Pierre Trudeau in the Stampede Parade, looking like he was made to ride horse (Photo: Glenbow Archives).

Hey Alberta! Go suck a lemon!

I don’t endorse that sentiment, of course. I’m an Albertan, after all.

Retired Calgary journalist Catherine Ford in 2017 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The person who did say something like that, as it happens, didn’t say it about Alberta.

It was a long, long time ago, 1976 as a matter of fact, when Catherine Ford said that about Quebec.

All this bilingualism stuff, see, was driving the young reporter for a small Ontario newspaper nuts, so she sat down at her typewriter and got it out of her system.

“Hey Quebec! Go suck a lemon! Better still, give me a divorce. A no fault, no-contest, you keep your property and I’ll keep mine, split,” Ms. Ford wrote, continuing in that vein probably longer than was strictly necessary.

Alberta newspapers – in the midst of an oil boom and feeling alienated with Prime Minister Trudeau; Pierre, that is – loved it. They reprinted it like crazy. Before you knew it, Ms. Ford was a leading light at the Calgary Herald, where she enjoyed a stellar career before retiring in 2004.

Fast-forward to 2018. Alberta has been the master of all it surveyed as long as anyone can remember, perpetually the richest province in Canada. This was thanks to our petroleum reserves, as it turns out, not our good management. Still, that never stopped us from lecturing other provinces, especially Quebec, about how to run their affairs.

It’s been so long since Ms. Ford showed up in Calgary we’ve had two booms go bust! So, as the famous and probably apocryphal Alberta bumper sticker implied, we’ve pissed it all away a second time.

For a recent decade of that epoch, Canada was run by a prime minister from Calgary. His chief lieutenant was another Calgary MP. His Parliamentary Caucus was packed with Albertans.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

And yet here we are in the midst in another one of our periodic Alberta tantrums.

There’s a Bitumen Bubble, don’t you know? Or, as we call it this year, a price differential between what tarry Alberta bitumen fetches and better-quality crude from West Texas. If we only had a pipeline, we have persuaded ourselves, we’d have access to more markets and the price would go up. (Never mind that supply-and-demand stuff. That’s so 20th Century!)

Why, it’s costing us more than $80 million a day not to have that pipeline! So we want one, and we want it now!

We’re not only furious that we don’t have a new pipeline to tidewater, as we call the ocean when we’re here on the Prairies, we’re furious again at Prime Minister Trudeau; Justin, that is.

We had a big demonstration in Calgary Thursday outside a meeting where Mr. Trudeau was speaking. People who got paid time off from work carried nicely printed signs. That was a good thing, though, because the badly printed signs were either in the hands of pissed-off postal union members who were yelling at the PM about something else, and weren’t getting paid for it, or of people who thought it was cool to attack the prime minister’s 70-year-old mother.

Never mind that during those 10 years Alberta Conservatives were running the country, not a mile – pardon moi, not a single kilometre – of pipeline to tidewater got built.

Never mind that that Calgary prime minister’s chief lieutenant, also from Calgary, was Jason Kenney, who now heads Alberta’s Opposition United Conservative Party and seems to be the angriest of all the angry Albertans who are angry at Mr. Trudeau.

Never mind that Alberta’s NDP premier, Rachel Notley, whom Mr. Kenney accuses of being a close ally of Mr. Trudeau, is just as angry at Mr. Trudeau as Mr. Kenney is.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1975 (Photo: Rob Mieremet, Wikimedia Commons).

Never mind that Mr. Trudeau has actually had the federal government purchase a pipeline so the government of Canada can expand it, and appears to be doing his damnedest to make that happen – in spite of being accused daily by Albertans of doing the opposite.

Never mind that the more than $80-million dollars we’re supposed to be losing every day is a highly suspect figure based on a fundamentally flawed Scotiabank report and nobody knows how Alberta government finance boffins actually came up with their estimate from that.

Never mind that not all barrels of Alberta crude are subject to the discount, even though the Scotiabank calculation, and therefore the Alberta conclusion, assumed they were. (A truer estimate may be more like 400,000 of the three million or so barrels we export daily are subject to the discount. And we’re not losing it, we’re forgoing it, which is an important distinction.)

Never mind that the problem isn’t just pipelines, it’s our own neglectful management through all the years the dough was rolling in.

Never mind that at least three of the Big Five oilsands producers – Husky Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc. – are making out like bandits from the bitumen price differential. Naturally, they will do whatever they can to ensure the situation remains exactly as it is.

And never mind that our previous Conservative provincial government back in 2007 completely ignored the sound advice of its own experts about the high risk of pursuing gold-rush-style development of the oilsands without investing in value-added production like upgrading bitumen here in Alberta.

Oh, and never mind that while we keep churning the stuff out as fast as we can, it turns out that law of supply and demand still applies in the 21st Century. Who knew?

So here we are. Blaming everybody but ourselves about the very real predicament in which we find ourselves.

Which is a long way of saying, I suppose, that I wouldn’t be very surprised if some young reporter somewhere else in Canada was writing a column right now that begins, “Hey Alberta! Go suck a lemon!”

Or, perhaps, if she happens to live in Quebec, “Alberta! Allez sucer un citron!”

