Alberta Politics
Things didn’t look all that cheerful when Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Premier Justin Trudeau met in Edmonton yesterday (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Say hello to the hurtin’ Albertans, Mr. Trudeau: If the premier ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Posted on September 06, 2018, 1:33 am
10 mins

Welcome to Alberta where, as the prime minister of Canada no doubt discovered yesterday afternoon, if the premier ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

And, right now, the premier ain’t happy!

Old Alberta New Democrats have been familiar with this hurtin’ refrain for some time. Don’t jump to the conclusion that Justin Trudeau and much of the rest of the country aren’t going to have to learn to sing along too.

Former Alberta Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

According to the CBC, Premier Rachel Notley was “visibly frosty” after she left her short meeting with Mr. Trudeau at Edmonton’s Macdonald Hotel late yesterday afternoon, which had been called to discuss how to get the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project back on track now that a court has thrown a spanner in the works.

Premier Notley wants the pipeline expansion, and she wants it now. And as I am sure the prime minister is learning to his chagrin, if he thought he could sweet-talk Ms. Notley into signing back onto the federal Government’s climate plan before she has the pipeline her government has set its heart on, he will be disabused of that notion.

The meeting lasted less than an hour. Nobody has yet reported what was said. Just a bet here, but if someone tells before they’re supposed to, it won’t be anyone in the premier’s office!

Mr. Trudeau’s problem is that, as long as the rule of law prevails in Canada, there’s very little he or his government can do about the ruling of a superior court that has tossed out the process used by the federal government to approve the pipeline expansion project other than go back and do it over the way the court demands.

The good news, if you’re a believer in the oversold economic miracle we have been promised this larger pipeline will deliver, is that the judgment of the Federal Court of Appeal in fact provides a roadmap for completing the project in a reasonably timely way.

The bad news for Ms. Notley is that that’s not going to be fast enough to fit into her government’s current strategy for the provincial election expected next spring.

Political columnist Andrew Coyne (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

And the very bad news for Mr. Trudeau is basically the same. So he’s going to be hearing about it.

As conservative political columnist Andrew Coyne pointed out yesterday evening, most of the advice Mr. Trudeau has been receiving from his enemies and friends alike on how to get pipeline-laying crews back to work on the TMX has been fatuous because of that pesky rule-of-law thing.

Some of the ideas, like filing an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada as both Ms. Notley and Opposition Leader Jason Kenney have demanded, risk slowing the process down, rather than speeding it up. And forget about using the Charter’s Notwithstanding Clause, it doesn’t apply to the Constitutional requirement for consultations with First Nations.

Of course, in the case of the United Conservative Party leader, suggesting additional roadblocks to throw in front of the pipeline actually works as a political strategy. It gives him the appearance of doing something and, if Ottawa takes his advice, he can blame the ensuing delays on the Alberta NDP and the federal Liberals.

Mr. Coyne suggested, most likely correctly, that for the prime minister, “the most promising response remains the one he first appeared to favour: follow the course the court prescribed.”

That, of course, will satisfy no one in this province, although Mr. Trudeau can take comfort from the fact that we all are going to have to share the pain until this is settled.

One of the sad ironies of this affair is that one of the people best suited for the job of leading an honest and comprehensive consultation with the First Nations along the pipeline route is no longer with us.

Former Progressive Conservative Alberta premier Jim Prentice, who though he lost the 2015 provincial election to Ms. Notley’s NDP government in May 2015 surely still had a role to play in public life, would have been ideally suited to lead a meaningful consultation with Indigenous groups as required by the ruling. He would also have been well placed to build support across the political spectrum for the result. It was on this day in 2014 that he was chosen to lead the Progressive Conservative Party.

After Mr. Prentice’s death in the crash of a small aircraft in October 2016, the former federal minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was remembered by First Nations leaders for his efforts to build respectful relationships with their communities, something that is desperately needed now no matter what happens with the TMX file.

Where were yesterday’s Postmedia editorials?

Postmedia Western Canada Vice-President Editorial and Calgary Herald Editor in Chief Lorne Motley (Photo: Twitter).

Many readers wondered yesterday what was going on with the editorial pages of the Calgary Herald, the Edmonton Journal and other Postmedia-owned daily newspapers across Canada.

Alert former Calgary Herald journalists noticed there was no editorial in yesterday’s edition of that paper and no mention of the newspaper’s editorial board on the editorial page.

My former Herald colleague Bob Blakey said on his Facebook page that insiders at the much-reduced 135-year-old paper, once proudly the newspaper of record for Southern Alberta, had told him they’d learned of a decision to eliminate the editorial board last week.

He published an image of the page from a week ago, which included a statement that “unless otherwise indicated, all editorials are produced by the Calgary Herald editorial board, which operates at arm’s length from the company’s news gathering operations,” and another from yesterday, in which the space was blank.

Retired Calgary Herald journalist Bob Blakey (Photo: Facebook).

