Alberta Politics
A screenshot of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s news conference tonight, live-streamed by the CBC.

In cutting oil production, Rachel Notley gives a bravura performance – but will it play in Ponoka?

Posted on December 02, 2018, 10:44 pm
6 mins

As expected, Premier Rachel Notley announced tonight that her government will order an oil production cut of 325,000 barrels a day, 8.7 per cent of the province’s production, to squeeze some of the air out of the bitumen price differential that has bedevilled Alberta for several years.

The short-term production cuts, permitted under the province’s legislation, will take effect on New Year’s Day, the premier said. They will remain in place, dropping over time, until a backlog of about 35 million barrels of already processed oil has been shipped to market, which the government expects to take three months.

Production controls will impact both bitumen and conventional oil producers, although some of the smallest companies will be exempt.

It barely took Ms. Notley 10 minutes of her live-streamed news conference, which began at 6 p.m., to prove that even in this neoliberal era governments can act, and do so decisively. Twenty minutes if you count a few questions from reporters.

As political theatre, it was brilliant.

Ms. Notley looked positively prime ministerial. She was steely-eyed and – dare I say it? – at some moments evocative of Margaret Thatcher on the eve of that war at the south end of our then-still-chilly planet. She even offered an acknowledgment to the neoliberal zeitgeist of our era: “One never wants to begin by reaching into the market and telling people they have to produce less …”

But so she did.

In addition to her government’s plan to manage the supply of Alberta oil to narrow the yawning gap between oilsands bitumen and the sweeter crude found closer to the U.S. Gulf Coast, she promised more rail cars would be coming on line next year and that there will be no end to the province’s push for more pipeline capacity.

As political strategy, Ms. Notley’s newser wasn’t bad either. Whatever its other impacts may be, taking immediate action to raise the price of Alberta crude by limiting supply is likely to see some results because it acknowledges the most basic law of economics.

But Ms. Notley certainly did this in the knowledge prices will rise relatively soon anyway as U.S. refineries now partly closed for maintenance come back on stream. When the Enbridge Inc. Line 3 starts pumping at the end of next year, that too will increase demand and raise prices – although too late for the NDP’s electoral strategy.

Ms. Notley made sure in her brief remarks that the principal opposition parties – the United Conservative Party and Alberta Party – were implicated in her plan. Indeed, it soon became clear to anyone listening thanks to a reporter’s question that the Opposition UCP had demanded even deeper production cuts. This will be useful for voters to know in the event jobs are lost in some places as a result of the limitations in supply ordered by the government.

And the premier showed enough steel to demonstrate she has no problem pushing around the few billion-dollar oil companies that made it clear they don’t want supply management of their output, seeing as they’re making out like bandits already with things the way they are.

While praising her main opponents in the Alberta Legislature, Premier Notley put the blame for the current state of affairs right where most Albertans seem to think it belongs: On the federal government for not approving the pipelines we have now persuaded ourselves will solve all our economic problems.

She also made sure the blame was shared between the current Liberal federal government and the past Conservative one – in which Opposition Leader Jason Kenney was an influential minister.

So, Premier Notley’s short news conference tonight was a bravura performance.

However, whether this will play in Peoria – or, rather, Ponoka – remains to be seen. This is especially true if companies with their own U.S. refining capacity like Husky Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc. decide to squeeze their own workers till the pips squeak to punish the government for reducing their profit expectations for the greater good.

Similarly, while oilsands giants like Cenovus Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. will likely be happier, it’s far from clear whether this will translate into anything that helps the NDP’s political circumstances.

And there is no sign whatsoever that any method developed to ship Alberta oil – whether in the form of rail cars, new pipelines or rehabilitated old ones – will not eventually be used to its fullest capacity, with predictable impact on global climate change.

When it comes to market failures – which Ms. Notley spoke of tonight and Mr. Kenney did recently too to justify interfering in the market – the problem is that the biggest market failure of all is climate change.

16 Comments to: In cutting oil production, Rachel Notley gives a bravura performance – but will it play in Ponoka?

  1. Political Ranger

    December 2nd, 2018

    Wow! … Lord Stern and Maggie Thatcher, all in one piece from Albaturda!
    That is a bravura performance!
    Well done David.

    Again, the irony of it all just boggles my mind!