NOTE TO READERS: I owe B.C. economist Robyn Allan for the tip about the Scotiabank report, and The Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk, a Calgarian, for the evidence of the next four never-minds. Ms. Ford’s column is not easily found on the Internet, all the likely databases having started their work in 1977. Thanks to the help of a real librarian, however, a copy of the original column was located. I’ll be on the road next week giving some presentations on traditional editing skills, which you can tell from reading the Internet are considered obsolete by mainstream media. As a result, my blog production is bound to be reduced somewhat. Nevertheless, for those of you who enjoy this stuff, things will return to normal soon, God willin’ and the crick don’t rise. DJC

Join the Conversation


  1. I suppose venting is good and in some ways therapeutic, but it seldom accomplishes change. Yes, many Albertans are frustrated and worried about their economic future, particularly in Calgary, and looking for someone to blame for their problems, so the protests that greeted the Prime Minister are not that surprising.

    Western Conservatives have been working over time to whip their supporters into a frenzy and their contempt and disdain for the Prime Minister is also nothing new. The protesters looked like they just came from a UCP convention but I think Kenney is making a political mistake by trying to create anger against the Prime Minister and politically capitalize from it. First of all, Kenney is running provincially and there is no one named Trudeau on the ballot. Second, the rest of Canada is not preoccupied by Alberta’s economic angst the same way the UCP and possibly the Federal Conservatives are. An interesting observation over the years – when the Alberta economy is doing really good, Eastern Canada often is not and when Eastern Canada is doing better, often Alberta is not. Simply put oil consumers in Eastern Canada benefit from lower oil prices, Albertans that work in the energy industry do not. Also simply put – most voters in Canada still live in Eastern Canada, particularly in Ontario and Quebec.

    The Federal Conservatives have already done a lot to alienate voters in Quebec with their over the top anti-carbon tax campaign, while it plays well in rural Saskatchewan, it also does not play well in many parts of BC and probably not so well in the GTA either. If they really want to lose the next Federal election probably the best way will be to tie themselves too closely to big oil and Doug Ford. However, perhaps Kenney is actually secretly ok with that outcome. If they lose Federally, he might imagine coming in as this shining white knight from Alberta to pick up the pieces after the party inevitably dumps Scheer. I think his true interest has always been Federal, not provincial politics and he just settled for Alberta politics, because it was the only viable option for him at the time – he knew the Federal Conservatives did not want to pick two leaders from the same city and province in a row.

    This well explains why the UCP is so eager to participate in demonstrations against the Liberal Prime Minister and continue to energetically attack him even after the Federal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline and Trudeau seems to want it to proceed. However, it does not explain why Federal Conservatives go along with this approach. I think maybe it is because Trudeau really gets under their skin and this makes them irrational, but if they continue on this path I suspect it will end badly for them in the next Federal election in places that are not dominated by oil company head offices.

      1. United Conservative Party; successor to the Wildrose Party; successful perpetrator of the reverse hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party, which then returned the favour to the WRP; thereby becoming the successful perpetrator of a double reverse hostile takeover. DJC

    1. ITS OUR YEAR… No more deadweight in EDMONTON GO HARRIS-GO ESKS….. any $ bets this year. Other Than Winnipeg I Think Were Realy GOOD…. Thanks

  2. Interesting article I found, it is from Oilsands Magazine, May 11, 2015:”Why upgrading bitumen in Alberta no longer makes sense”. One interesting part of the article lists the companies that abandoned planned upgrading facilities back in 2007, a few of the reasons why and that the only planned refinery to get built was the Sturgeon refinery which won’t be fully operational until early next year. I didn’t realize the planning stage for this refinery was over 11 years ago, things do move slowly!

    As for oil pipelines under Harper, interesting timelines. Northern gateway approved in June, 2014. Court overturned approval in June 30, 2016 for very similar reasons that the Trans Mountain expansion was overturned, lack of Indigenous consultation. Trudeau officially killed Northern Gateway Nov. 29,2016 when he announced the approval of Trans Mountain. As for Trudeau buying the existing pipeline, was really a desparate act to buy time when they realized Kinder Morgan had had enough. Personally I don’t believe Trudeau is one bit interested in building the Trans Mountain expansion, owning it allows him to play both sides of the fence and for those who support it he can keep their hopes up past the next election. Remember he also introduced bill C-48 which prohibits the loading of an oil tanker from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border but LNG tankers are fine.

    One more thought, there are 4000 inbound trips by tankers on the east coast. Why is there never any mention of the marine life there? We are talking about a 360 vessel increase on the west coast and it is the end of marine life. Enjoy your day.

    1. Because maybe on the east coast there is the whole Atlantic for the marine life to dodge the ships and on the west coast the channel to get around Vancouver Island and out to sea is about 10 kilometers wide. And it’s not just the marine life. It’s the whole economy of the Salish Sea area.

      1. If the TransMountain Pipeline were approved, it would increase oil tanker traffic from 1 tanker per week to just 1 tanker per day. That’s a pittance when compared to cargo ships and ferries. Truly, if the Lower Mainland of BC were concerned about bothering the orcas, they’d ban whale watching: I hear that they actively stalk orcas with several ships, 2 or 3 times per day.

        1. Patrick Collins wrote: “If the TransMountain Pipeline were approved, it would increase oil tanker traffic from 1 tanker per week to just 1 tanker per day. That’s a pittance when compared to cargo ships and ferries.”

