Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can Harper & Stelmach Get Along & is Alberta Ready for a Carbon Tax?

Media reports say there is a battle brewing between the Harper and Stelmach governments and it is where the environment and the economy meet. Former Premier Peter Lougheed predicted this over two years ago in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association.

Cambridge Strategies is in the final stages of data collection in a random sample conjoint survey on values Albertans want to see guide and drive politicians and policy makers when they are deciding matters that impact the lives of citizens. We have also asked some very pointed opinion questions on the political culture of Alberta oo.

Given some recent mainstream media stories, I thought it helpful to give a preview of some of the preliminary findings. We are almost finished gathering the data so some of these result might change but likely only slightly.

In the context of the “Battle Brewing Between Alberta and Ottawa over Oil Sands Exports” only 22% of Albertans Strongly Agreed or Agreed that “Prime Minister Stephen Harper pays sufficient attention to Alberta issues and concerns.” Only 25% Strongly Agreed or Agreed “Prime Minister Harper should stop Chinese investment in Alberta’s Oilsands while 56% of Albertans disagree this proposition to some degree of other.

As for perceptions of Albertans on how well the Harper and Stelmach government are getting along on major issues of environment, investment and natural resources over 82% do not think the two governments are getting along that well.  Indications are it will only get worse as the Harper government continue to ignore Alberta's concerns and Stelmach government continues to lag in public confidence.  This all typical fed-prov political infighting will happen at a time when the world is targeting Canada and Alberta for our politically inert attitudes and embarrassingly inept approaches towards environmental policy.

Then we have the other interesting story that Suncor CEO Rick George is reported to be in favour of a carbon tax as part of a national energy strategy to reduce emissions and promote responsible energy development. George is calling for a carbon tax that applies to industry and consumers and to all emitters from “oilsands plants to the tailpipe of your car.” George sees a need for a national energy strategy to harmonize the patchwork of provincial policies and align with major trading partners like the United States.

The Stelmach government has apparently “shot down the idea” according to mainstream media reports. Apparently Deputy Premier Doug Horner “…flatly dismissed the idea of a tax on consumers and bristled at the suggestion of a national energy policy beyond simple co-operation between provinces and the federal government on energy issues.

Our research study preliminary findings show that Albertans, when asked if “Alberta should have a carbon tax and use the money to clean the environment” 23.71% strongly disagreed, 15.81% disagreed and 21.36% slightly disagreed. On the other hand those who supported a carbon tax showed 4.27% strongly agreed, 13.46% agreed and 21.36 slightly agreed. That is a surprising 60/40 split. Seen another way the swing vote of the slightly agreed or disagreed are over 42% so there is volatility around acceptance of a carbon tax by Albertan depending on if the mush middle moves one way or the other.

As for the strength of support the politicians representing Alberta we have figures from another random study of 1032 Albertans that is complete. The bottom line is there is not much confidence in any of the existing federal or provincial alternatives. When asked “who do you trust the most to responsibly manage Alberta’s growth” the results were telling. Brian Mason (NDP) 4%, David Swann (Liberal) 9%, Danielle Smith (Wildrose Alliance) 19%, Ed Stelmach (PC Party) 23%. NONE OF THE ABOVE 45%.  Albertans are clearly not happy with the directions and choices the current political parties are offering. Kind of shows why only 40% of us even bother to vote.

The Federal politicians representing Alberta have nothing to brag about either. When Albertans were asked how satisfied they were the way the Alberta-based MPs were representing Albertans interests in Ottawa only 1% were completely satisfied, 16% were satisfied and 27% were slightly satisfied. On the other hand 11% were totally dissatisfied, 22% were dissatisfied and 23% were slightly dissatisfied. Again 50% are in the mushy middle of being slightly satisfied or dissatisfied. As for if the Alberta MPS are doing enough to protect Albertan oil and gs resources in Ottawa 40% thing they are and 60% don’t thing they are.  Not a strong vote confidence as a federal election looms.

