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August 31,2015

Alberta's new NDP government is under pressure to bend its stated support for a healthier environment in order to allow continued unrelenting development and sale of the people's petroleum resources. This pressure, by all appearances, is the rationale for dialogue between government and the oil industry.

Dialogue is essential if Alberta is to be a place of harmony and prosperity. Yet the goal of dialogue, if Pope Francis is to be taken seriously, should be to move toward new economic approaches which respect human life, the earth and future generations.

In Laudato Si', the pope called for dialogue between politics and economics to protect human life. "Politics must not be subject to the economy nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy," he wrote (189).

Pope Francis went on to quote the Church's Compendium of Social Doctrine: "The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces" (190). Dialogue is crucial, but dialogue that leads to compromises or "halfway measures" will not prevent environmental disaster (194). The potential for disaster, the pope says, calls for far-sighted politics (197) and "radical decisions" (175).

Whether the provincial government has the wherewithal to make radical decisions remains to be seen. The federal Conservative government, however, has shown no interest; it appears to be doing everything in its power - from gagging scientists to ignoring international agreements - to give the impression that no environmental disaster is looming.

The federal NDP is obscuring how it would deal with climate change if the party is elected; the Liberals only say they will meet with provinces, reduce national emissions standards and phase out subsidies for the petroleum industry.

None of this is radical enough. Pope Francis criticizes "the myopia of power politics" in which political parties are more concerned with electoral success than with real solutions that challenge consumerism and the market economy.

Important issues should be debated and solutions proposed during election campaigns. Instead, in this campaign, parties hide from offering any plan that might lose votes.

In the absence of any serious party platform to put a lid on climate change, Pope Francis is the most realistic, open and radical advocate on the issue. The pope was criticized for being too political; yet, the politicians are not being political enough.

Perhaps the parties do not see this as a crucial concern; perhaps they believe halfway measures will do. If so, they should say it. Until then, one must conclude that Pope Francis is the only public figure courageous enough to confront an impending disaster.