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Proposed legislation seeks to suppress speech about climate change and fossil fuels

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NDP MP Charlie Angus

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

Canada is a constitutional parliamentary democracy where differences of opinion are to be resolved through elections, which people are persuaded by words and ideas, not threats of violence. Stripping people of the right to express themselves freely will introduce violence into the democratic process, disenfranchising some people and disenchanting others.

It’s rare, in today’s political world, for someone in power to whip off the velvet glove and show the iron fist beneath. It’s a bit gauche for our times. But that’s what happened recently when federal NDP natural resources critic Charlie Angus tabled a member’s bill that would clap anyone who says negative things about the government’s fossil-fuel-phobia into the pokey—and rob them on the way to jail. We’re not talking about a slap on the wrist, but about million-dollar fines and years in jail for simply expressing a positive thought about fossil fuels. So much for the fundamental freedom of expression in Canada.

Angus’ Bill C-372 would fine and jail people for the most innocuous of speech relating to climate change or fossil fuels. Even daring to speak the obvious truths such as “natural gas is less polluting than coal” could land you in jail for one year and cost you $750,000. If you produce fossil fuels and are found guilty of “false promotion,” you’d face two years in jail and a $1.5 million fine.

Enacting such speech restrictions would be destructive of the fabric of Canadian society, and even though this member’s bill (like most) will go nowhere, it should trouble Canadians that we’ve reached a level of political discourse where members of Parliament feel they can blatantly propose stripping Canadians of their freedom of expression, obviously convinced they’ll not pay a price it.

Specifically, Bill-372 and its pernicious idea of speech control would cause harm to two major elements of Canadian civilization—our democracy, which depends on the free exchange of ideas as Canada elects its leaders, and our mixed-market economic system where actors in the market require a free flow of information to make informed decisions that can produce positive economic outcomes and economic growth.

Let’s start with that democracy thing. Canada is a constitutional parliamentary democracy where differences of opinion are to be resolved through elections, which people are persuaded by words and ideas, not threats of violence. Stripping people of the right to express themselves freely will introduce violence into the democratic process, disenfranchising some people and disenchanting others. Canada already has to work hard to promote engagement by the public in the political process. Things like Bill C-372 would not make this easier. A less politically engaged public cedes ever more power to entrenched politicians and political activists, and leaves power in the hands of smaller minorities with extreme enough views who think opposing ideas must be suppressed with force.

Regarding free speech, consider this. Without a robust mixed-market economy, the voluntary exchange which leads to economic activity does not happen. Productivity declines and scarcity, the eternal scourge of humanity, resurges and people suffer. Freedom of expression is central to the operation of market economies. People must be free to share information about the value of things (or lack thereof) for decisions to be made, for prices to manifest, and for markets to function effectively. Without open communication in markets, diversity of goods and services will diminish as some goods and services won’t be promoted or defended while others are freely to advertised.

Bill C-372 should and likely will die an ignominious death in Parliament, but all politicians of all parties should denounce it for what it is—an attempt by government to suppress speech. Unlikely to happen, but one can always hope for sanity to prevail.

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Economy

Extreme Weather and Climate Change

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From the Fraser Insitute

By Kenneth P. Green

Contrary to claims by many climate activists and politicians, extreme weather events—including forest fires, droughts, floods and hurricanes—are not increasing in frequency or intensity, finds a new study published today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“Earth Day has become a time when extraordinary claims are made about extreme weather events, but before policymakers act on those extreme claims—often with harmful regulations—it’s important to study the actual evidence,” said Kenneth Green, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute and author of Extreme Weather and Climate Change.

The study finds that global temperatures have increased moderately since 1950 but there is no evidence that extreme weather events are on the rise, including:

• Drought: Data from the World Meteorological Organization Standardized Precipitation Index showed no statistically significant trends in drought duration or magnitude—with the exception of some small regions in Africa and South America—from 1900 to 2020.

• Flooding: Research in the Journal of Hydrology in 2017, analyzing 9,213 recording stations around the world, found there were more stations exhibiting significant decreasing trends (in flood risk) than increasing trends.