Bottom line is the Feds and the provincial governments appear to be increasingly misaligned and misreading the mood of the Alberta public on many key issues. I will show more about this misalignment in subsequent blog posts once the final survey results are in and the analysis has been completed.

All this research is showing us that there is a need for a political revolution to change the political culture of this province.  As I have said this before on this blog,  I see a Renaissance, a Reformation and a ReEnlightenment all now happening at the same time.  I wonder if it is enough to create the kind of political unrest that festers and fosters the kind of Revolution we have sen before in Alberta's political culture.  It has before when Social Credit and the Progressive Conservatives came into power years ago. 

It is feeling more and more like Albertans are ready for some serious and radical changes to our political culture - but what is the alternative?  The open question for all Albertans now is does the WAP reflect enough of the core values of contemporary Albertans so they gain the political power to run the province as they wish in this emerging wave of citizen re-engagement?  I will have more to say shortly in answering that question.  First we must finish the current research and do the thorough analysis of the conjoint study results.   We will then have some insight about some of the core the value drivers that Albertans what to see  used by politicians.  then we will know more about what Albertans expect in order to grant their consent to be governed.  Stay tuned.


  1. RAW1002:20 pm

    There is unrest in the Alberta air. I think you are right on target Ken, unfortunately the Liberals don't seem to have the ideas nor the leadership in Mr. Swan to take advantage of this mood. WAP is all about religion and being American and I don't think that appeals to the moderate electorate. I'm feeling a Minority Government and I'm fine with that it is time to sweep the floor clean of mediocrity, greed and arrogance. I am interested in the final results of your research.

  2. HI Ken;

    Your data is consistent with other sources over several years. The problem of course is selling the tax. Probably easier if a revenue neutral policy is introduced with it but even then it becomes one of credibility.

    On Rick George: yes, many industry leaders have been asking for a C-tax for years. Once one has accepted the premise of moving towards a carbon-constrained world (see my article in the Journal, Nov 2009) then the next questions are: at what cost can "x" reductions be achieved? Here a tax has the lowest transactional costs and probably a better hope of being introduced.

    Here Nordhaus' work out of Yale is instructive. Cap-and-Trade or Tax will get you the reductions just depends how tight the cap (and allocations) or how high the tax. Either gets you there.


  3. Anonymous4:09 pm

    Who can mobilize the silent majority. If Alberta demographics plays a role there's a pretty big gap between the blue/pink collar electorate and our typically white collar elected representatives. High school grads seem more concerned about getting a job, hanging out and what am I going to do next ... 30 minutes from now. Our seniors seem to be getting into the act and I suspect more relate to Stelmach than Harper.. Hurray for the Grannies. We can all be left to ponder our international travel plans and whether Canada will abandon us at the first sign of a problem in some foreign prison - Guantanamo Bay Resort and Spa anyone? But say that passport looks pretty good at $125 a pop. And what about those well intended politicians that really do care about the people they represent or want to do the right thing. Good politicians are best seen but not heard if you are the leader of either the federal or provincial PC's. And finally here's a novel idea - how about using the carrot rather than or with the stick. Carbon credits would get my vote especially if there was a market in which I can monetize my efforts for being evironmentally concious.

  4. Ken: RAW100 has got it right..If Great Britain (conservatus maximus) can see its way with a minority coalition (of diverse interest parties) and confront complex..divisive..and gargantuan issues with huge social economic overtones (hopefully avoiding the inevitable consequences thus foisted on a lethargic and visionless leadership in Greece) then why can't Albertans embrace their diversity and get with the problem solving and can the rhetoric..right wing or otherwise..the mouth doesn't kick the ball(soccer axium)..let's work together...the world marches on

  5. Alan Clark8:22 pm

    Rick George supports a carbon tax because he knows that it is a license for him and other emitters to print money. Shutting-down facilities that are already scheduled for de-commissioning provide Suncor a paper credit which they can then sell.

    Albertans don't support a carbon tax for the simple reason that there is no credible science that shows carbon emissions are harmful.

