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Tory plan to cash in on climate chaos

John Bell

August 17, 2019

Joe Oliver spills the beans:

The time has come to stop fighting climate change. Instead Canada should be looking for new and exciting ways to cash in on the environmental emergency which threatens mass extinction. 

So says Joe Oliver in an op/ed piece published in the Financial Post.

Readers will recall that Oliver was, in turns, Finance Minister and Natural Resources Minister in Stephen Harper’s former government. His ability to take a long-term view of sustainability was best revealed when, as Finance Minister, he introduced a budget including a new tax loophole for the wealthy. When it was pointed out this would cause a revenue crisis for future governments he predicted that wouldn’t be a problem until 2080, and we should “leave that to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's granddaughter to solve.”

Sane people, and a sane system, would strive to leave a better world for their kids. The laws of the Iroquois Confederacy, predating European “civilization”, spoke about considering the impact of decisions down through seven generations. But this Tory true-believer in the “free market” reminds us that capitalism is anything but sane. 

As Natural Resources Minister Oliver spearheaded attempts to expand tar sands oil production and build pipelines. In that role he had a dual function: propounding the myth of Alberta bitumen being “ethical oil”, and demonizing environmentalists as traitors to the national interest and destroyers of working class jobs. 

The people, in their wisdom, decided not to return Oliver to elected office; but that doesn’t mean we are free of his opinions and influence. As well as sitting on various Bay Street corporate boards and hedge funds, Oliver is on the board of directors of the Independent Electricity System Operator, the section of Ontario Hydro that was built and paid for by the people of Ontario before it was privatized by Tory premier Mike Harris in 1999.

Before looking at his pronouncements about climate change, it is important to establish that Joe Oliver is not just some individual crank. His record in government, his tenure in corporate corner offices and his access to the bully pulpit of regular contributions to the Financial Post, reveals his to be the voice of at least a section of the Canadian ruling class.

“Wonderful opportunity”

Citing no less a scientific authority than Moody’s–the people who rate bonds and economic risks, sort of like bookies in three piece suits–Oliver paints a rosy picture of the future for Canada, with northern land becoming available for farming, easier access to oil and minerals in the Arctic and the growth of tourist opportunities for those seeking to escape the hellscape of more southerly latitudes.

“Assuming a one-degree Celsius temperature rise, Moody’s calculates that our economy would be unaffected in 2048. A rise of 2.4 degrees would increase GDP by 0.1 per cent and four degrees would boost it by 0.3 per cent. Not much, but still positive, and certainly not the terrifying calamity we are warned to expect.”

This would give Canada a “wonderful opportunity to help feed a hungry world”. That hunger will be exacerbated by the effects of climate change elsewhere–droughts, extinction, and the loss of fertile river delta farmland upon which millions depend–but for Oliver and his ilk that just means more “opportunity” to cash in.

According to this twisted logic, trying to rein in climate change through regulation and laws is not only insufficient, it is downright “selfish”. With a cheerful rhetorical flourish, the scientific warnings are swept away as “doomsday prophesying and virtue-signalling”.

Oh, Joe admits we’ll have to spend money to make money out of the world’s crisis: research to produce crops to resist the coming droughts; dikes and dams to contain the ruthless floods; some cities may just have to be moved. He doesn’t deny that climate change, and the extreme weather events it spawns, will be annoying. But just think of the money.

There are those like Oliver who truly believe that wringing every last dollar of profit out of a dying world is their moral duty. They are the ones who attack activists like Greta Thunberg with ridicule and abuse. Worse, they will deploy their armed forces against people who stand up to defend the land, air and water. They are the system that needs changing if we are to stop climate change. More obviously every day, they leave us no choice.

Updated, September 27, 2019:

Thee day before the Student Strike for the Planet across Canada, the University of Alberta unveiled billboards bragging about the ecoonomic benefits of climate change. Hotter temperatures will mean more barley crops (they claim). The barley can feed more cows. So Canada can sell more steaks to the starving millions of the global south.

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