          Robyn Allan: “During the period of the NEB review, Westridge typically loaded two and a half tankers a month. For the five year period 2013 – 2017, Westridge typically loaded two tankers a month.”
          A93939 Robyn Allan – Material Errors in the Trans Mountain Expansion Report 2016

          From around 30 tankers a year to 408 implies a 1260% — nearly 14-fold — increase in tanker traffic. Not including tug escorts.
          If spilled, their cargo is lethal to marine life.

          1. You’re everywhere Geoffrey spreading anti-Alberta propaganda.

            Anyways, 400 tankers per year is nothing compared to all the other marine traffic.

        2. Last I heard, the BC Ferries were not loaded up with bitumen. The health of the orca population is only one of many issues at stake here, but of course you knew that when you chose to focus on one narrow point

        3. You are making a poor comparison between oil tankers and whale-watching boats. Name one oil spill that involved a zodiac boat? Or a BC Ferry? The issue with bitumen tankers is the potential for disaster; since bitumen sinks, it kills the seabed vegetation and bottom-feeders, and that impacts the entire ecosystem and food chain.
          The B.C. economy is very different and diverse. Fishing, tourism, and shipping are major industries that would all be damaged by even just one catastrophic tanker accident.
          We need a lot more compassion and understanding on both sides of the Rockies, to find a solution that benefits both provinces.

      2. It’s much narrower through the… first and second narrows in Vancouver Harbour, passed Stanley park and nearly all the lower mainland beaches, and out into Georgia Straight.

      3. Not really accurate, Sara. I am in NB. We are losing our whales at an alarming rate, mostly from collisions with ships. Northern Right Whales are almost extinct. Where I live we have lost all our starfish and sea urchins and we can’t eat our shellfish because they are toxic.
        Dangerous chemicals often wash up on our shores.
        You may have heard of the Energy East Pipeline? Most of us didn’t want it because of the huge increase in super-tankers and the potential for permanent destruction of one of the most beautiful bays in the world and all life within it.
        But Energy East Failed, not because of opposition, here on the East Coast, jobs are in short supply and some people would have supported the pipeline for that reason. Energy East failed for the same reasons Trans Mountain will fail: Lack of oil demand; NEB failures and deceptions; Lack of Consultation; and loss of enthusiasm by pipeline companies when they found they could not cut corners and bend rules.

        1. Lack of oil demand? Where did you get that information. Oil demand globally continues to increase every year. It may stop growing at some point in next 10 years but it’s growing for now and is +100 million barrels per day.

      4. Generally British Columbians are fine with the pipeline.
        Our concern is with spills in the Salish Sea ( the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound. ) which is a relatively narrow channel.
        There is also discussion about shipping dilbit which is very hard to clean up (it sinks) rather than building a Canadian petroleum-cracking industry and exporting more finished goods.
        Petroleum is a precious resource. It is too valuable to burn.

    2. Hmm? “when they realized Kinder Morgan had had enough” isn’t what happened, at all. Kinder Morgan played the government of Canada for suckers. The pipeline was _never_ financially viable, and KM was desperate to unload by any means necessary. That the government of Canada bought it, and at 700% of its actual value reeks of a bailout without the actual language used.

      1. absolutely correct…Enron Jr. (Kinder Morgan) suckered Trudeau in to buying a “white elephant” and cost the tax payers Billions…(we’ll never get that back) The money could have better been spent on renewable resources…and all the jobs that would create.

      1. Nonsense, Expat Albertan. Diluent is a naturally-occurring petroleum product unless it’s recycled again and again, which is a good thing. Diluent is also volatile, meaning that it evaporates so it isn’t hard to clean up. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why any spilt dilbit should be cleaned up within a few weeks: after that, enough diluent escapes that the dilbit no longer floats. Natural crude oil is a bit better, but not much because it, too, will eventually lose its light ends and sink. To put it in simpler terms, dilbit is like the reconstituted orange juice of oil: adding diluent replaces the lighter hydrocarbons that used to be in bitumen but were removed either through biodegradation or millions of years of weathering.

        1. Bitumen is still less dense than water. Like other oil, it sinks over time as it accu latex sediment from the water. The whole dilbit is dangerous argument is fabrication.



          Bitumen is almost identical to the bunker oil that fuels most ships. For some reason bu ker is not perceived as dangerous.

    3. Parochial concerns ensure climate disaster. China came into Canada and bought Nexen because they need our bitumen for their roads and infrastructure. Without a pipeline, China is adding to their coal-burning facilities to turn their coal into bitumen. China contributes 40% of world greenhouse gases and is now on the upturn, forecasted to increase GHGs by 7% over the next couple of years. Canada is carbon neutral or even negative according to the Global Carbon Project. It matters little what Canada does to decrease GHEs now, we are probably sunk by China and though our pipelines might have helped alleviate China’s emissions, no chance now, or without them. People can be so myopic and so concerned with their own nimbyism.

      1. According to the Global Carbon Project, Canada’s 2016 emissions totalled 563 Mt.
        Canada’s emissions ranks tenth in the world, though we’re nowhere near tenth in population.

