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How the race for renewable energy is reshaping global politics

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While the world was locked down by coronavirus last year, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, was on the move. The billionaire mining magnate and his entourage toured 47 countries over five months, managing to convince some of them to open their borders to the delegation despite the pandemic.

But Forrest wasn’t searching for mineral deposits — he was on the hunt for clean energy. From Kyrgyzstan to Korea to Bhutan, the group was scouting out the best sites for hydropower and geothermal energy. The advantage of travelling during a pandemic, Forrest explains, is that government officials have much more free time. (He did, however, contract Covid-19 en route, necessitating an emergency medical stop in Switzerland.)

When Forrest returned, fully recovered, to Australia, he declared Fortescue, a miner of iron ore and coking coal, was going all-in on green hydrogen. He believes the market could be worth as much as $12tn by 2050. “The journey to replace fossil fuels with green energy has been moving at glacial speed for decades — but is now violently on the move,” he said in a TV lecture series.

Over the phone, he is even blunter. “You’ll see change everywhere . . . In 15 years’ time, the world energy scene will look nothing like what it does now,” he says. “Any country which does not take green energy very seriously, but clings to polluting energy, will eventually get left behind.”

While many are cynical about the environmental conversion of a man who has made a fortune selling iron ore, Forrest is part of a trend. As climate concerns increase, the world is getting behind the energy transition — even in the most unlikely quarters. “We just can’t keep doing things the way we have always done them, otherwise our planet is going to be toast,” he says. He admits that his record in this respect is not exactly blameless: Fortescue’s carbon footprint is two million tonnes of CO2 per year, about as much as a small island state.

Australia itself has long been a climate laggard and a major coal exporter, but as China and other big customers plan to cut their emissions, taking their business with them, that may be changing. Dozens of the world’s biggest economies have adopted targets for net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. And 189 countries have joined the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2C. In a race to curb climate change, countries are rushing to cut fossil fuels, boost clean energy — and transform their economies in the process.

But as the energy system changes, so will energy politics. For most of the past century, geopolitical power was intimately connected to fossil fuels. The fear of an oil embargo or a gas shortage was enough to forge alliances or start wars, and access to oil deposits conferred great wealth. In the world of clean energy, a new set of winners and losers will emerge. Some see it as a clean energy “space race”. Countries or regions that master clean technology, export green energy or import less fossil fuel stand to gain from the new system, while those that rely on exporting fossil fuels — such as the Middle East or Russia — could see their power decline.

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the former president of Iceland and chair of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, says that the clean energy transition will birth a new type of politics. The shift is happening “faster, and in a more comprehensive way, than anyone expected”, he says. “As fossil fuels gradually go out of the energy system . . . the old geopolitical model of power centres that dominate relations between states also goes out the window. Gradually the power of those states that were big players in the world of the ­fossil-fuel economies, or big corporates like the oil companies, will fritter away.”

In Australia, a growing lobby is pushing for the country to become a “renewable superpower” thanks to its abundant wind and solar resources. Forrest is an investor in a project called the Sun Cable, which hopes to lay an electric cable all the way to Singapore. He believes the country’s future is at stake. “The impact on the Australian economy, if we get this right, could be nothing short of nation-building,” he says.

New power structures will emerge along with the transition. “The [old] levers of control, a lot of them will dissipate and simply cease to exist,” says Thijs Van de Graaf, associate professor at Ghent University and lead author of an influential 2019 report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). “This is a completely new constellation, so we cannot think just like the old days,” he adds. “There is a new class of energy exporters that may emerge on the global scene.”

FROM CARBON TO ELECTRONS

When it comes to exporting clean electricity, countries such as Norway, Bhutan and France are already far ahead. In a few months’ time, Norway and the UK will finish constructing the world’s longest subsea electricity cable, the North Sea Link. The Norwegian side of the cable runs through snow-capped mountains and a deep lake, then travels underwater for more than 720km, across the North Sea, until it reaches the UK. The highly specialised cable is also manufactured in Norway, in a factory located next to a fjord, so that it can be easily loaded on to ships and taken out to sea for installation. The North Sea Link will be Norway’s seventh subsea interconnector, allowing the country to export its abundant hydropower to its neighbours.

At its most basic, the new energy transition is a shift from oil and gas to electricity, says Auke Lont, chief executive of Statnett, Norway’s state grid company. “Electrification will be the answer to climate change, to put it at a very general level,” he explains. “The reason is that we now have access to very cheap electricity, and we see that cheap electricity can serve our energy needs in the future.” Whether in trucks or cars or home heating, the use of electricity is already surging. It provides about 20 per cent of energy today, and will have to rise to 50 per cent by 2050, if countries are to meet their climate commitments, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The North Sea Link, the world’s longest subsea electricity cable, will allow Norway to export hydropower to the UK
Construction of the North Sea Link, an interconnector between Norway and the UK, included building a custom barge to lay cable across Lake Suldal on the Norwegian side of the connection

“Our world order has been based on oil,” says Lont. That is changing: “As we go from carbon [fossil fuels] to electrons, we will have a world order where the electron is more important than the carbon.”

