During the earliest days of their government, the Alberta NDP already knew they had what they called a “social disconnect” problem. They knew normal Albertans wouldn’t embrace the carbon tax the NDP hadn’t campaigned on, so they quickly started holding expensive focus groups to try to solve the problem.
Now, I can finally report on the findings of those focus groups based on documents we obtained through a freedom of information request that took nearly two years to get my hands on.
The NDP contracted with a company called Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Canada to conduct focus groups with men and women in Edmonton and Calgary right after they announced their carbon tax in November 2015.
In the documents that date back to right after the carbon tax was announced, we learn the focus group was trying to find a way “to bridge the social divide between Albertans’ positions on climate change and reducing emissions and the policies the Alberta Government wants to enact to improve its reputation.”
The findings should shock no one. These are directly from the report the pollster provided back to the government:
“First, there was very little awareness of the Alberta Government having made any announcements on climate change”
“Albertans are concerned about their reputation both internationally and in other provinces. They are also skeptical that taking steps on climate change will make the rest of the world evaluate Alberta differently.”
“No one buys the idea that this will help get pipelines approved. The idea that we need to take action so that we can export more oil from the oil sands just does not make sense. It sounded self-serving and defensive to people.”
“There were questions about how exactly paying a carbon tax was going to actually reduce greenhouse gases.”
This focus group discussion held by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner over three days cost roughly $65,000 - and in the end, the NDP were presented with evidence that Albertans didn’t, and never would, believe in Notley’s fake social license.
In her year-end interview last December, Notley said she has “no regrets as she looks back on the last three years.”
She said “I think it (social license) is still part of the conversation.”
Except now we know that the NDP knew from the very beginning, it never really was.