Alberta Politics
Sarah Hoffman addresses reporters in Yellowknife as Cheryl Oates of the Premier’s Office looks on (Photo: Twitter).

Shark Jumping in Alberta: NDP and UCP strive to outdo each other with ridiculous statements

Posted on May 24, 2018, 1:15 am
9 mins

As the Alberta Government’s fight with British Columbia over the Trans Mountain Pipeline takes on comic opera proportions, Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party and Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party Opposition appear to be struggling to see which one can come up with the most ridiculous things to say about it.

I know, I know … I’m being facetious about The Most Important Economic Issue In Canadian History – whether or not there’s actually a business case for the plan to expand the pipeline, something even the Texas-based company that claims to want to build it seems to have its doubts about.

The premiers meeting in Yellowknife, plus one deputy premier (Photo: Twitter).

As has been observed here on several occasions before, if the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project is so essential to the economic survival of Canada, then the Government of Canada should build, own and operate it. Surely the foo-fah we’ve been living through is proof there are jobs the private sector just can’t do properly.

That unorthodox if obvious observation notwithstanding, even if the economic case for the pipeline holds water, there are no excuses for Premier Notley and her deputy to claim that Canada can’t afford a national pharmacare plan without the economic benefits of the expanded Trans Mountain Pipeline.

“If we want to make sure Canadians get the medications they need, we need to be able to pay for it,” Premier Notley said on Tuesday. “So while they are at the premiers’ meeting talking about how they are spending that kind of money, I’ll be in Alberta figuring out how we can earn that kind of money.”

Mike Hudema (Photo: Twitter).

“Although the issues discussed at the Western Premiers Conference are important to Canadians, it is Alberta’s view that the Trans Mountain pipeline must be built if the country and its provinces are able to fund Canadian priorities, such as pharmacare,” Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman said yesterday at the Western premiers’ meeting in Yellowknife, where she was representing Ms. Notley as the premier sat out the summit.

Excuse me. As Ms. Hoffman surely knows – she is, after all, also the minister of health – creation of a national pharmacare plan will save Canadian taxpayers somewhere between $4 billion and $11 billion a year, as well as saving many lives, improving tens of thousands more and easing an unjust financial burden on the most vulnerable Canadians.

So with or without the TMX, Canada needs pharmacare!

That kind of disappointing malarkey is the sort of thing we’d expect from Mr. Kenney’s B-Team UCP Caucus, not from New Democrats. But it is a clear symptom, to borrow a phrase from Peter C. Newman, of the distemper of our times. In the NDP’s defence, from a political perspective, this will almost certainly play well to the home audience.

CBC Edmonton headlined the story yesterday, “Alberta fails to gain unanimous support for pipeline at western premiers’ meeting,” emphasizing what you might call the local angle over the more important story – a national program with plenty of popular support that Canadians desperately need and neoliberal politicians and their paid lobbyists are desperately seeking an excuse to scuttle.

No one should be shocked B.C. Premier John Horgan wasn’t likely to experience a flash of light on the Road to Yellowknife and suddenly support the pipeline, which he ran against and managed to form a government in part by sticking to that position.

Mike Hudema of Greenpeace, presumably knowing how annoying this would sound to Albertans who are used to commenting self-righteously about Quebec’s high taxes and “wasteful” social programs, observed that “if the Alberta government is worried about revenue maybe they should look at bringing their tax regime in line with the rest of the country and stop relying on a volatile source of revenue like oil.”

Albertans should expect to hear that a lot more in the months and years ahead.

As for Mr. Kenney, if he had just kept his own counsel, I suppose, the UCP might have chalked this up as a minor victory of sorts, or at least preserved its dignity.

Instead, the Opposition leader was soon assailing the premier for adopting just the sort of tactics he’s been demanding.

The thing about Mr. Kenney is, no matter how confrontational the tactics adopted by the NDP, they’re never going to be confrontational enough for him and the UCP’s red-meat base.

Instead of confronting the premier of British Columbia and telling him we’ll make good on our promise to turn off the taps, instead of rallying the support of other western premiers … our premier is hiding out in Edmonton,” he complained to a group of reporters in Calgary.

Well, we all remember how well that worked when Mr. Kenney’s old boss and inspiration Stephen Harper told a smirking Vladimir Putin to “get out of Ukraine.”

As one Twitter wag calling himself Supreme Conservative of Alberta put it: “ATTENTION: This week we are all using our A (Blue) Meme packages condemning @RachelNotley for NOT attending the Premiers meeting in Yellowknife. Do NOT use the B (Red) packages that condemn her for attending the conference.”

