The farce and Western alienation

While reviewing Mary Janigan’s Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark, Richard Warnica suggests the Conservatives’ carbon tax talk can be linked to the narrative around western alienation.

In Ottawa, as the ongoing cap-and-trade saga demonstrates, the rhetoric, of West vs. the Rest lives on. The “job-killing carbon tax” line is nothing if not a dog whistle to westerners still fearful of Ottawa’s grubby hands. That the line itself is baldly hypocritical isn’t really the point. As long as Conservatives believe there are votes to be won, it’s worth poking ancient regional wounds. After all, as Janigan all too ably demonstrates, this is the Canadian way.

When, during the 2011 election campaign, John Baird summoned reporters to the National Press Theatre to hear him condemn the Liberal party’s plans for cap-and-trade—I generally regard this as the birth of the farce—western alienation was explicitly part of his pitch.

I think the Liberal party’s efforts in the early 80s that divided this country, like few other issues have, it is incredibly divisive the proposal that Mr. Ignatieff has talked about. I think we’ve been very clear with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, with respect to air pollutants, that we will regulate, working with the United States. It’s not easy, but we’ve finally got an administration where we’re getting real results. We’ve worked incredibly hard on a North American auto standard. We’re doing that by regulation, not by capping and trading. We’re working hard on light trucks, that’s been done. We’re working hard on civil aviation with ICAO, on marine transportation with the IMO, International Maritime Organization. We’re working hard on dirty coal, electricity generation. I think it’s just, if we’re going to do it, we can’t be pitting one part of Canada against another and trying to redistribute wealth from Alberta and Saskatchewan to other provinces. The divisions caused in the early 80s are still felt today. I think President Obama has spoken about the capacity to get a cap and trade bill through the United States congress as dead and let’s move forward on regulation. That’s where I think we’re going to get the best reductions, rather than a cap-and-trade or cap-and-tax, whatever you’d like to call it.

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