PHOTOS: UCP leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer, grabbed from his campaign website. Below: B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan (Wikimedia Commons), Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley, and former WCP president Jeff Callaway.

Supporters of United Conservative Party leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer shouldn’t get their hopes up that threatening to kick British Columbia out of the New West Partnership will get that province’s NDP-Green governing partnership to change its mind about opposing the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion project.

On the contrary, B.C.’s new NDP premier, John Horgan, would likely to be delighted to see the province thrown out of the interprovincial trade agreement that got its start back in the Naughts when Ralph Klein was the neoliberal Conservative premier of Alberta and Gordon Campbell was the neoconservative Liberal premier of B.C.

That way, someone else could take the rap for something he’d presumably quite like to do anyway.

We all understand Mr. Schweitzer’s idea is mainly posturing by a long-shot UCP leadership hopeful with a nice smile, no experience holding public office, and only a minuscule chance of winning.

Still, from the UCP perspective it’s an opportunity for the Calgary lawyer to be heard pointing out that the pro-pipeline Alberta NDP Government of Premier Rachel Notley isn’t getting much joy from B.C.’s New Democrats these days with the effort to build social licence for new pipelines to the B.C. Coast, where popular hostility to the idea is overwhelming.

But if you’re going to run for the leadership of a political party, you have to say something, and what Mr. Schweitzer chose to say in a campaign email to the UCP membership late last week was that if the B.C. NDP won’t play ball with Alberta on the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, which it had just said it wouldn’t, it’s “time for B.C. to be kicked out of the New West Partnership.”

“With the removal of B.C. from the New West Partnership, I would encourage Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to work together to protect our interests under a new deal,” he went on. (With whom, one wonders? The Port of Churchill?)

“As BC’s neighbour and largest inter-provincial trading partner I hope they will reconsider blocking the development of this pipeline – for their own economic interests, as well as the interests of Alberta and all Canadians,” he said.

The problem is, it’s not that easy to make a compelling case there’s much economic benefit for B.C. in more pipelines, especially if Alberta won’t share royalties from the bitumen they manage to move.

Indeed, there’s not actually very much New West Partnership does for either Alberta or B.C. – not because they both happen to have NDP governments whose voter bases have historically been skeptical about the benefits of such trade agreements, but because they are populous provinces with large resource-export based economies that don’t export much to each other.

The New West Partnership got its start in 2006 as the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement. It got spruced up a little and renamed in 2010, and Saskatchewan signed up in 2013. Manitoba joined last year after the Conservatives there defeated that province’s NDP government.

In reality, there were virtually no barriers to interprovincial trade in Western Canada before TILMA was signed.

What TILMA, and the New West Partnership, are designed to do is to make it harder for provincial governments to enact their own, tougher policies on a range of issues in response to local issues and voter preferences. In other words, to reduce needed regulation to the lowest common denominator.

Needless to say, by giving corporations the ability to sue provincial governments for enacting better environmental standards, for example, protection of the environment is eroded everywhere.

Here in Alberta, the New West Partnership has provided an opportunity for a Saskatchewan brewer of watery commercial beer to try to throw roadblocks in the way of the Notley Government’s support for local craft brewers, which has led to a craft brewing boomlet here. So why the NDP here is so warm for the deal is not immediately obvious.

Realistically, there would be essentially no economic penalty to B.C. if it were thrown out of the New West Partnership, and the province’s ability to act forcefully to protect its own environment – clearly a priority with B.C. voters that spans the usual left-right divide – would be significantly enhanced.

This, in turn, would increase the fragile NDP-Green coalition’s mid-term chances of hanging on to power, and Mr. Horgan’s chances of getting an NDP majority in the next B.C. general election.

So, from Mr. Horgan’s perspective, what’s not to like about being turfed out of the New West Partnership?