The question of which countries will end up ahead is still subject to debate. But there is broad consensus that change is happening. Pascal Lamy, former head of the World Trade Organization, compares the global shift from one energy system to another with the advent of the industrial revolution. “There is an inflection taking place,” he says, from behind the frames of his red glasses in a video interview. “If you compare the world today to the world 18 months ago, the big difference is that . . . only 25 per cent of the world had a decarbonisation horizon. Today, 75 per cent of the world economy has a decarbonisation horizon. This is a major shift.”

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the trend. Last year, new renewable power hit a record 200 gigawatts, while the rest of the energy sector shrank. Amid the recession triggered by the pandemic, demand for oil fell 8.8 per cent and demand for coal 5 per cent, compared to the year before, according to the International Energy Agency, the Paris-based oil watchdog. Clean energy was the only part of the energy sector that had growth in 2020. The pace and scale of the transition to renewables have already shot past the most optimistic projections.

The world’s energy transition. Chart showing Renewable energy will increase, and fossil fuels decline, under three different future scenarios,according to BP (% of primary energy)

The IEA expects that renewables will soon pass coal as the biggest source of power generation. “We can say that renewables were immune to Covid. Both solar and wind saw significant increases [last year],” Fatih Birol, head of the IEA, said at a press conference in January. “Our numbers show that renewables are set to become the largest source of generation by 2025, overtaking coal — and ending the fossil-fuel domination of the last decades.”

That’s a grim thought for regions such as the Middle East that rely on oil and gas exports for revenue. Countries that have the most to lose are already pushing back. At the annual UN climate talks, Saudi Arabia and Russia routinely play a disruptive role. (Saudi Arabia wants to have it both ways: a big plan to expand its solar power while continuing to produce oil and gas.) Meanwhile, Poland, a coal producer, dragged its feet for months before reluctantly agreeing to the EU’s net-zero emissions target. In a world disrupted by coronavirus, fossil-fuel-producing countries fear further job losses.

The transition will also be painful for energy companies that produce oil and gas. But even they acknowledge that it is picking up pace. In a statement that would have once been unthinkable, BP recently said peak oil may have already occurred in 2019.

How prepared are fossil fuel exporters for the energy transition? Scatterplot showing Countries which rely heavily on hydrocarbon exports and have lower GDP per capita are likely to struggle the most. Plotting Fossil fuel rents as a % of GDP 2009-18 average against GDP per capita ($’000)

Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive, says electricity will become a mainstay of its business. “The fundamentals of how we win in power are going to be really different from how you win in resources extraction,” he says. “In oil and gas, you need an asset base. It is about having the best rocks, the lowest cost of production.” That equation is turned on its head in the power sector, when the electricity from one solar farm is just as good as the next.

There are other differences too: unlike gas pipelines, electricity trading can go in both directions. Renewable power is also more dispersed, rather than concentrated in a few locations like fossil fuels. “When we talk about wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, ocean energy, geothermal — they are actually available in one form or another in most countries,” says Van de Graaf. For places such as Morocco, which imports more than 80 per cent of its energy but also has abundant solar resources, the transition could be an economic gift.

The Irena report found three ways for countries to exert influence in the new system. One is by exporting electricity or green fuels. Another is by controlling the raw materials used in clean energy, such as lithium and cobalt. The third is by gaining an edge in technology, such as electric vehicle batteries. With renewable resources so readily available, Van de Graaf believes that it is technology which will end up being the biggest differentiating factor.

A tally of countries’ activities in clean energy found one racing far ahead of the rest. “We have one country in pole position,” he says. “China.”

CHINA PULLS AHEAD

The southern tip of the Democratic Republic of Congo is famous for the Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mine. The ore is so rich that in some places it can be dug up by hand — enterprising locals look out for the pale-purple “copper flower” that signals the presence of the mineral below.

Huge trucks travel at high speed along the narrow paved road that leads to the mine, carrying ore, equipment or acid used to process the minerals. And along the sides of the road, a foreign script is visible on storefronts and signs — Chinese.

The area has long been the subject of power disputes, but China’s arrival is recent. China Molybdenum, which is listed in Hong Kong and Shanghai, bought the mine from Freeport-McMoran, the US copper giant, for $2.65bn in 2016. Initially, it looked as if China’s bet was struggling: copper and cobalt prices fell, and disputes with local suppliers caused the mine to lag behind in production.

But today, as demand for copper and cobalt soars due to the clean energy transition, it seems like a masterstroke. Copper is essential for electric cables and wind turbines, and cobalt is used in electric vehicle batteries. China Molybdenum now controls more than one-tenth of the world’s cobalt. Tenke Fungurume is an “absolutely great asset”, says copper analyst George Heppel of business intelligence company CRU. “I don’t think there’s anything quite like that size, in terms of gigantic deposits.”

The purchase is just one in a series of moves that have put Chinese groups ahead in almost every area of clean tech. China produces more than 70 per cent of all solar photovoltaic panels, half of the world’s electric vehicles and a third of its wind power. It is also the biggest battery producer and controls many of the raw materials crucial for clean-tech supply chains, such as cobalt, rare earth minerals and polysilicon, a key ingredient in solar panels.

“If you talk about the clean energy technology race, in many ways, it looks as if the race has already been run, and the winner is China,” says Van de Graaf. “Other players are trying to catch up.” The US, for example, has limited domestic supplies of cobalt and lithium, and the state department has for the past few years tried to improve access to rare earth minerals, due to their strategic importance.