        Using different calculation methods, Environment Canada reports 704 Mt in 2016.
        Canada’s managed forests are now a net carbon source, not a sink.
        • w w w [dot] nrcan [dot] gc [dot] ca/forests/report/disturbance/16552
        • w w w [dot] nrcan [dot] gc [dot] ca/forests/climate-change/forest-change/17780
        • w w w [dot] nrcan [dot] gc [dot] ca/forests/climate-change/forest-carbon/13085

  3. As an Albertan for almost 29 years via Saskatchewan I think I can say with some understanding of politics here. The citizens of this wonderful province have been indoctrinated through over 40 years of conservative rule to not trust, despise and at times hate Ottawa or anything Liberal (not conservative). It is the only rationale for the words and vitriol shown Trudeau when, as you say, he’s gone out of his way to help. Ft. Mac, Calgary floods and now this pipeline. Certainly more than the CPC and Harper ever did…pretty strange.

    1. Hating can become addictive over time. There’s some kind of hormone that gets released I think………some kind of tribal high that is experienced. Most of all, reflective thought is unnecessary. What’s funny about Albertans is that we are actually privileged as a province……..we have the highest per capita income and the lowest taxes. So why we feel so hard done by, has to be a by product of the need to circle the wagons and hurl insults at our perceived enemies.

      Yes, its strange. Embarrassing also….but we’ve yet to discover a cure.

      1. Well said, Mary. As an ex-Albertan who still visits the province often, it’s hard not to roll my eyes at the persistent air of entitlement expressed by many Albertans. Perhaps visits to other locals in Canada to see that people actually survive without McMansions, 3 cars, 2 ATV’s, a boat and a family summer home would help them feels some gratitude in living in such a lovely “have” province.

    2. Trudeau only ever does something which benefits him, as always its all about him, never have I seen a more clueless premier, something the rest of Canada has at last worked out,

    3. Really? As opposed to easterners being indoctrinated into Liberal dogma over decades of Liberal rule to not trust conservatives and despise and hate anything conservative. As someone who grew up in Quebec and voted liberal most of my life and actually voted NDP in last AB election, I can say with absolute confidence that your description of Alberta politics applies equally to Quebec and Ontario politics but in the liberals favour.

  4. Thanks for writing another great column, David, and enjoy your time away.

    Without mentioning it by name, you have touched on the whole concept of social license, a concept I believe has been prematurely been declared dead by right wing commentators. Said commentators have pointed to pipeline protestors in Burnaby, and the fact that work on a pipeline has not yet started, as an argument that social license has not worked.
    Arguing that the continued existence of protestors proves social license has been ineffective, however, completely ignores how many severely normal people did get convinced by Rachel Notley’s social license. If all the corporate might behind Jason Kenney’s Used Car Party does get a UPC party elected, it will be interesting to see how the rest of Canada reacts to an Alberta government whose only solution to climate change is to pray for some kind of technological solution, and to ramp up bitumen production with a Ministry of Truth singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Only then will it be possible to accurately gauge the effectiveness of social license.

    Just as Agent Orange has emboldened the Ugly American in the States, so too will Jason Kenney reinforce, and enable, the Red Neck Albertan. I wonder if this enterprising Alberta woman has considered how her merchandise advocating lynching our Prime Minister will affect other Canadian’s thoughts on Alberta’s present situation:


  5. “Never mind that the more than $80-million dollars we’re supposed to be losing every day is a highly suspect figure based on a fundamentally flawed Scotiabank report and nobody knows how Alberta government finance boffins actually came up with their estimate from that.”

    At a certain point in politics, facts cease to matter. Science be damned. Political issues take on a life of their own, fuelled by emotion. Politicians may command these swells of public hysteria or be swept away by them.
    In the case of pipelines and oilsands expansion, the UCP’s Jason Kenney and the NDP’s Rachel Notley are on the same page. But their fates come the 2019 election will be wildly different.
    From a progressive viewpoint, it’s sad to see the NDP ignore the science and fuel the hysteria. What will such political pandering avail them in 2019?
    The NDP will be swept out to sea.

    UCP supporters wouldn’t vote NDP even if Notley built a billion pipelines. She has only managed to alienate her own.

    1. “UCP supporters wouldn’t vote NDP if Notley built a billion pipelines. She has only managed to alienate her own.”
      The NDP governed Ontario from 1990-1995 during one of the worst provincial recessions in the 20th century. Premier Bob Rae with some union support bought into what was euphemistically called the “Social Contract”. The recession continued despite public service wage freezes and workplace cutbacks pleasing only the crowd who’d rather have their fingernails yanked than vote NDP. Alienating your supporters is an understatement, the Ontario NDP now twenty-three years in political wilderness. Will Alberta’s suffer the same fate?

      1. That’s right. Those public service guys in Ontario sure showed their union credentials when they told Bob to get his cost-cutting by putting the run on the junior guys rather than making all of them suffer through the Rae Days. Okay, I forgot that layoffs aren’t included in the curriculum at their Stewards School.

        Never mind the NDP. In any case, you’re right.

  6. As Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, and largest refining union, has been saying for years, Alberta’s glut is due to lack of upgrading capacity. Upgraded Alberta synthetic oil continues to attract essentially WTI prices. On November 22 Albian Heavy Synthetic was $US 53.48 and Premium Synthetic was $US 54.73. Here’s a place to check oil prices daily (or hourly if you really have to): https://oilprice.com/oil-price-charts.

  7. Wish we could just nationalize the oil sands and keep the 2/3 of profits in Canada that are now (mostly) exported directly into the bank accounts of American corporate executives and shareholders. Alberta, and much of Canada, is like a banana republic, where American oil companies operating in Canada and looting its resource wealth compete with other American oil companies to sell to the US market. Nationalizing our golden goose is what real socialism would look like, not politicians subsidizing Texas oil giants so they can continue to loot and export Canada’s wealth. If tiny little poor countries can stand up to the Americans, what are Canadians so afraid of?


