The Moody Blues, with apologies to, well, the Moody Blues (Image: The Moody Blues, Decca Records).

If a tree falls in the forest and Jason Kenney isn’t there to hear it, is it still the sound of European environmentalists and the Rockefellers plotting against Alberta’s ethical oil industry? Is it still Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s fault?

Your blogger only spent three days on B.C.’s misty and preternaturally warm coast last week and things already seemed kookier by the time he returned to Alberta.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Premier Kenney had just added Moody’s Investor Services to his long and growing list of public enemies, moments after it downgraded Alberta’s credit rating and stated the reason, which should be obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention: It’s your dependence on fossil fuels, stupid!

Or, in the blander language actually used by the respected New York-based bond-rating service, there is “a structural weakness in the provincial economy that remains concentrated and dependent on non-renewable resources — primarily oil — which causes volatility in financial performance.”

Well, there you go! Who knew?

“Environmental considerations are material to Alberta’s credit profile, and Moody’s considers environmental risk to be high,” the report explained, noting accurately that “Alberta’s oil and gas sector is carbon intensive and Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions are the highest among provinces.”

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This development was genuinely ironic given the way Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party and its predecessor political entities used to moan and wail whenever the same thing happened for similar reasons to the previous NDP government.

Who can forget then-Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt hyperventilating oh-so-seriously in 2016 about how one such downgrade showed “just how dangerous and out of touch the NDP plan is.” Well, that was then and this is now.

Former Wildrose Party Finance Minister Derek Fildebrandt (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Or how about then-Progressive-Conservative Caucus leader Ric McIver in 2017 intoning piously that he was disappointed the NDP wasn’t making “the tough choices Albertans sent them here to make.” Instead, Mr. McIver asserted back then, “the truth is that prioritizing front-line services, while exercising restraint in non-essential areas, will not lead to deep cuts or public sector layoffs.”

I wonder what Mr. McIver, now the Minister of Transportation in Mr. Kenney’s government, would say about that today? Probably not much. Probably, like Finance Minister Travis Toews last week, he’d blame the current state of affairs on the NDP.

Still, that’s standard operating procedure for the Opposition in a Parliamentary democracy, and the players at least understand it’s mostly baloney. One wonders, indeed, why the NDP so seldom pointed to the obvious economic incompetence of the previous 44 years of Conservative rule as the reason for all their problems.

Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

None of this had much impact on Mr. Kenney, though. According to the premier, Moody’s was “buying into the political agenda emanating from Europe, which is trying to stigmatize development of hydrocarbon energy.”

And, by the way, he told a right-wing talk radio show hosted by the Wildrose Party’s former leader, “I just think they are completely factually wrong.”

Moody’s decision was based on “distorted, torqued data, provided by green-left pressure groups,” Mr. Kenney insisted to Danielle Smith.

As if a private-sector bond-rating agency deeply embedded in the structure of the modern Western capitalist economy would rely on lefty Green Europeans for its conclusions, let alone actively conspire with them to advance a supposedly false narrative!

Speaking of which, Matt Wolf, the premier’s one-man Greek chorus, pitched in on Twitter, branding environmental activists “watermelons” — you know, green on the outside but Marxist red in the middle — bringing the province’s political discourse back down to the level of traditional Social Credit-era red baiting.

This is crazy talk, of course, but presumably it sells well with the party’s red-meat base and it’s on message with Mr. Kenney’s War Room and his other belligerent and inquisitorial efforts to blame Alberta’s continuing problems on someone, anyone, other than his government.

Somehow, though, it seems doubtful this is going to help very much in the financial capitals of the world.

This presumes, of course, that our premier doesn’t actually believe what he’s spouting — which would be troubling indeed!

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  1. This should come as no surprise to anyone with even half a mind that the UCP are just repeating the fiscally reckless ways of the Alberta PCs, after Peter Lougheed left office. Their corporate tax cuts haven’t created any jobs, and the unemployment rate is sill not good in Edmonton, and only marginally better in Calgary. $4.7 billion has been lost from that corporate tax cut folly. Then, at least over $13 billion in total, of very costly mistakes from the UCP. Did you hear that Jason Kenney is going to Ottawa to demand $2.7 billion in fiscal stabalization? He feels the federal government owes Alberta this. More wasted money on useless flights than Alison Redford did. Things get more bizarre by the day in Alberta. But wait. There’s more. Jason Kenney once again broke another election promise and now has appeased Justin Trudeau by adapting (copying is more like it), Rachel Notley’s carbon tax. The columnists at Postmedia, like Lorne Gunter and Brian Liley will surely have a tough time getting around this. Alberta still has its carbon tax that Ed Stelmach put in. Will there ever be regret from anyone that was supporting the UCP?