For China, this advantage has been part strategy, part luck. Policymakers have long worried about the country’s dependence on imported oil and gas, and Beijing embraced renewable energy manufacturing relatively early, focusing particularly on solar panels and LEDs. All this was supercharged in September 2020, when President Xi Jinping announced at the UN General Assembly that China would reach carbon neutrality by 2060. “Covid-19 reminds us that humankind should launch a green revolution,” said Xi, in an announcement that came as a surprise to many. “Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of nature,” he added.

Xi also spoke about the “historic opportunities’’ created by this new phase of “industrial transformation”. Last year, China installed a record 120GW of new wind turbines and solar panels domestically, more than double the year before. Meanwhile, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the international development programme that has been criticised for being coal-friendly, invested more in renewable projects than fossil fuels for the first time.

Making the transition won’t be easy — China is still the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and is heavily dependent on coal, which supplies 58 per cent of its electricity. But its companies are poised to benefit greatly, not only from the domestic energy transition, but from growing demand for clean-tech products around the world. As major economies work to reach their net-zero goals, they will have to buy more solar panels, batteries and critical minerals. The main supplier? China.

THE RACE FOR BATTERIES

China’s sway over battery manufacturing reflects its long-term strategy. Its poster child is CATL, Contemporary Amperex Technology. Founded in 2011 in the mountainous eastern fishing town of Ningde, the company owes a large part of its success to government protectionism. In 2015, as China was pouring billions into its electric vehicle market, the government suddenly announced a list of approved battery-makers who were eligible for subsidies, none of which were foreign. This was a boon to domestic businesses: CATL grew from producing 6.2GWh worth of batteries in 2016 to 34GWh last year — a third of the global market. Now the biggest producer in the world, it has contracts with Daimler, BMW and Tesla among others.

Beijing dominates the supply chain from the mines in the DRC to the final production of lithium-ion batteries. Its companies control more than 85 per cent of the world’s refined cobalt chemical capacity, essential for most lithium-ion batteries. It also mines almost all of the world’s rare earth minerals, which are used in electric motors and wind turbines. Making an electric vehicle without involving China is almost impossible.

A fleet of electric vehicles at a Chinese car plant
A fleet of electric cars at a Chinese plant. China produces half of the world’s electric vehicles © Visual China Group/Getty Images

China’s manufacturing prowess has helped to drive down the global cost of batteries, making electric cars more competitive. This echoes what has happened with other clean energy technologies, from solar panels to polysilicon production: subsidies led to overcapacity and a rush to produce, and ended up with China dominating global markets.

The cost of lithium-ion batteries today is just one-seventh what it was a decade ago, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. CATL is now building a battery plant in Germany. “It was actually a brilliant strategy,” says Jim Greenberger, founder of NAATBatt, the North American trade association for advanced battery technology. “CATL was the winner and they have used that scale to compete very effectively in the export market. That’s the issue we’re dealing with in the west: how to compete with Chinese companies that have gotten to scale, via use of industrial policy.”

As the world shifts from carbon to electron, China has been active in developing the electricity network that will be the backbone of the clean energy system. One of Xi’s pet projects is the Global Energy Interconnection — a network of high-voltage transmission lines that would span the globe. The project envisages cheap electricity being shipped around the world — from dams in Congo to Europe. It is headed by Liu Zhenya, the former chief of State Grid, who describes it as the “internet of energy”.

While the Global Energy Interconnection will take decades to build, it signals how Chinese policymakers are thinking about the new global order. “The idea is to connect countries with [clean energy] resources, with those that have the demand,” explains Xu Yi-chong, author of Sinews of Power: The Politics of the State Grid Corporation.

China’s clean energy dominance has faced a backlash, which could grow as the energy transition gathers speed. The US and EU have repeatedly slapped tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic panels in trade disputes, while new rules in Europe could reduce imports of Chinese batteries. Recent revelations about forced labour in Xinjiang — a region that produces most of the world’s polysilicon — threaten further sanctions. Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the US Solar Energy Industries Association, said in January that the association has been telling “all solar companies operating in the Xinjiang region to immediately move their supply chains”.

Steven Chu, former US energy secretary, says that it is “absolutely” a concern for the US to rely on Chinese supply chains for its energy transition. “For strategic reasons, you don’t want to be beholden to a single country supplier,” he says, drawing an analogy to China’s dominance in making masks and other personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

However he believes that the US — which could see as much as $2tn invested in climate initiatives proposed by President Joe Biden — still has an edge in innovation. “I personally think [the most innovation] is still in the United States, in terms of laboratory innovation in new batteries,” he says. “But then it really is a matter of how you get that invention and discovery . . . to become large-scale manufacturing. And that’s where China excels.”

This is likely to be a challenge for Biden, who has made climate change a top priority. He wants the US to adopt a net-zero emissions target, but he has also pledged to revive US manufacturing. Jonas Nahm, assistant professor of energy at Johns Hopkins University, says new US climate targets could benefit Chinese companies: “This administration is caught in a pickle, which is that all of the climate goals that are being promised will rely on China, at least in the short term.”

Other global leaders face a similar quandary: as they invest more in the energy transition, some of that money will filter back to China. “This is prompting a lot of anxiety, especially amid this proliferation of net-zero commitments,” says Van de Graaf, “because other countries, such as Japan, the US and the EU, will make a transition that is very costly, and the economic benefit of that will be reaped disproportionately by China.”