  8. We are being bombarded by Alberta propaganda commercials stating that they don’t want production to go up. With pipelines pumping the same amount of product they have for years and more being shipped by rail everyday, we know they are lying .

  9. Do some research. Considerable takeaway add occurred during the Harper era:

    Before countering that those additions did not provide capacity to tide water, look at a map of US pipelines and inventory of US capacity additions (ex. Seaway reversal).

    Libin’s inventory missed the previous Trans Mountain expansion, the admittedly small Anchor Loop project:

    Alberta has both revenue and spending problems. A 7% PST would close half the deficit. The remainder need come from bringing the Province’s extraordinarily high health and education spending closer to the Canadian average. This will involve public sector downsizing and decompensation. Kenney hopefully is the person to deliver. Notley couldn’t even implement a hiring freeze.

    1. Ah yes…the same old solution for Alberta’s failure to manage their oil wealth by behaving as an owner…..cut the public sector. Certainly. Those teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, should do more for less. Cut their middle class salaries, and subsidize an oil and gas industry that has never paid its fair share.

      Many people think it was Prentice’s advice that Albertans should look in the mirror that defeated him. I suspect it was also his bad math, and the well known fact that whenever bad management busts the oil sector, its public servants that have to make up the deficit. Public servants work hard for their money………and most of them don’t have to lie about the economic benefits of the work they do.

  10. Why are refineries so expensive yet Cenovus has been the anchor tentant in Calgary’s 2 newest and tallest skyscrapers, one designed by world renowned arcitecht Norman Forest ($$$)? What is Calgary’s AAA corporate real estate vacancy rate today?

    And when did the oil sands projects begin? Was getting product to market an after thought? Why is it so urgent today?

    What did happen to the Heritage Fund?

    1. Each of the Bow and Brookfield Place cost around $1B while an upgrader would cost $10B plus and would likely loose money on each barrel. Cenovus owns refineries in Colorado. This is a moot discussion as decisions around office space planning are completely distinct from those around capital investment.BTW, H&R owns the Bow and Brookfield owns Brookfield Place. Cenovus is merely a tenant.

      The transportation crunch has been well known since the early 2000’s. Plenty of time and options existed to build takeaway capacity. The unknown was the success of groups like 350.org in manipulating public opinion and regulatory processes. Naive Canada unfortunately allows collusion with foreign interests to disrupt domestic politics.

      The Heritage Fund is intact. Again, the mention is moot. The Sustainability Fund, which few people reference, reached around $17B prior to the Financial Crisis mostly from gas royalties. Gas has always been the major royalty generator. That changed once shale tanked pricing. Successive “progressive” governments from Stelmach through Redford squandered the Sustainability Fund on speculation that bitumen royalties would eventually supplant and even surpass the take on gas. Stelmach is the true villain in ramping spending at rates far exceeding GDP growth and locking in the spending through ridiculously generous wage settlements. Premier Kenney will be faced with the unenviable task of layoffs and years and years of wage freezes.

      1. Doug B: With 40% less oil and gas production than Alberta, Norway started its heritage fund years after Alberta and now has about a trillion US dollars in it while the Klein Conservatives and their successors have blown it all out the door.

        Kenney is just the same old, same old, that got us here in the first place.

        1. Ah yes, the tired Norway example.

          1) Norway is a country, not a province. It does not loses $20K per capita each year to a higher level of government
          2) AB tried to build the Heritage Fund, which created a perceived imbalance and was a contributor to the NEP. Jealousy is unavoidable in a federation
          3) Endowments that lack strict governance become targets for various interests . For example, rather than cut back after shale gas reduced royalties in 2008, AB jettisoned it’s balanced budget legislation and raided the Sustainability Fund to maintain labour peace. It should have instituted layoffs and wage roll backs. Only the real rate return on the SustoFund should have been available to spend
          4) Norway has higher quality (lower cost) reserves and can extract a greater share of the revenue
          5) Norway did not experience a population boom

          The better inspiration would be 1993-1995 Alberta

          1. Regarding #1, you are confusing federal income and corporate tax with oil and gas royalties. The latter funds the federal equalization program, the former doesn’t. #2 is highly debatable. #3 proves the point about mismanagement. Regarding #5, the Alberta population boom is usually followed by a bust (but I’ll defer to the demographers among us).

          2. Regarding your #4 point. Norway’s O&G is mostly under the North Sea. Most of Alberta’s lie under land stolen from farmers and ranchers who have all the risks and dam few of the benefits.

      2. Doug Brown…the Heritage Fund was destroyed by the Klein government, who stole from it to balance the books, while cutting social services and blowing up one hospital and selling two more to friends of the Tory government. People who think Mr. Kenney is the answer, should remember their history…we got screwed by Klein and the Tories…it’s been going on for 43 years…low corporate taxes, low royalty rates, and subsidies to a dirty industry….we still have 300,000 orphaned and abandoned wells that need cleaning up…who’s gonna pay for that? Or the tailings ponds at the Tar Sands? NOT the oil industry!!! They’ll foist it on our children and grandchildren for the next 30 years..some legacy!!

