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The distant future is a politician’s most useful friend — it is where every good and noble thing they promise actually happens. It is where the clutter of present events and the roiling fortunes of this busy harsh and confounding world do not impinge on their their wildest wishes.
For example, under Ontario’s green ambitions, we are given to understand the goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a full 80 per cent by 2050. This is Premier Kathleen Wynn’s pledge, a commitment that will take merely 35 years to be tested — a generous breathing space by any standards for a political commitment, and which happily just might be the identical term it takes to learn all there is to know about the infamous billion-dollar cancellation of a couple of Ontario gas plants a couple of elections ago.
We have long since learned, and from a thousand examples, that the promises of most politicians barely survive the time it takes to make them. Antiques like me remember the bitter mocking Pierre Trudeau once gave Robert Stanfield on the latter’s promise to introduce wage and price controls — “Zap! You’re frozen!,” said the wily Trudeau — only to pirouette mere days after an election to introduce … wage and price controls.
Pledges three, four or 10 decades out are perfect vapourings. To call them useless is to elevate their dignity. To build present-day policy under the umbrella of such projections is to blend fantasy and irresponsibility.
Essentially that’s what we have been watching at the premiers’ conference this week in St. John’s. Those premiers who are extremely confident on the events of 2050 — Quebec’s and Ontario’s being the leaders, Rachel Notley of Alberta looking very much like an ally — and who are awash in self-esteem about how their ardent “commitments” to reduce global warming (the ignis fatuus of our day) want the present to act as hostage for their dreams.
One premier, however, who seems seriously stuck in the present, and who is unaccountably concerned with such trivial matters as Canadian jobs and the contribution the energy industry has made to all parts of Canada, who has the outlandish idea that the use of the word “oil” in public is not a pure blasphemy, takes a different view. Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall is utterly untinged with the mysticism of some of his fellow premiers, and astonishingly — it is very “incorrect” to say obvious things — mounts a public defence of the central industry of this entire country.
How outrageous he has been can be gleaned from just a few of his remarks. “There is a growing sense of frustration in the West that our economies have been creating significant opportunities for all Canadians….” is one of those statements. It carries the clear implication that since this is so – the Western oil industry has helped all Canadians – it is a little more than curious there is so little encouragement or support for that industry. Indeed, it’s rather the opposite. Any opportunity to hobble it, or to put it in harness to an environmental agenda, is leaped at by some. In this contest 2050 always wins over 2015.
For the rest of this column, click here: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-is-brad-wall-the-only-premier-who-cares-about-2015-not-just-2050