  2. Farmer Brian

    December 3rd, 2018

    Rachel Notley blames consecutive federal government’s for failure to get pipelines approved. One must remember that our Premier was against Northern Gateway and was not a vocal supporter of Keystone XL although she has now changed her tone on Keystone. Northern Gateway suffered the same fate in court that has stalled TMX, lack of proper indigenous consultation. Trudeau made the conscious decision to kill Northern Gateway with our Premier’s backing, he could have fought for Northern Gateway just like he is for TMX today. Those on the left blame private industry for over building production capacity where in reality due to the length of time it takes to get approval and build a oilsands production facility companies must look at present and proposed pipeline capacity before building that facility. Governments have failed to win in court over the American funded Canadian environmental groups in court(Vivian Krause has done great work investigating this) and as a result there is no pipe in the ground. As a result our Premier really had no alternative.

    It is interesting that both the UCP and the Alberta Party are both on side. Stephen Mandel’s complaint was that this should have been done sooner. In Jason Kenney’s case he timed the release of his position on this file very well and it appears he has put partisanship on the back burner on this issue.

    As for your concern for the affects on climate change. Canada produces 1.6% of the world’s GHG’s, it also produces roughly 4.3% of the world’s oil. If Canada ceased to exist tomorrow it would have no affect on climate. This certainly doesn’t eliminate the need for us to use our finite resources more efficiently or to look at adding more value to those resources in Canada. Unfortunately, the result of years of litigation by those opposed to pipelines has resulting in greater use of less efficient and less environmentally friendly transport methods like rail. It has also created an environment where companies are not willing to invest facilities to further refine our oil due to poor returns on investment and the distance from those who would purchase the product. Personally I think the greatest failure in Alberta is the inability of successive governments to enact a taxation system that creates a more stable source of revenue and while at the same time allowing the saving of the majority of non renewable resource revenue for future generations. A responsible government would figure out what we average yearly from energy royalties and put a cap of using 30% of that amount to be spent in the budget and save the rest. Then implement a sales tax which creates a more consistent flow of revenue to finance government operations. The PC’s of the past and the NDP of the present continue to spend all our resource revenue and more, bad management in my opinion. Enjoy your day.

    • Geoffrey Pounder

      December 3rd, 2018

      Farmer Brian: “If Canada ceased to exist tomorrow it would have no affect on climate.”

      193 other nations can say the same thing.

      The “little Canada” argument never fails to disappoint.

      “All nations contributing less than 2% of emissions are, cumulatively, more important than India or China. It absolutely does matter that these nations reduce their emissions.” (Willem Huiskamp, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)

      “Another common form of solutions denial is the notion Canada is too small, so what we do doesn’t matter. Yes, we have a big neighbour, but let’s not lose perspective on who we are: a medium-sized country with one of the largest economies in the world. We’re also one of the top 10 most-polluting countries in the world. Canada is responsible for 1.6% of global emissions despite having just 0.5% of its population. If Canada is “too small to matter,” what message does that send to the roughly 180 nations with smaller carbon footprints than ours?”
      • w w w [dot] theglobeandmail [dot] com/business/commentary/article-denying-solutions-is-the-new-climate-change-denial/

      In the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index, Canada ranks 51st of 60 countries.
      The U.S. ranks 56th.
      • germanwatch [dot] org/en/CCPI

      The Climate Action Tracker rates Canada’s efforts as “highly insufficient”.
      • climateactiontracker [dot] org/countries/canada/

      Climate Transparency’s 2018 report card for Canada underlines the absence of “ambitious renewable energy targets and policies.”
      Canada’s emissions level would contribute to global warming of between 3 C and 4 C if the rest of the world behaved similarly.
      The emission intensity of Canada’s buildings, transportation, and agriculture are all well above the G20 average.
      Canada produces almost 3x more GHG per capita than the average bloc member.
      • w w w [dot] cbc [dot] ca/news/thenational/national-today-newsletter-climate-change-twitter-1 [dot] 4902717

      With 40+% of total global emissions, only China and the U.S. could make a dent in global emissions by themselves.
      That leaves 60% divided among 193 nations. Each contributes a small fraction of the total.
      The global emissions problem cannot be solved EXCEPT by collective action. Everybody except the bottom billion needs to reduce emissions — especially big consumers and high emitters in affluent nations like Canada.
      If the biggest energy users, energy wasters, consumers, and emitters on the planet do not cut emissions, who will?