If you ask me, it’s hard to say who’s winning the race to make the most ridiculous statements about the pipeline.

The Alberta Party, I suppose.

Despite B.C.’s need for Alberta oil, its pipeline opposition is not ‘ironic’

Albertans chuckling at concern in B.C. about the economic impact of Alberta cutting off their still-essential oil supplies while at the same time they oppose a vast increase in shipments of bitumen through their province by pipeline and other means need to remember that British Columbians didn’t choose these supply arrangements. They had them thrust upon them by history and Confederation.

Indeed, you can make a historical argument that British Columbia didn’t really choose Confederation – but it got it regardless, rather as Newfoundland did 78 years later, and for much the same reasons.

Opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline by people who nevertheless need some oil from Alberta themselves may be a forlorn hope, but it’s not “ironic” and it’s not inconsistent. It’s recognition of a world economy transitioning away from fossil fuels.

From a policy perspective, I am sure one of the impacts of this brouhaha is that future B.C. governments will make a priority of ensuring as little dependence as possible on Alberta for anything. The B.C. governments in question won’t need to be New Democrats to act this way, as the lessons of 2018 will be plain to all.

20 Comments to: Shark Jumping in Alberta: NDP and UCP strive to outdo each other with ridiculous statements

  1. Farmer Brian

    May 24th, 2018

    So David you believe the problems in getting Trans Mountain built are because a private company can’t do it properly. I would say the problem is the inability of more than one Federal government to create a regulatory process that is predictable and can work within a realistic time frame. Stephen Harper attempted to streamline the NEB process but the Supreme Court found it limited consultation too much. Then Justin Trudeau campaigned against the current NEB structure and said it must be changed. So David, the reality is that no private company can afford the reagulatory mess created by Government!!

    “World economy transitioning away from fossil fuel”. I am curious do those on the left believe if they repeat this statement enough it will eventually be true? Let me see, world consumption of oil is roughly 100 million barrels per day and still rising.
    81% of the world’s electricity comes from fossil fuels. The IEA projects that by 2040 76% of our electricity still will come from fossil fuels. One of the most interesting articles I read today was about tesla’s new model 3, the supposed electric car for the masses. Originally projected to be sold for $35000 USD. Now Elon Musk says he can’t make enough money selling the bare bones model 3 and instead will be producing a model with more options for $78000 USD, if he doesn’t do this he said Tesla will go under. On the farm, yup there is a few guys putting up government subsidized solar systems but existing technology on the farm still uses fossil fuels and we are certainly trying to use them more efficiently. So when Jagmeet Singh says we need to stop building fossil fuel infrastructure and spend all our money on green energy I just shake my head and hope he sees the light that Rachel Notley saw, while I still wouldn’t vote for her, she at least realizes that there is a market for our oil for the foreseeable future! Enjoy your day

    Reply
    • Geoffrey Pounder

      May 24th, 2018

      Farmer Brian wrote: “81% of the world’s electricity comes from fossil fuels.”

      Global investment in renewables is outpacing investment in new fossil fuel projects.
      “New report shows worldwide investment in alternative energy exceeded investment in new fossil fuel projects”
      http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/renewable-energy-investment-1.3614477

      In several places around the world, renewables have already reached “grid parity” (equivalent price or lower) with fossil fuels — without subsidies.
      • cleantechnica.com/2016/03/30/grid-parity-what-is-it-why-does-it-matter/
      • qz.com/871907/2016-was-the-year-solar-panels-finally-became-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-just-wait-for-2017/

      “The cost of renewable energy is now falling so fast that it should be a consistently cheaper source of electricity generation than traditional fossil fuels within just a few years.
      “…Globally, onshore wind schemes are now costing an average of $0.06 per kilowatt hour (kWh), although some schemes are coming in at $0.04 per KwH, while the cost of solar PV is down to $0.10 per KwH. In comparison, the cost of electricity generation based on fossil fuels typically falls in a range of $0.05 to $0.17 per KwH.”
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2018/01/13/renewable-energy-cost-effective-fossil-fuels-2020/#666969c54ff2

      “Fossil Fuels Squeezed by Plunge in Cost of Renewables, BNEF Says”
      “The economic case for building new coal and gas capacity is crumbling.”
      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-28/fossil-fuels-squeezed-by-plunge-in-cost-of-renewables-bnef-says

      Reply
    • Geoffrey Pounder

      May 24th, 2018

      Farmer Brian wrote: “The IEA projects that by 2040 76% of our electricity still will come from fossil fuels.”

