Sunday, February 25, 2007

Premier Stelmach and Dr. Suzuki Need to Sit Down Over a Beer

Premier Stelmach and Dr. David Suzuki need to sit down and have a beer and get to know each other. The media induced tempest between the two is not informative nor helpful.

I was at the Suzuki lecture at the University of Alberta last night and heard him say “I did not write that headline” referencing the Calgary Herald headline attributing a statement to Suzuki on Stelmach’s qualifications to govern. In fact Suzuki admitted he “did not even know the new Premier’s name.” While Suzuki is a man of dedicated passion he is no fool and not prone to reckless character judgments.

I don’t know Suzuki except through his writings, lecture and television programs, which come to think of it, I perhaps know quite a bit about him. I do know Ed Stelmach and that his personal sense of responsibility as Premier is that he is a trustee for Albertans for the natural resources and the environment.

Stelmach has made "managing growth" a principle of his Premiership but that does not mean he is going to intervene inappropriately in the marketplace. As Premier he sees himself as the public’s trustee for the environment and as a working farmer, even today, he has a personal sense of what stewardship means.

There is lots that Stelmach and Suzuki can learn from each other. I think these two men of character and capacity need to have beer and get to know each other personally. The potential synergy of their talents and perspectives will serve us all for the better – at so many levels.


  1. I have no idea why Suzuki is picking a fight with Stelmach and Alberta in general. Suzuki admitted he didn't know Stelmach's name AND admitted he didn't even understand the oilsands enough to make a real statement on the issue. Why state that Stelmach and Alberta will be "shamed" into becoming more environmentally friendly? These type of statements remind me of Mark Holland coming to AB and preaching without really knowing the situation - we all know where that got him and the fed LPC in AB.

    Let's look for solutions and not play the blame game.

  2. Anonymous8:21 am


    Your comment is spot-on. Don Braid in the Calgary Herald said that Suzuki risks becomig a parody of himself.

    Suzuki is a public figure. Attention was not foisted upon him. He sought it. So he is not above criticism. I think he has to be held to the same standard as any politician... because that is what he is. He hasn't done unbiased scientific work since he was working with fruit-flies (he is trained as a geneticist). Fair enough. Many of us change jobs mid-career.

    But if he is going to be seen as a legitimate voice by people other than the deep greens, he has to do his own research. Like learning about the advances made in the recovery of oilsands before saying things like "we haven't begun to put the brainpower together to extract the tar-sands". Huh? I agree lots can be done, but to say there has been no technological advancement in the oilsands is to depart reality on the ship of fantasy.

  3. Anonymous8:23 am

    One other thing. A public denouncement cannot be righted with a private apology. For Suzuki to try and slip out by saying "I did not write that headline" is weak. No, he did not write the headline. But the intent of his diatribe was obvious.

  4. F. Haultain9:36 am

    Ken - I am not sure that you can say that Premier Stelmach has made managing growth a principle of his premiership. Remember he said that he won't 'touch the brake'.

    I haven't seen any evidence that he is willing even to slow the growth of his own spending. As for environment, the so-called intensity targets that he has promoted show he is not committed to actually cutting emissions, favouring the continuation of runaway growth.

    I hope you are right and I am wrong about his intentions, but I don't share your optimism based on what I see.

  5. Anon, I do agree with Ken's suggestion. Suzuki should meet with Stelmach (or at least phone him) to clear this matter up.

  6. Anonymous10:23 am

    I don't disagree. Meeting would allow the two to discuss positive changes that could be made.

    But I must admit, I am more than a little cynical about Suzuki. He has stormed out of more than one meeting when his assertions are questioned, and he is quick to denounce those who are not "as green" as he.

    Meeting him would also grant him more authority - something I think he has all to much of already... at least in the eyes of some people. It would be better - to my thinking - that the Premier continue to meet with persons and organizations who are not so ideologically driven, and would consider both sides of the coin (environment and industry). We need both.

  7. We don't have to touch the brakes. The economy is moderating on its own accord. The intensity model for GHG emissions is only an interim step to establishing fixed emission caps. Alberta is looking at a provincial carbon trading scheme too which will expand energy alternatives and renewables as well and new technology development and implementation.

    The royalty review, the land use strategy, the integrated energy strategy, water for life strategy and the refocus of the Climate Change Central agency, the Affordable Housing Task Force, the pending Municipal Infrastrucutre program are all government actions that have an impact to moderate the rate of growth. And they are working without direct government interference in the marketplace.

    The recent EUB hearing decisions on oil sands projects are indicating the GOA needs to address the public infrastructure needs that result in project approvals. That message has been heard and the RAdke Report will show today the response of government.

    Then we have the labour and housing shortages. Only 70% of new people coming to Alberta to work are staying. We have a problem!

    Major projects not yet past the EUB approval stage are now being deferred and delayed for many of these reasons. This is going to stretch out the work and have a moderating impact on economic growth without direct government intervention.

    We need to address the environmental issues and the social deficit we have let occur in the past 5 years of inaction but we have fresh horses in government to do that now.

    Stelmach sees himself as a trustee of the resources and the environment. The balance has to be struck to ensure enhanced environmental outcomes and sustained economic growth and that is his consciousness.

    Media headlines that invite conflict instead of mutual resolution are always a problem. This type of misunderstanding can always be dealt with as between people of good will - as we have here.

    Keep the pressure on but be assured and patient that thngs are happening and that Alberta is moving in the right direction. Dr. Suzuki needs to make that change in his consciousness about the new Alberta attitude too. But it is our job to communicate that change effectively so it is understood and appreciated.

  8. I've been a fan of "The Nature of Things" since I was a child. I have a deep respect for Dr Suzuki (he took over hosting the program in 1979) and the work he has done bringing discussions from the academic world to the public.

    I have a letter from him, somewhere in my files. I'd written him when my friends & I were running tents during the early Earth Day celebrations here in Edmonton. He was kind enough to write back congratulating us on our efforts.

    I am concerned, however, about what kind of relationship Dr Suzuki may have developed with those elements of the Health Promotion community that alarm me so intensely. Social marketing campaigns are propaganda, plain & simple - they are not intended to educate, they are intended to manipulate and control the public's attitudes and behaviour. If Dr Suzuki's touring is a social marketing campaign, on any level, then I cannot trust anything he says to be either accurate or fully truthful.

    My grandfather was this man:

    Professor William Rowan, the founder of the University of Alberta's Zoology Department and a somewhat emminent scientist of his day. He was also a pioneer of bringing academic discussion to the public, which he did through many years of popular radio broadcasts. In his day, "environmentalists" were described as "conservationists" - and Dr rowan was a very dedicated conservationist. On several levels, he laid the ground for people like Dr Suzuki to do what they do today.

    But Dr Rowan had another passion. He spent much of his last years promoting INTEGRITY, in science and in public life. He despised propaganda and propagandists, and would have been appalled by modern Social Marketing campaigns had he lived to see them.