PHOTOS: Actor David Suchet as Agatha Christie’s imaginary Hercule Poirot. Below: Postmedia Alberta Frankenpaper political columnist Lorne Gunter, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Alberta Prosperity Fund President Barry McNamar and the late Spiro T. Agnew, who is thought by some scholars to be the worst vice-president in U.S. history.

This tale of pipelines, Rachel Notley’s NDP, the environment, federal Dipper delegates and the Leap Manifesto is starting to have enough plot twists to confuse even the imaginary Hercule Poirot!

The nattering nabobs of neoliberal negativism – in other words, Alberta’s two main right-wing opposition parties and their many media cheerleaders – have been spinning a yarn about how the decision to talk about the Leap Manifesto by the federal NDP last weekend proves the Notley Government’s pipeline strategy of not fighting with absolutely everybody all the time is never going to work.

GunterOn Monday, Postmedia Alberta Frankenpaper political columnist Lorne Gunter published a bitter screed excoriating Premier Notley for daring to suggest “make-nice relations with the federal government and other premiers is just what this province needs to get pipelines built and get our oil flowing to coastal ports.”

Calling the Notley Government a “gang of bungling NDP ideologues,” Mr. Gunter’s diatribe ends with the conclusion the premier’s approach “was never going to work. Now we have proof.” (Emphasis added.)

It matters not to Mr. Gunter or most commentators on the right, apparently, that the Leap Manifesto has nothing to do with the Alberta NDP Government’s policies, something that in normal times would be the end of the story. These are not normal times, however, as Alberta’s infuriated conservatives are still coming to terms with the fact they are out of power for the first time in 80 years.

Still, this argument is pretty bold coming from an apologist for a gang of market-fundamentalist ideologues who, despite having had majorities in both Ottawa and Edmonton for a decade and an authoritarian bent, couldn’t budge the dial on their pet pipeline projects. One suspects, indeed, that Mr. Gunter and Postmedia may have bigger issues with the NDP.

Regardless, Mr. Gunter contended, the NDP have had 11 months to work on this and they’ve failed, failed utterly, failed irrevocably. Obviously, he concluded, it’s time to go back to the disagreeable Harper-Prentice-Redford strategy that … erm … also failed, and over a much longer span if time.

NotleyTo be fair, the various species of conservatives found in Alberta and Ottawa had only about two years to work on the Energy East Pipeline-to-New Brunswick proposal, although the Northern Gateway pipe-to-B.C. plan has been around for more than a decade and the Trans Mountain Pipeline to B.C. was built in 1953, which makes it almost as old as your blogger!

The Con coalition also managed to contribute significantly to blowing their beloved Keystone XL proposal through the States to Texas when former prime minister Stephen Harper told the Most Powerful Man in the World he wasn’t going to take No for an answer, even though once upon a time it seemed like a sure thing.

All this presumes such pipelines are a good idea, of course – which as commenters to this blog keep pointing out, ain’t necessarily so. Still, we’re just talking about a strategic question here, OK?

Alas for Postmedia’s narrative, Mr. Gunter stated his argument as indisputable fact just at the instant Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had his pipeline-to-Damascus moment and declared both Energy East and the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion had better be built if his Liberals are going to keep to their economic growth projections.

So, while these are far from done deals, it sure sounds as if Ms. Notley and the NDP have already made more progress on this file than phalanxes of Tories and Tory lookalikes who can’t get along with anyone, even each other, could ever manage.

TrudeauIndeed, we could now be nearing the very moment of the “Doomsday Scenario,” articulated by that questioner at the so-called Alberta Prosperity Fund’s recent unite-the-right meeting in Edmonton. He asked: What do we do if the NDP “actually gets a pipeline built?”

Answering his own question, the speaker wailed, perhaps presciently, “If that ever happens, they’re going to govern for the next 20 years!”

