Opinion: by Michelle Stirling © 2018
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the French National Assembly on April 17, 2018.
As part of his address he claimed that Canada will meet its COP21 Paris Agreement greenhouse gas reduction targets – despite the fact that Canada is presently in a deadlock over the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to the ocean port in British Columbia. As part of his message to the National Assembly, he appeared to apologize to the French people for Canada’s continued reliance on oil.
Since the 1970’s oil crisis, France has had a motto of: “We have no oil, we have ideas.” It seems their latest idea is the Canada-France agreement on climate change and culture, which was signed the day before the address. Canada has the third largest oil reserves in the world. Maybe that deal was a good idea for France – the question is, was it a good deal for Canada?
Anglo Canadians are largely oblivious to the eastern French Canadian power bloc. Most of the largest companies in Canada are headquartered in Quebec, and according to Finance Canada, more than 200 of them have head offices in France.
Canadian trade with France goes back to the 1700’s and the Battle for Quebec. In fact, Prime Minister Trudeau mentioned his roots are in France, that he is descended from a carpenter who left France for a better life. Indeed, early times in the colony of New France were very difficult. This was the time of the Little Ice Age – when temperatures world-wide were cooler than today and weather patterns very erratic. As Gordon Donaldson recounts in his book, the “Battle for Quebec” – the elite French governors took pity on the peasant farmers of Quebec by inviting them to sit in the balcony, to watch the governor and his elites dine on a multi-course meal.
The French-Canadian peasants were incensed by the elitist behaviour – scrawling graffiti on the walls telling the French to go home. This lack of regard for the ordinary French-Canadian person was the main reason France lost its foothold in New France. It was due to corruption by the elites and brutal disregard for poor carpenters like our Prime Minister’s ancestor.
I became fascinated with this period of Canadian history when I worked in Quebec in the 1980’s with filmmakers Marie Jose Raymond and Claude Fournier. We were working on a telefilm about Louisbourg, the magnificent Vaubon-style fortress which was supposed to keep the Brits out… but the fortress and New France were lost to the Brits by the demoralized French soldiers. Those poor people were living in a time when corruption of the French elites was so great, the only thing we as filmmakers could do, was to turn the film script into a comedy.
So – back to the present. Is France attempting to reclaim its past through carbon taxes? In 2016, France unilaterally passed a law requiring all of its foreign investees to create a 2 degree Celsius plan – and there are billions of dollars of investment in Canada. France has exceptional geopolitical power through La Francophonie.
According to Ottawa energy consultant, Robert Lyman, if Canada was to meet its Paris Agreement GHG reductions, by reducing emissions, our economy would be reduced to ashes – we would have the economy of Iraq, Bolivia, or Sudan.
So, obviously the only way to pretend to meet those commitments is to engage in carbon trading – and thus the push for a price on carbon.
As Bruno Wiskel recalls in his book “The Emperor’s New Climate”:
February 2005, Bloc Quebecois MPs argued that because of Quebec’s reliance on ‘clean’ hydroelectricity, it should only have to make 5% of the country’s overall reductions, while Alberta should make 40%. Theoretically, Alberta would be able to accomplish this feat by buying carbon credits from Quebec. Such a scheme would not likely change the amount of money flowing from west to east, only the wording. Instead of Quebec receiving ‘charity’ from Alberta through federal transfer payments, they would then be ‘earning’ the money from the Kyoto-motivated trading of carbon credits.
Seems like France may have a similar idea. France is largely powered by nuclear and plans to make all its transportation electric – which one can do in a temperate climate and with so many nuclear reactors. Imagine the money it could make from Canada…especially Alberta!
And this appears to be a magnificent geopolitical move on the part of President Macron to further isolate the US – creating a kind of pincer move to try and force them into carbon markets and Paris Agreement compliance as well.
However, energy investment banker PPHB of the US issued their musings the same day as Prime Minister Trudeau’s address to the French National Assembly. PPHB said of the Canadian government and Kinder Morgan’s blockaded pipeline:
For the federal government, its support of certain energy projects, while fighting others, has allowed itself to be positioned as both pro energy and anti-energy. This split political personality is seen by the global energy industry as a sign Canada has evolved into a hostile location to do business. For an industry that operates with decades long planning and development timetables, this hostile attitude could cause long-term damage for Canada’s economy, and especially its western provinces where the energy industry is centred. Energy hostility will also put the mining, timber and other extractive industries on notice that their growth may soon become challenged.
The Prime Minister is perhaps not aware that world oil demand rose by 1.6% (or 1.5 million barrels per day) in 2017, a rate that was more than twice the annual average of the past decade. (Summary of IEA 2017 report)
Or that France’s oil company, Total SA which has recently abandoned much of the Alberta oil sands, to invest $5 billion in Iranian oil…..Because oil is not declining anywhere in the world. Demand is growing and Canada should build pipelines and join the world economy.
Must we remind the Prime Minister that his forefather, like most of our ancestors, came here to Canada for a better life – not to return to the life of serfdom.
Carbon dioxide is not the knob that can control climate.
Carbon taxes and carbon trading do nothing to address climate change; they do nothing for the environment. They make free people poor, and poor people hungry. Our rebuttal to Ecofiscal Commission.
Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.
Read William Kay’s “Post-Paris” trilogy for more insights on the geopolitics of #climate change.