PHOTOS: Premier Rachel Notley speaks with well wishers in the Alberta Legislature Rotunda yesterday after her government’s Speech from the Throne was read by Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell. Below: Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Ms. Mitchell and Premier Peter Lougheed, back in the day. (Mitchell and Lougheed photos: Government of Alberta.)

Understandably given the nature of the daily news cycle, reporters covering yesterday’s Throne Speech focused on the threats by Alberta’s NDP Government to punish British Columbia if that province’s NDP government actually tries to block expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democrats, as journalists on the scene remarked in their stories last night, borrowed a strategy from Premier Peter Lougheed when she said she would cut oil exports to the province next door if Premier John Horgan won’t behave.

Indeed, the Throne Speech made that point explicitly: “In the past, when workers in our energy industry were attacked and when the resources we own were threatened, Premier Peter Lougheed took bold action,” Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell read aloud. (Emphasis added, of course.)

“Your government has been clear,” the speech went on, presumably deliberately not mentioning Mr. Lougheed’s political affiliation, “every option is on the table.”

In 1980, the Lougheed government resisted the National Energy Program of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau by restricting the natural gas that could be shipped out of Alberta and ceasing to issue natural gas export permits.

“We will not hesitate to invoke similar legislation if it becomes necessary owing to the extreme and illegal actions on the part of the B.C. Government to stop the pipeline,” the Lieutenant Governor read, channelling the premier, as vice-regal personages are supposed to do on these occasions when a government’s legislative agenda is publicly set out.

Of course, how extreme the B.C. government’s actions to date have been is a matter of perspective. And how illegal they are is a matter of opinion until settled by a court. But no one can accuse Ms. Notley’s government, as the Conservative Opposition was wont to do in the past, of not standing up for the interests of Alberta’s principal resource industry.

That much said, if you look closely at the Throne Speech, you’ll see the threat directed at B.C. wasn’t the only idea borrowed from the strategies associated with Mr. Lougheed, whose Progressive Conservative Government was elected in 1971 and stayed that way under a string of premiers until Ms. Notley toppled the dynasty on May 5, 2015.

Times have changed since 1971, of course. Mr. Lougheed, who died in 2012 at the age of 84, might not have made gender parity in cabinet a goal – as the NDP did, and then surpassed with more women than men, as was noted with justified pride in this International Women’s Day Speech from the Throne.

Nor, I expect, would a concept like LGBTQ2S have rolled off Mr. Lougheed’s tongue any more easily than it did off Ms. Mitchell’s in the Legislature yesterday.

But in addition to the strategy for asserting Alberta’s trading rights, he certainly would have recognized his legacy in the NDP government’s Keynesian approach to dealing with an economic downturn, its government-led effort to diversify the economy in general and the energy sector in particular, its (too cautious) efforts to smooth out the province’s typical boom and bust economic cycles, its strategy to bring the most harmful features of energy deregulation under control, and its generally upbeat tone.

Conservatives and New Democrats alike will probably take issue with me on this, but this was, in philosophy and concept, a good, traditional progressive conservative Throne Speech.

It sets out the roadmap, therefore, for the good, traditional, post-recession progressive conservative budget that I expect Finance Minister Joe Ceci will deliver on March 22.

It is probably not all that different, truth be told, than the Throne Speech that would have been written for Jim Prentice’s government about now – had Alberta’s last PC premier not foolishly called an election a year earlier than he needed to, to the obvious displeasure of a great many Albertans.

This is true right down to the speech’s rural crime strategy and its repeated invocation of the name of the Deity in its closing lines.

It is a mark of how radicalized Canada’s conservative movement became during the decade Stephen Harper ruled in Ottawa and Jason Kenney was his minion that such modestly progressive conservative policies as Ms. Notley’s can be assailed as extremist, ideological and even communistic by the United Conservative Party Opposition that Mr. Kenney, after taking his seat yesterday, can now lead from inside the Legislature.

Were it not for the name of the party in power, it is said here, the Notley Government’s re-election in Alberta on a program like the one set out yesterday would be uncontroversial.

So we can expect Mr. Lougheed’s name to be invoked more than once again in the lead-up to the general election expected in the spring of 2019.

One could argue the anticipated tone was set yesterday afternoon, after the vice-regal party had left the building and this Throne Speech was already receding into history.

As Margaret McQuaig-Boyd, minister of energy, observed as she introduced the government’s Bill 1, the Energy Diversification Act, to the Chamber: “We are acting, Mr. Speaker, in the proud tradition of Peter Lougheed, who believed that government can, and government should, help foster the next generation of technology in our energy sector.”