      You are likely referring to the IEA’s climate disaster scenario.
      The IEA outlines two scenarios based on possible emissions trajectories: The “New Policies Scenario” and the “Sustainable Development Scenario”, which defines the steps needed to achieve int’l targets (the Paris Agreement).

      You refer only to the first scenario and fail to mention the other. The first scenario leads to climate disaster.
      Two possible scenarios. Which we choose is up to us.
      Our future emissions trajectory is up to us. We decide, not the IEA.
      Projections based on scenarios are not predictions. And predictions are not facts.

      Here’s what else the IEA has to say: The world has more fossil fuel reserves than it can afford to burn:
      “No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2C goal, unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is widely deployed.”
      World Energy Outlook 2012
      http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/English.pdf

      “While carbon emissions have flattened in recent years, the report finds that global energy-related CO2 emissions increase slightly by 2040, but at a slower pace than in last year’s projections. Still, this is far from enough to avoid severe impacts of climate change.
      “The World Energy Outlook does not offer a forecast of what the energy system will look like but instead presents various projections to 2040 based on different policy assumptions, in order to give policy makers the tools to decide what path to follow. The main case is called the New Policies Scenario, and it models current and announced energy policies, including those in the Paris Agreement. This year, the report introduces the Sustainable Development Scenario, which offers an integrated way to achieve a range of goals: climate stabilization, cleaner air and universal access to modern energy.”
      http://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2017/november/a-world-in-transformation-world-energy-outlook-2017.html

      Reply
    • Sam Gunsch

      May 24th, 2018

      EXCERPT: ‘According to Bart, a rancher & businessman in the heart of oil country “regardless of how efficient we are at producing our hydrocarbons, the world is moving to alternative energy and we need to be part of that.” #renewables #ableg : http://bit.ly/2wOvfHY

      https://www.newnrgeconomy.ca/our-stories-1/2018/4/17/solar-in-oil-country

      EXCERPT: ‘“We’re clearly an oil and gas town, that’s what fuels this county. We’ve got forestry and they are a significant contributor to jobs and we’ve got agriculture and tourism, but clearly it’s oil and gas. What we are trying to do is take a look at the different opportunities with alternative energy. Regardless of how efficient we are at producing our hydrocarbons the world is moving to alternative energy and we need to be part of that program,” say Guyon.

      It’s a forward-looking strategy that Guyon says will serve residents and the county well.’

      Reply
  2. Jerrymacgp

    May 24th, 2018

    A few points:
    – firstly, it’s clear there is no room for the typical Canadian compromise on this file. As far as the Alberta political scene is concerned, there is no outcome to this debate that would be acceptable other than the pipeline getting built, over the objections of Lower Mainland & Van Island residents if necessary. Conversely, in B.C., no outcome that permits construction to ever begin would be acceptable to the Green rump that props up Mr Horgan’s fragile minority governmen, or to the residents of the Greater Vancouver area past whose backyards this pipeline would run. Someone’s ox will be gored…. the only question is whose. My money is on Alberta’s, since the feds have more to lose by pissing off BC, where they have far more parliamentary seats to lose than in Alberta.
    – secondly, it is quite entertaining to see this issue turn hard-core, unrepentant free-market fundamentalists into raving socialists on this file. The private sector getting cold feet, due to the multiple legal hurdles and speed bumps being thrown up by pipeline opponents? Let the Crown build it, then. The same applies to proposals to build upgraders and refineries in Alberta, instead of exporting dilbit overseas, even if that is economically impractical.
    – finally, a little bit of copy-editor quibbling: “…kept his own council…” I believe should be “counsel” …

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 24th, 2018

      You are quite right, Jerry, on the matter of council vs. counsel. It’s been fixed. Many thanks. I’d like to be able to blame this on auto-correct. Alas, I cannot. I blame late-night writing and no editor. Having no editor to blame but for myself, that is. DJC

      Reply
  3. Geoffrey Pounder

    May 24th, 2018

    If Notley and her New Denialist Party believe that such tactics will win them a pipeline and re-election in 2019, they are dreaming in Technicolor.

    Reply
  4. Sam Gunsch

    May 24th, 2018

    Some tarsands boosters are serial offenders at ‘jumping the shark’…

    e.g. Canada’s petro-industry Astroturf groups keep sending this hairpiece up the microphone.