      If we exempt Canada from meeting its targets, why would other countries not follow suit?
      How does the world solve its emissions problem if those 193 nations are not part of the solution?
      There are billions of GHG sources around the world. They are ALL small. If every one argues that their emissions don’t matter because they are a small fraction of the total, no one will reduce emissions.

      Canada accounts for 1.6% of global emissions but just 0.5% of population. Canadians’ emissions are 3x the global average. (Albertans’ emissions are more than 10x the global average.) Canada ranks tenth overall in total emissions. (We rank nowhere near tenth in population.)

      Draw squares on a world map, with each square representing 40 million people. The square we call Canada has higher emissions than just about any other square on the map.
      Draw squares on a world map, with each square representing 4 million people. The square we call AB has higher emissions than just about any other square on the map.
      Who should reduce emissions: high emitters or low emitters?

      Historically and cumulatively, the industrialized West is responsible for the bulk of emissions and global warming thus far. Canada ranks #9 on the list.
      Canadians contribute disproportionately to a collective problem; we need to contribute to the collective solution.

    • Geoffrey Pounder

      December 3rd, 2018

      Farmer Brian: “Governments have failed to win in court over the American funded Canadian environmental groups in court (Vivian Krause has done great work investigating this).”
      Most of the appellants before the Federal Court of Appeal were First Nations.
      Most of the people on the protest lines are ordinary citizens. Greens are vastly outgunned and outspent.
      On the other side, industry (some of the biggest corporations in the world), govt, and media have virtually bottomless pockets and public outreach capacity.

      Big Oil just spent millions of dollars on a campaign to defeat a carbon tax plan in Washington State.
      Fossil fuel and utility companies spend millions of dollars on lobbyists to prevent renewables from entering the market.
      Millions more on climate-change-denial campaigns.
      Millions more on lobbyists to delay or weaken regulations.
      What does Krause have to say about industry’s predatory delay that imperils our future? Nothing!

    • Bob Raynard

      December 3rd, 2018

      Brian, I definitely agree with you on the Alberta finances part of your post. More importantly, I strongly believe that historians, both professional and arm-chair, will agree with you in a generation or two. You and I are roughly of the same vintage, which means in 25 or 30 years we could be hoping for space in a long term care facility. Since they are already in short supply, I expect the shortage will be at crisis level when we need them. I cringe thinking of how right-wing commentators will portray the shortage in 2045: “They gave themselves a wonderful tax holiday throughout their working lives, and now they want us to pay for LTC facilities! Did baby boomers not think they would get old?” Worst of all, they will be right.

      With regards to Northern Gateway, I think it was a terrible idea right from the start. The plan was to run it through raw wilderness pretty much through its entire route, then end it at Kitimat, where it would require tankers to navigate a few hundred kilometres of narrow channel before reaching the open sea. Frankly, it was an ecological disaster waiting to happen, both on the tanker side and on the pipe-spill side. How was Enbridge planning on getting spill mitigation teams and supplies to the middle of nowhere?

      I was adamantly opposed to Northern Gateway because of its proposed route, whereas I would have been quite fine with running it beside the highway to Prince Rupert. The highway would provide quick access to spill mitigation teams, and a Rupert terminal would have prevented ships from navigating the Douglas Channel. I can only guess that Enbridge chose the shorter Kitimat route to keep construction costs down, confident that the ecologically indifferent Harper government would go along with it.

      I do wonder how much the outrageous Northern Gateway route had to do with motivating the anti-pipeline movement we see today. Northern Gateway showed Canadians, and especially British Colombians, that they could not assume their government would evaluate a project fairly and they had to get active themselves. Once activated, and opposed to pipelines in general, they have kept up their efforts.

      • Scotty on Denman

        December 3rd, 2018

        Well said; thank you.

        If I had to guess why the Northern Gateway/Kitimat route was chosen over a Prince Rupert one, I’d have to say it must’ve been a bait-and-switch ploy to let the former absorb the heat of opposition before appearing to relent in a conciliatory way and relocate the pipeline proposal to Rupert—that is, Kitimat a stalking-horse for Prince Rupert, the intended terminus.