• Hurricanes: Research conducted for the World Meteorological Organization in 2019 (updated in 2023) found no long-term trends in hurricanes or major hurricanes recorded globally going back to 1980.

• Forest Fires: The Royal Society in London, in 2020, found that when considering the total area burned at the global level, there is no overall increase, but rather a decline over the last decades. In Canada, data from Canada’s Wildland Fire Information System show that the number of fires and the area burned in Canada have both been declining over the past 30 years.

“The evidence is clear—many of the claims that extreme weather events are increasing are simply not empirically true,” Green said.

“Before governments impose new regulations or enact new programs, they need to study the actual data and base their actions on facts, not unsubstantiated claims.”

  • Assertions are made claiming that weather extremes are increasing in frequency and severity, spurred on by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Based on such assertions, governments are enacting ever more restrictive regulations on Canadian consumers of energy products, and especially Canada’s energy sector. These regulations impose significant costs on the Canadian economy, and can exert downward pressure on Canadian’s standard of living.
  • According to the UN IPCC, evidence does suggest that some types of extreme weather have become more extreme, particularly those relating to temperature trends.
  • However, many types of extreme weather show no signs of increasing and in some cases are decreasing. Drought has shown no clear increasing trend, nor has flooding. Hurricane intensity and number show no increasing trend. Globally, wildfires have shown no clear trend in increasing number or intensity, while in Canada, wildfires have actually been decreasing in number and areas consumed from the 1950s to the present.
  • While media and political activists assert that the evidence for increasing harms from increasing extreme weather is iron-clad, it is anything but. In fact, it is quite limited, and of low reliability. Claims about extreme weather should not be used as the basis for committing to long-term regulatory regimes that will hurt current Canadian standards of living, and leave future generations worse off.

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational
organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global
network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians,
their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the
effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the
Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research.
Visit www.fraserinstitute.org

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Economy

Federal government remains intransigent on emissions cap despite dire warnings of harm

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

In the face of heavy opposition from Canada’s premiers to Prime Minister Trudeau’s carbon tax, one might have hoped that the prime minister would moderate some of his government’s extreme climate policies. But alas, on a recent swing through Alberta, he threw cold water on any hope of moderation.

When asked in a meeting with a who’s who of Alberta’s energy sector if he might drop the forthcoming cap on greenhouse gas emissions specific to the oil and gas industry, Trudeau reportedly replied “not a chance.” That’s a shame, because it was an opportunity for Canada (and Alberta) to dodge another bullet aimed at its economic heart, and an opportunity to reduce some of the rancor between the West and Ottawa.

And in fact, there are many good reasons to drop the GHG cap.

In a recent report, the Conference Board of Canada estimated oil and gas production cuts due to the cap would lead to a permanent decline in Canada’s real GDP of between 0.9 per cent (the report’s most likely outcome) to 1.6 per cent (its least likely outcome) relative to the baseline in 2030. Which means a loss of $22.8 billion to $40.4 billion in 2012 dollars. In Alberta, real GDP by between 3.8 per cent and 6.7 per cent (or $16.3 billion to $28.5 billion). These are devastating impacts, hand-waved away by the prime minister.

Moreover, the report estimates total employment declines nationally by between 82,000 and 151,000 in 2030. A large part of this unemployment will land in Alberta where the report estimates total employment in the province would decline by between 54,000 and 91,500 jobs. And between 2030 and 2040, employment in Alberta will be between 66,300 and 102,600 lower per year (on average). Again, these are huge economic damages disregarded by the prime minister.

Lastly, as shown in a 2023 study published by the Fraser Institute, even if the proposed cap achieved the emissions reductions government predicts, the reduction would equal four-tenths of one per cent of global emissions, a reduction unlikely to have any impact on the climate in any detectable manner, and hence, to offer only equally undetectable environmental, health or safety benefits.

The Conference Board report, and other studies of the likely high costs and non-existent climate benefits of the pending cap on oil and gas emissions, would offer cover for the prime minister if he backed away from what’s clearly an ill-considered climate policy poised to wreak massive economic harms to Canada, particularly in the West. Apparently, however, he’s unwilling to acknowledge reality and change course.

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