St. John, Newfoundland and Labrador

A cityscape of St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, is seen from Signal Hill in a file photo from 2009. Postmedia News
Even during the plague year, Ottawa cannot get off its carbon-emissions high horse.

A couple of days ago Premier Dwight Ball of Newfoundland and Labrador and a host of others pleaded in a conference call for urgent assistance to the devastated offshore oil industry. The industry is moving closer to the autopsy table by the hour. Then from Seamus O'Regan, Newfoundland's minister in the federal cabinet (wherever it is these days, and whatever it is doing), came an email which pointedly didn't say it was considering the urgent request — how could it not? — but did say that the "province's commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 is good for our environment and good for our economic competitiveness."

In what dreamland did that line emerge? O'Regan gets an emergency request asking for immediate aid from the premier on May 26, 2020, and he emails in response a fantasy projection 30 years into the unknowable future, 2050. Which, as chance would have it, is presumably around the time Parliament might reopen.

At the rate things are going in Newfoundland (on Friday, Standard and Poor's downgraded the province's credit rating from stable to negative), with all major projects cancelled or on hold, with deficit and debts at historic levels, with the outports dying, business in lockdown, the tourist industry heading for its worst year in decades, restaurants closed or abandoned, unemployment at a record level ... it's not net carbon emissions going to zero in 2050 that Newfoundland's minister should be fantasizing over.

Here's something to chew on: Newfoundland itself might not be around in 2050. There might not be a province to emit the damn emissions.

Newfoundland used to have powerhouse representation. I can only imagine what a difference there would be in the province's situation today if the sadly departed Hon. John Crosbie was still holding a seat. I know one thing. He wouldn't be burbling in some vapid, rote, clammy email — which could have been written by Elizabeth ("oil is dead") May, or the Sierra Club war room — about carbon emissions or windmills.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier is seen in his office at the Confederation Building in St. John’s on Feb. 18, 2020. Paul Daly/The Canadian Press
But I should be fair. Newfoundland has its spoonful from the tidal sweep of billions that monarch Justin Trudeau has loosed during his pre-noon epiphanies under the Tent of Commons. A vast $75 million has been authorized. You could host a full IPCC climate conference with that kind of money.

But what for, I hear you ask? Why, as Mr. O'Regan wrote, "to help the industry reduce its greenhouse gas emissions." Dear god. What is this? Alberta 2.0? Does he not know, can he not understand, if the industry ceases to exist it won't need help — I despise this phrase more and more — "to reduce its carbon emissions." There won't be any emissions from a dead industry.

As for Premier Ball and his urgent plea, he's in a separate dreamland. Does he really think, with all the evidence of Alberta's plight these past five to 10 years to guide him, that the Trudeau/McKenna/Butts Green Liberal government is going to assist offshore oil?

Appealing to this prime minister about "oil" when he has bigger things on his mind — a seat on the useless UN Security Council, the walk down the cottage steps every morning — is an utter nonstarter.

He could just as well have gone up to the top of Signal Hill and pleaded with the wind-tossed seagulls for help, as send an SOS for the offshore to Ottawa.

Ball could ask himself what's been the response of Alberta's calls for the same. He could remind himself of the pipeline blockade. The demolition by protest and lawfare of every major project attempted. The virtual shutdown of the Alberta economy. And has Alberta seen any change of attitude towards its energy crisis during the COVID-19 handout orgy?

The Hebron Platform

The Hebron Platform, anchored in Trinity Bay, N.L., is shown on April 18, 2017. Paul Daly/The Canadian Press
Premier Ball should by now have realized a simple fact, proven by its policies: Ottawa does not like the oil industry.

The voice of one who knows that industry, Adam Waterman of Alberta, has had this to say about federal "support" during this crisis. All help comes with the rider "that oil companies show a 30-year climate plan to get a five-year bridge loan." He notes that 30 or more companies have tried to "access" the federal program "and are unable." Unlike Ball, Waterman names the reality. "It would have been more direct to say that oil and gas producers and oilfield service companies need not apply."

In the lineup at the cashier's window, Premier Ball should just face it. Newfoundland is last in line and will likely never make it to the wicket. With every other problem the province is facing — I haven't even mentioned Muskrat Falls — Newfoundland is in for its hardest years since 1949, and on the offshore crisis it has no champion in the federal cabinet.