  6. Anonymous11:18 pm

    The greenhouse effect has been expertly proven to be wrong over and over again.

    Why are we taxing a trace gas?

    This is nothing but a means for the government to control more of our economy. It places a competitive burden on manufacturers desparately trying to maintain payrolls in cutthroat competition with China. And it is an enormous burden on low and fixed income Canadians.



    Canadians voted on this already. The Green Shift was an astounding failure.

    And with the climate going into its next 30 year cooling phase, anyone promoting global warming and a carbon tax is going to look like a complete and utter fool especially after last year's winter in Europe, Russia, Mongolia and eastern Florida and especially since Antarctic icepacks are at record levels and especially since Arctic icepacks have returned to normal and especially since global temperatures have cooled for each of the last 12 years.

    Read the science by REAL ATMOSPHERIC PHYSICISTS not from personality disordered narcissists like Suzuki and the massuese assaulting Al Gore.

    Ken, be responsible!

  7. No credible science? There's absolutely tons of credible science that points toward carbon being among the most damaging of the greenhouse gases (because of its sheer mass).

    This "no credible science" mantra is so misleading. There IS science that disputes the degree of effect, but NONE that says carbon does not trap heat, or acknowledge that more carbon means more heat is trapped.

    That part, at least, is undisputed... even scientists (and analysts) who do not want to move toward a less carbon-based power grid.

    It is the lack of science (or the manipulation of details) of on the part of people like Danielle Smith that give ammunition to people who simply don't want to look at the facts for themselves.

    I'm an Albertan and I'm ready for a realistic price on carbon.

  8. The overwhelming majority of "real atmospheric scientists" confirm global climate change as a reality and that human impact is a factor (to one degree or another). The degree is the science in dispute... and the one used by politicians like Ms Smith to obfuscate and avoid action.

    When you talk about not listening to David Suzuki or Al Gore... I will buy in. Not listening to the Science Academies of over 25 advanced nations (including ours... the UK, the USA, Japan, France....) is purely irresponsible.

    Artic ice packs have not returned to normal. New measuring devices have noted that they continue to be very thick in some regions (a good sign), but does in no way change the fact that the shrinkage in the past decade is unprecedented. Your use of facts is selective and not representative of the whole situation.

    The Green Shift was articulated very poorly and was lacking in planning. It was stolen from a number of policies around the world and not rational in itself. It also faced brutal criticism that did not allow for it to be explained well or adapted into a better model. Shouting things down has become a trait of politics in this country. Hence bullies like John Baird and Van Loan are successful politicians today.

    The idea of carbon taxing has just been introduced to Canadians and will continue to adapt and grow into a more realistic policy.

    I always wonder why people so want to maintain our current tax system instead of looking into making it fairer and more responsible.

    Do you like income tax? Do you like paying out huge EI payments? Do you like payroll taxes? How are these better than putting more responsibility on those doing damage and using the system?

    Why do you accept that those are better than a taxation reform that would put more burden on those who abuse energy than those who are simply guilty of working hard?

    In not looking at new ways to ensure government coffers have enough to fulfill governments' roles, you accept that we are as advanced and efficient as we can be and do not take into account current and much changed realities.

    Adaptation to new realities is the trademark of successful enterprises and government. Unfortunately, adaptation is not something our current politicians are very good at... yet.

  9. Every party seems to be dipsy doodling around one of the biggest problems of our age - Capitalism and the banking system as presently set up are loading the world with unnecessary debt, and Wall Street makes itself billions while the rest of the world p;inges into poverty. Political parties are themselves bound to kowtow to those with money while pretending not to, because that's how election campaigns wre financed.

    Maybe Social Credit had something we should be looking at again!

  10. Anonymous10:17 pm

    Amelanchier, Google Richard Lindzen. He is an atmospheric physicist and the Alfred P Sloan Professor at MIT.

    90% of atmospheric physicists agree with him. I will believe real experts like these.