        The geographical facts support this guess: looking at a chart of the Coast, one is challenged to find a more treacherous dilbit supertanker route than Kitmat’s Douglas Channel. I, for one, never bought the ‘shortest, most economical route’ premise because I’ve worked in in the mountains all along the proposed route and navigated the twisty, stormy, foggy tidal bores of the Douglas Channel, and know how treatchwerous it can be. My reaction upon first hearing the proposal was, “No way! That’s just crazy!”

        I’ve also driven the highway to Prince Rupert, navigated its deep and capacious harbour which opens directly into deep, open ocean, and examined its transcontinental railhead up close. I mean, it always seemed plain to me that Rupert was the far superior, safer terminus and port for supertanker-shipping of dilbit, with its special, hard-spills-to-clean-up properties. I reasoned, therefore, that Rupert was the real prize, Kitimat the dummy-hand.

        So why wasn’t it proposed from the start? I’d have to guess, again, that the HarperCon government and the bitumen industry were sensitive to the political and constitutional obstacles any route through (virtually) treatyless BC where First Nations’ recently confirmed rights make “meaningful consultation” (with them) a formidable hurdle for Enbridge Inc. and Canadian governments. I guessed that the strategy had to be two-pronged: first, to diminish FN claims of right like, for example, soon after the Fed’s official apology for Residential Schools, the seeming random attack on Attawapiskat (any remote FN community would suffice for the same bookkeeping reasons, but Attawapiskat features a nearby airport with capacity to accommodate heavy news-media coverage of the the most revolting vignettes typical of these communities’ poverty) which affected a smear-job to besmirch FN credibility, character and legitimacy coincidentally with Harper’s amassing of political troops and pipe-layers on the Continental Divide, ready to enter traditional territories of numerous BC aboriginal nations along Northern Gateway’s proposed route which do not have treaties and are therefore entitled to certain protocols that might delay any pipeline proposal for years. Harper’s environmental process also dismissed FN concerns in blatantly spurious ways—one public hearing was cancelled because the traveling commission claimed indigenous drummers welcoming them were a security threat, the community’s legitimate concerns simply being ignored. (For these reasons, the assessment process was nullified by the courts, the technical reason Northern Gateway fizzled.) Second, to get the pipeline approved before the William (Tsilhqot’tin) SCoC decision came down (then approaching completion after several years in court); as it was, the proposal was already dead by the time this monumental decision came down—FNs now, as a result, have even more potent legal arguments to intercede in resource development of their respective traditional territories. As it was, the Kitimat gambit failed before that.

        So why didn’t the Prince Rupert card get played if, indeed, that was the prize all along? Again, two things: Harper bungled his centrepiece energy policy, partly because his unanticipated second minority government got him behind schedule and, by the time he’d won a majority, his government was already fighting the courts on many fronts while his partisan rivals had become more popular, and partly because his belated rush to get his most important legacy done caused him to cut corners and resort to tactics like Attawapiskat which, as we know, fomented the Idle-No-More movement that blew everybody’s minds, knocked out his Aboriginal Affaires Minister, and further steeled BC FNs’ resolve to stop Northern Gateway. Idle-No-More was a monumental turning point for Aboriginal rights, but also for the HarpeCons: they never recovered and, supreme screw-up of all, were ignominiously thrashed at the ballot box before the Rupert caper could be completed as (I think it was) planned.

        The second reason was that the existing Transmountain pipeline happened to be available as an immediate contingency booby-prize. The misplacement of the switch is evident given that the same kind of obstacles as Kitimat present, only more much potently: the proposed TMX (doubling of the existing TM line) crosses numerous opposing FNs’ traditional, treatyless territories, yes, but terminates smack in the middle of the densest population on the West Coast, most of which is very opposed to risking a dilbit spill in these busy inside waters (in addition to official opposition from Washington state and the BC government). TMX’s terminus is only slightly less crazy for dilbit shipping out of than Kitimat was, but the opposition is thousands of times more resolved and, both politically and legally, almost infinitely more powerful. Rupert is, then, even more obviously better. Rather, Big Bitumen’s Coastal pipeline strategy has gone from bad to worse, fat-into-the-fire, while the superior port still exists as accommodatingly as it ever was.