  2. Alberta’s own Alex Jones with the Alberta InfoWars. I think his sidekick has been watching too many Saskatchewan Roughriders games, maybe in a senior citizen’s basement. The Melonheads are Riders fans, dude. Time to lay off the Homer Juice, eh, buddy.

  3. So basically Moody’s is saying you put all your eggs in one basket and now that basket isn’t selling well? Oh those European green lefties that influence Moody’s. Maybe they are the same groups that influenced Moody’s when they fudged the numbers on US sub prime mortgage debt? What was the fine they paid on that about $850 million if I remember correctly. Rating agencies likely won’t play a big role when Kenney’s funders get their hands on the public pension money anyway so no worries.

  4. Eventually Dear Leader will run out of imaginary enemies won’t he?

    On a separate topic, why does Dear Leader need to take so many people to Ottawa for Christmas parties? and how much is this nonsense costing us? I thought we were broke.

  5. It was the first Moody Blues I ever heard. Oddly fitting if you think of the back benches of the UCP as the male chorus and “nights”spelled with a capital K to symbolize the lunatic fringe that’s being mainstreamed by them. Of course Jason is lead singer! Who else?

  6. Really!
    This is what you write after and while families are losing everything.
    Suicides are up.
    Houses lost.
    People working not out in the oulfields suffering too feed and keep the electricity on for their families and this is what you write.
    Bet you wont print this .

    1. Bet you’re wrong. At we are strongly committed to free speech, and normally print all comments that are not defamatory of third parties, obviously bigoted, or completely off topic. I did, however, delete your second, identical comment, so I suppose you can have you cake and eat it too. DJC

      1. Plus: he, hosts the only site I know of that, actively opposes some kind of last ditch counter narrative to our seemingly self destructive alliance with the burn it all if it makes money clique. I am of the three little piggies that made their house of stone, because they knew what wolves were!

    2. And this is, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the total substance of the perpetual and inconsolable Alberta whinge. Some unidentified people somewhere are having hard economic times. Therefore any accusation levelled at Ottawa or anywhere else is true, and every demand is 100% justifiable.

      If you could provide some evidence for your illiterate and hysterical claims, and perhaps quantitative comparisons with te situation in other Provinces of Canada, we could have a conversation. But no. “Families are losing everything” so Dear Leader must not be criticized. This is about the extent of the argument, and it’s why almost nobody outside of Alberta takes you people seriously. Even the National Pest are only using you as ammunition in their perpetual war against all things not Harper.

    3. Rick, there is no denying these are difficult times for people in the oil patch, but the problem is not what David has written, or even Moody’s.

      Back in the 1950’s, train companies started converting their trains from steam power to diesel electric. The engines were, I assume, more powerful, and they were definitely more efficient, as they did not have to take on water, which has an annoying tendency to freeze up in winter.

      This had a devastating effect on the coal mines and the men that worked them. Drive 50 km from Drumheller to nearby Dorothy and you will read about/see dozens of mines that simply ceased to exist when railways opted for an improved technology. Other mines throughout Alberta had the same fate. This put thousands of people out of work, and they all experienced the same devastation you described. My grandfather was one of them.

      Sadly, a similar situation is happening today in Alberta’s oilpatch. A new technology, fracking, has made it possible to extract oil where they were unable to before. At the same time, environmental concerns have given researchers tremendous incentive to develop electric cars and renewable power sources.

      As a result, there is a very real chance Alberta’s energy industry will not recover. WTI remains less than $60/barrel, and WCS will not command that strong a price as it is more difficult to refine, so even with unlimited market access the prosperity we saw before 2014 is not possible. A responsible government should look forward and find alternate industries in the event the doomsday scenario does come to pass. The sooner they do that, the less disruptive the transition will be, and the longer they wait the more difficult the transition will be. This, in essence, is what Moody’s was saying when it downgraded our credit rating, and Jason Kenney really needed to listen to the warning. The real problem in this situation is our premier who tells people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.

  7. My better half calls Republican politicians “ostriches” for trying to look, despite the catornado of tRump’s presideduncy swirling all around them, nonchalant by ‘sticking their heads in the sand’. Whilst down there in their sandy holes, they spin the textiles of their minds, the chief thread of these heraldic tabards being to defend against criticism of their negligence by way of shifting blame onto some kind of enemy, and they get their colour scheme straight by generally agreeing which might be the best one for their purpose. As if to also ignore their leader’s puerile, hair-triggered and crude personal attacks upon whomever he perceives as an enemy, they tend to stick with more the traditional blazons of simple, political partisanship rather than try to penetrate whatever hole tRump hides his own head in. It’s hard to tell, anyway, because he has mercilessly and regularly slagged even those who’re vital to the success—and likely survival— of his bizarre administration, ostensible allies he will certainly need, and seems rather to enjoy making fun of anyone who strikes him as funny looking or has a name easily mispronounced or prefixed as a childishly insulting nickname, almost as a distraction which, in its way, would dismiss more important criticisms raised. If serious issues like climate-change catastrophe are raised, for example, tRump will inimitably dismiss them by doing his memorable imitation of, say, a paraplegic reporter in the front row who happens to catch his roving, thief’s eye. He’s the president, after all: he sets the example for all citizens, someone children are supposed to look up to.

