PHOTOS: Welcome to Bedrock City, AB. Actual rural Wildrose ridings in Southern Alberta may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Alberta Opposition Leader Brian Jean (CBC photo), Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day and Barney Rubble, MLA.

It sure doesn’t look as if the pipeline safety concerns of Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre were all that unreasonable now that we’ve learned about what a lousy job the National Energy Board was doing to ensure the safety of pipelines during the decade of Harperism, does it?

Certain people in Alberta got a whole lot angrier than the circumstances actually warranted when Mr. Coderre shot back at some sniping by Alberta’s Opposition leader with a comment that Brian Jean and his advisors are “probably the same people who think the Flintstones is a documentary.”

Up to that point, Mr. Jean’s noisy complaints were mainly pro forma Alberta political posturing, designed to reinforce his Wildrose Party’s narrative here in Wild Rose Country that the NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley isn’t doing its job right because it’s using a different strategy for getting pipelines approved from the foot stomping and bullying that has proved so ineffective and unproductive for conservative federal and provincial governments.

It must worry Wildrosers that Ms. Notley’s approach has on the face of it been more effective in nine months than theirs has been through nine years plus nine months of Harperism. At least they can pat themselves on the back for persuading the media that the NDP ought to be implementing Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity by doing the same thing their side did over and over again in the expectation of different results.

Complaining about Quebec, of course, has always been a popular pastime in certain circles in Alberta – and those tend to be the same circles that vote Wildrose. So from Mr. Jean’s perspective, cracking wise about the problems with Montreal’s sewerage system was a great way to score a couple of cheap points off the Alberta NDP. When he made his comments, Mr. Jean obviously knew a mayor wasn’t going to be the person making decisions about whether pipelines get built through Quebec, even if the mayor in question used to be a Liberal cabinet minister.

But the Alberta right went completely bonkers when Mr. Coderre landed his Flintstones shot – and it’s said here that’s because it contained just enough truth about the Wildrosers to really burn.

Mr. Jean is no Stockwell Day – the former Alberta Progressive Conservative treasurer, federal Canadian Alliance leader and Biblical literalist about whom the one-liner first gained currency in Canadian politics is said to have actually believed men and dinosaurs strolled on earth at the same time.

But whatever Mr. Jean may actually believe, there’s absolutely no question his Wildrose Party is the home to plenty of climate change deniers and folks who don’t feel a lot of sympathy for the idea of scientific enquiry on those occasions when its results contradict their ideological predilections.

So like all good zingers, Mr. Coderre’s spoke to a profound truth about he conservative opposition in Alberta, especially the Wildrose Party, and that’s what set of the cacophony of whining and wailing here in Alberta about how unreasonable he was being.

In Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to have talked Mayor Coderre into behaving. But in Ottawa, Conservative Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose moaned that Mr. Coderre’s zingers were threatening national unity and tried to trigger Alberta’s unique provincial false-memory syndrome about prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy program, a dead horse that’s if frequently flogged to good effect hereabouts.

In the media, the response was nearly unanimous. Over the course of 48 hours, Edmonton Journal political columnist Graham Thomson, Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid and National Post writer Jason Fekete all composed bloviations resurrecting the zombie western separatist movement that never was. The Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell actually got his national unity warning in first, on Friday, but we should probably stand by for another blast from the Dinger soon. All the newspapers named are owned by Postmedia.

Then came yesterday’s report by federal Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand, who reported that under former prime minister Stephen Harper, the NEB failed to properly track whether pipeline companies were actually implementing the board’s own conditions for allowing them to build pipelines. Given the record of the Harper Government, this should surprise no one.

Five years ago, with half Canada’s lost Harper decade still to run, the same office released a report finding similar deficiencies in the work of Calgary-based regulatory agency.

Auditors working for Ms. Gelfand, who come from the department of the Auditor General, found that “in half of the 49 pipeline approvals they examined, the NEB did not adequately track whether companies satisfied the conditions set by the board,” the Globe and Mail reported.

So, wouldn’t you be concerned if you were a voter in the principal municipality in a region of 4.5 million people through which the $15.7-billion Energy East Pipeline, which is yet to be approved by the same NEB, is supposed to carry 1.1 million barrels of crude every day? And wouldn’t you want your mayor to say speak up about it on your behalf?

That would be the expectation in most democratic jurisdictions, and obviously Montreal is no different – no matter how loudly the Wildrose Party protests.

Plus, of course, the normal rules of local politics apply in places other than Alberta too. Just as Mr. Jean reckons he can score some easy points by taking cheap shots at Quebec politicians, what makes him think Quebec politicians won’t score easy points taking cheap shots back at him?

If you dish it out, you’re supposed to be able to take it – especially when, one way or another, a couple of your MLAs could be mistaken for Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble if one didn’t look too closely.

