Ted Morton: Notley's Climate Change Gamble

Premier Rachel Notley may not go to Vegas for her holidays, but that doesn’t mean she is not a gambler. Her “Go big, go early” climate change strategy is best understood as making three big bets about what will happen in the coming years.

Bet No. 1 is that by going big and going early, she can pre-empt Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from imposing an even more damaging national cap and trade program. A national cap and trade would quickly become yet another transfer program for moving western dollars to eastern voters. “Dirty” oil and coal provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan would have to purchase credits from “clean” Quebec and other hydro-rich provinces.

So far, Notley seems to be winning this bet. Thanks largely to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s outspoken opposition, Trudeau failed to achieve a consensus in support of any new federal carbon plan at the first minsters’ conference in Vancouver in March.

 But it’s still too early to say for sure that this won’t happen. Trudeau is under pressure from the green lobby for a federal plan. Equiterre, the Pembina Institute and Environmental Defence have warned that Alberta’s new policies are good, but not good enough. They are calling on the Trudeau government to “move quickly (to) establish minimum standards on carbon pricing (and build) … a coherent and ambitious national plan.”