He isn’t the only one thinking things like that, either. As the National Post’s Michael Den Tandt put it the day before yesterday, “the sudden surge to prominence of the anti-pipeline Leap Manifesto, quite strangely and maddeningly for its advocates, may have helped create the political conditions needed to get one built. As the law of unintended consequences goes, this would be a rich outcome indeed.”

Mr. Den Tandt helpfully notes “how thoroughly this file was botched by the previous federal government.” That would be the Conservative government Mr. Den Tandt’s Postmedia stablemate holds up as the sine qua non of pipeline advocacy.

If I may be so bold, all this strongly suggests – just hours after we’ve all been pronouncing the Alberta NDP deader than the proverbial defeatist East Coast mackerel – that the entire prevailing right-wing narrative about Alberta is bunk.

Personally, I am looking forward to the re-election of the NDP in 2019. Just remember where you heard it first!

Another bump on the road to uniting Alberta’s right?

Speaking of conservatives who can’t get along with one another, Metro Edmonton reported yesterday that the founder and president of the Alberta Prosperity Fund is suing the Wildrose Party for not paying for his consulting services last year.

McNamarIn its statement of defence, Metro reported, the Wildrose Party denies it owes Barry McNamar anything. The free paper also said the party alleges Mr. McNamar “failed to raise funds for the party, inappropriately directed funds to an unnamed third-party organization and misrepresented commitments from potential donors.”

Mr. McNamar, who is also vice-president of operations for the Frontier Centre, a right-wing think tank based in Winnipeg, told Metro he believes the disagreement can be settled amicably.

Progress Alberta suggests that the case may hinge on when Mr. McNamar actually began work for the Alberta Prosperity Fund, an occasion for which different dates appear in different places.

A short word of thanks and acknowledgement to Spiro T. Agnew

I am indebted, I am compelled to note, to the late U.S. Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew for his famous and useful aphorism, “the nattering nabobs of negativism,” which I have modified with the zeitgeist of the new century in mind.

AgnewIf Mr. Agnew, VP in Richard M. Nixon’s Republican Administration, had somehow managed to hang in there just a little longer, he could have been the 38th President of the United States. Indeed, Mr. Nixon said he kept the former Maryland governor around because with him only a heartbeat away, as they say, from the presidency, “no assassin in his right mind would kill me.”

There might have been something to that. Only 10 months after Mr. Agnew was run out of office for criminal tax evasion and rumours of accepting bribes, the president himself fell to the Watergate scandal and VP Gerald Ford elevated to the job of POTUS.

For all his flaws, Mr. Agnew or some speechwriter in his employ had a way with words. Not only did he give us the resilient “nattering nabobs of negativism” and eternal “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history,” but he responsible for the ever-useful “effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

Mr. Agnew, who died in 1996, is thought by many historians to have been the worst vice-president in U.S. history.

This post also appears on

Join the Conversation


  1. “the worst vice-president in U.S. history.”

    Despite Agnew’s eloquence, my vote goes to Wyoming’s own Richard M. Cheney. Despite the fact that warmonger Dicky helped send thousands to die in the Iraq fiasco and perpetuated the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, our hero managed to avoid military service in Viet Nam, saying “he had other priorities.”

  2. You put it so well that there is not much to add. The frothing right wing mouthpieces are obviously uncomfortable. They are being squeezed by their boardroom benefactors because the corporate scripts are not resonating. That happens when a government representing the people occasionally comes to power.

    I also see the resemblance to Nixon/Agnew days. Trump and Jean have the same stuff in their veins and empty brains. The abundance of manure here in the West provides fertile soil for them to prosper. It is what it is.

  3. “So, while these are far from done deals, it sure sounds as if Ms. Notley and the NDP have already made more progress on this file…”
    Your talking pipelines. You misspelled “regress”.

    1. You mispelled too! It should be either You are or You’re, not Your, in your last line..

      People in glass houses……..!!!

