I suppose we should never attribute to mischief what can be explained by incompetence, but what else are we to make of the Edmonton Journal's earnest editorial Friday urging Alberta Premier Jason Kenney not to pull the plug on the carbon tax?
"Killing the provincial carbon tax is one political promise that will be better to break," the Journal's four-member editorial board piously intoned.
Not that this is an unreasonable sentiment on its face. Given the federal carbon tax that will likely soon replace the provincial version about to be axed by Kenney's United Conservative Party government, it's true enough, as the editorial's authors opined, that "there are no advantages to be gained that would justify the bureaucratic nightmare of switching from one carbon tax to another slightly different one."
But surely even the great minds of the Journal's editorial board understand that Kenney would be laughed out of the room if he reneged on this promise just now. Even die-hard Alberta New Democrats would have chuckled.
Now consider the collective wisdom of the members of the board on April 13, mere hours before the provincial election that brought the UCP to power.
On the topic of the carbon tax, they argued that while it might have been a "gutsy" play by the NDP, it didn't work. "Rachel Notley's carrot approach on the pipeline file was a well-meaning endeavour but it failed to produce results. Now, it's time to try the stick."
"Now is the time Alberta, and by extension the rest of Canada, should be capitalizing on that resource to help bankroll a greener future," they reasoned, rather illogically if one considers the carbon footprint of the oilsands, but whatever.
After heaping praise on Kenney, the Journal's editorialists declared: "On Tuesday, voters should choose the UCP."
Whether or not they were influenced by the efforts of the Journal's editorialists, Alberta's voters in their wisdom took their advice.
Now, consider the timing of these events:
On May 17, it was revealed by a sharp-eyed Edmonton blogger that Postmedia, the corporate owner of the Journal, had signed up a well-connected Conservative to lobby the new UCP Government to let it be part of its promised $30-million "war room" -- a fossil fuel public relations operation.
By May 18, critics of Postmedia were pointing out there is something remarkably wrong with the notion of a corporation with its hand out for a bailout from the federal government's $600-million plan to put the legacy newspaper industry on life support to also be lobbying for a job in the ministry of propaganda of a political party opposed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all his works.
By the May long weekend, which immediately followed, the story had grown sturdy legs and was being reported in similar terms nationwide.
On May 23, Thursday, the National Observer -- the independent online news site that does a better job of covering the Canadian fossil fuel industry than all of Postmedia put together -- reported that NDP Ethics Critic Charlie Angus had written Finance Minister Bill Morneau to argue "Postmedia's potential participation in the war room should disqualify it from government support, since it would make a mockery of independent journalism."
On May 24, the Journal's editorial appeared, apparently a lone, brave, independent voice calling on the UCP not to kill the carbon tax after all.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Photo: Premier of Alberta/Flickr
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