Yesterday afternoon, a week after a study on climate change funded by Toronto-Dominion Bank caused outrage in the oil patch, TD chief executive Ed Clark found himself standing at a podium in front of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce as a scheduled guest speaker.
Mr. Clark, you will recall, was once nicknamed "Ed the Red" by oil patch executives for his role in coming up with the interventionist 1980 National Energy Program. Last week, Alberta premier Ed Stelmach referred to the program as he reacted to the study funded by TD.
"There won't be another wealth transfer to Ottawa under my watch, I can tell you," he said, according to the Edmonton Journal.
"You know, there's all of these ideas coming forward and it's all about sending money someplace else and polluting more in your own jurisdiction," Mr. Stelmach reportedly said, calling on Ottawa to ignore the study as it enters international climate change discussions in Copenhagen.
He wasn't the only one that didn't like it. Environment Minister Jim Prentice called the study "irresponsible" and "divisive" according to the same Edmonton Journal report.
The study was carried out by two environmental organizations, the Calgary-based Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation.
As Globe and Mail reporter Shawn McCarthy has noted, it found that "Ottawa will have to lead a massive restructuring of the Canadian economy, with wealth flowing from the West to the rest of the country, if it is to meet its climate-change targets…The Conservative government's goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 can be achieved, but only by limiting growth in Alberta and Saskatchewan." (You can read the full article here: )
And so, Mr. Clark sought to "set the record straight" on his bank's role in the controversial study yesterday. Its goal, he said, had been to clarify the economic impact of different greenhouse gas emissions targets, from a national, provincial and sectoral perspective.
Mr. Clark said he doesn't see the reports that TD Economics produces before they are published, and does not exercise editorial control over them. And, in this case, he said, TD Economics only helped finance it.
Resource industries are unbelievably important to this country, Mr. Clark said, adding that Canada's debate on emission reductions has taken place without a comprehensive understanding of what the economic impact might be, or who it might affect. The bank's objective, he said, was to fill that gap.
He said the bank has been surprised by the reaction to the report. While much attention has been paid to the "devastating" impact in Western Canada, the report didn't mean to present the outcome of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as inevitable, he said.
"I don't believe it's acceptable to implement environmental policies that would place a huge burden on one or two provinces, given the potential economic impact that's been identified in this report," said Mr. Clark, whose bank is one of the top investment banks in the oil patch. "Indeed, I think the contribution of the report is that it highlights the very danger that concerns many people."