Other sharp-eyed journos noted that there were no editorials or references to the editorial boards of the Edmonton Journal (which ran a column about U.S. President Donald Trump by an Ottawa Citizen columnist in the spot usually reserved for an editorial), the Ottawa Citizen, and the Montreal Gazette.

However, Lorne Motley, the Calgary Herald’s editor in chief and Postmedia’s vice-president of editorial for Western Canada, told me in an email that this report was not correct. “What is true is that David Marsden, editorial page editor, was one of the departures during the voluntary buyout process which the company recently put through. He finished just prior to the long weekend. That is leading to internal restructuring to get that work done, and that is in progress. Certainly no decision has been taken to eliminate (the editorial board).”

Mark Iype, editor in chief of the Journal, said in part in a Twitter direct message: “At the Journal, on days when we decide not to write an editorial, we pick op-eds that we think would be interesting to our readers. Sometimes they come from other papers in the chain. When we do write editorials, the editorial board is listed as usual.”

Past efforts by Postmedia and predecessor companies to require local papers to publish editorials written at headquarters or take editorial positions local editorial boards objected to have aroused controversy.

8 Comments to: Say hello to the hurtin’ Albertans, Mr. Trudeau: If the premier ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

  1. Bill Malcolm

    September 6th, 2018

    Too bad about Notley’s feelings. I couldn’t care less. Once in power, the exercise of same seems to affect people like a drug and they want more. I’m afraid that viewed from afar, she comes across as sulky, vindictive and childish. Look at the way she treated BC. And it all was not helped this spring and summer by disingenuous TV ads from the government of Alberta promoting TMX. We got bombarded here in NS by the ad, repeated endlessly, while we had to suffer at the same time the usual depradations of BP, who managed to cock up their offshore drilling within a couple of months of starting and spring a leak of toxic drilling fluids. The Alberta government TV commercial incorrectly stated that the volume of oil shipped by TM would not materially increase. No, the “oil” would magically increase in value at tidewater and be a boon for all Canadians, leading to the construction of new hospitals and so on all over the country. Utter bullshit, in other words. It was such a happy shiny commercial. Apparently nobody bothered to read up on Washington State’s oil refineries’ forecasts and overall energy supplies and their happiness at getting super-cheap feedstocks from Alberta for the foreseeable future. Downloading dry .pdfs and reading them as I’ve done isn’t much fun when one can simply stand up on one’s hind legs and proclaim nonsense to cheers of uninformed applause.

    Now that Alberta has been given federal public assistance by purchase of the original KM pipeline at way over book value, all of us get to pay for the misguided aspirations of its pols and citizens plus of course Trudeau and his amateur-hour disingenuous-on-so-many-issues government . Thank you so very much. We’re all just delighted at the foresight shown by the relevant politicians who apparently never had the imagination to ponder whether the the Federal Court of Appeal might rule against the NEB approval and thus plan accordingly. The total illogic of digging up yet more bitumen to pay for environmental programs in the future seems to be the basis for Notley’s master plan for staying in power. I mean to say, how stupid are we all supposed to be to believe in such outright guff?

    Alberta needs to get over itself, no matter the notional political stripes of its governing politicians. No more freebies, and clean up the abandoned well-heads while you’re at it. The wild west hands-off approach of the past where non-regulation allowed any old underfunded cowboy outfit to drill and socialize its messes but of course keep the profits cannot be continued. And who exactly is going to pay to keep those tarsands sludge tailings lagoons semi-safe for the foreseeable future? It can be foreseen now. All Canadians, subsidizing lackadaisical provincial regulation and monitoring for compliance. Royalties frittered away to allow no provincial sales tax and to promote other ill-considered feelings of somehow being special, merely from sitting above a depleting resource. yessir, that’s special.

    Perhaps if I were some artsy-fartsy environmental fop, people could jump on me for my views and I’d have no defence and spout nonsense of the kind Neil Young uttered after his flyover of tarsands operations. But I’m a retired professional engineer, and have a more than passing understanding of the technical aspects involved. So don’t give me any emotional rubbish by way of criticism of my views. It won’t wash with me. Facts or get out. And elect some adults to your provincial legislature for goodness sake. Which means, dear United Conservative readers if there are any, that if you had any sense whatsoever, you’d abandon Kenney and his bunch of opportunistic grifters who seem intent on making matters worse to bolster their individual advantage while rolling back the social clock and spouting the free market mantra of the dull-minded. Alberta needs reinvention. Hell, perhaps the whole country does, but someone would happily gerrymander that too, no doubt, given the concentration of wealth in but few hands, all of whom count themselves as intellectually superior merely for accumulating money, or worse, inheriting it with no effort whatsoever.

    Reply
    • Sub-Boreal

      September 6th, 2018

      Nailed it.

      Reply
  2. Political Ranger

    September 6th, 2018

    C’mon Dave, that meeting was not “less than an hour”; I’m hearing it was just a little more than half an hour.