    I’ve often thought, and many others have also observed, that the Canadian right appears to be adopting its rhetorical tactics straight out of the tRump playbook, admitting that prime minister Stephen Harper fired the head of the public nuclear-safety watchdog without warrant, but for ulterior reasons, first, long before tRump did the head of the FBI, various cabinet Secretaries and staff for similarly cocked-up reasons; and BC premier Christy Clark had perfected, also long before The Orange One, the dubious art of unabashed preposterousness—not that tRump himself has been the copy cat but, rather, because these neo-right Canadians found themselves further along the arcs of their respective political narratives before tRump and the American federal right have, and thus were first to resort to rabid-skunk absurdity typical of this phase of neo-right moribundity which the Republicans have only more recently gotten to. As I haven’t checked yet, I’ll have to vouch that my squeeze would probably agree Alberta’s UCP premier and his cabinet are also using the ostrich response to the altornado of bitumen criticisms swirling around them that they don’t want to hear, or at least pretend they don’t hear as the typically cavalier and absurdist way of dismissing those concerns.

    Such facetiousness is generally accepted as so much partisan rhetoric, even though most people know it’s really a bunch of “hoochquatch”—a West Coast indigenous word for “baloney”—as the large majority of Canadians are unafraid to concur, and the large majority of Albertans probably consider impolitic to do so whilst inside the West Prairie wagon laager. All the same, most recognize the UCP’s ridiculous, anti-Alberta conspiracy theories for the nose-thumbing it is: the government’s gonna protect the province’s bitumen goose no matter how conclusively evident the arguments against it or how fiercely the flames of sudden climate warming rip through the province’s northern forests and towns. We get all that.

    Of course this kind of flippant defence of the indefensible is only one step of rhetorical devolution descending the stairs to the narratological basement where, finally, singling out a scapegoat becomes starkly essential. Thus, when the black plague challenged the ridiculously overripe, high tourney-chivalry of late-feudalism that passed for government in 14th century Europe, the nabobs of harlequin gaudiness blamed the horrifying mortality of a worldwide (as then known) disease epidemic on local Jews who were accused—out of narratological necessity— of poisoning wells, the shire reeves and gauleiters taking advantage of the fury incited to also throw a few homosexuals, like so many faggots of brushwood, into the flames burning the falsely accused and staked scapegoats.

    This is where the narrative courses pass the near-ritual of a government blaming everything on the previous governing party—which everybody recognizes, if not all acknowledging it, as stock, harmlessly inconsequential and largely false rhetoric. This is where political talk becomes unavoidably belligerent as the elements of “The Other”, supremacy and exceptionalism, territorial autochthony, a heroic age unjustly denied, redoubts of defence and recuperation, and eventual just revenge are introduced in their purest renderings. The preposterousness of the UCPs scapegoating and maudlin conspiracy theories makes them so ridiculous that we might overlook the fact that, though effective as facetious nose-thumbing, such propaganda is really a retrograde step toward dark barbarity as the ancients knew it.

    Yet I do agree with the UCP leader, perversely, that, yes, the world really is buying into the political agenda “to stigmatize development of hydrocarbon energy” because that’s the only logical course to take when more development will undeniably threaten our very existence as a human civilization— indeed, as a living ecosystem.

    And, just like in days of old when knights were bold and Jews were gayly nervous, the UCP must weaponize its narrative by singling out alleged enemies of the Albertan people—evil-doers emanating from Europe, or Vancouver and Big Island eco-warriors, or the Rockefellers, or wherever—when concern about petroleum pollution and climate change is really coming from all directions and from many, many ordinary people everywhere—even, I dare say, many Albertans. Like any demagogue, the UCP knows how the better a story is, the more easily will its audience suspend disbelief in its absurdity—and there’s nothing like a well-defined villain to make a story better than average. Same way, nobody will leave the theatre if the plot line is has brought the audience to the edge of their seats as if to the very brink of extinction: they’ll surely wait for and demand a happy ending, usually an orgasm of revenge after which the good guys fetch their ‘baccy pouches and smoke a triumphant Bull Durham. The texture of morning-after gooseflesh will depend on how much the story departs from gritty, Sunday-sidewalk reality coming down. The bitumen bards of long practice know this. They know, too, that the current narrative has been driven toward fewer degrees of bardic freedom, to the brink of war for which there are but few outcomes possible—the happiest one being also the most unlikely—and they therefore must depend on one other narratological heuristic: people have, especially en masse, very short memories.