        In sum, Harper got behind in his agenda to get dilbit to tidewater so did a rush job that ultimately failed to withstand a court challenge for its many omissions, then attempted a race-based political smear against indigenous people intended to discredit, by association and racial prejudice, powerful BC FNs which opposed Northern Gateway— which then blew up in his face—and, by that time, was too existentially preoccupied trying to stave off electoral defeat to, as I suspect, complete the Prince Rupert bait-and-switch ploy. Despite pulling out all the election stops like the long, long official campaign period, relentless negative attack ads, rigging the electoral process in various ways (some illegal and successfully prosecuted both before and after his defeat) and, as dumb as could be, uttering the odious the niqab rhetoric which only reminded voters of the HarperCons’ undercurrent of racial particularism—Harper was deservedly thrashed, his legacy now only the uncertain, highly controversial and nationally divisive TMX booby-prize we’re struggling over to this day.

        This was Harper’s biggest and most central failure and his legacy is a contentious, controversial, economic and environmental mess. Way to go, Steve!

        But, again I must observe that Prince Rupert is still available and I think if all this recriminatory politcal posturing would go away, it would save a lot of retrogressive, hard feelings and probably a bunch of money, too.

        • Rocky

          December 3rd, 2018

          I too have lived in Prince Rupert, and can attest to the merits of its fine harbour. But this explanation seems too complicated to me. More likely, I would bet, someone known to the Harpercons owned land in Kitimat, or had some the way to make money nearby. Corruption. In the end, it’ll all turn out to be about corruption.

    • St Albertan

      December 3rd, 2018

      Ohh, farmer Brian! You have pissed in my corn flakes this morning! Your template response is a joke! Your contention that you farm, is suspect, as is your contention that you’re anywhere near a farm in Alberta! If you aren’t a right wing blog troll? I’ll spot you a Vietnamese potbelly pig breeding operation in Donalda!

      • Farmer Brian

        December 3rd, 2018

        You better start buying some Vietnamese pigs lol! Your certainly welcome to visit my farm in central Alberta anytime, lived at the same address for 36 years! Raised pigs for 25 of those years so I even have a place to put them. Enjoy your day

        • St Albertan

          December 4th, 2018

          Fair enough! If you’ve raised pigs you’ve definitely paid the farming dues! I still contend your political views, mind!

    • John T

      December 3rd, 2018

      If I was given a dime for every similar argument I’ve heard that sounds like yours…

      Let’s just say they are just as shortsighted as the one you posted here.

  3. Geoffrey Pounder

    December 3rd, 2018

    “When it comes to market failures – which Ms. Notley spoke of tonight and Mr. Kenney did recently too to justify interfering in the market – the problem is that the biggest market failure of all is climate change.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂
    “In cutting oil production, Rachel Notley gives a bravura performance – but will it play in Ponoka?”

    Nope. In the online comments sections (e.g., Calgary Herald), UCP supporters continue to fulminate against Notley & Co.. Even if the NDP build a billion pipelines, the Orange Machine will always be allied with Greenpeace, the Tides Foundation, and unnamed U.S. billionaires. No, Jason Kenney is our Saviour.
    In her derring-do battles to defend AB’s fossil fuel interests and defy the IPCC, Notley has been compared with Thatcher, Nixon, and Lougheed. Still waiting for the day when Notley is compared with progressive stalwarts of yore.

  4. Geoffrey Pounder

    December 3rd, 2018

    “Premier Notley put the blame for the current state of affairs right where most Albertans seem to think it belongs: On the federal government for not approving the pipelines we have now persuaded ourselves will solve all our economic problems.”

    Three other views … for those who like a spoonful of reality with their politics:

    Ross Belot: “Cracking the puzzle of Canada’s pipeline problem”
    “As for the now-infamous Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer may be correct in his reading of it, at least in one aspect. That expansion may never be built, but not because of some nefarious Liberal scheme, as he suggests. It may not be built because it isn’t needed if Keystone XL goes ahead.
    “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and AB Premier Rachel Notley have been selling the Canadian public a fantasy of unlimited oilsands unicorns — if only we had more pipelines. Instead, the practical view is we only need, at most, two of the three lines now under development based on the industry’s own forecast.”

