PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, not looking quite like himself, were still smiling and standing side by side at the start of the July 2015 premiers’ meeting in St. John’s. A week later? Now? Not so much. Below: Mr. Wall as we’ve come to know him (Photo: Daniel Paquet), interfering Alberta premier William Aberhart circa 1935, and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

The question must now be asked: Were the attacks by Saskatchewan’s premier over the past year and a half on the policies of Alberta’s NDP government just an interprovincial rivalry with an ideological tilt, or were they made in return for more than $2-million in donations from Alberta corporations reported Tuesday by an Edmonton-based progressive advocacy group?

Likewise, were the many Alberta companies that gave all this money to Mr. Wall’s Saskatchewan Party merely supporting a politician they liked in a province where they might someday do business, or were they intentionally circumventing Alberta’s tough election financing laws, which ban donations from corporations and unions, confident in the knowledge Mr. Wall’s comments would be extensively covered by media in Alberta?

Back in July 2015, when the now famous spat between Mr. Wall and his Alberta counterpart Rachel Notley made headlines during the meeting of Canadian premiers in St. John’s, N.L., Ms. Notley gently dismissed Mr. Wall’s outburst as “ridiculous.”

The Saskatchewan premier had blown a gasket in St. John’s, accusing Ms. Notley of offering a “veto” to Ontario and Quebec on bitumen pipelines from the West because he disapproved of her social license approach to winning approval for such projects. Mr. Wall seems to favour dictating his plans to other provinces, and casting aspersions on those who disagreed with him when that doesn’t work out.

That very day, Mr. Wall’s cheering section in mainstream media picked up his bleating and broadcast it throughout Alberta. Since then, it’s rarely stopped.

For her part, Ms. Notley shrugged off Mr. Wall’s tantrum at the time as “a little bit of showboating” and expressed the view “you don’t get things done by picking fights with people gratuitously.”

That’s true enough, of course, if the fight you’re picking has the goal – common to both Mr. Wall and Ms. Notley – of getting a pipeline built from the Prairies to what we Canadians quaintly call tidewater. But in light of Progress Alberta’s revelations this week, I think we need to look at this in a different light. We should at least consider the possibility Mr. Wall was rendering a service in Alberta for the people who were investing generously in his political party back in Saskatchewan.

Since July 2015 there has been a series of similar events – each one rebroadcast enthusiastically by the Alberta right’s mainstream and social media auxiliaries. Mr. Wall has attacked the Alberta government over carbon taxes, pipeline policies and even beer sales. The latter prompted the usually upbeat Ms. Notley to accuse Mr. Wall of executing a “political drive-by” with his vocal complaints.

For a guy who’s supposed to be the Mr. Congeniality of Canadian politics, Mr. Wall sure seems to spend his days in a state of suppressed fury at the Alberta government.

This led recently to Jason Kenney – the would be uniter of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose Parties in one super-right, social-conservative political entity – declaring Mr. Wall to be “the real leader of Western Canada.”

Well, as blogger Dave Cournoyer pointed out in a highly entertaining post on this topic yesterday, while it’s unusual nowadays, there’s nothing unique about Western Canadian premiers interfering in the politics of other provinces – as Bible Bill Aberhart’s Social Credit majority government did without much success in the 1938 Saskatchewan provincial election.

Much the same thing is happening right now on the other side of the Canada-U.S. border, with the governor of Wyoming travelling to Washington State to press locals into allowing a terminal to be built to ship Wyoming coal to Asia.

“The decisions those folks on the coast are making affect more than just the future of their state,” Gov. Matt Mead told the New York Times in a lament that will surely sound eerily familiar to many Western Canadians. “It is deciding the future of citizens of Wyoming and Montana and other major coal states.”

Gov. Mead’s pleas on behalf of the largest state exporter of coal sound a lot like what Mr. Wall would dismiss as a lily-livered attempt at gaining social license – but then they have a different constitution in the United States, a place where the phrase “states’ rights” resonates.

Meanwhile yesterday, Mr. Wall’s government was running advertisements designed to look like news stories in Calgary’s and Edmonton’s Postmedia newspapers that sounded very much as if they were once again trying to woo businesses away from Alberta.

Well, that may annoy the Alberta government, but it’s not quite the same as Mr. Wall putting his oar directly into Alberta politics with a little bit of help from his deep-pocketed pals in Calgary and their buddies in the media.

I wonder what Mr. Wall’s allies in Alberta would say if the NDP government started doing the same thing in Saskatchewan?

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  1. I just read an article on the CBC website which detailed the projected drilling of oil wells in 2017. For the first time in 36 years there will be more wells drilled in Saskatchewan than Alberta. As far as I know the price of oil is the same in both provinces. So while I find it amusing that the left is now targeting the Premier with the highest approval rating in his own province, the facts show the Notley government policies are driving business out of our province.

    1. The oil companies are making tonnes of money and are leaving their mess behind in the form of leaking wells, contaminated ground water, and farm land. Albertans will have to pay to clean it all up. It looks like the cost of cleanup may even exceed the total value of the oil extracted. Thanks to the Klein Con, it will certainly exceed the total value of all the royalties collected.