As for that renascent western separatist “movement,” remind me again how being a separate country is going to make it easier to move our oil through British Columbia, which doesn’t want it, the United States, which doesn’t want it, and Quebec, which still has its doubts.

No, sorry, but the only thing that’s likely to work is stronger regulation and social license for the projects that Alberta needs, and unless things change in other jurisdictions the only formula that stands a chance of getting those things is the one advocated by Rachel Notley and her NDP government.

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  1. “…resurrecting the zombie western separatist movement that never was.”

    Harper was ALL about separation – that is why he maliciously massacred manufacturing in Ontario. Energy East is the new fuel to stoke separatist flames.

  2. Absolutely brilliant! The Flintstone/Wildrose connection explains everything, especially of bedrock Roserism. They saw Dino the dinosaur and they had the evidence they needed to prove they were actually family pets not so long ago. They saw Fred peddling his car and they had evidence cars left no carbon footprint. They saw Wilma and Betty in the kitchen and they haven’t relented since (thumping their tables wanting to be waited upon).

    Gotta go -take little dino for a walk…and it’s bowling night with the boys.

  3. Conservatives, whatever size of ‘c’ they happen to be, seem to have forgotten that fundamental principle of human relations: you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Prentice, Redford, Harper, Jean, and the rest have been throwing plates of vinegar all around the country for a decade, and yet have not caught one fly. Now Rachel Notley and the NDP are laying out honey, and while they too have yet to catch a fly, at least they’re starting to buzz around…

    My apologies to anyone who thinks the metaphor is a bit over-strained.

  4. I don’t understand how building a pipeline to sell even more oil at <$30/bbl (when Iran and Saudi Arabia are just about to get into a price war) and effectively less than cost is somehow going to improve things in the short term in Calgary. Or ever, for that matter.

    But perhaps that because I didn't study Calgary School economics.

  5. This eternal quest for pipelines is a diversion. The sad truth is, Alberta has a substandard resource in the tar sands that costs more to produce than just about every other play in the world. The Big Oil Boys could build pipelines in every direction to get their synthetic crap to market but nobody is buying. We really need to move on here in Alberta with a more diversified economy and leave the rest of the bitumen in the ground.

  6. Here is a quote from Andrew Nikiforuk today re: the NEB on The Tyee. Perhaps it partly, and maybe most prominently, speaks as to what determines the future of any project….profit, or not.
    “Approximately $25 billion worth of pipeline megaprojects, all designed to move low-grade and high-cost bitumen to coastal ports for export, now remain in limbo due to public opposition, rising climate change concerns and low oil prices.”
    We also know from one hearsay in AB that a rig is being dismantled in northern AB and will be going to Quebec.
    It appears that there is some activity afoot to ‘jump-start’ the oil and gas industry there. A couple of areas seem to be the Gaspe Peninsula where there has been success with directional drilling without fracturing. Another area, described as a bigger, but more complicated play, is Anticosti Island in the St. Lawrence. This island appears to be bigger than PEI. One would wonder what the NEB, with better regulation, would say about that proposed development, and, what the residents of the island think about it. We could perhaps give them some advice. We had a sour gas leak in our area over the weekend and on Monday. We called about it but we never expect to get a callback to say there was a problem, but, the problem ‘became’ gone after we made the call. Thus, our long-standing cynicism with regard to the industry.
    The Globe and Mail has done some coverage of the existing, and potential, oil and gas activity in Quebec.

  7. Alberta’s sordid confluence of evangelical zealotry and American petroleum lapdog behavior raises up its wizened head again – but we should expect no less from people who A) believe in hastening the end of the world so that they can sit at their self-promised celestial elite banquet table, dropping crumbs of ambrosia on the heads of smouldering sinners below, and B) think that such superstitious claptrap plays usefully within the global strategy to increase their short-term ROI at the expense of everyone else. Here’s to a surprising afterlife for them all!

  8. Recent survey data about climate change, carbon tax, etc in Alberta

    Segmented by political party.

    Page 1 data seems relevant to AB politics that might turn in part on acceptance of science/evidence-based public policy deliberation vs. politics based on ideology/faith-based/partisan belief systems

    e.g. 26% of WRP and 32% of PCs accept climate change is real and that it’s mostly caused by fossil fuel emissions.

  9. I think you’re right – this is part of the reason for all the outrage – the Flinstones comment hit home. A big reason Wildrose lost the 2012 election was they equivocated on climate change late in the campaign – after that a lot of Albertans started to have doubts about them.

    The Wildrose and Conservatives are extremely touchy these days, they seem to be permanently on high outrage now – a bit like listening to talk radio. I suspect people will eventually stop taking them seriously – some of us already have.

    However, I must say Coderre actually physically reminds me more of Fred Flinstone. Somehow Brian Jean seems more like the Barney Rubble type, more the follower than the leader.

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