    “Author Andrew Nikiforuk tells a bleak tale of squandered opportunities, wilful blindness on energy policy”
    “As for the claim more pipelines will result in a narrower price differential thanks to new markets in Asia for Alberta bitumen, Mr. Nikiforuk said, that is a pipe dream that defies the laws of economics.
    Never mind, he said, that the single study saying this, done for Kinder Morgan Inc. as a sales pitch when it was the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project’s sole proponent – and now apparently taken as gospel by the provincial and federal governments alike – “is bogus.”
    He asserted that the study been debunked by professional economists on its five key points: that no other pipelines will be built for 20 years; that oil prices will remain around $100 US; that the Canadian dollar would remain on par with its U.S. counterpart; that all heavy oil is subject to a discount in North America; and of course that increasing the supply will result in bitumen fetching higher prices in Asia.
    “Pushing pipelines to export your product to Asia is not a good idea,” he stated. “Somehow the government of this province doesn’t understand the law of supply and demand.”
    More recent research by agencies like the World Bank, Mr. Nikiforuk added, indicates “the best market for Alberta’s heavy oil is still in the U.S., the U.S. Gulf Coast.”

    J. David Hughes: “Selling off oil fast as we can isn’t an energy plan
    “The federal government also tells us that its purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX) is in the “national interest” based on false claims that exporting Alberta bitumen to Asian markets will provide higher prices. But the U.S. Gulf coast has the world’s largest concentration of the complex refineries needed to optimally refine heavy oil.
    Two new pipelines to the U.S. with double the capacity of TMX are under development, which will eliminate pipeline-capacity constraints well before the earliest TMX completion date of 2022.
    Transport costs to the U.S. Gulf coast are lower than sending oil to Asia via TMX and tankers. Together, these factors mean Alberta’s heavy oil will sell in the U.S. for $2-$5 per barrel more compared to Asian deliveries.
    The bottom line: Canada has no energy plan beyond pedal-to-the-metal export of its non-renewable energy assets. The rhetoric from Premier Rachel Notley’s government that the sky will fall without TMX and the federal government’s “national interest” justification for buying it have no merit.”

  5. David

    December 3rd, 2018

    I don’t know how this will play in Ponoka, but I suppose the Alberta government hopes it will play well or at least reasonably well. There is little political risk now as several other political parties were pushing for production cuts and the proponents of it also managed to convince much of the public it was a good idea. It may not be a long term solution, but if the crisis goes away or diminishes for whatever reason (even if it is because the seemingly never ending refinery maintenance ends), it will look like a successful plan.

    There is a great deal of frustration and angst in Alberta now, that those in the east especially tend to not realize or underestimate and that tends to be channeled in to a demand that governments do something … anything, even when governments can not change certain things. The provincial government has been aware of and responsive to this, whereas the Federal government has not. Their response seems to be we bought a pipeline, so be happy and quiet now. I suppose the Federal government does not have many Alberta seats at stake here, so do nothing may not really hurt them too much politically, but it has turned the Federal government into a lightning rod for all the problems of Alberta – too much snow fell yesterday, the roads are impassible – blame Trudeau!

    I really doubt Northern Gateway would have made it through all the court and environmental challenges, the route was a poor one fraught with peril, but Trudeau gets blamed as he made the decision not to proceed with it. Energy East was probably not economically viable anyways, particularly after the revival of Keystone XL but Trudeau gets blamed for making more stringent environmental regulations. Meanwhile Keystone XL and the Enbridge Pipeline in the US continue to suffer delays and court challenges, maybe not as serious, but really not that much different from those facing the Trans mountain one in BC. In fact, one could argue it is the delays in the US that are causing the bitumen blockage as much, if not more than the ones in Canada, but if your name is Trudeau, you are likely to get the credit for little and the blame for every problem in Alberta, even if you happen to buy a pipeline. As some like to say in the US – blame Canada!

  6. Scotty on Denman

    December 3rd, 2018

    Premier Notley probably doesn’t want to be a one-hit wonder. Although she’s been instrumental in smashing the old Progressive Conservatives who governed for the previous 43 years, the most toxic elements of the venerable polity, some of whom had already hived-off the PC party and might have been instrumental in finishing it off themselves by trying to swarm back into the moribund Prentice hive, have since screened out the moderate shards and reassembled something nastier. Unfortunately, Notley has to contend with this nasty piece of work, engagement unavoidable, even though she has a better plan to pursue.

