Carbon tax rally debate, part II

John Cairns Leg Watch

While Monday’s exchange between opposition leader Ryan Meili and Premier Scott Moe about the April 4 carbon tax rally was lively, the sequel the following afternoon in Question Period got even more heated.

Moe blasted Monday’s exchange as “identity politics” while Meili even had to apologize at one point for his remarks. Things got so heated that Speaker Mark Docherty struggled to keep control of the assembly.

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Here is the transcript of the Tuesday exchange in Question Period on the carbon tax rally, as recorded in Hansard.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Some of the organizers of the rally happening this Thursday have got associations with the yellow vest movement, including speaking at the rebranded yellow vest convoy event in Ottawa. Andrew Scheer also spoke at that event. He’s received criticism and, I think, rightly so because he failed to distance himself from the climate change denial, the UN [United Nations] conspiracy theories, etc. that were spoken about at that event.

This Premier is not doing much better, Mr. Speaker. He showed no concern when his cabinet members showed up at rallies here in Saskatchewan despite what the yellow vest movement has come to represent — the obsession with the UN and with migration, the climate change denial, and the bizarre conspiracy theories. Despite all this, Mr. Speaker, and despite the climate change denial that’s comes from organizers of the upcoming event, and despite the connections of those organizers to the yellow vest movement, the Premier said he’s still going to this Thursday’s rally.

So my question for the Premier today is, when he speaks, when he speaks at that rally will he show leadership? Will he speak out and make a distinction and make it clear that he doesn’t agree with the wrong-headed views held and promoted by a small minority of those in attendance?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Now, Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition wants to know what I am going to say Thursday at that rally, he should attend and listen. He should attend with the people across this province, Mr. Speaker, that are attending this rally. Over 500 trucks, I’ve been informed, have signed up so far to come to say no to Bill C-48, Mr. Speaker. They’ve come to say no to Bill C-69, and they have come to say no to a federally imposed carbon tax on the people of the province.

Mr. Speaker, what we saw yesterday in this Assembly was quite frankly some of the ugliest identity politics that I have seen in my elected career, Mr. Speaker. We effectively saw the Leader of the Opposition labelling individuals, hard-working Saskatchewan citizens coming down to this rally, he labelled them as racist, Mr. Speaker. And in fairness, he didn’t use that exact word, Mr. Speaker, but he used this word. He used this word, and I quote the Leader of the Opposition, he labelled the people, the hard-working Saskatchewan people attending this rally as anti-Islamic, Mr. Speaker. He labelled them as anti-Semitic, Mr. Speaker.

[Interjections]

The Speaker: —[Inaudible interjection] . . . I definitely heard it. You can withdraw and apologize for that. I’ll ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw and apologize for that remark.

I’ll ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw and apologize for that remark. Last.

Mr. Meili: —I withdraw the remark, Mr. Speaker, and I apologize.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker . . .

[Interjections]

The Speaker: —Order. Is this the way we’re going to play? Is this it? Well let’s clean it up. I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, these are not my words. These are the words of the member, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker. I will be there Thursday. I’ll be there with the people that are attending from across this province to stand with our wealth-generating industries of agriculture, of energy, of mining, Mr. Speaker, and of manufacturing here in the province, Mr. Speaker. I’ll be there, and I’ll explain to them why the Leader of the Opposition is not.

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Mr. Speaker, I said nothing against the people of this province. I said nothing against the people attending this rally. It is wrong, it is reckless, and it’s irresponsible for the Premier to try to put words in my mouth and lead people to believe that I did. It is the wrong thing to say. It’s also incredibly lazy, Mr. Speaker. It’s incredibly lazy that this Premier has no curiosity, that he has no interest in finding out who is actually behind events that he’s agreed to attend, what the associations are, and what that means for others who might want to attend.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has a responsibility. The Premier has a responsibility not just to be a political leader but to be a moral leader in this province, Mr. Speaker. It’s irresponsible for him to promote a rally without thinking about how its associations and the associations and words of its organizers could reflect badly, could send the wrong message about the people who attend, because the people who attend deserve better from this Premier, Mr. Speaker. They deserve better. It would be highly irresponsible of him to attend without a plan to address the lingering concerns that his presence and his lack of comment in this House have allowed to fester.

Mr. Speaker, can we have some assurance from this Premier today that he will use his words to set an example? Will he have the courage to challenge the worst views of the yellow vest movement? Will he have the courage to challenge the views on the UN [United Nations] compact on migration, on climate change, at an event that is closely associated with that movement? Will he do it?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is simply going to have to attend to find out what we are going to say, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter, speaking of courage to stand up and to speak the position of your party, the position, in our case, of the Government of Saskatchewan . . .

The NDP [New Democratic Party] leader also attended a rally just as recent as yesterday, Mr. Speaker. That rally was about minimum wage, but the person who organized that rally is an outspoken anti-pipeline activist, Mr. Speaker. That same individual is also an outspoken anti-police activist, Mr. Speaker. They have called for not only the police but prisons to be abolished in the province, Mr. Speaker.

By his new-found standards, does this mean that the Leader of the NDP shares both of those positions, Mr. Speaker? By this new-found standard, was his attendance at yesterday’s event an endorsement of the organizer’s anti-pipeline, anti-police, and anti-prison agenda, Mr. Speaker? Do you endorse these views?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now wait and see just isn’t good enough. It’s not good enough, especially when the Premier has repeatedly refused . . .

[Interjections]

The Speaker: —Order. And not as soon as I sit down. Order. I recognize the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Meili: —Wait and see is not good enough, especially when the people of this province need to know why this Premier has failed to distance himself from the yellow vests and their toxic ideas, in this Assembly. Saskatchewan people who are considering going to this rally deserve to know what they’re walking into, and all of us deserve to know what the Premier really believes.

Mr. Speaker, I won’t equivocate. I don’t agree with the anti-pipeline position or the anti-police position, and I am fine to say that. Why won’t this Premier stand up and say what he believes? Equivocated yesterday in his scrum, Mr. Speaker, equivocated in his scrum. Does he believe? So let’s find an answer. Does he believe that climate change is the result of human activity and that we need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels here and around the world in order to address this serious issue? Because that’s far different than what we’ve heard from the organizers of this event. Let’s have a clear answer. Is it human activity and should we be doing something about it?

The Speaker: —I recognize the Premier.

Hon. Mr. Moe: —Mr. Speaker, all human activities have an impact on our environment here in the province, Mr. Speaker. And it’s always incumbent on each and every one of us to do better, Mr. Speaker, by the impact that we have on our soil, the impact we have on our water systems, and the impact, yes, that we have on our climate. And we’re working very hard to do that, Mr.Speaker.

And I would say this. There are a number of organizers of this rally that I am attending on Thursday that are farmers in this province, Mr. Speaker. I would put forward they are a part of a production system, a crop production system in Saskatchewan that is among, if not the most sustainable system in the world, actually being carbon neutral here in this province, they are also part of a select group, select industry here in Saskatchewan that is now exporting that innovation and technology around the world so that we are able to address climate change, not just within our Saskatchewan borders, not even just within our Canadian borders, Mr. Speaker. We are now taking the innovation and the technology and the knowledge that we have, Mr. Speaker, in that industry, exporting it around the world to do right by all of the people in this world, Mr. Speaker.

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