alberta politics

Special: How should Alberta scrap coal?

Four MLAs seated at a desk in front of a whiteboard.

Representatives of Alberta’s four major political parties participated in the debate. From left: NDP MLA Rachel Notley, WIldrose MLA Joe Anglin, Associate Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy and PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, and Liberal MLA David Swann.

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Something special for Terra Informa listeners today – this is not a full episode, but an extra from a story we’re working on for a future show. On January 17, a remarkable gathering occurred. Representatives from Alberta’s four major political parties met at the University of Alberta to discuss the health effects of coal-fired power generation in the province, and how to wean the province off of coal. We’ve captured a full recording of the event for you to listen to above.

Alberta relies on coal for the majority of its electricity needs — an outlier compared to provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, which depend more heavily on hydroelectric, natural gas, and nuclear power for electricity generation. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta’s electricity sector are high compared to other provinces and territories, and so are health effects like asthma episodes, breathing difficulties, and hospitalizations from air pollution.

The debate was hosted by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), and moderated by epidemiologist and professor Dr. Colin Soskolne. Thanks to CAPE and Joe Vipond for allowing us to record and broadcast the event.

Dealing With Climate Change Deniers & Danielle Smith Interview

Projected Change in Mean Annual Temperatures Relative to 1961 to 1990 Average: Year 1995 to 2070 (The Canadian Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis (CCCma) of Environment Canada developed the climate model and produced the simulation.)

Terra_Informa_2010March28

News Links Coming Soon

There have been a series of climate change related scandals, dubbed ‘gates,’ cluttering up the mainstream media in 2010: Climategate, Glaciergate, and most recently the failed attempt by Sunday Times journalist Johnathan Leake to launch ‘Amazongate’… Although subsequent investigations into these ‘gates’ have consistently determined that the subject of scandal is irrelevant to the overwhelming scientific consensus that green-house gas induced climate change is happening and that humans are responsible for it, Climate Change Scepticism is on the rise. In fact, odds are you’ve encountered at least one climate change denier today. But don’t worry, this week Terra Informa will arm you with the tools to effectively combat the spread of misinformation. In a segment inspired by the Feb. 18th Blog post by Marlo Raynolds ‘How would we respond to an equal threat that wasn’t called climate change?’, Rebekah and Andy bring us… “Dealing with Deniers!”

Next on Terra Informa, we turn to the curious world of politics in Alberta. The pattern of governance in this province leaves many Canadians scratching their heads. In over one hundred years, only four parties have ruled, and each time, they’ve held power for decades. Stranger still, after being disposed of, each political party has disappeared completely. Albertans might give their governments generous terms, but once the love is lost, it’s lost forever. The current government is formed by the Progressive Conservative party, who have held office for almost forty years. But current Premier Ed Stelmach is sharply down in the polls, and he faces a new threat in the form of the upstart “Wildrose Alliance party.”

Some pundits are wondering whether the next election will deliver a rare change of government. Even though the Progressive Conservatives occupy the centre-right of the political spectrum, the Wildrose Alliance is finding resonance with an even more conservative pitch. Their leader, Danielle Smith, is a former journalist and business lobbyist. She describes herself as an economic libertarian and social moderate – in favour of small government, low taxes and free enterprise. Her support base lies primarily in the conservative and influential oil patch business community of Calgary. We at Terra Informa are particularly interested in the changing political landscape in the province of Alberta. The oil boom province has a lot to answer for with regard to Canada’s environmental record. Decisions made over the oil sands will impact the nation’s CO2 output, and its international reputation. The health of the boreal forest and the Athabasca river, as well as indigenous land rights issues, all hang in the balance. Will the province implement stronger environmental regulation? Will rapidly rising carbon dioxide emissions be curbed? The answers to these questions may just depend on the outcome of the next provincial election, to be held in 2012. David Kaczan spoke to Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith last week, in an effort to discover where this party stands on environmental issues. Their reputation on green matters is certainly not good. And as heard here, Ms Smith holds a number of controversial views which could suggest a rocky time ahead for the environment. However, with several years before the next provincial election, who will be the next premier is far from certain.

“Terra Informa has requested an interview with Premier Ed Stelmach to hear
his vision for future environmental protection in Alberta, and we are
awaiting a response from his media office. We’ll let you know if he agrees
to speak to us.’