    Thus KeKKenney’s challenge puts her off her better game. Nevertheless, she is smart as well as game, and will do what seems politc to defeat the UCP in next spring’s election. It would be great if she wins because then she could get on with her better agenda of better managing the bitumen industry without the UCP distraction, getting ready for the winding-down that looms on the approaching horizon, diversifying the provincial economy in general and the bitumen industry in particular, and get ready to deal with the environmental changes we all have to expect—since they’re already here introductively.

    Until then, however, she’s content to omit some conspicuous facts, namely that there is no evidence that the Asian markets which Big Bitumen wants to access by way of shipping dilbit pipe to the Coast and load onto supertankers will pay the premium for the low-end product pipeline proponents—including Ms Notley—claim they will, nor that the proverbial shift seems to indicate that the petroleum-for-burning paradigm will not sustain economically at the rate it has until only just recently, much less ecologically. KeKKenney is content to rope-a-dope on this issue, Notley deftly playing into his hand for electoral purposes because she knows Albertans are hurtin’ and want relief now, spared the nitty-gritty details. She knows, she knows, yes, she does.

    One wonders, then, how the two leaders intend to contrast with each other, as they must do, inevitably. JK will insist he can do the same dilbit thing better, even though the evidence to hand tends to refute that. Never mind, gormless voters vote for what they like to hear and they might like more-better better than better-better-without-necessarily-being-more. Or maybe not.

    Notley is smart—that is, unlike what we normally see in many Dipper parties: she doesn’t look like she’s going to commit politcal suicide on ethical principle (like, say, Adrian Dix did when he blew a 20-point lead and lost to the prancing majorette Christy Clark in BC, or like Dippers did to federal leader Thomas Mulcair when he didn’t win what he realistically couldn’t have, but won them their second-largest number of seats nevertheless —the former accused of not being aggressive enough, or too left, and the latter of being too aggressive, or too right—and I could go on: being a card-carrying Dipper myself, oh yes, I could, indeed). So, despite her apparent niceness, I don’t think she’s going to let it cloud her better politcal smarts. She’s perfectly capable of cutting off KeKKenney’s ball—if she can find it—with all the sweetness of Anne of Green Gables and apple pie. It’s critical for the NDP government and, to her, for the whole province.

    I expect, therefore, that the other shoe will drop, that this phoney peace is as unsustainable as shipping dilbit to Asia through TMX, that the most glaring contrast between her and him, not being interfering in the free market (which they both endorse), will have to out at some point. No, it’s not that she wants to tax and regulate Big Bitumen while tuning the industry to the approaching ecological crisis (conversion, innovation, replacement, etc.) and that he wants to untax and deregulate while granting leave for Big Bitumen to carry on business-as-usual, that is, to pump out dilbit at a faster and faster rate. No, neither will parry, at least not for now, on this ground, except in degree of rhetorical noise. Rather, the main contrast is that she is about sharing and caring while he is not and not: he’s more nasty than Notley. But KeKKenney’s vision is exclusive, get as much as you (the anointed) can as fast as you can, devil take the hind-tit.

    This is the real other shoe and Notley looks like she’s saving it for the most opportune moment before letting it drop. So, whilst the dead-heat, rope-a-dope or tit-for-tat inevitably gains volume as it repeats, she’ll cleverly offend expectation by introducing the real contrast and then resolve it as beautifully as a melodic refrain after a musical bridge. There’s nothing, not even today’s sudden rise in dilbit market-price in reaction to her announcement to restrict production made only yesterday, that will satisfy KeKKenney, nothing that she can do that he won’t simply Trump with a bigger boast on the same ground. She’ll continue with this rhetoric, of course, but it’s more to keep KeKKenney where she can see him while waiting for the moment to reveal what he would rather voters not see of him.

    Okay, maybe I’m a dreamer, but I don’t think Notley is. She’s smart enough to respect KeKKenney’s politcal smarts but, at the right time, when the contrast between them is needed, she’ll come off as the better person, as well as the better choice for Premier.


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