As long as someone else carries the can and therefore bears the inevitable pain, Canadians are fearless advocates for the Promised Land of a net-zero future.
But when their own pocketbooks start to feel the pinch the environmental crusade aimed at slowing or stopping the warming of our planet courtesy of carbon emissions doesn’t seem quite so urgent.
A recent cross-Canada Leger poll showed just how much blatant self-interest rules the roost when it comes to supporting measures aimed at curbing our reliance on fossil fuels.
Yes, suddenly it isn’t just Alberta balking at the Trudeau government’s environmental plan to drag us toward some perceived Green Nirvana by relentlessly increasing carbon taxes.
Nope, this nasty outbreak of inflation is making Canadians everywhere start paying closer attention to what they spend. And when it comes to paying more to fill up the gas tank there’s an ever-increasing line item on the bill that’s focusing their anger – the feds’ carbon levy, which adds about 14 cents to a litre today, but will jump to 40 cents by the end of this decade. Ouch.
So, when asked: Do you support paying more for gasoline as part of Canada’s climate net-zero policies? The response was an overwhelming no - 68 per cent rejecting further increases, with only one in five folk willing to dig deeper into their pockets.
In fact, a majority of Canadians want the gas tax axed altogether or at least reduced, while they are overwhelmingly skeptical about all of Ottawa’s plans for carbon reduction, especially if their collective finances take a hit.
Leger’s executive vice-president Andrew Enns summed it up nicely: “When you just ask people, ‘Hey do you support all these great things?’ they’re tripping over themselves to say yes.”
But when those same Canadians are confronted with specific economic costs to themselves things change in a hurry. “It’s clear: ‘I don’t want to pay more,’” added Enns.
But why should regular Canadians be any different from the global elite who luxuriate in standing upon some saintly moral high ground in urging ever-greater restrictions and penalties upon the use of fossil fuels, before hopping aboard private planes and super yachts to journey in style to a luxurious holiday villa they bought on the other side of the world? The degree of hypocrisy is all that’s in question.
Meanwhile, back in Alberta, this change of attitude across the rest of Canada towards what is acceptable as the cost of reducing carbon emissions must be balm to the political soul of Premier Danielle Smith.
Alberta’s premier is threatening to invoke the provincial Sovereignty Act if Ottawa doesn’t back off from its plan to impose a net-zero electricity grid by 2035, something Smith’s government believes isn’t realistic, due to the province’s heavy reliance upon natural gas for generating power.
There’s also a national publicity campaign underway, pointing out the dangers such an arbitrary 12-year deadline holds for the entire country, though given the results of the Leger poll Alberta might well find itself preaching to the already converted, as only one in five Canadians now believe the net zero electricity plan realistic.
Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault insists his government won’t blink and there’ll be no special deal for Alberta, despite the massive toll such a deadline would take on the province, one much heavier than for any other area of Canada.
Ah, but then politicians of all stripes are notorious for suddenly engaging in major-league eyelid flapping once the polls start to show their jobs are in jeopardy.
So, is it any wonder Danielle Smith appears rather happy these days?
Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.