The Murray Memorial Library on the University of Saskatchewan campus soon after the building opened in 1956 with the Saskatchewan Archives on the ground floor (Photo: Saskatchewan Archives).


No sooner did the government of Saskatchewan oh-so-discreetly announce it is about to close four branches of the provincial archives and consolidate it all in one location in Regina than more than 30 Canadian scholars had an open letter of protest circulating on the Internet.

When the branch of the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan at the University of Saskatchewan slams its doors shut in less than a month, it’ll be the first time since the 1940s official provincial historical records haven’t been kept on the Saskatoon campus of the province’s first university.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe (Photo: Council of the Federation).

“Given the numerous restrictions that exist around existing catalogued material, the closure of the Saskatoon office will make it even more difficult for researchers to access necessary records,” the group of scholars from across Canada wrote in the open letter published on

“The reductions in staffing and now the closure of the Saskatoon branch of the archives will have dire consequences for people attempting to access records, which could mean even longer delays in cataloguing new material while also extending the wait times for researchers to access existing records,” said the letter.

“With the closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, it will be increasingly difficult for researchers to travel to Regina to access essential records,” it added.

“We urge the PAS to reconsider this decision. The archives are essential for citizens to access necessary public information,” the letter concluded.

Alas, this is the age of the neoliberal project, and the argument that a place’s history might be of some value isn’t likely to get much traction with the great minds of the right-wing Saskatchewan Party Government of Premier Scott Moe. After all, the consolidation is supposedly going to save the province the whopping sum of $500,000 over three years in rent.

Well, I suppose that’s money that can be hosed away on Saskatchewan’s legal challenge of the federal government’s carbon tax, which, since it has zero chance of success because of the plain wording of the Canadian Constitution on the topic, can only be a purely political stunt.

If there’s any pocket change left over when the province’s legal bills are paid, I suppose it can be used to print a few flyers demanding a pipeline be built somewhere.

The consolidated archives in Regina are scheduled to open in August next year.

Meanwhile, in Alberta, Bitumen Bubble brouhaha’s a-bubblin’

Meanwhile, in Alberta this afternoon, Finance Minister Joe Ceci called a news conference to warn that despite an excellent first half in the current fiscal year that leaves Alberta’s NDP Government in a position to eliminate the provincial deficit by 2023, the historically large price differential between heavy crude squeezed from Alberta’s oilsands and West Texas Intermediate could prompt an economic crisis for Alberta and Canada.

Former Alberta deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk (Photo: Dave Cournoyer, Wikimedia Commons).

One hates to be insufficiently alarmist in the face of an elite consensus in Alberta for immediate measures to make the price differential, which has topped $50 US a barrel at times recently, go away immediately. However, this seems unlikely.

As was explained this week in no less reliable a source than The Economist – the business publication for people who wish they were rich – the unusually large differential is not only being caused by the fact bitumen is more expensive to process than lighter WTI, but because Canadian extraction companies are increasing production at a time a number of large refineries in the U.S. have closed for maintenance.

In other words, The Economist said, “some of the price pressure will let up when the American refineries reopen and the Sturgeon Refinery near Edmonton, the first new refinery in Canada for 30 years, reaches full production sometime next year.” In other words, the differential will remain, because of the poor quality of bitumen oil, but it will shrink. This is unhelpful from the perspective of the voices calling for supply management to be applied immediately to Alberta production to limit the supply and push prices up, but it is probably a more realistic assessment than the current local hysteria.

Supply management should work just as well for oil as it does for milk, poultry and chicken – although it’s mildly disorienting to see some of the usual suspects on the market fundamentalist right demanding this.

As Thomas Lukaszuk – who should know, seeing as he was Progressive Conservative deputy premier of Alberta under Alison Redford not so long ago – observed, this is “no different than what Premiers Ed Stelmach and Redford had to deal with during their differential (bitumen bubble) crisis.”

He asked in a Tweet: Can you imagine what the Wildrose Party in Edmonton and the Conservative Party of Canada government – which at the time included Jason Kenney, now leader of the United Conservative Party Opposition – would have done if either PC premier had “suggested limiting oil production”?

Their heads would have exploded, he said in answer to his own question.

Well, that was then and this is now. The difference – not the relative size of the Bitumen Bubble – is who is now in power in Ottawa and Edmonton, and Mr. Kenney’s political need to look like he is doing more about it than NDP Premier Rachel Notley.