WINDS OF CHANGE

Many of those countries are taking their own steps toward a clean energy future. In the town of Blyth, on the north-east coast of England, the harbour is full of wind farm activity. The former mining town is reinventing itself as a centre for the wind industry. A deep-water port makes it an ideal launch point for wind farm construction boats, and a blade testing facility that opened in 2017 has been certifying some of the longest in the world.

The UK is the largest producer of offshore wind power globally and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to make it “the Saudi Arabia of wind”, with a plan to quadruple offshore wind capacity by 2030. Europe has long been ahead in this industry, and European companies still hold a lead in turbine manufacturing. In the North Sea, many of the companies that used to work in the declining oil and gas sector are shifting their focus.

Scroby Sands, located off the coast of Norfolk in the North Sea, was one of the UK’s first offshore wind farms © Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Blyth also happens to be the arrival point for the high-voltage subsea cable between the UK and Norway. Nigel Williams, project director of the North Sea Link for National Grid, sees it as the “perfect landing spot”. “What we are doing, really, is to find a way to maximise the renewables we generate in the UK,” he says. When the UK has surplus power on windy days or during storms, it will export electricity to Norway. When the weather is calmer, it will import power from Norwegian dams. The interconnector can provide about the same amount of energy as Blyth’s two coal-fired power plants, which are both now closed.

But Blyth is also set to be the home of Britishvolt, a start-up seeking to build the UK’s first battery gigafactory. (Construction has yet to begin on the site, a £2.6bn project that is still to receive full funding.) Chief strategy officer Isobel Sheldon says Britishvolt aims to have a competitive edge by tailoring its batteries to each car manufacturer and making them in a more environmentally friendly way. The company, whose website is covered in pictures of the Union Jack, plans to start production in 2023. Sheldon still nurses a grudge that current lithium-ion battery technology — invented at Oxford in 1980 — has been slow to catch on in the UK. “It’s always irritated me to death that we created the technology and the rest of the world has capitalised on it,” she says. “The west has been caught sleeping on this.”

The EU’s plans for green recovery will give a boost to several clean energy technologies, such as the hydrogen industry, which will receive about €30bn. As Brussels edges closer to adopting a carbon border adjustment tax — which would slap a tariff on goods like steel from countries with no carbon pricing — that could give a shot in the arm to the manufacturing of green steel and aluminium.

As the EU prepares for its target of net-zero emissions by 2050, some countries are planning to trade more green fuels. Portugal recently agreed to ship green hydrogen to the Netherlands, while Germany is weighing a deal to buy hydrogen from Morocco. “This is giving rise to a whole new set of bilateral trade relationships,” says Van de Graaf. Countries with lots of sunshine, such as Spain and Portugal, are eager to find ways to convert that into a commercial fuel. Trading power is also on the rise: there are already more than 80 cross-border interconnectors in Europe, plus 20 planned or under construction.

Solar has largest price drop of renewable energy sources. Chart showing Levelised cost of energy ($ per kWh, 2019 prices). Solar dropped from almost 40 cents per kilowatt hour in 2010 to less than 10 cents in 2019

As the EU prepares for its target of net-zero emissions by 2050, some countries are planning to trade more green fuels. Portugal recently agreed to ship green hydrogen to the Netherlands, while Germany is weighing a deal to buy hydrogen from Morocco. “This is giving rise to a whole new constellation of bilateral trade relationships,” says Van de Graaf. “There is a new class of energy exporters that may emerge on the global scene.” Countries with lots of sunshine, such as Spain and Portugal, are eager to find ways to convert that into a commercial fuel. Trading power is also on the rise: there are already more than 80 cross-border interconnectors in Europe, with 20 planned or under construction.

WAR OR PEACE?

There are two schools of thought about the energy transition. One believes it is a kind of clean energy realpolitik, marked by the desire to gain economic advantage. The actions of China, the US and Europe reflect this kind of thinking. But the other is that clean energy will involve a lot less geopolitics and might help reduce conflict — a more utopian future.

Paul Stevens, a fellow at think-tank Chatham House, subscribes to the latter view. “It’s like the geopolitics of carrots,” he says. “There are no geopolitics of carrots, and renewables are the same as carrots. You can be self-sufficient with them, and you don’t need to rely on somebody to keep the Strait of Hormuz open.” The spread of renewable energy will reduce potential conflicts by ending the dependence on oil-producing countries, he adds.

Levers of control in the clean energy system will still exist, but will never be as powerful as in the fossil-fuel world, says former Iceland leader Grimsson. Even though China is ahead in many respects, that should not be seen as a threat: “China can help countries on the road to renewable energy. But once they are there, they can no longer exert power, as the oil-rich countries have done over the years.”

© David de las Heras

Danish climate and energy minister Dan Jorgensen agrees. “Hopefully this will lead to a more peaceful world, where international geopolitics in energy is less of a zero-sum game,” he says. “We depend on each other’s renewable energy sources, in a completely different way than if you just take it out of the ground.” That view is reflected in Denmark’s policy: the country is a significant trader of electricity with neighbours, and its grid will be fully powered by renewables by 2027.

During the next few years, as the energy transition gathers pace, the biggest resistance is likely to come from countries that produce fossil fuels. Even in the rosiest scenario, it will be decades before oil and gas are removed from the energy system. Many producers will keep pulling hydrocarbons out of the ground as long as possible. Australia is one example of how challenging the journey will be: the government has maintained its support for the coal industry and refused to adopt climate targets in line with the Paris agreement.