  4. My first thought is that Premier Notley has told Albertans that her climate leadership plan including the carbon tax will give Alberta social licence to get pipelines built. This was proven wrong within her own federal party.

    My second thought is that no political party in Alberta has a plan to balance the budget without heavy dependence on the price of oil. There is only one way to do this. That is a sales tax. Once implemented Alberta would then direct energy royalties into the heritage fund which over time would give us a large stable source of income. Germany has been successful in promoting green energy without a carbon tax, Alberta could do the same. With increased revenue from a sales tax programs for green energy could be created. As for coal fired power plants, plans were already in place to be down to 10% coal power by 2034, it will cost billions to accelerate this plan, is that a good investment for 10%. As for the present carbon tax it is just a sales tax on energy and no money goes to the deficit. Have a good day:-)

    1. The Alberta NDP government is doing the sensible thing by phasing out coal fired electrical generation. These generators are one of the biggest point sources of carbon emissions in the province and give Alberta an environmental black eye.

      Given the low price of natural gas, shifting generation to gas fired turbines makes good economic and perhaps even environmental sense. This is a position long advocated by the Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta as well as the electrical utilities of Calgary and Medicine Hat to name a few.

      Alberta’s total electrical load is around 9,000 megawatts. Right now there is 8,700 megawatts of gas turbine and wind generation already installed. This is not counting hydro-electric and bio mass. So we are very close to being able to discard coal generators entirely. It is just too bad the Conservatives insisted on building two multi-billion dollar transmission lines for coal we all must pay for.

      1. Capacity isn’t deliverability! We could build 90,000 megawatts of wind and solar capacity and still have a hard time delivering just 20 percent of Alberta’s electricity needs. Fossil fuels, hydro or nuclear would still be needed to supply 80% of the need. Availability and reliability are important. Because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. No cost efficient energy storage system exists. Those that are used in remote areas need massive over capacity and have carbon footprints ten times conventional fossil fuels. Wind and solar are not the green solution their European and Chinese manufacturers would have you blindly believe.

  5. Agnew’s speechwriter, btw, and the guy who came up with the alliterative lines, was Pat Buchanan.

    I would rather the pipelines weren’t built. In the grand strategic direction Alberta needs to go is it worth it to take another hit off the crack pipe so you can keep ripping up muskeg, especially since we’re really not that far from an international consensus that no one should be allowed to add any more carbon to the atmosphere? I mean, the Great Barrier Reef is dying. Anybody in Alberta notice that, or is it just obscured by local parochial concerns?

    But there’s also a very practical reason for the NDP to break the back of the big oil companies and their support for Randian economics in Alberta. The good old boys in downtown Calgary will never vote NDP. So helping them out helps the party and its future in Alberta how?

    1. Stopping pipelines will not save the Great Barrier Reef. A broad based carbon tax (which the government has already done) reduced emissions. Targeting particular projects simply distracts from the issue. It’s like worrying about leaky faucets when you have a burst pipe. If you think only the corporate bigwigs in Calgary suffer from the $10 per barrel discount Alberta has to sell its oil for because of a lack of pipelines, you are economically illeterate. And if you don’t realize rail creates more emissions than pipelines, you are scientifically illiterate.

  6. A lot of things on the internet are getting my blood boiling these days but the charge that
    Spiro T Agnew being the worst vice-president ever tops the list.

    Really? On what grounds?

    In the first place vice presidents have no powers, no real function except to step in and assume the reins of powers in case something happens to the sitting president. In many ways they are like the axe in the glass case that you break in case of emergency. How can you say one axe is better than another?

    Historically VP’s have been largely invisible. But in recent years they have been much more active. During the reign of GWB, for example, Dick Cheney assumed the role of the President with George W slipping into the background to tend to his ranch. Joe Biden has made high profile trips to Ukraine, the site of the most recent US regime change, arranging a cushy job for his son Hunter in an oil and gas firm.

    1. Glad to be of service, Ron. I take it you’re a Richard Cheney for WVPE man.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.