After Rachel Notley recently suggested Ottawa should trash its proposed “just transition” legislation, she was asked if her position might alienate her base. As someone who qualifies as a member of that base, having supported the NDP since before it was the NDP, my answer would be no, it won’t alienate me. The party has made mistakes in the past and it will make mistakes in the future, but I have never been and don’t expect to be alienated.
And Rachel did make a mistake. And while not alienated, I am seriously annoyed. Danielle Smith may be a scatterbrain, but she’s outhustling the NDP here. She has suckered it into a fed-bashing contest and that’s a contest it cannot win. Not against the UCP. She will own the NDP if it plays her game.
And it’s a game this NDP member believes it should not play. The federal government is my government, and a far more important one to me than that in Edmonton. And the federal NDP is my federal party. I have no appetite for a fight with either.
I appreciate that in this province, political imperative demands a certain distance from Ottawa. I thought Rachel was playing that very well. She was not succumbing to the UCP’s semantic silliness of condemning “just transition” as a phrase unacceptable in polite society, but nonetheless suggesting that the federal plan was overly optimistic and needed conforming to Alberta’s reality. It represented what we have long needed in this province—a grownup discussion of climate change. Now it appears the party has decided instead to stoop to the level of the UCP.
Rachel’s timing was impeccable. The same day she was making her precipitous announcement, Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix was stating publicly that “just transition” would yield the oilsands next boom. To quote the CBC, “The CEOs of some of the biggest oilsands companies in Alberta say transitioning their workforce for a net-zero emissions future isn’t about cutting jobs, it’s about creating them.” That, interestingly, is exactly what the Liberals are saying.
So the NDP picks sides. As far as transitioning is concerned, it can be onside with the leading oil companies or it can be onside with the UCP. Apparently it has chosen the UCP. Brilliant!
Every sensible person knows we must transition to sustainability, and as social democrats we must insist that the transition treat workers justly. “Just transition” defines precisely what we need. So I implore Notley to climb down from the UCP position of knee-jerk hostility to Ottawa, promote sensible made-in-Alberta policies, and indicate willingness to work with the feds if they conform their policies reasonably to its own.
I am not alienated by Rachel’s statements, but neither am I inspired by a position more amenable to the UCP base than the NDP’s.