Forrest, the mining magnate, believes companies will push back against the energy transition. “Let’s not underestimate the challenge. The fossil-fuel sector will react to falling green hydrogen prices by slashing the cost of oil and gas until it’s almost zero,” he said in a TV lecture. “At the end, it will be grim — think of a knife fight in a telephone box.”

Whatever the resistance, the green transition has now gathered so much momentum — with net-zero goals enshrined in law in many countries — that what once looked impossible now seems inevitable. Just as the advent of coal and oil remade the world, clean energy is set to do the same. The energy transition will not only cut emissions: it will redistribute power.

Leslie Hook is the environment and clean energy correspondent. Henry Sanderson is the metals and mining correspondent. Additional reporting by Jamie Smyth. Maps and data visualisation by Steven Bernard

This article is the first in a FT series about the global boom in renewable energy

Follow @FTMag on Twitter to find out about our latest stories first. Listen to our podcast, Culture Call, where FT editors and special guests discuss life and art in the time of coronavirus. Subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen.

Source: – Financial Times

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Ex-Wildrose leader Danielle Smith reannounces UCP leadership bid as next step in Alberta politics – Global News

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Former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith reannounced that she will run in the upcoming United Conservative Party leadership race on Thursday.

She thanked Kenney for the work he has done for Alberta’s energy industry and added she wouldn’t mind seeing Kenney stay on as premier until a new leader has been elected.

Read more:

UCP begins search for new leader with Jason Kenney stepping down

“I want to start off by thanking Premier Jason Kenney for all the work that he’s done over the last number of years.

“I’ve decided to jump back into politics, seeking the leadership of the UCP. That is just a continuation of my last political life,” Smith said.


Click to play video: 'Jason Kenney announces intention to step down as UCP leader'



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Jason Kenney announces intention to step down as UCP leader


Jason Kenney announces intention to step down as UCP leader

Smith spared no time getting into her platform, saying she will fix and restore faith in Alberta politics. She also said she will attempt to unite the UCP and pointed to the large number of people who registered to vote in Kenney’s leadership review.

“If you look at what happened during the UCP leadership contest, there were a lot of people who got brought into the UCP who had never been in politics before and I think that’s what has occurred,” Smith said.

“I think there has been a lot of division that has happened between friends and family, and we need to stop dividing people along identity lines… We are stronger united and that holds for our conservative movement as well.”

Read more:

Kenney’s plan to step down as UCP leader shows how hard merging 2 parties is: political commentator

Smith also said she wants to see more people run in the leadership race and noted she respects the role of individual MLAs in Alberta politics.

“I would love to see Todd Lowen and Drew Barnes throw their name in the race for UCP leadership. We need to start unifying the movement again and that’s going to require all hands on deck over the next couple of years,” Smith said.


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UCP caucus meeting to discuss future after Jason Kenney announces plan to step down


UCP caucus meeting to discuss future after Jason Kenney announces plan to step down

But Smith also spent time talking about her own credentials, saying she has a lot of experience as the former party leader for the Wildrose Party, which merged with the UCP in 2017.

She also talked about her time as a former radio host on 770 CHQR as proof she can “take the heat” in Alberta politics.

Read more:

Ex-Wildrose leader Danielle Smith returns to Alberta politics, will vote against Kenney leadership

“I’m not going to enter a contest thinking I’m going to come in second place… This is a real opportunity for the UCP to make sure that we’re selling memberships, that we’re getting people excited again.

“I can handle the heat. I have handled it for a lot of years, and that’s the way I conducted myself on the radio,” Smith said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Politics Briefing: Canada banning Huawei from 5G network, federal ministers say – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

The federal government is banning Huawei and ZTE from Canada’s 5G network, federal ministers announced Thursday.

The Liberal cabinet has been hinting for months that a decision was imminent.

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino made the announcement Thursday at a late afternoon news conference.

“Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are announcing the intention to prohibit the inclusion of Huawei and ZTE products and services in Canada’s telecommunications systems. This follows a full review by our security agencies and in consultation with our closest allies,” said Mr. Champagne.

Asked why it took three years to reach the decision, Mr. Champagne said “This has never been a race. This about taking the right decision.”

Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief Bill Curry reports here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

KENNEY LEAVING

UCP MEMBERS CONSIDER NEXT STEPS AFTER KENNEY ANNOUNCES EXIT – Members of Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party caucus gathered in downtown Calgary on Thursday to hash out who should lead them after the Alberta Premier said he would step down as leader but declined to provide a timeline.

KENNEY NOT EXTREME ENOUGH: LIBERAL CABINET MINISTER – A Liberal cabinet minister from Alberta says Jason Kenney is the latest conservative leader to be pushed out by party supporters for not being “extreme enough.” Story here.

OTHER HEADLINES

SUPREME COURT HEARING APPEAL ON FORD GOVERNMENT MANDATE LETTERS – The marching orders that Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford first sent his newly elected cabinet ministers back in 2018 will remain secret past the next election, which is just two weeks away, now that the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the government’s appeal. Story here.

SASKATCHEWAN LEGISLATURE MEMBERS CITED FOR BAD LANGUAGE – Two members of the Saskatchewan legislature have been kicked out of the assembly over the language they used during Question Period and for refusing to apologize. Story here.