    The Roughneck… EXCERPT: ‘“Why are you even listening to me? I’m objectively a loser. I’m 34 years old. I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t have a car. Look at my hair! And yet you guys are listening to me talk about pipelines.’

    https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/05/23/news/why-are-you-even-listening-me-pro-pipeline-rally-gets-existential

    Reply
  5. Sam Gunsch

    May 24th, 2018

    A BC lawyer who has specialized in environmental law, published the overview below, yesterday in the Tyee.

    From outside Alberta, the ‘rule of law’ claims by our political leaders and corporate leaders’ to buttress claims for the legitimacy of the NEB review of the TransMountain pipe are seen as just pure high-grade dilbit BS.

    Just one example, it was a precedent that the NEB refused to allow cross-examination of Kinder Morgan’s evidence.

    https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2018/05/23/Kinder-Morgan-Rule-Law/

    EXCERPT: ‘Are arguments for the pipeline expansion based on actual respect for legal procedure? ‘

    EXCERPT: ‘Until the new allegations of NEB rigging surfaced, Kinder Morgan’s promoters often referred to the “rule of law” as their rationale for moving ahead quickly with the Texas company’s controversial oil tanker-pipeline proposal.

    But what exactly do they mean?

    The dictionary defines the rule of law as: “the principle that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to law that is fairly applied and enforced.”

    Canada is not a dictatorship. Just because some handpicked board rubber-stamps something, or princely Trudeau (or the bully Harper before him) wants something, it doesn’t mean we all have to march in step to make it so. ‘

    EXCERPT: ‘The shortcuts and flaws in the NEB review of Kinder Morgan are well known. The Trans Mountain NEB review is haunted by the exclusion of many affected people and groups, the limited terms of reference, the lack of cross-examination to test the evidence Kinder Morgan submitted, the exclusion of relevant evidence (such as scientific studies concluding bitumen sinks if spilled), the expedited hearing schedule and conflicts of interest.

    Even Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada (before they came to power) admitted the NEB’s review of Kinder Morgan was fundamentally flawed. Much has been made about then-candidate Trudeau’s statements that Kinder Morgan would not be approved, and the review would be redone if he became prime minister.’

    Reply
  6. Sam Gunsch

    May 24th, 2018

    FWIW published today… another legal opinion that supports the shared jurisdiction on environmental protection argument underlying the BC NDP’s reference case for regulating dilbit.

    EXCERPT: ‘MacLean says that if a court can rule that Ottawa also has jurisdiction over a mine located within a province’s borders, “it strains the mind to understand how a major oil pipeline project that has ecological, First Nations and climate-change implications is going to be solely within the federal government’s purview.” [Tyee] ‘

    EXCERPT: ‘‘All of the constitutional questions are untested.’

    https://thetyee.ca/News/2018/05/24/Trans-Mountain-Case-Study-Uncooperative-Federalism/BC NDP are arguing…

    Reply
  7. David

    May 24th, 2018

    I think you are right about the blue and red packages part – Kenney would criticize the Premier regardless. He seems to sometimes take his role as opposition leader quite seriously, except maybe when he is in the bubble zone, sometimes to the point of pomposity and ridiculousness. I almost had to laugh when I heard his criticism of the Premier “hiding out in Edmonton”, this coming from Kenney who has become the Houdini of Alberta politics. He has turned hiding out at opportune moments into a fine political art, that has generally worked well for him. If anything, he was probably most upset that the Premier borrowed his favorite go to strategy. Politically, I think she made the better choice. I suspect Kenney was secretly hoping she would have gone to that conference and they might have champagne, so they could get a picture of the Alberta and BC premiers smiling and drinking champagne together, like Lougheed and Trudeau once did.

    The pipeline debate is an intractible conflict and it is not just about one thing, as those who see the world as only black or white will claim. It is about the environment, yes, but it is also about the economy, provincial rights vs. federal jurisdiction, safety and the movement of goods. It is all these things, which is partly why there is no easy solution. I think the opponents of the pipeline decided that obstructionism was a good strategy some time ago and it seems to be working for them. However, obstructionism is a double edged sword and I think Premier Notley has realized she can use this tactic too. Not having the Premier of the most economically powerful province in western Canada at the Western Premiers meeting is a loss, not because these meetings really accomplish anything much, but because it takes away from the theatre of appearing to do something on serious issues by talking and meeting. Really, they accomplish little and Premier Notley’s absence risks creating the Emperor has no clothes moment for the other Premiers, some bordering on pompous, who are pretending to do things.