      3. Where are you getting your numbers? The Bow may have cost over a Billion but Brookfield place is just a box. And I think you’re inflating the price of a refinery. Which the govt should’ve paid half of. And it’s absolutely not distinct, haha!The facilities group take direction straight from management/the board, they don’t pull staff numbers out of the air. And capital projects need staff. And being an anchor tenant signing a long term lease absolutely makes you much more than merely a tentant. Encana owned the Bow at first and sold it.

  11. An excellent rendering of our present absurd reality. They say we have entered a post truth age, and to watch the antics of Albertans lately, I’m beginning to fear that, at least in my home province, reality is beginning to blur into whatever you want to see. But facts remain facts, history history……….and no matter how we spin it, bitumen is a different animal from sweet light crude.

    Upgrade it, refine it, and the price differential may well disappear. But push it through a pipeline, over our mountains, laced with expensive condensate, and its going to end up on our west coast, exactly the same junk feedstock it was when it left Alberta.

    Thinking anything else is magical thinking……at its most absurd and embarrassing. Wish all Albertans of sound mind could read it.

  12. David, you really don’t have a sensible grasp of the current situation. Right now, essentially all of our oil exports are to the USA. We want pipelines from our oilfields to Canadian tidewater ports so that we can access new markets and much, much higher prices. Anyone knows that when there’s a monopsony (one buyer) the seller gets short shrift. However, inept Canadian governments and USA-funded anti-Canadian-pipeline groups have been effective in preventing any new Canadian pipelines while thousands of kilometres of pipelines have been laid in the USA.

    As for the economics of the necessity of new pipelines, it’s blatantly obvious. Right now, prices are:
    US$59.58 Brent
    US$50.78 West Texas Intermediate (a land-locked price at Cushing, OK, and frankly a poor analogue for WCS)
    US$20.88 Canada Sweet Crude
    US$17.63 Western Canadian Select
    US$59.52 Mexico Maya (an excellent analogue for WCS; slightly lower sulphur content)
    US$59.30 Iran Heavy
    US$60.30 Basrah Heavy

    It should cost about $2.50 to get WCS from Hardisty, Alberta to Burnaby, BC, making the Burnaby price of WCS $20.13. The differential between that and Maya is US$39.39. Given that Canada exports over one billion barrels per year, that’s roughly US$40B per year ($108million/day) lost by Canada by not having access to a tidewater port.

    We could get more precise and calculate the value of WCS in overseas ports by estimating shipping costs at $1/bbl/1000miles. That cost should also be applied to competing sources of oil, which would make Canadian oil more competitive in the Orient because Canada is much closer than is the Middle East or Mexico.

    Not only is Alberta losing out on royalties, both the Albertan and Canadian governments are missing out on taxes. That, and the influx of an additional $40B per year into the Canadian economy would support a lot of people, families, communities, and social programs in all provinces.

    No other nation on earth would allow a precious, non-renewable resource to be sold at rock-bottom prices for so long. Canadians have been brainwashed into believing that pipelines are bad. They are an essential part of any nation, like veins and arteries, just like roads, highways, railways, air routes, shipping lanes, and power lines.

    We need pipelines to Canadian tidewater ports, and we need them now.

    1. Patrick, you appear to have some good background knowledge, and I hope you can answer a couple of questions for me.

      Most importantly, what Canadian oil product is most similar to WTI? My understanding is that there is considerable difference between WCS and WTI, with WCS being considerably inferior. Comparing the two prices, then, has 2 consequences: it generates the most outrage in the press, because the price difference is the biggest, but it also leaves the claim open to the argument that the price differential is a result of the quality of the respective products, and a pipeline would make no difference. Like Mary said, we are in a post-truth age.

      How do Basrah and Iran heavy compare to WCS?

      Would you happen to know why Thunder Bay is never mentoned as a possible destination? I assume it is because of freeze-up, but when people start talking about Churchill I am surprised Thunder Bay never gets thought of.

      Thanks, Patrick

    2. Not all of Canada’s U.S. exports are subject to heavy discounts. U.S. heavy-oil refineries on the Gulf Coast are paying top dollar for AB dilbit, just below the WTI price.
      Keystone XL will largely solve AB’s problem.

      “What discount? Gulf Coast paying premium prices for Canadian oil — but only 450,000 bpd make it there”
      • calgaryherald [dot] com/commodities/energy/what-discount-gulf-coast-paying-premium-prices-for-canadian-oil-but-only-450000-bpd-make-it-there/wcm/71f49e90-bfb7-40f8-9053-75167c8c696e

      “Roughly 80% of Suncor Energy Inc.’s bitumen production is fully insulated from the differentials, spokesperson Erin Rees said in an email.
      “‘And the other 20% is only potentially exposed due to the work of our marketing team, our significant midstream capacity and a vast logistics network we can leverage and for operational purposes,’ she said.
      “Husky Energy Inc. spokesperson Mel Duvall said his company owns more refining capacity than it can fill up with its own production, and is not negatively affected by WCS/WTI differentials.”
      • business [dot] financialpost [dot] com/commodities/oilpatch-scrambles-to-ship-distressed-barrels-as-industry-loses-100m-in-revenues-daily

      “During AB’s so-called bitumen crisis, the 3 top oilsands producers — Suncor, Husky and Imperial Oil — are posting record profits. All 3 firms have succeeded this year because they own upgraders and refineries in Canada or the U.S. Midwest that can process the cheap bitumen or heavy oil into higher value petroleum products.”
      • thetyee [dot] ca/Analysis/2018/11/23/Alberta-Policy-Problems/

      With the highest concentration of heavy-oil refineries in the world, the U.S. remains our best customer. AB oil reaches tidewater at the Gulf of Mexico (as well as the port of Vancouver). Overseas shipments of AB heavy oil remain few and far between.
      When big U.S. mid-West refineries get back online after maintenance, and Keystone XL and Enbridge’s Line 3 start up, the discount is expected to return to normal levels. (But watch out for IMO 2020.)