TWO ONTARIO PARTY LEADERS HAVE COVID-19 AMID ELECTION CAMPAIGN – Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Mike Schreiner, the Leader of the Green Party of Ontario, have both tested positive for COVID-19, forcing changes in their plans to campaign during the Ontario provincial election. Story here.

LAST DAY OF ROYAL TOUR – Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, landed Thursday in Yellowknife, where they were to speak with First Nations chiefs on the final day of their royal visit that has focused on Indigenous issues and climate change. Story here.

INDEPENDENT BODY COMING FOR BORDER AGENCY COMPLAINTS – The federal Liberals are poised to rekindle a plan to allow travellers, immigration detainees and others who feel they have been mistreated by Canada’s border agency to complain to an independent body. Story here.

CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP RACE

CAMPAIGN TRAIL Scott Aitchison is in the Greater Toronto Area on Thursday and through the rest of the week. Roman Baber has a virtual event. Jean Charest has meetings and virtual calls ahead of a visit to the Vancouver region, and the Vancouver Island communities of Nanaimo and Victoria. Leslyn Lewis is travelling, but has a virtual event. Pierre Poilievre has meet-and-greet events in Summerside and Charlottetown, PEI. There’s no word on Patrick Brown’s campaign plans.

ED FAST LEAVES HIS CRITICS ROLE – Ed Fast says party supporters of Conservative leadership prospect Pierre Poilievre made his position as the federal official opposition’s finance critic untenable, and that he wanted to leave the post to step up his efforts to help a rival to Mr. Poilievre’s leadership ambitions.

“There was an expectation from Pierre Poilievre’s supporters that the finance critic for our party not speak on any matters being raised by his campaign,” the Conservative MP from British Columbia, and co-chair of Jean Charest’s leadership bid, said in an interview on Thursday.

“And I felt that was irresponsible, and that I needed the freedom to speak freely when it comes to monetary policy.”

Mr. Fast has previously criticized Mr. Poilievre for promising to fire Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem. Mr. Poilievre has accused the central bank of failing to effectively manage inflation. On Wednesday, Mr. Fast repeated that criticism of his caucus colleague.

He repeated his concerns on Thursday. “I have a bone to pick with one of my colleagues who is a candidate who is promoting a monetary policy that I feel is very wrong-headed and sends a terrible message to the global investment community.”

Mr. Fast said he had approached Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen some weeks ago with concerns about the critic’s role, and they agreed it was best for him to relinquish those responsibilities.

On Wednesday night, Ms. Bergen said in a statement that Mr. Fast told her he was leaving his post as finance critic, citing his desire to focus his efforts on supporting Mr. Charest’s leadership campaign.

Ms. Bergen said Mr. Fast remains a valued member of the team and caucus, and she would soon announce a replacement finance critic.

She appointed Mr. Fast as the party’s finance critic after Mr. Poilievre, previously the critic, decided to enter the leadership race.

Mr. Fast said his relationship with Ms. Bergen remains “top notch” and that he has great respect for her as she handles the difficult job of keeping the party together during a leadership race.

Mr. Fast said he is hopeful about Mr. Charest’s prospects despite massive crowds that have consistently showed up for Mr. Poilievre’s campaign rallies. “I would not be supporting Mr. Charest if I didn’t have full confidence that he has a clear pathway to victory and becoming the next leader of our country and the next prime minister,” he said.

Conservatives are in the midst of a leadership race prompted after caucus voted out Erin O’Toole earlier this year. The party is to announce the winner on Sept. 10.

There’s more here about Mr. Fast’s departure from the finance critics role.

TORIES INVESTIGATE RACIST E-MAIL – The Conservative Party of Canada says it’s investigating a complaint from the Patrick Brown campaign about a racist e-mail that expressed support for Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Story here from CBC.

THIS AND THAT

TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, May19, accessible here.

SPENGEMANN DEPARTING – Sven Spengemann, the Liberal MP for Mississauga-Lakeshore, has announced he is leaving his role as MP to serve with the United Nations, effective May 28. “I will have more to say on my new role in due course,” the chair of the Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee said in a statement. Prior to his first election in 2015, Mr. Spengemann served as a senior official in Baghdad with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.

THE DECIBEL

Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast deals with the May 11 death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent Palestinian-American journalist who was shot and killed in the West Bank while reporting for Al-Jazeera. Josef Federman is the news director of the Associated Press for Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan. He’s on the show to explain what has been going on in Jenin, the city where Ms. Abu Akleh was reporting from when she died, what we know so far about who is responsible for her death and how the investigation is playing into an already heated conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The Decibel is here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister held private meetings, and spoke to Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. He also chaired the cabinet meeting and was scheduled to chair a meeting of the Incident Response Group on the war in Ukraine.

LEADERS

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh delivered remarks at the LiUNA! Local 3000 Leadership Seminar in Toronto.

No schedules for other leaders released.

OPINION – JASON KENNEY

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on the spectacular fall of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney: “And so here we are, with the province’s governing party once again in search of a new leader and an election a year away. Who knows who will emerge victorious? Former Wildrose leaders Brian Jean and Danielle Smith will throw their names in. Others in Mr. Kenney’s cabinet will too. Former federal Conservative MPs Rona Ambrose and Michelle Rempel Garner, both from Alberta, will be wooed. Of the two, I could see Ms. Rempel Garner possibly putting her hand up. She would instantly become the front-runner. However, whoever wins will have the same problem Mr. Kenney had when he took over: the UCP is an amalgam of two political philosophies, two ideological forces. They are often at odds.”

