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Quebec premier vows drive to slash oil use; Alberta premier calls climate worry 'flavour of the month'

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Quebec Premier François Legault. Photo: XVIIe Sommet de la Francophonie à Erevan

Over the weekend, Quebec Premier François Legault vowed to implement an ambitious electrification drive that would reduce the province's use of oil by 40 per cent by 2030, which in case you're not counting happens to be in only 11 years.

Quebec will electrify transportation systems, buildings and businesses to drive massive cuts in fossil fuel use, Premier Legault told a meeting of his conservative and nationalist Coalition Avenir Québec party on Sunday.

It wouldn't be a big surprise if Alberta's new United Conservative Party leaders, who have just let it slip they think all this fuss about global climate change is the "flavour of the month," react with irrational fury when the implications of this policy announcement begin to set in.

Perhaps they'll sic the Alberta government's soon-to-be-formed Defamation Branch, or whatever the so-called "war room" turns out to be named for official purposes, on Legault and the CAQ.

That oughtta help! Because if there’s one thing concern about climate change sure as heck isn't, it's the flavour of the month. Flavour of the next century, more like.

It would not come as a surprise if the next Canadian jurisdiction to make an announcement similar to Legault's turns out to be British Columbia, which like Quebec is rich in hydro resources.

B.C., of course, is already a target for the nascent "war room." Maybe the war roomers can sue somebody over the Rockies and pretend B.C.'s high retail gas prices are the result of not having enough pipelines, instead of gouging by Alberta refiners as the numbers show they actually are.

For B.C. Premier John Horgan, such a promise would be a good way to overcome some of the anger among his own base at his NDP government's flip-flop on the Site C Dam on the Peace River after his party tenuously grasped power with the help of the B.C. Green Party in July 2017.

Meanwhile, Kenney's flippant dismissal of global warming at a supposedly off-the-record meeting with the Globe and Mail's editorial board in Toronto (never mind the flames licking the outskirts of High Level) is probably not the message the premier's pals in Big Oil want him to be sending out right now.

Globe energy reporter Shawn McCarthy tweeted Friday that Kenney told the board: "Investor concerns about climate risk are 'flavor of the month' and they should focus as much on labour rights, human rights and conventional enviro issues among OPEC dictatorships."

Oil industry journalist Markham Hislop, who has already found himself on Kenney's extensive enemies list for saying stuff like this, argued that Kenney "seriously underestimates the degree to which the international oil companies and the Alberta oil sands producers have integrated carbon risk management into their corporate strategies."

As for Kenney's shot at oil dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Hislop noted, "the 'ethical oil' argument should be seen for what it really is, a ham-fisted sleight of hand to deflect the focus from Alberta's real environmental issues (for instance, 1.3 trillion litres of oil sands tailings sitting in 37 huge ponds and the inherently high carbon-intensity of oil sands bitumen)."

"Alberta can't afford for a rookie premier to get it wrong on an issue that could significantly affect its biggest job creators from accessing the capital it so desperately needs," Hislop concluded.

Well, OK. Maybe so. But if Kenney makes it a little harder for the big oil sands extraction companies to raise cash, it's hard to feel all that much sympathy for them. After all, they did nothing to help Rachel Notley's NDP government, despite it having already delivered the plan they say they wanted.

Regardless, Alberta's NDP government is history. But the premier of Quebec still has the opportunity to make history with his Québécois version of le nouvel accord vert, or whatever he decides to call his urban-electrification drive -- not to mention to set an example for a worried world.

History. One has the feeling that this time Kenney's not going to come out on the right side of it.

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: XVIIe Sommet de la Francophonie à Erevan

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