Well, “conservatives” nowadays advocate radical market fundamentalism, and social democrats implement policies that are as conservative as they are progressive. It’s a funny old world!

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  1. Nothing funny about it all. In fact, it’s downright terrifying!
    A line has been crossed with that speech. That line is the difference between Notley and Kenny, between the so-called NDP and the UCP. Today they are indistinguishable.
    These populist and extremist policies were ignorant and anti-democratic when harper championed them, they were regressive and extreme when Jason Kenney campaigns on them and they are as extreme, regressive, ideological and belligerent when Notley promulgates them.
    In a petro-state such as Albaturda there is only one form of unacceptable gov’t today, no matter what banner they march under. That is a gov’t obedient to the wishes and whims of their petro-corp masters.

    1. Well, as someone, I forget who, observed during the lead-up to the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, there wasn’t really much light between Obama and Romney, but people live or die in that margin. So, while you are right that the direction taken on this issue by the NDP is highly troubling, you are wrong to say the NDP and UCP are indistinguishable. DJC

  2. Where does Kenney go with this? The NDP has presented a plan to support the energy industry which we need and are still very much dependent on. He could go down the debt and deficit road but lacks credibility given the debt racked up by the federal government he was part of. If the NDP can get that under control without large cuts to front line workers most Albertans should be happy. It really only leaves him the social conservative angle but that only plays with a very small, yet loud, minority of Albertans mostly in low population rural ridings. If he comes out with the “they stole my idea” angle will Albertans say so you would have done exactly the same things but we don’t have to worry about you outing people? We don’t have to deal with massive service cuts and increased fees? Interesting times indeed.

  3. The irony of many Albertans longing for the days of Lougheed “progressive conservatism” is not lost on me. I find it somewht amusing that there are these “progressive conservative Lougheed” characteristics within the Notley NDP right under our noses.
    There is also the irony of the notion of believing that voting for neoliberal/neoconservative politics such as the Wildrose, UCP and even the federal Trudeau Liberals is somehow “progressive.” Here is an interesting description of what perhaps, is happening in politics these days, and is why I will still vote for the Notley NDP and not the ultraright UCP. The question at the end of this article begs the question:”How do we imagine an economy, a political system, and a way of living that allows for our full and collective humanity?”
    “Neoliberals and Neocons: What’s the difference, and why should I care?”

  4. Quite an interesting speech from the throne. Listened to some excerpts on my favourite talk radio this morning. I have to be honest there are portions of this speech that could have been delivered by a Jason Kenney lead government. So we have a government that ran on getting Alberta off of the oil royalty roller coaster but now has gone all in on increasing oil and gas developement. This shows me that the Alberta NDP will say and do whatever it takes to get re-elected regardless of their ideology.

    For me the 2 biggest issues are the carbon tax and financial sustainability. As a farmer I have attempted to be as efficient as possible and I see the carbon tax as nothing but a tax grab that will take rural generated carbon taxes and invest them in urban projects like mass transit. Plus all my major competitors do not have a carbon tax putting me at a great disadvantage. If all my competitors had a carbon tax I would have no problem with this tax. As for financial sustainability at present there is no provincial party with a platform that in my opinion makes financial sense. We must get to a point where the majority of oil and gas royalties are put in a fund to help finance future generations needs.

    So yes Premier Notley has certainly moved closer to the center but I have no faith in a politician who changes her outlook this much in such a short time. Enjoy your day

    1. The carbon tax was always a ploy to get pipelines approved and support further growth of the oil industry. It was also done knowing that the federal government would implement it’s own carbon pricing mechanism (at the time it wasn’t a tax for sure) and at least your Canadian competition would be on an even playing field.

      A carbon tax is redistributive in nature and this government has chosen to direct those revenues at things that will further reduce emissions. Unfortunately there are bigger gains to be had for the money in urban centers. I’d prefer general revenues myself but then we’d have to trust that budgets will actually balance at some point.

      Will it reduce emissions? probably a few from the normal trajectory have already been reduced but it will be in the longer term that it has an effect.

    2. to add to that, do you trust Jason Kenney then? He’s claiming he will do things he’s never done before while complaining about Alberta’s non-action in fighting policies his federal government implemented….Notley’s changing positions…Jason never had a position it seems…still doesn’t with no actual policy.