Schweitzer seeks socially liberal voters, but his effort will likely boost social conservatism

Doug Schweitzer, whose slogan is “New Blue,” has positioned himself as the socially liberal, fiscally conservative candidate to lead the UCP, which makes him the odd man out in the party’s increasingly Wildrose-like leadership contest.

I’m sure Mr. Schweitzer is sincere in his belief that strong recent polls notwithstanding, the UCP could lose the next Alberta general election if it doesn’t openly support LGBTQ and reproductive rights.

And to his great credit, he had the courage yesterday in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., to Tweet that “we are better than this alt right hate driven agenda. @TheRebelTV has no place in our new #UCP.” This will win him few friends in the darkest corners of the UCP, which include some pretty near the top, where the Rebel’s hateful agenda is revered.

But like the candidacy of former WCP president Jeff Callaway, the main impact of the campaign of the candidate who mulled a PC leadership run in 2016 is likely to be to draw votes away from former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, thereby opening the road to avowedly social conservative leadership by frontrunner Jason Kenney.

Mr. Kenney, a candidate with views nowadays well outside the Canadian mainstream, was the ultimate winner of the PC race last spring, which was the first step in his “Unite the Right” campaign.

So while Mr. Callaway bleeds off some Wildrose loyalists uncomfortable with the idea of supporting a Conservative, Mr. Schweitzer can capture the few remaining socially liberal Tory votes, smoothing the way for Mr. Kenney’s ascension when his loyalists hold true.

NOTE TO READERS: I’m technically on vacation for the next few weeks, although I will not be far from home. Accordingly, though, I hope to pursue a literary project that has languished these last few months, and to achieve that, regular readers may experience a somewhat more relaxed publishing schedule until Labour Day. Then again, maybe not. We operate on inspiration a lot around here. I also anticipate running some excellent guest posts during this period. David J. Climenhaga

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  1. Schweitzer: “I hope they will reconsider blocking the development of this pipeline – for their own economic interests.“

    Schweitzer obviously has not looked at the pipeline financials – more jobs will be created cleaning up the inevitable spills than will be created operating it.

    1. Saying every pipeline is going to eventually have a leak is like saying every airplane is eventually going to have a crash.

      When you choose hyperbole over scientific fact, your argument is weakened and easily proven fallacious.

      1. According to pipeline incident data maintained by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA):Kinder Morgan was involved in 213 spills totaling 21,598 barrels of hazardous liquids. This included 172 spills of refined petroleum products, 35 of crude oil and 6 of highly volatile liquids. 22 were classified as “significant”. Long-term trend data maintained by PHMSA also shows that significant pipeline incidents have increased since 2007.

  2. you really believe in possibility to
    “increase the fragile NDP-Green coalition’s mid-term chances of hanging on to power, and Mr. Horgan’s chances of getting an NDP majority in the next B.C. general election”
    for accidentally formed government, main effort of which directed toward quite primitive sabotage of economic development of their province and Canada overall?

      1. sounds like BC’s voters kind of sophisticated ones if able to know upfront how many MPs from each party they need to elect, that eventually those be able cooperate and build a coalition able to form minority government

    1. The odds of the BC NDP improving its parliamentary position in a subsequent election get better every day. The scary thing for neo-right parties is that it won’t be at the expense of the Greens—who currently hold the balance of power—but at their own expense.

      The odds started improving the day the Green-Dipper alliance was formed because it tickles and relieves voters who’ve been forced to subscribe to one ultra partisan party or another for the past 20 years: finally, they sign, two parties that can work together for the public good. And, so far, so good. BTW, they both noticed that broad antipathy towards the TMX expansion on the Coast is the perfect vehicle to cultivate this warm and fuzzy sense of mature and respectful cooperation. With (former-)TILMA/New West Partnership about to get closely associated with erosions of environmental protection under the defeated BC Liberal government and other stark revelations of what’s happened when polluting industries are allowed to set their own pollution rules, the GDP’s ascent up its newfound ladder of success seems enhanced and assured, not threatened.