    3. Pipelines to tidewater? you mean the pacific ocean don’t you? Why? the Bitumen is not going to some fanciful land called Asia. It’s going down the coast to California refineries and Texas. They and the big three Suncor, etc. are making off like bandits. Let’s get some realism here…not keep repeating the same old jingoism that infests the oil patch and their acolytes…enough spin. A little honesty…if that is possible would be welcome. We are getting $15 a barrel for the bitumen…American refineries are growing rich…Canada barely gets anything. Oil and Gas only …I repeat ONLY makes up 10% of Albertas’ GDP, and Canadas’ 8% of GDP….they no longer provide the most jobs or the most money….move on!! Renewables are growing by leaps and bounds without the HUGE subsidies that oil and gas get. Time to get in to the 21st century. Even big companies like GM are seeing the future.

  13. Patrick; You may be right but Albertans have had 60 years to figure that one out. And if Alberta had bothered to charge reasonable royalties, it could have paid for 4 or 5 pipelines, back in the day when that was much easier to do! Why exactly does the rest of Canada bear responsibility for problems Alberta inflicted on itself out of sheer stupidity?

  14. “Go suck a lemon” is mild in comparison to the other often-repeated invective advocating a cut off of Alberta oil to Easterners: “They can freeze in the dark.” Perhaps some would be inclined to say the same to Albertans today… but I hope not since it is the most vulnerable who are suffering from the layoffs and economic decline.

  15. I was born in Edmonton in ’45 and was kidnapped as an infant by my parents and taken to Ontario. Many times I was rescued by my Baba and returned to Alberta for the summer. I love Alberta, but I soon noticed that when visiting relatives that I was discriminated as being at fault for living in the East, at fault for their politics and banks, somehow it was my Eastern fault that Albertans had to be fiscally responsible. I am only half joking. Albertans do have a big chip on their shoulder. Is it their own fault that Alberta’s present oil economy is in the shitter, or is it rest of Canada’s fault?

    Look at Norway’s earnings for North Sea oil. They parlayed their oil wealth since 1970’s into a multi-trillion dollar Sovereign Fund. Why is the Heritage Fund so depleted and merely a few billion — how shameful to have wasted Alberta’s oil wealth. Norway has embraced new technologies, supports solar energy plays around the world. Alberta is approaching bankruptcy and has no new industries to offset oil’s demise. I am sorry for your losses, because they are my losses too! But are we to continue down a known dead end road, or should Alberta and the rest of us find a new path in the greener pastures ahead?

    Having watched the convergence of the perfect storm — global warming, excessive CO2 production, solar and wind power stealing market share so that electrical generation by petroleum is already uneconomic, mega pipelines through non-compliant Indigenous Peoples lands, sensitive marine environments in the treacherous Canadian Pacific coast (please read the Golden Spruce), and all the warning signs of species dying — just how did Alberta Oil (which really is US OIL) think that they could con our Indigenous Peoples to give up what they have left of their culture, way of life and their land. Big Oil figured like days of old, trading trinkets for furs, that today for very little money, or short term opportunity they could get our politicians to sell off what we have left of our Nation for Big Oil’s last gasp for greed. Big Oil almost succeeded getting Harper to ram through the NEB pipeline hearings, and they did manage to get Trudeau to renege on his pledge to have new hearings, but they just could not figure out how to buy off the Supreme Court. I send money to our West Coast Peoples to help them hire lawyers, and politicize because they are my, our best hope to stop ruining what is left of our world.

    Since Alberta and Ottawa made massive errors in politics, should we double down, slide into the abyss, or should we rethink where we want to be going and get our heads together to get there. We will waste another 5 years fighting in courts, then spend another 10 getting pipelines built, only to find that Oil is passe, yesterdays energy and then who will pay for the investments we made. Visit “Tony Seba on You Tube” and see where the world is going and how we are going backwards spending on Oil.

    Perhaps we should be asking the rest of Canada to take the risk off of the West Coast for the short term. Why could the pipelines not engineer a fail safe bridge over the Ottawa River and the headlands of Montreal’s drinking waters to mitigate ANY risk of oil spill (sort of a gutter bridge for a pipeline that if it leaks it runs off the bridge into lined reservoirs, or have lined canals for the pipes)??? Are oil pipelines only economic if they are so cheaply and poorly built that they must leak (read up on how many leaks we have experienced in our pipelines, and ask yourself if you’d give them passage over your community)? It does seem a shame that we don’t refine our oil in Alberta and ship a cleaner product to markets. And that is the problem, our Oil Sands are dirty and not economic, why should we be the lowest quality manufacturer of a product and think that we are owed a living doing a bad job.