Next on Terra Informa, we turn to the curious world of politics in Alberta.
The pattern of governance in this province leaves many Canadians scratching
their heads. In over one hundred years, only four parties have ruled, and
each time, they’ve held power for decades. Stranger still, after being
disposed of, each political party has disappeared completely. Albertans
might give their governments generous terms, but once the love is lost, it’s
lost forever.The current government is formed by the Progressive Conservative party, who
have held office for almost forty years. But current Premier Ed Stelmach is
sharply down in the polls, and he faces a new threat in the form of the
upstart “Wildrose Aliance party.” Some pundits are wondering whether the
next election will deliver a rare change of government.Even though the Progressive Conservatives occupy the centre-right of the
political spectrum, the Wildrose Alliance is finding resonance with an even
more conservative pitch. Their leader, Danielle Smith, is a former
journalist and business lobbyist. She describes herself as an economic
libertarian and social moderate – in favour of small government, low taxes
and free enterprise. Her support base lies primarily in the conservative and
influential oil patch business community of Calgary.We at Terra Informa are particularly interested in the changing political
landscape in the province of Alberta. The oil boom province has a lot to
answer for with regard to Canada’s environmental record. Decisions made over
the oil sands will impact the nation’s CO2 output, and its international
reputation. The health of the boreal forest and the Athabasca river, as well
as indigenous land rights issues, all hang in the balance. Will the province
implement stronger environmental regulation? Will rapidly rising carbon
dioxide emissions be curbed? The answers to these questions may just depend
on the outcome of the next provincial election, to be held in 2012.David Kaczan spoke to Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith last week, in
an effort to discover where this party stands on environmental issues. Their
reputation on green matters is certainly not good. And as heard here, Ms
Smith holds a number of controversial views which could suggest a rocky time
ahead for the environment. However, with several years before the next
provincial election, who will be the next premier is far from certain.
Here’s David Kaczan speaking to Danielle Smith.

Terra Informa March 14, 2010

Terra Informa March 14, 2010 (Listen /Download)

This week on Terra Informa Dave Kaczan and Steve Smiley look into whether Canada is getting good value for its petroleum resources and what effect resourse dollars are having on our democracy. Matt Israelson has a review of Andrew Nikiforuk’s book “Tar Sands”. And Rebekah Rooney brings us another of her Science Shorts, this time looking at effects of urban habitat on amphibians.

Here is this week’s selection of environmental new stories, brought to us by Eric.

A proposed plan to preserve, protect and restore Alberta’s wetlands has been scrapped by the Alberta government, according to a lobby group representing oil and other resource companies. Conservationists are alarmed by a statement released by the Alberta Chamber of resources which says that it has convinced the government to reverse a plan to require oilsands and mining companies to fully restore the wetlands they mine. Alberta currently has no regulations for how companies use wetlands after they mine it. The proposed “no net loss” policy was supposed to go in effect last April. Environment Minister Rob Renner says he hasn’t made a decision yet on the subject. (article by John Cotter [CP])

The Alberta government is cutting royalty rates for conventional oil and gas. Premier Ed Stelmach announced on Thursday that rates for oil and gas will be cut as much as 20%. Oilsands projects are not included in the change. The move has had mixed reactions from the opposition. NDP Leader Brian Mason suggested that Stelmach is reacting to pressure from the oil and gas sector, but Wild Rose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith argued that Stelmach owed Albertans an apology for increasing the rates in the first place. The reduction in royalties will cost the government $828 million over the next three years. (Edmonton Journal article)

The judge preciding over Syncrude’s trial for the infamous duck incident has ordered that statements made by Syncrude be examined for legal admissibility before they are allowed as evidence. Calling a Voir Dire, Judge Ken Tjosvold decided that statements made by more than 20 employees during the weeks after the April 28th incident must be examined by the court. Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to charges under the Alberta Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. It could face up to $800,000 in fines and its executives could spend up to six months in jail if the company is found guilty. (Edmonton Journal article)

Related to the trial, on Wednesday, Greenpeace activists presented Premier Ed Stelmach’s Spokesman with two blown up photos of ducks from the tailings pond incident. The photos have been entered as evidence at the trial against Syncrude. During a press conference on Monday, Stelmach said he had not seen the pictures. NDP Leader Brian Mason also tabled photos of the Ducks “mostly for the benefit of the premier” in the legislature. (Edmonton Sun article)