      If you are really a “farmer” who owns farm land with oil/gas wells on it you should be very afraid because this cleanup cost will end up being a liability to whoever owns the land.

      The irony here is that the more wells drilled in Alberta the greater the cost of cleanup. The same applies in Saskatchewan; they just don’t know it yet.

      1. I am a farmer and landowner with wells on my land. Money is paid into a fund for the cleanup and reclamation of each well. There is a huge Alberta wide fund, prepaid by the energy companies, specifically for cleanup and reclamation associated with these wells.

        No such fund exists or is required by gov’t for renewable energy projects.

        As landowners, we are more worried about what will happen when wind towers and solar power systems on our land are finally obsolete and abandoned.

    2. Subsidizing an industry in decline doesn’t sound like sensible policy to me. It’s time to face the basic facts: bitumen is too expensive and too dirty for a province and planet that have to wean themselves off fossil fuels.

      1. do you have alternative solution or you’re chronic critic only?

        at meantime according to StatsCan, unemployment in Alberta hit 8%
        only God know what real number is.
        typically negative statistic from this institution can be confidently multiply x2 to get number closer to reality.

    3. Don’t forget though, the large number of active wells going in Alberta from the days when drilling was happening on every available corner. We have lots of activity in our area. Another area worth mentioning is the southeast of Lethbridge area toward Foremost…lots of activity there.
      Re: Brad Wall, all is not as rosy for him as would appear. One only has to go to Google and type in something like “Brad Wall’s problems” and read all about it.
      Re: targeting, it seems more the case that Wall, the ‘right,’ has been targeting Notley, the ‘centrist.’ Notley, is the one who, at this time, most closely resembles the once fiscal, and progressive, former Premier Peter Lougheed, than anyone else in politics at the moment, interestingly…..certainly more so than Wall, one of the neo-liberal gang.
      Also, in other CBC website news, Alberta’s GDP is scheduled to go up in 2017, and AB ATB figures that the worst of the oil woes are pretty much over.

    4. “… the facts show the Notley government policies are driving business out of our province.”

      The facts? What facts? Stick to the plowing and let others do the thinking.

      1. So Anonymous because I am a farmer I am not very smart? I was talking to my neighbor yesterday who has worked for a oilfield construction company for I am guessing 15 years. This business started in 1964. He was in the process of hauling all the equipment to Ritchie Bros. I asked him why and he said there is very little work. Your response will be that it is because of the low price of oil and of course that is a factor but it is also the political environment in Alberta.

        1. It wasn’t fair of me Farmer B to suggest that you were not smart. You might be very smart. I apologize. Hell, I ain’t exactly the sharpest crayon in the crayola box. But there are limits.

    5. Considering there are about four times as many drilling rigs drilling in Alberta compared to Saskatchewan at all times, I’d love to read the article you referred to. Maybe it’s water wells they’re drilling in Sask. since they can’t drink from their rivers.

        1. Link didn’t work so I searched. I say best of luck to them. And just for your information Farmer B, the price of oil depends on the actual type of oil itself, so no, the price isn’t the same. The value of the oil varies right here in Alberta. And the costs to produce the O&G differ as well.

    6. What do they like most about Saskatchewan’s government policies, Farmer B–the 12% corporate tex rate or the sales tax? Or do they just prefer the right-wing politics? As for Alberta’s carbon tax, it may end up doing all the heavy lifting for that pipeline Alberta and Saskatchewan both want. All Brad Wall is doing is whining–maybe he thinks the system is rigged.

      1. Actually I have no problem with a 12% corporate tax and if Alberta is ever to stop posting large deficits we will need a sales tax. As for your belief a carbon tax will lead to a pipeline the NEB approved both Keystone XL and Northern Gateway, did those pipelines get built? I have no doubt the Kinder Morgan pipeline will receive NEB approval but do you really think it will get built?

        1. @FARMER
          with all my due respect, i can’t call all that provincial “sale tax” nothing else but rubbish and pathetic rhetoric.
          all provinces does have it except AB and NWT.
          do they fare economically very much better than Alberta and NWT?
          i believe such cash grab for nothing might help in extreme circumstances for year or two.
          after that, this money flow becomes to be considered by receivers “for granted” and people, who’s paid it, got nothing in return.

  2. Wall has seemed to go out of his way at times to criticize the Alberta government. I wouldn’t be surprised if the right wing donors from Alberta encouraged him to criticize the Alberta government as they handed him the big cheques.

    Of course Saskatchewan is now running big deficits and has rising unemployment too, so its hard for him to claim his government is so much better than Alberta. Of course they already have a provincial sales tax to partly cushion the blow, so maybe he feels he can afford not to raise corporate taxes for now.

  3. The CBC Saskatchewan website reported that the largest Alberta based contributor is Crescent Point Energy. Although based in Calgary, Crescent Point does have a lot of holdings is Saskatchewan, so its contributions do have an air of legitimacy. That said, every time I hear Brad Wall bad mouth Rachel Notley I am going to think of this column.

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