    It doesn’t take very long at all for Notley to learn that reality rarely cooperates with fantasy. Her, no doubt, deeply held belief in pipeline salvation nor her, no doubt, steely resolve to ignore economics will, undoubtedly, play well in Alberta. Still, reality will intrude onto this little political charade and show up as uneconomic, unsustainable, untenable and just not needed.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      September 6th, 2018

      I know you’re cranky by nature, Ranger. I mean, I do know that, because I know you! Nevertheless, please don’t accuse me of trying to make the meeting sound more important than it was! Paid reporters who were at the scene couldn’t be bothered providing an accurate time for the meeting, so poor mooks like me writing freebie commentary from home were stuck with what they graciously provided. It is astonishing to me how much in contemporary journalism the useful concepts of who, what, when, where and why seem to have fallen completely by the wayside. When, by the way, includes “how long,” and what really ought to include the score of a sporting game. But that’s just me, I guess. DJC

      Reply
      • Political Ranger

        September 6th, 2018

        I prefer curmudgeonly to cranky, David. I know that you know me but I wonder; do you really ‘know’ me. I mean, do we really ‘know’ anyone? Even three-score years doesn’t prevent surprises some days!
        I s’pose that some of those emoticons on your reply page might have made the jollity of my remarks more apparent but heaven forbid; don’t take that as a suggestion.

        As to paid reporters; I’m with you all the way on that.

        Reply
        • David Climenhaga

          September 6th, 2018

          I don’t know your soul, Ranger. DJC

          Reply
  3. David

    September 6th, 2018

    Depending on the newspaper you looked at today, there was a picture of the Premier smiling, looking serious or a bit uncomfortable in the meeting with Trudeau. I also watched a video of it and did not detect frosty, but perhaps the Premier is able to come across pleasantly enough, even when she is annoyed or frustrated.

    If the Premier is annoyed or frustrated, as many Albertans are, I don’t think it is at the Prime Minister personally, but the situation and how the Federal government has handled things overall, which includes as the Premier noted the previous Harper government which arguably set us up for this failure in the first place. A lot of Albertans do not like Trudeau – something about the name and memories of the past I think, but our current Prime Minister seemed to hit the right notes in his Edmonton visit. He understands our frustration, he is looking at every option and he is still committed to proceeding with the Trans Mountain pipeline. Short of turning water into wine, I am not sure how much else we can reasonably expect from him and the Federal government at the moment.

    Yes, Mr. Kenney will probably go on the attack, but he has even been a bit muted recently as he ponders how to proceed. He over reached in his attacks on Prime Minister once before and got shot down some for that. I think it that even most of those Albertans who are not that sympathetic to the Prime Minister do not hold him personally responsible for the recent decision of the court and it is certainly not the Premier’s fault either.

    I think after the initial reaction perhaps for once cooler heads will prevail – there is a problem and now the focus needs to be on the best way to deal with it and move forward. I think Albertans are for the most part a practical people used to dealing with some adversity and we realize playing the blame game and making a pinata of someone now and hitting it is not going to get us anywhere. So I think we will soon move from frustration and anger to ok – so how do we best fix this mess. This will all probably be a bit disappointing to Mr. Kenney who I think is trying to put together a political pinata right now.

    Reply
  4. Jerrymacgp

    September 9th, 2018

    There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the Federal Court of Appeal decision putting a halt to TMX. Media pundits and politicians, both federal—New Democrats & Greens excluded—and provincial—BC excluded—are frantic scrambling to assign blame for this and to try and find a way to get the thing back on track. They accuse the Trudeau Liberals, or Harper Conservatives, or both, of failing to ensure a secure climate for private-sector investment in these big infrastructure projects. The spin, even on the often-accused-of-being-lefty CBC, is that this is a disaster or a fiasco.

    But if you look at this from the perspective of pipeline opponents and environmentalists, this anti-investment climate isn’t a bug, but a feature. They hold the view that oil & gas is a failing, outmoded industry that deserves to be put out of its misery, and that investment, both public and private, needs to be redirected into renewable energy and energy conservation technologies. The tens of thousands of workers who face losing their jobs as a result of the transition away from fossil fuels need to be retrained and redeployed into renewables or other trades or occupations, according to this paradigm.

    I don’t happen to share this view; I think there needs to be parallel tracks in transitioning from fossil fuels, one which respects the need of oil & gas workers to continue to earn a living. As long as the rest of the world is still seeking to buy oil & gas, I think it irresponsible not to try to supply that market; if we don’t, someone else will, and only Canadian working families will suffer. If the world reduces its demand for energy from this source, the price will fall enough that demand for high-cost bitumen will naturally begin to dry up; but such a market-driven process is likely to be more gradual and allow workforces to adjust more gradually to a new reality. Later, production of lower-cost fossil fuels, like conventional crude oil and natural gas, will also eventually taper off, for similar reasons.

    But you can’t argue against the absolutist view if you don’t understand where it comes from.

    Reply

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