    I do hope we get a national pharmacare program eventually, however I am under no illusions it will happen by next Tuesday. Hopefully it will be around in 10 or 20 years when I might really need it. Politicians in Canada have been talking about a national child care program since the 1990’s, with little to show for it. If pharmacare happens in 5 years, it will be a miracle. If we had a dollar for every time a politician met or talked about things like this, perhaps that would give us the funding needed. Funding is always the problem and usually the reason why talk often does not turn into action.

    If Alberta feels its economic interests are being harmed by other western provinces, don’t expect anymore western Premiers meetings soon. Alberta has played nice until recently, but there is a real strong anger against the government of BC here and a lot of other things could happen that would make not going to a Premiers meeting seem mild in hindsight.

    Reply
  8. Janice Williamson

    May 24th, 2018

    Yes, thanks for this commentary. I agree, this prioritization of one issue over all the others, leaves important social policies like pharmacare out of the collective conversation. Very disappointed in the party I voted to elect on these recent comments that are blinkered by petroleum interests.

    Reply
  9. Albertan

    May 24th, 2018

    Perhaps what surrounds this Kinder Morgan pipeline brouhaha is getting more than a little ridiculous. In light of the fact, that the Morneau/Trudeau Liberals, et al, were confident that there would be private investors galore lining up to invest in this project, it has not happened. Perhaps this is telling enough that it could be a reason why there is a certain amount of blind craziness being displayed, and obviously, investors are thinking that this project will not be profitable. This is why many of us do not want our hard-earned tax dollars being invested in this project. It is too risky.
    Perhaps a review of “Six Reasons Why Kinder Morgan’s pipeline won’t be built,” is pertinent now, again.
    It can be read at : http://www.dogwoodbc.ca
    And agreed re: Alberta ” bringing their tax regime up to speed with the rest of the country.” For more info on why Alberta’s tax regime is still unfair, even with an NDP government, there is this on cbcnews.ca today: “Think Alberta has the lowest income taxes? If you’re in the middle class, think again.” What is really disappointing about the ‘heavy’ being on us in the middle class here, is that it could be expected that an NDP government would get this fixed. It certainly wouldn’t get done by the UCP.

    Reply
  10. David Grant

    May 24th, 2018

    In terms of whether the British Columbia should have interfered with another government bringing in a pipeline, I doubt that if the shoe was the other foot, would Albertans take the same position? If Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia were wanting to build a pipeline across Alberta would Mayor Nenshi, Rachel Notley, or Jason Kenney be singing the tune that they been singing for quite a while? Will these complainers feel the same way if a pipeline were to break and affect their communities? Frankly the only way I can look at this problem is not whether we transport oil through rail or pipelines, but whether we move forward or backward in terms of building a sustainable society. We are a wasteful society addicted to fossil fuels much like a junkie on drugs. Much like the addict, we can’t break our habits tomorrow, but we should be trying to weed ourselves off over time. We need to listen to Iron and Earth who while they believe that fossil fuels have kept them employed want a future doing something else. If we continue to bury our heads in the sand(and to some extent it can be applied to the NDP government)we will be losing more than our jobs.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      May 27th, 2018

      Best advertisement for weed I’ve read all day!

      Reply
  11. Hurtin Albertan

    May 25th, 2018

    I have yet to be convinced that this pipeline project is needed or will provide a substantial public benefit. Why have so many majors pulled out of the oilsands and taken huge write downs? Who really wants to buy this bitumen and for what price when the world is awash in oil that is easier and cheaper to produce? Seems to me we are being taken to the cleaners by Kinder Morgan. Alberta needs to wake up: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/amp/business/commentary/article-lets-get-honest-about-the-outlook-for-the-alberta-oil-sands-and-trans/

    Reply
  12. Bedoich

    May 25th, 2018

    Good Article David. It sure feels like the level of Political discourse the last 5-10 yrs is taking on an almost comical tone. Unfortunately the jokes on us voters. Can you say “Pandering piece of Populist Prattle” 5 times?

    Reply
  13. Canadian Albertan

    May 26th, 2018

    Great article!
    Rare in politics these days.

    Anyone who thinks all Albertans support the behaviors of Notley and Kenny are way, way off.

    Reply
  14. Farmer Dave

    May 27th, 2018

    I’m still waiting for KENNEY to produce a shadow budget and how he will eliminate the deficit and debt. Maybe that is why he is in hiding because he can’t do it without running Alberta into the ditch just as Ralph did (RIP Ralph). Or maybe he has no time working on the deficit or debt because he is working hard on social issues to satisfy his UCP members.

    Reply

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