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Joe Oliver: Liberals on the same path of self-inflicted ruin as the Soviets

September 14 2023

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Growing gap between Ottawa's version of reality and the facts on the ground becoming apparent to Canadians

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Published Sep 14, 2023 • 4 minute read

The Soviet Union ultimately collapsed from internal contradictions related to a faltering ideology, limited free speech, economic mismanagement, deteriorating international influence and an inability to deliver on promises of a better life that were painfully obvious to all but were not, for fear of brutal reprisal, discussed publicly until near the very end. Justin Trudeau’s leftist woke government is afflicted by similar if milder contradictions that in our free country the aggrieved population living under them is discussing quite openly — which suggests the government’s dissolution will come faster.

Soviet citizens used wry humour to express their dissent indirectly: “The future is certain; it is only the past that is unpredictable.” Historical revisionism that bolsters a regime’s ideological preferences and defends its legitimacy is a deadly serious matter. As George Orwell wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” The prime minister promised sunny ways, then divisively labelled Canada genocidal and systemically racist. The average Canadian is not an elitist or a progressive ideologue, however, and opposes manipulating our history and dishonouring our national heroes by tearing down statues and erasing street names.

Liberal ministers use both mis- and dis-information to mask the contradictions between government rhetoric and economic and social reality. Justice Minister Arif Virani gaslighted Canadians by implying they are delusional about rising crime, even though the violent crime severity index is up 30 per cent since the Liberals took office. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland boasted about a temporary upswing in GDP growth, ignoring that we are steadily falling behind in GDP per capita, which measures personal prosperity. Immigration Minister Marc Miller claimed that immigrants themselves, by building homes, can alleviate the housing crisis exacerbated by higher immigration. Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly is “keeping an eye on the U.S.” during its forthcoming elections, while her department issued a warning to the 2SLGBTQI+ community about travelling to the country that is our closest ally and best friend. When first elected, the PM boasted that “Canada is back,” but recent events demonstrate our international standing has become all hat and no cattle.

Maligning foreign countries (other than China) is a classic tactic to divert attention from domestic failures. While in Beijing last month, Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault praised his host country, which is building more coal plants than the rest of the world combined. Defence Minister Bill Blair has no ammunition (almost literally!) to counter NATO criticism of Canada as a free rider. Despite denials by former Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, Bill C-11 endangers free speech by imposing CRTC authority over the digital landscape. Although Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu talks incessantly about reconciliation, there are still 32 long-term boil-water advisories in 28 Indigenous communities. After Canada clearly lost a major trade dispute with New Zealand last week, Trade Minister Mary Ng fatuously claimed the defeat was a “clear victory.”

Perhaps the most blatant and harmful contradiction between the government’s much-trumpeted goals and the real-life impact of its policies relates to its climate change obsession and resulting hostility to Canada’s vast energy resources, which account for almost a tenth of the economy. Our production of crude oil and natural gas were the fourth and fifth largest in the world, respectively, in 2021 and generate $12 billion in average annual revenue to governments and $154 billion in exports. Yet regulatory impediments to pipelines and other resource projects, combined with carbon pricing, clean fuel standards, methane regulations and a cap on carbon emissions, cost hundreds of billions of dollars both directly and in lost economic opportunities. They also weaken productivity, a critical national problem, kill jobs, foster inflation, undermine national unity, jeopardize energy independence and national security and prevent us from assisting our allies during a geopolitical emergency. Such policies also disproportionately hurt both struggling Canadians and least-developed countries trying to raise their citizens out of poverty. But they benefit fossil fuel exporters with appalling human rights and environmental track records.

All this harm does almost nothing to achieve the government’s overarching goal of mitigating a climate emergency. At 1.5 per cent of global GHG emissions, Canada can have no measurable effect on the global temperature, no matter how severe our self-imposed deprivation. What our blockade of our own industries does do, perversely, is prevent Asians and Europeans from replacing their much higher-emitting coal with our natural gas.

Given its ineffectiveness, the only justification for such policy must be a perceived moral obligation to do our part. But other nation-states blessed with bountiful resources fill the fossil-fuel gap we create, so our action does not reduce the world’s aggregate production. Moreover, global GHG emissions keep rising. Most countries maximize their energy consumption from whatever source they can access, while those trying to reduce their carbon footprint are confronting a growing greenlash, even as they fall short of their Paris Accord commitments. For all the passionate rhetoric expended in its behalf, global net zero by 2050 is a delusion. I challenge historians to identify another Canadian government that deliberately inflicted so much damage on its citizens for no practical or ethical reason.

The government is unlikely to resolve its fundamental internal contradictions, certainly not under its current leadership, which explains why its electoral prospects are so grim.

Joe Oliver was first minister of natural resources and then minister of finance in the Harper government.

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