Emission cap short-term thinking that will hurt Canada for generations


Indigenous reconciliation, something the Liberal government is said to be deeply concerned with, will be even more difficult to achieve

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climate change. Inflation. Indigenous Reconciliation. These are undoubtedly complex political problems. Complex for political crackpots and downright mystical for everyone else, because dealing with these issues unleashes an avalanche of unintended consequences across Canada’s economy.

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One might ask how we should solve climate change when combating it drives up the prices of consumer goods. Or how we should support the reconciliation of the indigenous people when our government is not able to implement an effective and sustainable climate protection policy.

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However, with a shift in perspective, different narratives emerge that provide an opportunity to address these combined challenges. The complexity and interconnectedness of our biggest challenges can be a strength. It can lead to unconventional thinking, with new and innovative solutions that finally propel us forward in those critical areas where so little progress has been made.

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But to seize this opportunity, we must move away from the short-term thinking that characterizes most politicians who are focused on winning an upcoming election. We need to move away from the politicization of these challenges and break with the narratives that keep getting us the same bad results.

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Many indigenous peoples, like me, follow the philosophy of seven-generation thinking. His basic idea is that a decision you make today must benefit people seven generations from now. In a democracy like ours, that’s a lot further in the future than the next election in three years or less. Applying this idea to our greatest challenges—climate change, inflation, and indigenous reconciliation—we can look beyond popular narratives and focus on the real issues. We can talk about climate change without denigrating an entire industry. We can see that further tightening of the energy economy through new emissions caps will drive up consumer goods prices, fuel inflation, increase unemployment and create unmanageable heating and electricity bills, all of which would result in a societal lowering of our standard of living. Many tribal peoples would suffer particularly under Environment Secretary Steven Guilbeault’s proposed approach to capping emissions, harming our quest for economic independence, self-determination and sustainable community infrastructure – the three pillars that define tribal economic reconciliation.

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Looking at Canada’s challenges holistically and respecting their interconnectedness would allow us to finally find solutions that make a positive difference in all of these areas.

Nearly 14,000 self-identified Aboriginal people work in Canada’s oil and gas industry. Their income benefits their families and communities across the country, enabling significant advances in areas that address poverty and inequality among indigenous people.

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With billions of dollars invested over the last few decades, the same energy companies that are enabling economic independence and self-determination for all of these indigenous communities have become global leaders in clean energy generation. They have reduced greenhouse gas emissions – unlike companies in any other country – and are leading the way to innovative carbon tech solutions that will finally enable Canada’s emissions targets to be met.

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However, the federal government intends to further restrict the competitiveness of these companies compared to other global players by means of a new, inappropriate upper limit on emissions.

The implementation of this policy proposal will have numerous negative consequences. Consumer prices will continue to rise. Our economy will suffer more. Investments in carbon technology are becoming less likely, making climate change an even greater threat to all of us. And indigenous reconciliation, something the Liberal government is said to care deeply about, will be even harder to achieve.

All of this could make it harder to compete with the United States and expand our carbon tech ecosystem to reduce global emissions. If we don’t harmonize our policies and use incentives instead, we’ll be left behind.

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The authors of this legislation either do not see the relevance of their proposal to limit emissions for the indigenous population, or they do not care. Frankly, both are possible, but the latter seems more likely. They say they spoke to some tribal peoples, ignored the diversity of our community, and followed the false narrative that all tribal peoples oppose energy projects.

Regardless of the reasoning, 14,000 tribal peoples, their families and their communities will ultimately suffer as a result – without ever having had a chance to speak out. Instead, Ottawa will decide, and Indigenous communities will face the consequences of the linear thinking of a paternalistic government thinking in short-term political terms.

Instead of employing visionary thinking that would benefit future generations of Canadians, the government is taking steps to further stall progress in a bid to reassure voting demographics. His greenwashing policy solution to climate change will hurt indigenous and non-indigenous peoples alike, today, tomorrow and seven generations from now.

Dale Swampy is President of the National Coalition of Chiefs dedicated to alleviating Reserve Poverty and a member of the Samson Cree First Nation.

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