      It’s the delicious irony of politics that BC Premier John Horgan has magically stolen the card that was up the sleeves of his once mighty political rivals: Prince Rupert—the infinitely superior deep sea port, the second biggest natural harbour in Northa America (next to New York’s), opening directly into deep water and at the terminus of one of Canada’s major railways—extant—that has been so obviously the best, safest opportunity for oil export that all others appeared as stalking horses (especially Northern Gateway’s Kitimat proposal which was the dog bone worst, most treacherous route imaginable).

      There appear few reasons to discount the likelihood of a new political dichotomy growing from the seminal Green-Dipper alliance, with the NDP promoting crony-free free enterprise—both private and public—development of natural resources and new energy technologies, counterposed with the Greens who promote those same technologies, but also safeguard environmental values and advocate for remediation of past environmental damage, a balance between industry and the environment where social welfare and profit are not pitted as polar opposites of each other, the previous dichotomy that has degraded the environment and fostered economic inequities and injustices to the breaking point. The neo-right is probably not taking a break, but has very likely become broken itself. Watch for the Greens to become the official opposition, not for the neo-rightists to regroup and reascend.

  3. “What TILMA, and the New West Partnership, are designed to do is to make it harder for provincial governments to enact their own, tougher policies on a range of issues in response to local issues and voter preferences. In other words, to reduce needed regulation to the lowest common denominator.”

    These policies have no other reason for existence other than to support the failing and rapacious petro-industry. Prior to this the BC environmental assessments and rules of engagement were much more stringent than Albaturda’s. It was not the case that the petro-corps operations in BC would have been unprofitable. It is the case that if the same company had to follow a different, more stringent set of rules and had to pay a different, much higher royalty in the same gas field on one side of the political line than the other, there would be questions. Questions that if asked and answered would result in benefits for Albertans at the expense of the petro-corps.

    This industry is a pariah on whatever society it lurks in.

  4. I suppose that the never elected Mr. Schweitzer is the highest profile (and only) former PC to run for the leadership of the UCP says something about the new party in itself. Where have all the ambitious former PC’s gone? Well I am not certain, but they sure don’t seem to interested in running for the leadership of the UCP. I suppose Schweitzer serves the purpose of being the token former PC candidate in the race, so master strategist Kenney can say “look there are still a few former PC’s here”. I think in the end his vote total will send a disappointing message to the few hopeful former PC’s that the new party is not going to be a bastion for former PC’s, if they haven’t already realized this.

    You have got to give credit to Kenney, he has balanced off Schweitzer, by also getting a former unelected Wildrose official to run. The added benefit is to draw off enough Wildrose votes from Mr. Jean to allow Kenney to win the UCP leadership now that Mr. Fildebrandt (who may have been Kenney’s first choice for this task) is temporarily, or perhaps permanently, unavailable due to his recent Airbnb too tarnished reputation.

    Obviously, neither the former PC or former Wildrose official has a very high profile, so they are not likely to be a serious threat to actually win. I suppose they are used to losing, so they haven’t developed the huge ego that more successful politicians sometimes do. I am guessing their reward for this somewhat hopeless task will be expected to be sometime in the future.

    Mr. Schweitzer seems to be making an effort to appear to be a credible candidate. Of course his market – moderate former PC’s, is not the market Kenney is going after. I expect the former Wildrose official has been instructed not to run quite as vigorous a campaign, less he accidentally take votes away from Kenney as well as from Jean.

    With four candidates, three of whom probably don’t mind losing, from a distance it may almost appears like a real race or perhaps close enough to fool some of Alberta’s mainstream media political commentators.

  5. This is NOTHING more than a way to grab some publicity. Nothing whatsoever to do about policy…or reality.

    This is someone who wants to get their name in the media and get some public recognition.

    Just think of it as the opposite of what Derek Fildebrandt wants at the current time.

    Must have been a slow news day. Wildrose folks need to do much better than this.

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