This explains his party’s risible effort to pretend it’s already the government of Alberta and gin up some free publicity by hitching a ride on the coattails of Mr. Moe’s litigation budget.

According to the UCP’s rooting section at Postmedia, the Alberta Opposition party will argue a federal carbon tax would “fundamentally alter the balance of Canadian federalism.”

The problem with this strategy, of course, is that the opposite is true, since the Constitution unequivocally grants the right to Ottawa “the raising of Money by any Mode or System of Taxation.”

Thankfully, the UCP is not at the moment in a position to waste tax money tilting at this windmill.

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  1. EXCERPT: ‘The archives are essential for citizens to access necessary public information,” the letter concluded.’

    Without some historical knowledge and perspective, the citizenry can be led to believe a lot of crazy stuff, before breakfast/

    Cicero: ‘“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.’

    Democracy’s been emasculated in AB in part because the media and politicians don’t inform their commentary with anything but the last couple years of events, and thus dumb-down AB politics for the citizenry into the latest version of ‘he said/Trudeau/Notley said vs. UCP/Kenney said.

  2. DJC, did you read the article you linked to in your post? It states right in there that ” a comparable crude, Maya, is fetching around US$60 a barrel.” As Doug has pointed out, this pretty much blows the “it’s useless crud that’s more difficult to refine” argument right out of the water. It’s the bottleneck stupid – let’s accept this and then move on to the other arguments.

    But The Economist is about the worst and least reliable publication on the planet, total garbage from front to back, and I’m really surprised that someone with your journalistic standards would use anything they wrote to support an argument. “The business publication for people who wish they were rich” is a great line, it should be on their masthead.

    A number of large US refineries have closed for scheduled maintenance so they’re not buying our oil? Yeah that’s exactly why Canada needs an export pipeline. The US is currently the only customer for Canadian crude oil exports and they are aggressively increasing their own oil production (and their own exports) so they are our main buyer and main competitor. Think about that for a bit. Ever hear of America First? What happens when the US chokes off Canadian imports? This will happen well before the global demand for oil begins to reduce.

    Having said that, it’s pretty clear the oil sands has to quit expanding and I think Ms. Notley sees that. But in the meantime Canada should at least be protecting the workers that still have jobs.

    1. Camjournal: Good point about The Economist. I’m not worried about the U.S. choking off oil imports from Alberta because the fracking boom has about five years, maybe 10 years, left to run and the U.S. will be right back to where it started relative to other petroleum producers. That’s too long for the political cycle in Alberta, of course, but there’s not much we can do about that. Ms. Notley is the only Canadian politician with any sort of plan for the transition to a post-carbon future, even if it has its flaws. As for the pipeline, I remain skeptical of its utility, but I’m outvoted on that, here in Alberta, and by the sound of it elsewhere too. DJC

      1. I’ll respond to you and Cam here, if you don’t mind. First, regarding The Economist. That magazine is a valuable insight into what “latter day populists” like to call “globalism” and us grey beards know to be liberalism writ large. I buy it every time I’m in an airport along with mags or books dependent on the flight time. Yes, I have a smart phone that plays the wifi movies on the long hauls! But the point is, I think the “if they were rich” passive slag is good, but, maybe a better slag would be: “for those who wish they’d attended the right schools, worked like dogs, schmoozed like a Mulroney and ended up trolling for a job at Davos so they could dream of applying to the help wanted section!”, yes, jealousy. Not legitimate criticism of the sort that could be leveled at Rebel, Postmedia, Fox news, RT,.. the list is actually long, before one reaches the Economist. Now on to what really matters.
        Norway. They came years late to the petro-state game and they’ve been winning ever since. I wouldn’t want Jason Kenney or any of his loose cannons to use the worst of Norway (Anders Brevic?) as a template, although it seems to tempt them. But maybe how they manage their resources and revenues finally gets through our thick skulls! So we’ve pissed it all away. Literally! What now? Well, if the world won’t have us? We do have cheap energy. Suncor (find anyone in 1965 that would have predicted that they would be our national oil company) could be our solution, or part of it! Let’s see how the integrated players react to the cry babies of market capitalism! Every day, I look at how our Premier performs her political duty, and I pray for divine intervention to keep her for us all past 2019! Even you purple gas insufferable phony farmers!

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