It might not have packed quite the same visual punch as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s behaviour in the House of Commons on Wednesday, but the Saskatchewan government’s throne speech — delivered just the day prior — may be remembered for being equally as bizarre.
Specifically, because of the implicit rejection of climate change science, which was described as “some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality.”
The throne speech, delivered by Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield, pointed to “oil and gas, coal and uranium, livestock and grains” as allegedly victimized sectors.
“They look at those jobs like they are somehow harming the country and the world,” she read. “To those people, my government has a message. You are wrong. You could not be more wrong.”
Premier Wall Continues to Push Back Against National Climate Action
Such assertions fly in the face of climate change science, which overwhelmingly suggests that fossil fuel extraction, production and usage is at the heart of the ongoing increase in average global temperatures.
Making the throne speech even more peculiar was the fact the provincial government currently states on its website that it “acknowledges the science-based reality of climate change.”
Premier Brad Wall hasn’t made that government position especially apparent in recent months, consistently opposing calls for provincial and national climate change action. Such hostility has become especially notable given Alberta — a province that has historically been rather resistant to meaningful environmental policies — implemented its own climate change action plan in November.
While Wall attended the Paris Climate Change Conference in November, he was notably absent from the widely circulated photo of the country’s premiers and prime minister. Wall said he attended the international climate gathering to promote clean coal and carbon capture and storage.
In March, Wall said in response to the idea of a national carbon tax: “We just don't think a tax right now when the national economy is facing challenges — a tax that would cost consumers more, cost more at the pumps, potentially cost jobs — is not the right thing, right now.”
— DeSmog Canada (@DeSmogCanada) May 19, 2016
Saskatchewan Has Highest Per-Capita Emissions Record in Canada
Saskatchewan sports the highest per-capita emissions of any province: at last count, the province accounts for 10.3 per cent of the country’s emissions despite only boasting three per cent of its people. Between 1990 and 2013, its total emissions increased by 66 per cent, compared to Alberta (the second highest in the category) which increased by 53 per cent.
The oil, gas and mining sector accounts for 34 per cent of the province’s emissions, with the electricity sector chipping in an additional 21 per cent (close to half of the province’s power is generated by burning coal).
This is all in spite of a 2020 target of cutting emissions by 20 per cent below 2006 levels as articulated in the unimplemented Management and Reduction of Greenhouse Gases Act of 2009.
There are plenty of opportunities for the province: agree to put a price on carbon, invest in renewables and public transit, limit the future growth of resource development. Instead, the government has put all its eggs in the carbon capture and storage (CCS) basket, specifically in the form of the maligned SaskPower Boundary Dam project.
In October 2015, it was reported that Boundary Dam features "serious design issues" and was performing well below expectations. Despite that, Wall has refused to critique the project and has continued to point to it as an example of Saskatchewan’s work on the climate change file.
Former Saskatoon Resident Starts Petition to Demand Wall ‘Stop Denying Climate Change’
Jason Mogus — principal strategist at Communicopia and digital director for the Tar Sands Solutions Network — started a petition on Lead Now in response to the climate change denial featured in the throne speech.
Born in Saskatoon, Mogus says he didn’t expect to hear that kind of rhetoric from the Saskatchewan government and that the divisive nature of it sets up “this great battle that they’re these victims of this global conspiracy to steal their jobs.”
“People from Saskatchewan understand the changes that are happening to the land,” he says. “They’re probably more connected to land than most Canadians are. They don’t all live in big cities. They understand the droughts, they understand the changes in winters, they understand fires and weather disasters. I know they’re better than this.”
Mogus suggests the open-ended nature of Trudeau’s climate change strategy — allowing each province to come up with their own version, whether it be a carbon tax, cap-and-trade or regulations — means that Wall has a lot of power to “hold back the entire nation, which is going to hold back the entire world.”
It appears to be true: Saskatchewan currently serves as the lone province with over one million residents to resist substantial climate change action.
Given the need to implement a national policy, such obstinance could result in watered down federal legislation or frameworks. But Mogus maintains optimism the tide can still turn despite the tone of the throne speech.
“I’m confident that people will rise above their personal issues and fears and concerns and smaller views. Saskatchewan brought us Medicare,” he says. “This is a community and caring issue. And I am confident that once they see beyond the rhetoric, Saskatchewan people will do the right thing, which is join with the rest of the world and to take climate action to save lives.”
Image: Brad Wall/Flickr