    It is physically impossible for CO2 to cause heating. It simply cannot happen without breaking numerous laws of nature. Read, study, read some more. Read only the most credible and authoritative sources you can find because there is a lot of nonsense out there.

    I was a a global warming believer until I discovered the real science for myself and stopped taking what the agenda-driven alarmists were saying for granted.

  11. Not good enough Anon @ 10:17 - give us links to the published material you are relying on. And tell us who you are so we can assess if you are worthy of any respect too.

  12. Alan Clark10:17 am

    Barry: Statements such as "The shrinkage of the past decade is unprecedented" are exactly the sort of fabrication that the AGW alarmists rely upon to scare the uninformed. By "unprecedented" of course, you mean "in the period that I choose to cherry-pick data from". Unprecedented in a span of a century is a cherry-pick. Unprecedented in a 10 million year historical period is an expedient fabrication. In short, it's just plain false. "The Earth is warming - this is indisputable"... yes, yes, that's what happens after an ice-age. Extremely reasonable to assume this would happen just as after a period of warming, the Earth will cool as we slide toward the next ice-age just as has happened many, many times through history. Nothing "unprecedented" there. As for your contention Barry, that there is any evidence of the anthropological effect of C02 warming outside of fabricated computer modeling, again, plain wrong. I too will take Richard Lindzen over the non-peer reviewed articles from GreenPeace and the WWF that the IPCC bases their "consensus" upon. Sorry, no need to tax carbon any more than we need to tax leaves or peat-bogs. As for your insistence that a Carbon Tax would reform the regime, making it more fair, I'm not aware that anyone has proposed eliminating the income tax, GST or payroll taxes to replace them with your beloved carbon tax. Yet another fabrication? At least yours is original and not just mindless parroting of IPCC/Gore nonsense.

  13. Alan Clark2:35 pm

    Barry, speaking of actual science, I'm sure you took note of this study which says, of the Arctic ice: "The thickness had changed little since 2007, and remained within the expected range of natural variability, the team reports in the Geophysical Research Letters.

    Read more:

    Hmmm. "Natural variability" doesn't exactly support the "man-kind is to blame" theory does it? Natural variability is the sort of thing that happens, well, naturally, outside the influence on things un-natural.

    Speaking of things un-natural... you are aware that the IPCC is backing off from each of their claims, one by one, from the hockey-stick graph to the Himalayan Glacial melt right?

    So far as "credible science" goes, the IPCC has now admitted that they relied heavily upon non-peer reviewed magazine articles to formulate their positions on AGW. Many of the scientists that the IPCC said support their reports have disavowed same, some even claiming that the IPCC has completely misrepresented their work entirely for political ends. Is this what you call "credible science"? Non peer-reviewed paid advertisements from the WWF and GreenPeace?

  14. Graham Fletcher9:42 am

    "Not good enough Anon @ 10:17 - give us links to the published material you are relying on. "

    Here is a list of 750 papers debunking man-made global warming - only a partial list of more which I can dig up if you want:

  15. Graham Fletcher11:55 am

    "Is Alberta ready for the carbon Tax?". One can only hope that this lefty-hopey-changey crap never finds a foothold. Junk science being followed by junk politics and junk policies.

    Here is a taste of why this is pure bull crap:

  16. Anonymous10:46 am

    Did someone say CARBON CREDITS? It is totally ludicrous to talk about a carbon TAX. Why? because everyone expects "government" is going to collect the money from the TAX and redistribute it. No one in there right mind wants to give more money to "government" when they can't properly manage/redistribute what they get now.

    CARBON CREDITS which you and I can purchase on the Chicago Exchange are predicated upon setting an acceptable level of air quality overall and then determining specific emissions by users into what has been considered a free resource -clean, fresh, breathable air. A CREDIT puts a price on taking a clean resource and adding carbon to it. You pay when you get your environmental permit. And if you want to go over your permitted level then go to the market and buy CREDITS from someone else who isn't using their full amount or better yet wind farms et al who receive credits for doing the right environmental thing. Free markets are alive and well in supporting our environment. We just have to use them.