A study lead by the University of Calgary has concluded that Carbon Capture Technology is indeed possible. But in a strange twist of fate the only way it will be economically feasible is if the government imposes a large carbon tax. Managers of the study concluded that they could safely inject Carbon dioxide into rock formations on a large scale. But the cost of doing so means it would only happen if there was a significant price on carbon. Authors of the study listed prices ranging from $50-$100 per tonne. The current price on carbon is a $15 per tonne, which is not enough to warrant the expense of CCS, say the study’s authors. (Calgary Herald Article)

Youtube videos (above) launched by the satirical lobby group “No more grizzlies”, which depicts grizzly bears destroying cities with laser vision, among other things. The campaign was launched by the Alberta Wilderness Association as a way to spread the message that Alberta’s grizzlies are in trouble.The campaign was launched after sustainable resources minister Mel Knight suggested he was open to allowing a limited grizzly bear hunt in the future. No grizzly bear hunts will be permitted in 2010.

Energy and resources, especially oil, drive the Western Canadian Economy. We hear a lot about the environmental damage that results from this, but today we investigate the possible political and economic implications of such dependency. What does Canada have to show for its fossil fuel wealth compared to other oil rich countries? And is there a danger that oil wealth is distorting sectors of our economy, not to mention our democracy? To answer these questions, Terra Informa’s David Kaczan spoke to Dr. Gordon Laxer, director of the progressive think tank the Parkland Institute, based in Edmonton.  Gordon Laxer is a Political Economist and has written extensively on such topics for both an academic and broader audience.

Check out the Events featured on the show here.

Terra Informa March 14, 2010 (Listen /Download)

A proposed plan to preserve, protect and restore Alberta’s wetlands has been scrapped by the Alberta government, according to a lobby group representing oil and other resource companies. Conservationists are alarmed by a statement released by the Alberta Chamber of resources which says that it has convinced the government to reverse a plan to require oilsands and mining companies to fully restore the wetlands they mine. Alberta currently has no regulations for how companies use wetlands after they mine it. The proposed “no net loss” policy was supposed to go in effect last April. Environment Minister Rob Renner says he hasn’t made a decision yet on the subject. (article by John Cotter [CP])

The Alberta government is cutting royalty rates for conventional oil and gas. Premier Ed Stelmach announced on Thursday that rates for oil and gas will be cut as much as 20%. Oilsands projects are not included in the change. The move has had mixed reactions from the opposition. NDP Leader Brian Mason suggested that Stelmach is reacting to pressure from the oil and gas sector, but Wild Rose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith argued that Stelmach owed Albertans an apology for increasing the rates in the first place. The reduction in royalties will cost the government $828 million over the next three years. (Edmonton Journal article)

The judge preciding over Syncrude’s trial for the infamous duck incident has ordered that statements made by Syncrude be examined for legal admissibility before they are allowed as evidence. Calling a Voir Dire, Judge Ken Tjosvold decided that statements made by more than 20 employees during the weeks after the April 28th incident must be examined by the court. Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to charges under the Alberta Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. It could face up to $800,000 in fines and its executives could spend up to six months in jail if the company is found guilty. (Edmonton Journal article)

Related to the trial, on Wednesday, Greenpeace activists presented Premier Ed Stelmach’s Spokesman with two blown up photos of ducks from the tailings pond incident. The photos have been entered as evidence at the trial against Syncrude. During a press conference on Monday, Stelmach said he had not seen the pictures. NDP Leader Brian Mason also tabled photos of the Ducks “mostly for the benefit of the premier” in the legislature. (Edmonton Sun article)

A study lead by the University of Calgary has concluded that Carbon Capture Technology is indeed possible. But in a strange twist of fate the only way it will be economically feasible is if the government imposes a large carbon tax. Managers of the study concluded that they could safely inject Carbon dioxide into rock formations on a large scale. But the cost of doing so means it would only happen if there was a significant price on carbon. Authors of the study listed prices ranging from $50-$100 per tonne. The current price on carbon is a $15 per tonne, which is not enough to warrant the expense of CCS, say the study’s authors. (Calgary Herald Article)

Youtube videos (above) launched by the satirical lobby group “No more grizzlies”, which depicts grizzly bears destroying cities with laser vision, among other things. The campaign was launched by the Alberta Wilderness Association as a way to spread the message that Alberta’s grizzlies are in trouble.The campaign was launched after sustainable resources minister Mel Knight suggested he was open to allowing a limited grizzly bear hunt in the future. No grizzly bear hunts will be permitted in 2010.