    3. But if, as a farmer, you continue to be as (energy) efficient as possible, wouldn’t the carbon tax have only a minimal to nil effect? And what is wrong with putting the tax money into urban mass transit, since urban areas is where most Albertan’s live and, logically, produce the most GHG (and would, therefore, pay more tax than in rural areas)?

      1. My opinion is that carbon tax payed per rural resident would be higher. Myself my February natural gas bill just came and the carbon tax was $101.38. Now this is not because my buildings are poorly built, I have 2 shops and a 1300 sq. ft house. Plus rural residents travel farther for work. You certainly have a point that mass transit in the city would benefit many more people.

      1. I would call it nationalization if ownership were vested in The People. Nobody is telling the energy sector who they can sell to. They can sell to the fucking Martians if they can figure out a way to deliver it cost-effectively. Getting from A to B is a political problem because the people who live in between have interests and rights of their own.

  5. It is a funny old world, but that is really nothing new in Alberta politics. At the time Premier Lougheed was born, Alberta was governed by United Farmers of Alberta and after that, Social Credit, both parties that focused on farmers and their rural base just as subsequent governments have focused on the energy industry which is a major employer and a big part of our economy. Social Credit isn’t around anymore, at least under that name, but UFA is still running farm supply stores, although no longer a political movement. Regardless of being left or right, all of these governing parties stood up for Alberta’s main industries at the time and the people that worked in them.

    Lougheed would have also seen the first Conservative Prime Minister from Calgary in the depth of the great depression, when he was young, which was before the Conservatives became the Progressive Conservatives in Canada and of course now back to Conservatives. I think Lougheed often took the Progressive part seriously, as he did the Conservative part, so it is not surprising both Progressives and Conservatives lay claim to parts of his legacy. He was the Premier that bought an airline in the 1970’s, which I am sure Kenney would consider to be socialist and an abomination.

    Lougheed also did a lot of progressive things in the human rights area early in his term, now Pride Parades were not as big a thing as they are now when he was Premier, but I get the sense from someone who knew him, that his personal opinions on these issues were more moderate than say someone like Kenney, who seems to go out his way to avoid currently Pride Parades and perhaps kd lang.

    There was a progressive side to the PC’s that was forgotten about or suppressed for many years in the 1990’s and the early 2000’s, but in any event, I think standing up for ones industries and economy is not necessarily totally a left or right thing.

  6. Notley does not seem to have thought out this process at all. It’s just been one bungle and blunder after another. The social license gig was a farce.
    Opposition from the Lower Mainland was entirely predictable. Notley’s posturing and impotent threats merely stiffen resistance.
    Notley has blown up our relations with BC. For what gain?
    What did Notley think was going to happen? What was her game plan? Simply to steam-roller the opposition into submission?
    No sign of strategic thinking under the Dome.

  7. BWAAAHAHAHAHAAA!!! Seriously? Notley would “shut down exports of oil to BC”? when has that ever happened before – a corporation being told by the Alberta governmetn what it could do or not do? the very first company to be hurt by such an action would be Parkland fuel, an Alberta corporation that owns the old Chevron refinery in Burnaby. Has anyone asked them how they think of this?

    And for gas, a lot easier to shut down, certainly, but a lot easier to start up too. BC drillers like birchcliff, Progress and Spectra in Montney have closed up 1200 wells in the last 3 years due to bad pricing for natural gas – what would it take to reopen them? Besides the faint whiff of a captive market, borne on the winds of bad behaviour?

    What’s gotten into Notley? This is Trumpian nonsense, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to reality. This is red meat for the Conservative base, which isn’t even part of her constituency

  8. “Were it not for the name of the party in power…”

    This, I think, has been a major disadvantage for Rachel Notley’s government ever since its election. I really think a lot of people didn’t give it a chance, simply because of its name.

  9. Political discourse certainly skidding off in weird directions when NDs and UCPs contesting which party better reflects the Lougheed legacy. If I believed in afterlife, I would imagine Rachel’s dad just heaving in his grave over his daughter’s positioning with that legacy. Lougheed perfected the contrived sense of grievance in his defence of Alberta’s interests during the NEP years, a stance that Grant Notley rightly mocked. Lougheed was a deeply divisive figure, casting Albertans as “doers” or “knockers.” I can understand why current premier has taken the stance she has on pipelines, energy industry, etc. — she’s certainly reduced a potential line of attack from the dreaded UCP. But there’s an element of cynicism to it that, I suppose, is inevitable in the political arena.

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