Oh, here’s a surprise. Justin Trudeau really is committed to climate alarmism and the logical policy response of shutting down our energy sector and with it our economy. He doesn’t know the latter will happen. And nor does his new Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault. Which is precisely why it very well might.
The appointment of Guilbeault is odd for several reasons. A particularly notable one being that someone famous for breaking the law to circumvent the policy process should be made a senior policymaker in precisely that same area. Perhaps it’s because it’s 2021.
It is perhaps less surprising that someone who was a walking PR disaster as Heritage Minister should receive what is, in TrudeauWorld, a promotion. But if causing needless controversy through arrogant ineptitude disqualified you from this cabinet it would have a rather different makeup. Harjit Sajjan, for instance, would have been yeeted straight to the back bench not entrusted with “International Development”.
It is also unsurprising that we would have a ministry of Environment and Climate Change. We have much stranger ministries, like “Housing and Diversity and Inclusion”. And it is certainly no surprise that the Prime Minister wants Canada to stop emitting greenhouse gases so he appointed an environment minister committed to shutting down Canada’s fossil fuel industry. What is surprising is the number of people who have long believed that you could be committed to ceasing to emit greenhouse gasses and preserving that industry.
It is odd to have to try to convince adults that just because they do not like a thing does not mean it cannot be happening. It doesn’t matter how convinced you are that getting rid of the Canadian petroleum industry would be a disaster economically, politically, socially, intellectually or some ghastly combination of them all. It only matters whether people in a position to make it happen think it should and are determined to try. Which they rather obviously are.
A lot of people are blasé because they’re convinced that really bad policy is self-correcting in a democracy. Even if the politicians and bureaucrats in power are persuaded, let us say, that there is such a thing as “stimulative” fiscal or monetary policy, and the more the better, they sooner or later discover that spending money you don’t have and then printing it to cover the gap isn’t good. Or at any rate the public does, and the worse the policy, the sooner the feedback arrives, in the form of pressure that makes even stubborn politicians act as if they’d changed their minds, or votes them out.
This argument is not fatuous. Indeed it’s fundamental to democracy, to the effort to get good government through regular voting. The two are not synonymous, though it’s easy to confuse them because when people cannot vote politicians in and, crucially, out you invariably get government that is awful or worse. And when they can, you usually get government that is better than awful.
In Canada, as elsewhere, we can also point to solid evidence that this abstract argument has merit. In the early 1970s governments went nuts on deficits and inflation. But by the late 1970s, faced with public anger and scorn, they were already claiming they would fix the problem. And they did fix inflation, by the mid-1980s, and debts and deficits a decade later.
Yes, they went off the rails again. Bad policy like ignorance is a renewable resource. But again we think the electorate will again force them to smarten up as inflation gets worse and insolvency looms. And the sooner the better, I say.
By the same token, it has long been widely believed, including by those in business, that sufficiently awful tax or regulatory policy is self-correcting. It drives out investment followed closely by investors, unemployment rises, tax revenues plummet and even dense politicians smarten up. And the 1980s were encouraging that way too.
Unfortunately it can be argued that times are changing in perilous ways. The general breakdown of standards we see in the tolerance of inept or even scofflaw ministers, possibly even prime ministers, makes all the machinery of government work less smoothly. And the catastrophe that would result from shutting down our only reliable source of energy, by people whose negligible total lifetime practical experience creating wealth has engendered sublime confidence that their arm-waving about new and better forms of energy is as good as actually creating it, could happen fast enough and go far enough that it will be really hard to recover from.
Of course there are alternatives. Including starting to push back now, hard and persistently though legally. Which requires one vital preliminary step.
We must acknowledge that what seems to be happening right under our noses is precisely what is happening right under our noses.