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Climate change chaos making politics more toxic: Obama tells Calgary crowd

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CALGARY — Former United States president Barack Obama says failure to transition to cleaner energy sources would lead to global chaos that would be hard to reverse, but he’s optimistic fossil-fuel-centric economies such as Alberta’s can make the necessary changes.

Obama spoke Tuesday to a near-full arena in Calgary, home to several oil and gas company headquarters that are replete with empty office space due to a years-long industry downturn.

“All of us are going to have to recognize that there are trade-offs involved with how we live, how our economy is structured and the world that we’re going to be passing on to our kids and grandkids. Nobody is exempt from that conversation,” Obama said.

He said fossil fuels have provided a cheap and plentiful source of energy since the Industrial Revolution. The remark drew a loud whistle and applause from the audience.

The crowd also clapped when Obama said there is indisputable science that the planet is getting warmer.

“It is indisputable that although we can’t ascribe any particular kind of weather event to rising temperatures, that at the current pace that we are on, the scale of tragedy that will consume humanity is something we have not seen in perhaps recorded history if we don’t do something about it.”

Rising oceans will displace populations from coastal areas and  climate change is also having an impact on the prevalence of insect-borne diseases, he said.

“Moose right now (have) to deal with tick-borne diseases that they didn’t have to do 10, 15 years ago. I really like moose. I assume Canadians, you, do too,” Obama said.

“These are just facts.”

He said the question becomes how to build recognition, not just generally but in places such as Alberta, that newer energy sources need to be developed and older ones have to be cleaned up.

Obama said the chaos wrought by global climate change will make politics more toxic.

“Imagine when you have not a few hundred thousand migrants who are escaping poverty or violence or disease, but you now have millions. Imagine if you start seeing monsoon patterns in the Indian subcontinent changing so that half a billion people can’t grow food and are displaced.”

“Think about what that does to the politics of the world — not just the economics of it, not just the environment.”

The same engineering prowess that’s been used to tap tough-to-access oil can be directed towards finding cleaner sources, Obama suggested.

“You guys can figure it out, but you’ve got to be open to it.”

Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015 after years in regulatory limbo. The proposed project, which would allow more oilsands crude to flow to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, has the support of his successor, President Donald Trump, but the pipeline remains mired in state-level legal wrangling.

Obama recalled with a mixture of amusement and frustration how in 2015 Republican Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, then chairman of the environment committee, brandished a snowball on the senate floor to dispute climate science.

“You laugh. This happened,” he said. “That’s not a good way of approaching problems.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Premier Smith asks Prime Minister to halt “Just Transition” legislation

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Premier Smith meets with the Prime Minister

Premier Danielle Smith met with the Prime Minister for approximately 30 minutes primarily discussing Alberta’s request for the federal government to halt the introduction of its proposed ‘Just Transition’ legislation and other emission reduction strategies.

The Premier asked the federal government to instead work collaboratively with the Government of Alberta on developing a plan and partnership to attract energy investment and workers into Alberta’s conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors while reducing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions.

The Prime Minister expressed a willingness to explore this strategy with the Premier through their respective ministers and the Premier will be following up with further correspondence regarding proposed next steps in the near future.

The Premier used today’s discussion to outline Alberta’s expectations as to what must and must not be included in any future federal legislation, targets or policies as it relates to Alberta’s energy sector. These expectations included:

  • Abandonment of any references to ‘just transition’ or any other terminology or policies that signal the phaseout of Alberta’s conventional or non-conventional energy sector or workforce.
  • Increased workforce training and participation in all of the conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors.
  • The need for formal consultation and collaboration with Alberta before the federal government announces or implements legislation, targets or policies that materially impact Alberta’s energy sector.
  • Substantial increase in LNG exports to Asia through the lens of meeting targets through replacement of higher emitting fuel sources with clean Canadian LNG.
  • Joint federal-provincial initiatives to facilitate increased private investment in nuclear, hydrogen, bitumen beyond combustion, geothermal, lithium, helium, zero-emission vehicle, CCUS, petrochemical and other emerging technologies and fuels that make Alberta’s conventional and non-conventional energy sector increasingly carbon neutral.

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Alberta

What Trudeau has offered to the premiers to fund health care

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By Laura Osman in Ottawa

Premiers got their fist look at Ottawa’s offer to increase long-term health funding Tuesday at a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the federal proposal falls short of what they were seeking.

The provinces budgeted about $204 billion for health care in this fiscal year and the Canada Health Transfer was set at $45 billion, or about 22 per cent of that. The premiers want the federal share to increase to 35 per cent, which amounts to another $26 billion in this year alone.

Instead, Ottawa put together a 10-year, $196.1 billion deal, of which $46.2 billion is new funding.

Here’s what the Liberals are offering:

$2 billion, no questions asked

The federal government plans to table legislation before the end of March to dole out $2 billion to  provinces to address immediate health-care needs like surgical backlogs.

There are no strings attached.

Ottawa offered the same amount last year during the Omicron wave of COVID-19.

More money for the Canada Health Transfer

The main source of federal funding for health care comes from the Canada Health Transfer, which is the biggest pot of money the federal government gives to provinces and territories.

It’s calculated based on a minimum yearly increase of three per cent or the three-year moving average of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) — whichever is higher.

Ottawa has now offered to step up the minimum yearly increase to five per cent for the next five years.

The total amount after the five years will serve as the new baseline moving toward.

The move is expected to give provinces an extra $17.3 billion over 10 years in new support. The federal Finance Department anticipates the CHT to grow by 33 per cent over the next five years, and 61 per cent over the next 10 years.

It all hinges on better data

The increase to the Canada Health Transfer is contingent on an agreement to share comparable data and digitize the health information of Canadians so it can be more easily accessed and shared between hospitals, clinics and jurisdictions.

Tailored deals with each provinces 

Ottawa has also put $25 billion on the table for tailored one-on-one deals with each province to make progress on four major issues: family health services, health worker shortages and backlogs, mental health and substance use, and health-care modernization.

The deals will be highly flexible for each province, but they will have to show their work to get the money.

The government says it wants to see a plan from each province and targeted results they hope to accomplish. The provincial and territorial governments will then need to report on their progress.

Higher wages for personal support workers

Trudeau says he’ll give provinces $1.7 billion over five years to increase the pay for personal support workers, who provide the majority of bedside care in long-term care and homecare settings.

No targets have been set yet for how high those wages should be. In the last election, the Liberals pledged to increase personal support worker pay to a minimum of $25 per hour.

Indigenous health

The federal government put forward $2 billion over 10 years specifically for fair and equitable access to appropriate health care for Indigenous Peoples through a health-equity fund.

The spending will come after consultations with Indigenous groups.

Other spending

— $505 million over five years for the Canadian Institute for Health Information Canada Health Infoway, and other federal data agencies to develop new health data indicators, as well as create a “Centre of Excellence” on health worker data, and support other efforts to modernize health data systems.

— $150 million over five years for the Territorial Health Investment Fund for medical travel and to deliver health care in the territories.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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