Rick Bell (Calgary Sun) on how Alberta Premier Jason Kenney never listened and now he’s out: “One night it hit me. He really didn’t really know Alberta politics. He had not learned a valuable lesson from the 2015 election when the PCs were thrown out on their ear. Alberta didn’t want the cronyism, the old boys in the saddle, the insiders making a pretty penny. They didn’t want the moral failure I call Toryland. But Kenney never listened. I write this column with some sadness and no pleasure. If Kenney had listened, if he had looked in the mirror, admitted there were things he could improve, offered a plan of how this one-man band of a government could become something better … If, if, if. A mug’s game. But instead he stuck to his script. He spent so much time defending himself he had no time to even consider what the people of Alberta actually wanted.”

Don Braid (Calgary Herald) on how Alberta Premier Kenney will resign leadership eventually, but doesn’t intend to leave: “There will be a leadership race. Kenney said it’s necessary. What he did not say is whether or not he’ll be a candidate. Nothing in the [United Conservative Party] rules would prevent him from resigning, and then running. There will be a struggle over whether the UCP edges more to the centre, or veers sharply to the right. Many of the MLAs who opposed Kenney prefer the latter. New MLA Brian Jean will run. Danielle Smith will likely join in, too. They’re well-known voices from the party’s past, but many members will want to move beyond the old merger struggles. Jobs Minister Doug Schweitzer’s name often comes up. So does Finance Minister Travis Toews. Other campaigns will take shape very quickly. Whoever happens next, this remains a dangerous moment for the UCP.”

Sean Speer (The Hub) on how a spirited minority of conservative partisans have come to define their politics in solely oppositional terms: “Jason Kenney’s swift resignation as United Conservative Party leader is a lamentable outcome for Canadian conservatism. It reflects the rise of an oppositional mindset on the Right that is bad for Conservative politics and the country as a whole to the extent that it marginalizes centre-right ideas and policies and enables progressives to govern essentially unchecked. Alberta’s Kenney-led government wasn’t perfect – no government ever is – but it was the country’s most ambitious centre-right provincial government since the Harris government’s Common-Sense Revolution in Ontario more than a quarter-century ago.”

OPINION

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Justin Trudeau’s advantage: His house united, the other divided: “Recall the drawn-out dagger fest between Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin; Mr. Chrétien’s never-ending conflict with John Turner; the furor touched off by then-finance minister Mr. Turner’s flight from Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet in 1975. There were schisms in the party over paramount issues such as free trade and the Meech Lake accord. Later came despair and disunity under the anemic leaderships of Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. But what now? Today, there’s not much of that. Rarely a peep of protest from within the ranks. No big divide in the party on the major issues of the day. No one openly challenging the leadership of Justin Trudeau despite his losing the popular vote in two straight elections.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on how Ontarians don’t fear Doug Ford the way they did in 2018: “Some time between 2018 and 2022, then, the Ford fear factor must have evaporated from Ontario’s public consciousness. No doubt many Ontarians still detest or dislike Mr. Ford, but the province doesn’t appear to fear him the same way it did just four years ago. The question is, over the past four years, did Mr. Ford change, or did we?”

Michelle Rempel Garner (National Post) on the duty to reject conspiracy theories about white replacement: “With Canadian politics becoming more divisive and polarized every day, this dogma can’t be ignored. It must be vehemently, and pro-actively, denounced and stopped. This is particularly true for leaders in right leaning political movements where this sentiment may be more pervasive, and the temptation to mainstream it for political gain is greater. Promoting it or being silent when it occurs in the ranks amounts to the same thing.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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Canada's Left Shouldn't Abandon Electoral Politics – Jacobin magazine

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Canada’s Left Shouldn’t Abandon Electoral Politics

In Canada, the Left is still searching for the wins it needs and is exasperated with the New Democratic Party. However justified these frustrations may be, abandoning the ballot would be a disaster. Electoral politics are a vital part of class struggle.

Voters arrive to cast their ballots at a polling station in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Mert Alper Dervis / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A survey of the Canadian political landscape reveals a foreboding terrain. Across the country, right-wing governments lead most provinces with centrists making up all the rest, save for one New Democratic government in British Columbia. Even there, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is constrained by state and electoral orthodoxy. Their governance is better than the typical alternatives, but far from ideal.

In Ontario, after four disastrous years of pandemic mismanagement, market orthodoxy, and underspending, Progressive Conservative premier Doug Ford appears to be sailing toward reelection, perhaps with a majority of seats in the legislature once more. The NDP Official Opposition may drop to third place as the Liberals rebound in the polls. The Liberal government in Ottawa, with support of the federal New Democrats, looks likely to remain in power at least until 2025.

At a time when we are routinely reminded that the old ways are insufficient for dealing with the problems we face, the Left appears to be MIA. The federal NDP bought themselves some policy influence by way of their supply and confidence agreement to support the Liberal minority government. Nonetheless the political agenda in Canada remains fundamentally conventional and devoid of energy. The programs that follow, federally, provincially, and locally, are anemic half-measures that are barely capable of forestalling angry populist requital.

