With the provinces economy still sluggish the climate crisis seems to be a secondary issue for voters in Canadas federal election

Robyn Moser still remembers the bidding wars for mansions when Calgarys oil economy roared.

In her best years the decade before a 2014 crash in petroleum prices Moser would sell more than 75 luxury homes, including estates with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains. Last year she sold just 40 properties and all at reduced prices.

When people list their home, what we say is: whats your hurt price? she said. And then we need to go lower from there.

Canadians go to the polls on 21 October in a federal election still considered too close to call.

A CBC poll tracker shows the opposition Conservatives holding a slim lead over the ruling Liberals though neither is projected to win a majority government.

But the same poll tracker projects a Tory landslide in Alberta, where the Conservatives hold a nearly 45-point lead over Justin Trudeaus Liberals.

Albertans have long been wary of the Trudeau name Justins father Pierre forced the province to sell petroleum at a discount to the rest of Canada but they did give the younger Trudeau the benefit of the doubt in 2015.

In the last federal election, the Liberals took four of the provinces 34 seats. But even then, the provincial economy was starting to slow down. The drop in oil and gas prices the previous year sent unemployment soaring to north of 10%.

The local economy has stayed sluggish ever since and many Albertans hold the prime minister responsible, accusing him of showing indifference to their plight and pandering to other parts of the country.

I think the federal government has a specific hate on for Alberta, Moser said. We have a federal government that wants to choke the Alberta economy for its own political reasons.

Meanwhile, the provinces oil sands some of the largest petroleum deposits in the world have come under attack from environmentalists who argue that extraction of the carbon-heavy fuel is incompatible with fighting climate change

Trudeau has tried to play both sides of the climate issue. He promises to make Canada a climate leader and marched in recent climate protests.

The Suncor tar sands processing plant near Fort McMurray, Alberta. Exploiting the provinces fossil fuel reserves is a key issue in Canadas election. Photograph: Todd Korol/Reuters

But his government has also purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline, to ensure the completion of a project to carry Alberta oil to the west coast despite intense opposition from Indigenous groups and the government of neighbouring British Columbia.

Little of that impresses Albertans, who complain that the Trans Mountain project remains in limbo and and point to a pair of recently approved bills increasing environmental controls on megaprojects and banning tanker traffic off the west coast.

Trudeaus stated ambition to phase out the oil sands and transition away from fossil fuels has reinforced the antipathy.

If he had said, I wish we could phase out the auto sector faster because of the emissions it creates and then put forward two bills to essentially make that happen the entire country would have been lit on fire on, said the Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, who represents a Calgary electoral district.

The economic downturn is especially dramatic in Calgarys downtown, where the vacancy rate in office towers still tops 20%. Total income in Alberta crashed by 20% between 2014 and 2016, while 130,000 jobs were lost in a province of 4.3 million, according to Trevor Tombe, an economist at the University of Calgary.

In the boom years, Albertas prosperity attracted workers from across Canada and high school dropouts earned C$100,000 in boomtowns such as the oil sands hub Fort McMurray.

Lloyd George moved to Alberta from Nova Scotia in 2001 with little more than ambition and two suitcases. Nearly 20 years later, he runs an oil supply company, providing specialty pipes for petroleum projects.

Hes staying profitable, he says, though business would be double or triple with a better economy and more pipelines.

Its been four years of kicking someone while theyre down, he said of the Trudeau governments treatment. Were in an abusive relationship and we cant leave because theres nowhere else to go.

Long the malcontents of the Canadian confederation, Albertans complain the provinces oil bounty is spread to other provinces through equalisation payments.

Trudeaus home province has been the largest recipient of such payments a fact not lost on Albertans, who note that Quebec opposes pipelines, even as tankers transport oil down the St Lawrence River.

Amid the perceptions of antipathy from the federal government, some in the province have even revived the idea of separating from Canada. Id support it, George said. But Ill hate it every step of the way.

Elsewhere in Canada, the environment has emerged as a key issue for voters, but in Alberta a region whose economy depends on fossil fuels, voters seem indifferent to the climate crisis, despite the wildfires that tore through Fort McMurray in 2016, and record floods which inundated Calgary in 2013.

The disasters had little impact on public sentiment, said Keith Brownsey, professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Dependence on oil and natural gas has led to a focus on the economy, he said. Climate change is a secondary issue here.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us


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