  16. What a one sided biased liberal rag article!
    Does a flawed Scotiabank report somehow negates the fact that we have 400 000 barrels selling at a $40 discount ??
    To say JT is fighting for any pipeline is ludicrous. He effectively blocked Northern gateway with bill c-48, killed energy east through the absurd”downstream emissions” calculation requirement. Which no doubt garnered a lot of political favor in the east. He watched TMX die despite the majority of first nations consulted being in favor. Bill c-69 ??? Come on. It’s nothing to do with the environment or the indigenous. Its pure politics and it stinks !

  17. Alberta has contributed to the wealth of all Canadians for more than a decade. 221 billion dollars from 2007 to 2015 to the federal purse,more than any other province in Canada. This article divides us . We are all Canadians and need to work together to get the most we can for the resource as it benefits all Canadians. Thankyou Alberta.

  18. Nevermind the unfair equalization payments, rewarding provinces that overspend and providing no reason for provinces to make hard sacrifices to balance their budgets.

    Nevermind the way Canada and it’s liberal bent media machine flood the country with the plight of the anti-TransMountain protestors, who are actually just the loud minority in BC, so that the tail literally wags the dog.

    Nevermind that Quebec, and specifically Montreal torpedoed Energy East, saying they didn’t want the potential of an oil spill to destroy the Saint Laurence River, while they dump thousands of tons of raw sewage into it every year.

    Nevermind that Canada spends 12 Billion dollars a year on oil imports from Saudi Arabia and other providers across the antlantic ocean, increasing tanker traffic on our east coast and sending money to a regime that does not share our values.

    Nevermind that our country is drowning in debt with housing markets so inflated only Chinese organized crime profits can be laundered through it.

    Anyone can point out a series of failures, flaws, facts, and opinions, and make a case the way you chose to in your article. I think the real failure here is for government, and Canada’s people in general to embrace each other. The world is in a delicate time, with Trump to the south pulling his country inward, building walls. China and Russia meddling in cyber crime, tampering with democratic elections. Our own people are being paid by special interest groups and other countries to protest and foul up our infrastructure programs, ultimately to control us. While we bicker about oil as every car manufacturer on the planet is announcing multiple electric vehicle platforms by 2020. While we sell our fresh water for pennies?

    We are in trouble!

  19. Sorry David, but this piece doesn’t really fly. Trying to conflate what’s going on in Alberta now with Quebec in the 1970s is as a little disingenuous. I grew up in Quebec and left in 1980 and Quebec was not the victim of a federal government willfully trying to damage its economy. It was about language and it was provincial issue not a national issue. French Quebecers had some right to feel disrespected in their province because power rested mostly with the English money class. You had to speak english if you wanted to get anywhere then and that was an imbalance that needed to be corrected but it had nothing to to do with Ottawa.

    The pendulum swung too far the other way of course but to compare it to Alberta’s situation is completely bogus.

    As for Ottawa buying TMX, you like many pundits fail to acknowledge the substantial financial contribution Alberta has made to federal coffers over past 50 years. The figure is easily $200 billion plus and Quebec (the gimme, gimme, gimme province of confederation) has been the largest beneficiary.

    We’ve paid for TMX 50 times over and that’s something Trudeau or Quebec will never acknowledge and as a former Quebecer I can tell you that there’s is a latent strain of antipathy towards Alberta among Quebecers that still exists based on some kind of jealously and the fact that we just won’t adhere to the Liberal agenda. We’re just a little too uppity and how come we don’t understand that they know what’s best for Alberta!?

    Even Rick Mercer acknowledged Alberta’s contribution to Canada in one of his rants and thought Canada owed us a favour back and I’m betting he’s a liberal.

    Try again David.

  20. Harper was from Ontario, not Alberta. He was even a member of the young liberals and then quit and moved west to write his ‘Alberta Firewall’ propaganda piece with the National Citizens’ Coalition.

  21. David, I enjoyed your column about the complexity in the Alberta oil situation.
    The federal Conservatives are absurdly hypocritical, most notably in their approach to balancing budgets. That anybody could forget that Jim Flaherty sold off $2-billion in General Motors shares is lamentable, especially now that Canada has virtually no leverage with GM to keep manufacturing jobs in Canada.
    They want to keep producing inferior grade oil products, but are willing to lose highly paid factory work.
    Somehow, all this is Rachel Notley’s quagmire now. Somehow, the NDP and Liberals are solely to blame. Albertans have apparent difficulty understanding the legitimate concerns of British Columbians regarding pipeline leaks and tanker spills – like those things have never happened in living memory? – and are playing the Loyalty Shame Game.
    “It’s in the National Interest, dammit!” I have doubts about that. On the one hand, many people are eager to see our economy make a green transition, and even take a leadership role. Our Paris Agreement goals will never be realized at the rate we are dragging our feet on carbon emissions, and the Liberal government has positioned itself in a lose/lose situation by bailing out a slow-dying oil industry. It’s probably too late now to fantasize about a leadership role in anything other than becoming the world’s worst polluter. Yay us.
    On a lighter note, since you mentioned your “traditional editing skills”, I respectfully suggest they need polishing up. Proofreading would be a good start.
    You wrote, “So, as the famous and probably apocryphal Alberta bumper sticker inferred…”
    May I recommend you research the definitions of “infer” and “imply”?
    An inanimate object cannot infer anything.
    A person may infer meaning from a statement or a situation, but the most a bumper sticker can do is to imply.
    To imply is to suggest; to infer is to draw a conclusion. Bumper stickers aren’t that smart.
    Happy New Year!

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