    A brief word, then, on reminding voters of what the other party has done in power. If the NDP government had acted like adults and refrained from perfunctory—or even justifiably retaliatory—blaming of previous conservative governments’ policies for many of Alberta’s problems as they found them, it was its leader Rachel Notley’s mistake.

    We here in BC experienced the same mistake when the front-running NDP leader Adrian Dix decided to run a “positive politics” election campaign which forbade his candidates from saying anything negative about the BC Liberals’ record—which meant not saying anything about their record at all, so much of it being flat out perfidious (like the corrupt privatization of BC Rail, to name but one perfidy).

    Two narratological points here: first, if naturally forgetful voters had been reminded of the BC Liberals’ outrageous record—which, yes, would have perforce required saying some negative things about them—Dix’s party might not have blown a 20-point lead and been defeated by a bubble-headed, prancing majorette whose single-note paean plumbed new depths of preposterousness—predicting and LNG boom for which there was no discernible market—pumping a nonexistent industry day after day, every single day of the campaign, even to the point of promising so many surplus billions that her government could wipe out the towering, BC Liberal-accumulated provincial debt in just a couple of years!

    Second, it wasn’t so much that voters believed Christy’s outlandish promises as it was that Dix had disappointed this audience by not playing his archetypal role as combatant, much less, then, could he have ever been a hero. Audiences’ unconscious attachment to well-worn narrative arcs was amply exemplified when Dix stubbornly suffered, limp-armed, a rhetorical beating from a relative policy ignoramus who, so unopposed, was allowed to punch way over her weight and win the contest, keeping the prized white hard hat she wore with her fitted and darted coveralls every day of the campaign.

    The simple, bread-and-circus expectation of the average BC voter wants to be entertained during the writ period, and if Dix couldn’t provide the more-loved, classic narratological element of conflict, it defaulted to Christy to supply some excitement: as dull as watching the pretender play the role of punching bag for the incumbent was, especially an incumbent who would’ve been easy to best had voters only been reminded of her government’s sordid record and challenged her absurdly fantastic LNG promises, the most undeserving candidate in policy terms ended up winning by upset—and BC voters would eventually become upset to find Christy’s one and only mandate of her own featured four of BC’s worst years in terms of debt accumulation and breaches of duty and trust. The lesson is that, as rational and objective as some might want politics to be, the never absent narratological factor is powerfully and usefully prejudicial—and politicians ignore this fact only at their peril.

    Thus what some would call ‘psychological warfare’ often conforms to narratological principles which everyone should try to remember; and political discourse, especially during campaigns, the boxing ring of politics, must recognize and hold to account the use—and abuse—of these principles, if not to win, then to keep the social audience (enthralled or indifferent, a good story penetrates all) from suspending disbelief in patently false, chauvinistic or, worse, hatefully provoking partisan bullshit like the UCP’s laughable anti-Alberta conspiracy theories—which are truly stories in their own right.

    Finally I would say to my NDP compatriots in Alberta: ‘taking the high road’ is simply not an option during campaigns —‘campaign’ means ‘field of war’, after all. The enemy’s record must be weaponized against them if it is perfidious; this is compulsory. The Dippers have a big enough caucus, now, for the first time in loyal opposition, sufficiently funded to prepare a stout debunking of the UCP’s hoochquatch which, in four years from now, will be more impossible (if that’s even possible) to verify or justify than it is now. Don’t imagine it so self-evident as to get low priority: stories, even tall or false ones, are powerful factors in any human intercourse, not least politics. Remember, voters only relief from the bother of campaigns is entertainment of some kind; hopefully it’s important policy discourse —but put in the most entertaining way: there must be, at the end of the spectacle, political blood and teeth on the floor. Otherwise, it’s hard to sell tickets.

    1. Once again Scotty thank you for a thought provoking comment. Let me add a couple of embellishments from snowy Alberta: Writing in the Guardian, George Monbiot made the following observation about the Labour Party which could well be said of the Ab NDP when it was nominally in power:

      “Labour has an urgent desire for a better world, coupled with such a weak instinct for power or even self-preservation that you can’t help wondering how much of its programme it can deliver.”

      The answer to Monbiot’s question from Alberta’s NDP is almost nothing. Premier Notley took office, but she and her Cabinet, with the exceptions of Hoffman and Phillips, never took power. Those of us in agriculture and energy who expected protection were thrown under the bus by the NDP, largely because they were clueless and chose to ignore their own base of experienced activists in those fields. For want of a simple royalty increase and a realistic approach to WCB coverage for agricultural workers the Province has been lost to the carpetbaggers. The negative consequences of the former for the Tar Babies are now coming home to roost – