Alberta Politics
UCP strategists reenact the invasion of Alberta by Martians led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This time, the fake news will be on social media, not the radio. Actual Conservative strategists may not appear exactly as illustrated (Photo: Public Domain).

Alberta’s Top Ten Political News Stories of 2018: It’s not all about that pipeline …

Posted on December 31, 2018, 12:57 am
7 mins

Trying to come up with a list of the most important Alberta political news stories of 2018 is more challenging than one might imagine since the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion brouhaha sucked all the oxygen out of this place for most of the year.

A court challenge was inevitable. So it was probably a bad bet by the Alberta NDP and the overconfident Liberals in Ottawa to put their money on construction of the TMX starting when they needed it. Just like Conservative PM Stephen Harper before them, the Liberals miscalculated the willingness of Canada’s independent and impartial judiciary to pay attention to the niceties of the rule of law even when it was inconvenient for their re-election strategy.

Orson Wells (Photo: Public Domain).

This is true notwithstanding the lunatic conspiracy theories about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanting secretly to destroy the multi-billion-dollar pipeline project he had just bought for us that are being propounded by Alberta Conservatives, who presumably understand perfectly well this is nonsense but fervently hope their supporters don’t. (It seems to be working.)

Never mind that Ottawa’s now-meaningful consultations with First Nations along the route, as required by the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling last summer, are proceeding apace and the pipeline will certainly be completed as the Trudeau Government intends. To hear the Conservatives tell it, you’d think Mars was invading Alberta and Mr. Trudeau was collaborating with a Martian plan to burn all the oil wells.

Orphan well (Photo: Orphan Well Association).

Alas, having put all their eggs in that basket, the resulting delay in the TMX Project to accommodate the rule of law may prove fatal to the NDP’s re-election chances in 2019. After all, by the sound of it, common sense and reason have pretty well left the province. Unlike chickadees and longer days, they’re unlikely to be back by spring.

So this election outcome seems foreordained unless the Opposition United Conservative Party is willing to meet the NDP halfway – which with a scandal a day between now and the expected spring election is always possible.

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

Now that we’ve finally gotten around to cobbling together this hardy perennial year-end list, most stories that suggest themselves are in fact aspects of the pipeline flap.

These include Alberta’s illegal and thankfully short-lived boycott of B.C. wine, the screeching calls for a boycott of Quebec goods by some Conservative politicians, the crazy claims B.C. officials were violating the rule of law by going to court, the endless argument about the reasons for that annoying Bitumen Bubble (it’s the sand, stupid!), and the province’s near-pathological case of Trudeau Derangement Syndrome.

Freedom Conservative Party Leader Derek Fildebrandt (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

What’s more, almost everything else that should have been a big story fell into the underreported category owing to all the attention focused on that damnable pipe.

For what it’s worth, here’s your blogger’s Top Ten List of Alberta’s most significant political news stories in 2018. These are my choices, of course, and they reflect my priorities. In other words, they’re not necessarily the stories that got the most ink.

Top Ten Alberta Political News Stories of 2018

10. Private school funding. The education scrap between the UCP and the NDP was mainly about gay-straight alliances and “parents’ rights,” but it finally got the issue of private school funding onto the agenda where it belongs.

Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

9. Craft beer. The UCP Opposition doesn’t like NDP policies that created a craft beer boom in Alberta, but you’ll notice they’re drinking the stuff, not the watery corporate fizz from Saskatchewan they’re fighting for.

8. Legal cannabis. Not a provincial policy, but one with plenty of provincial fallout. The NDP, foolishly, chose to channel Doug Ford in advance, and tossed the baggie to the private sector. We will have to pay later for this.

7. The Gulf of NDP. After a year of disagreements about pipelines, Rachel Notley is from Mars, Jagmeet Singh is from Venus, and Avi Lewis is from Mercury, or maybe Pluto. The battleground may turn out to be right here on earth, though, in Edmonton-Strathcona.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

6. Labour law. This is a big deal and not a big deal – the NDP only brought Alberta’s labour laws into the mid 20th Century. The UCP vows to return them to the mid 19th.

5. Fildebrandt Agonistes. Consider the entertainment provided by Derek Fildebrandt’s endless follies, from Airbnb to the FCP. Who could ask for anything more?

4. Taxes. The carbon tax became an aspect of the TMX story, but it’s bigger than that. Turns out carbon taxes are impossible to sell, even as oil revenue evaporates. We need a sales tax just to keep the lights on. Think this won’t come back to haunt us in 2019 and beyond?

3. The opioid crisis. Nobody has a solution. Nobody wants to come to terms with the reasons. Mostly, the victims have no voice, the policy makers of the left lack conviction, and those on the right lack decency. Not a good combination.

2. Orphan wells. Speaking of Martian invasions, the potential $260-billion-plus cost of cleaning up Alberta’s oilpatch revealed in 2018 surely means orphan wells could turn out to be bigger than Orson Wells! Green New Deal, anyone? Don’t hold your breath.

1. The pipeline. Natch!

8 Comments to: Alberta’s Top Ten Political News Stories of 2018: It’s not all about that pipeline …

  1. Farmer Brian

    December 31st, 2018

    As the year ends the biggest issue about Alberta that became abundantly clear to me was that no political entity is offering a realistic plan to make our government fiscally sustainable. Until Albertans pull their collective heads out of their butts and realize that we can’t continue to spend all of our non-renewable resource revenue and then some and instead put some of this aside for future generations we have no hope imo. We need a sales tax and better controls on government spending.

    8. I have to disagree, I think the Alberta NDP did a good job of setting up the legal cannabis retail framework.
    4. Putting a tax on the natural gas that heats my home in the winter pisses me off every time I pay my bill, looking at the opinion polls in Alberta apparently I am not the only one.
    3. The opiod crisis is truly a tradgedy without an obvious solution. Dealers are willing to sell a product they know will kill a percentage of their clients but they still do it because it is so profitable, that is difficult to counter.
    2. The real number is $58 billion, the head of the AER said the $260 billion number wasn’t correct.
    1. I think the pipeline represents a bigger issue and that is that Canada is unable to create a regulatory environment that can get big projects done in a realistic time frame and what Justin Trudeau is proposing in bill C-69 will make it worse.

    David, even though you and I disagree on many issues I enjoy your work, Happy New Year!

    Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    December 31st, 2018

    Here’s an 11th story (call it the Climenhaga Bonus shot — Bada bing, bada boom!)

    What also generated a substantial amount of provincial (and occasionally national) news coverage this year in its own right, is the marathon of epic UCP bozo-eruptions (Don McIntyre, Preb Gill, Derek Fildebrant, Jeff Callaway, Wayne Anderson, Brian Jean and a host of not-ready-for-prime-time UCP folks trying to secure a coveted UCP election nomination). These were not only stories of endearing ineptitude from the so-called “government in waiting” — but also featured gobsmackingly funny cartoons masterfully portraying Jason Kenney and his Keystone Kops as buffoons tethered to a post of incompetence. Climenhaga in his own right did a masterful job in exposing these never-ending bozo-eruptions throughout the year, but personally, I felt they deserved a more prominent shot in the Top 10. All I can say is — let’s keep those bozo-eruptions coming in 2019 UCPers.

    Reply
  3. Geoffrey Pounder

    December 31st, 2018

    “Never mind that Ottawa’s now-meaningful consultations with First Nations along the route, as required by the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling last summer, are proceeding apace and the pipeline will certainly be completed as the Trudeau Government intends.”

    In fact, First Nations and ENGOs are unhappy with the NEB’s time limits allowing insufficient time to prepare. Trudeau has already made up his mind that the pipeline will go ahead no matter what. Is the govt acting in good faith?
    Expect FN and ENGOs to head back to the courts.

    “Vancouver-based environment group preparing new legal challenge to stop Trans Mountain pipeline”
    https://www.thestar.com/vancouver/2018/12/18/wilderness-committee-preparing-new-legal-challenge-to-stop-pipeline.html

    Reply
  4. Geoffrey Pounder

    December 31st, 2018

    “Alas, having put all their eggs in that basket, the resulting delay in the TMX Project to accommodate the rule of law may prove fatal to the NDP’s re-election chances in 2019.”

    The premise is that the NDP would have a real chance at re-election if not for the delay. I.e., large numbers of Albertans who now plan to vote UCP would have voted NDP if Notley could point to pipeline construction already underway.
    Pundits have proffered this argument repeatedly without evidence. Probably because there isn’t any. Albertans who care that much about pipelines wouldn’t vote NDP even if Notley built a billion of the bloody things. NDP supporters will certainly not base their vote on pipelines.

    Arch-nemesis Jason Kenney has it right:
    “I’ve never believed there is a large number of Alberta voters whose ballot question is energy or pipelines who are likely to vote for the NDP. The NDP electorate is not people who get up in the morning passionate about pipelines and energy.”
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/alberta/article-trans-mountain-pipeline-fight-is-a-lifeline-for-rachel-notleys-re/

    Markham Hislop: “Exploiting industry difficulties for political gain helps no one but Kenney and the UCP.”
    https://energi.news/markham-on-energy/majority-of-western-canadas-crude-oil-exports-to-us-not-exposed-to-record-high-discount-between-wcs-and-wti

    P.S.
    “having put all their eggs in that basket, the resulting delay”
    Dangling participle. The subject of the sentence is “the resulting delay”. The subject of the participial phrase is the NDP.
    E.g., “Alas, having put all their eggs in that basket, the NDP may find that the resulting delay in the TMX Project will prove fatal to their re-election chances in 2019.”

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 1st, 2019

      A dangling participle? Moi? We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. The Word of the Lord. Amen. DJC

      Reply
  5. David Grant

    December 31st, 2018

    I think that the stories dealing with the oil industry which covers a lot, are the most important stories for Alberta for bad in my opinion. Like the author of this blog, I am personally pretty tired at hearing the complaints from those who dislike the carbon tax and those environmentalists for the problems dealing with the oil industry. As David C. and others have written, the problems with the oil industry are more complicated than the fact that the premiers of Quebec and British Columbia decided to block the pipelines and that Notley and Trudeau were unable to get these pipelines built despite their best efforts. The sad thing is that these stories will be around in the next year and might very well be discussed at this time next year when journalists and pundits talk about the political stories. The only resolution and hope is that I can focus on doing my best not to sucked into these arguments too much and try to make it through. Cheers and Happy New Year!!!!

    Reply
  6. J.J.

    January 13th, 2019

    8. Legal cannabis. Not a provincial policy, but one with plenty of provincial fallout. The NDP, foolishly, chose to channel Doug Ford in advance, and tossed the baggie to the private sector. We will have to pay later for this.

    No to that DJC. Notley did this right. You, as a long term Alberta resident, already know AB is one of the most pro-business Capitalist province in Canada. There is no political appetite for government run cannabis shops. Had Notley setup gov’t run cannabis shops and lost the upcoming 2019 provincial spring election, then you know Jason Kenney would switch the shops around to the private sector.

    Reply

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