxide per barrel than has been previously reported. And a shocking new report by a panel of international scientists estimates one million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction, some within a few decades or less, unless action is taken immediately to stifle the effects of climate change.” […In fairness, that should be climate change, among other factors.—Ed.]
But “that’s only an issue for people who believe climate change is real, or who believe we should do something about our emissions problems even if India isn’t doing enough about theirs,” Mason writes. For his part, Kenney is prepared to argue that Alberta deserves a break from the rest of the country, strictly by virtue of their higher contributions to federal income taxes in recent years.
“Mr. Kenney can stomp his feet, and threaten to hold his breath all he wants, but this won’t change the fact that growing numbers believe there should be compromise when balancing the needs of the environment and the economy,” Mason concludes. “Even if Mr. Kenney’s friend, federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, becomes the next prime minister, he’s unlikely to be successful in taking Canada back in time. Instead, he’ll get an up-close look at Canada’s unity crisis.”