POLITICS
05/31/2019 16:14 EDT | Updated 05/31/2019 16:15 EDT

Jason Kenney Cancels Carbon Tax Repeal Celebration To Get Briefed On Wildfires

"Nature sending JK a not-so-subtle message?"

The Canadian Press
Jason Kenney said the bill to repeal the carbon tax delivers a merciful end to a tax that didn’t stop the global rise of greenhouse gas emissions but did hurt working families.

Jason Kenney cancelled an event to celebrate the end of the province’s carbon tax to attend a briefing about the wildfires raging across Alberta.

The premier had announced he’d be at an Esso gas station on Thursday to hold a news event about repealing the tax, which was his predecessor Rachel Notley’s policy.

Climate change will make wildfires worse, according to researchers, because it will increase three major factors that fuel them:

  • Having dry fuel to burn
  • Frequent lightning strikes that start fires
  • Dry, windy weather that intensifies the blaze

Furthermore, a carbon tax has been proven to be an effective way of reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change. B.C. saw its carbon emissions fall after it implemented a provincial tax in 2008. Outside of Canada, Sweden has also seen results with their carbon tax. 

Naturally, the irony of Kenney’s situation after gutting Alberta’s carbon tax was not lost on people, and many took to Twitter to share their thoughts.

And because this is the internet, the memes immediately started to spread.

Others criticized Kenney’s press secretary, Christine Myett, for a celebratory tweet about the tax’s repeal that said the premier’s “speech was 🔥🔥🔥,” despite the fact that wildfires are raging across the province.

Myett’s tweet was up for a little over six hours before it was deleted.

Wildfires in the northern parts of the province have forced about 10,000 people from their homes, and a day of hot temperatures and gusty winds led to the explosive growth of several blazes that are burning out-of-control.

About 5,000 people have been out of their homes in and around High Level for more than a week and a series of smaller communities, including Wabasca, the Bigstone Cree Nation and Chipewyan Lake Village, have fallen under evacuation orders since Wednesday.

People in Slave Lake, a town that was partially destroyed in a 2011 blaze, have been told to be prepared to leave with eight hours notice because of a fire that the mayor says is burning about 30 kilometres away.

Meanwhile, people in Edmonton spent most of Thursday dealing with a thick, smoky haze that turned otherwise blue skies an eerie grey-orange.

WATCH: Edmonton skies were painted orange by smoke. Story continues below.

Environment Canada issued a special air-quality statement for the Alberta capital region and expanded it to most of the province Thursday afternoon.

Alberta’s consumer carbon tax is dead, setting the stage for a showdown with Ottawa over the imposition of a new one.

The province cancelled its tax on gasoline at the pumps and on home heating fuels just after midnight Thursday morning, setting the stage for Ottawa to impose a federal one.

Premier Jason Kenney told the house later in the day that the bill delivers a merciful end to a tax that didn’t stop the global rise of greenhouse gas emissions but did hurt working families.

“We have barely been in office for a month and we are already, today, delivering to Albertans the biggest tax break in our province’s history,” Kenney said as his United Conservative caucus members applauded.

Kenney criticized and mocked former premier Rachel Notley and the NDP for bringing in the tax, especially after not running on it in the 2015 election campaign.

He said the tax didn’t deal with climate change and didn’t deliver any “social licence” to garner further national or international support or acceptance of Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

“So what is the point?” Kenney asked rhetorically.

“The best answer I can come up with is this: it makes them feel better about themselves. It makes them feel virtuous. And it makes the NDP feel like somehow they are saving the planet.”

After Kenney’s internal briefing about the wildfires, the government said weather forecasts for the next two weeks will make fighting the fires difficult. Firefighters were in Alberta from across Canada doing their best to corral the flames.

 Albertans also took to social media to share photos and videos of the apocalyptic scenes around them as smoke from the blazes tinged the sky orange.

Across the province, there were 28 active fires and nine were considered out-of-control.

With files from the Canadian Press