When they do exist, these programs are typically means-tested and often underfunded, from the upcoming dental care to disability supports. Austerity, the watchword of 1990s retrenchment, remains standing as a lighthouse in the distance, a point on the horizon to guide the ship of state. Wages and worker rights are decoupled from productivity and little is happening to transform relations of power in industry — including the essential need to transfer ownership from bosses to workers, despite a new employee ownership model for the country. Climate action is insufficient, resource extraction and export are nearly always a given.

Reviewing this state of affairs in Canada — and, more broadly, in the electoral history of the Left — it’s tempting to wish to abandon electoralism as a strategy for change. Such talk comes up in breathless critiques of the NDP, hands thrown up in the air, heads hung low and shaken slowly from side to side. The urge to flip the table and walk out of the room is strong. And understandable. Nothing seems to be working. The focus-grouped, TikTok-brushed, consultant class–led strategy isn’t working. What is to be done?

A Sober Theory of Change

The twentieth-century left had a revolutionary impulse that, to whatever extent it existed in Canada, has been dampened to near silence. The Bolshevism — and even the more moderate socialism — of movement and party leftists has disappeared or gone underground. Some have joined the Communist Party. Others have given up. Many have fallen into the NDP machine. Some hang on, driven to the sidelines of the party. The pervasive discontent creates a counter-impulse that counsels the abandonment of the ballot box. But this impulse should be thought through carefully. In the absence of electoral politics, what is our theory of change? Do we then rely on revolution? On mass struggle through civil society? One thing is for sure: decamping from the electoral milieu is to entirely relinquish the field to capital’s most canny operators.

A theory of change that rests on revolution in a twenty-first-century democracy trapped by the comforts of its liberalism, next door to the global capitalist hegemon, is not a theory of change. Likewise, relying on extant infrastructures of opposition outside the ballot line — unions, associations, organizations — is insufficient for the needs of the moment.

If, at present, this infrastructure is incapable of moving the party left, why would it do better in the absence of the party? Some will answer that such a move will short-circuit the ossifying forces of bureaucratization. But bureaucratization is an outgrowth of complex society. It isn’t going anywhere. Of course, at its worse, bureaucratization can create calcified forms of organization. But we should be careful about priorities here. The most effective way to battle against capital is the thing that matters. Handwringing about the bureaucracy required by the complexity of the modern state is less important than using the power of the state to beat back the market’s encroachment into all aspects of our lives.

Giving the Boot to Technocrats

For those who look to the years of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the radical prairie socialist NDP forebear, a return to previous form holds some promise. So does a more coherent two-track approach that commits electoral politics to an agonistic relationship with grassroots movements. It is crucial that these grassroots movements are separate from but sympathetic to the party.

We should double down on our efforts to force the NDP to stay abreast of the moment. The latent energy that is not being applied to electoral politics should be applied to ensuring that the NDP embraces socialist politics — and is unapologetic about it. The party should be forced to adopt a more democratized apparatus that ensures that radicals have a place to speak, to be heard, and to be listened to, from the convention floor to the riding association board room. That means less time for the consultants and the ad engineers. It means less time strategizing around social media quick-hits that produce plenty of adrenaline and staffer high-fives but next to no votes.

The party needs to be supported by a more robust external apparatus, too. This will require more cooperation with unions, tenant’s associations, academic support, think tank scaffolding, as well as international cooperation. These structures and relationships exist already, but they are insufficient and restrained.

Furthermore, they are confused and confounded by a politics that is caught between technocratic contemporary social democracy and grassroots democratic socialism. The two forces sometimes pull in the same direction, but oftentimes in opposite directions — and when they pull at cross-purposes, they fail to pull at all. The NDP needs to mobilize democratic socialists, bringing them inside the party and putting them to work.

Re-Radicalizing Party Politics

Outside the party, the NDP needs to listen to and better leverage grassroots organizations to both respond to and help shape a true mass politics. On worker rights, drug policy, housing policy, environmental policy, health care policy, Indigenous reconciliation, and plenty more, left movements are charting a course the party ought to champion. Instead, far too often, because of its commitment to technocratic tinkering, the NDP de-radicalizes its politics ahead of time.

The party prefers to rely on muscle memory that tends toward incrementalism, or a naïve belief that Canadians simply aren’t ready for more and better. But this presupposes that the big wins and structural shifts we need will come without a fight. The Left needs to remake the country, reset its agenda, and reframe how we talk about politics. It needs to do so while raising a generation of Canadians committed to building a new world. The party, because it is instrumental in raising expectations as to what is possible, is key to the success of this endeavor.

In the absence of electoral politics, no force implements change at the state level. Elector politics is the connective tissue between desire and outcome. But electoralism is insufficient on its own and no party, left or otherwise, is to be trusted without an external series of forces. It requires that labor, civil society, and intellectual apparatuses work to keep it honest. By the same token, insurgent popular actions are important, but they can’t replace the party.

We must criticize the NDP. We must demand that the party do better. The party must be forced to commit to a radical politics that is unabashedly, unapologetically socialist and grassroots. The alternative is more of the same: more disappointment, more half-measures, more waiting. It is a chicken and egg scenario: the longer we fail to leverage the party’s potential, the less appealing electoral politics will be and the more inclined we will be to squander one of the most important quivers in our bow. The challenges we face must be met — we cannot settle into decline and hopelessness. So, best to get moving now.

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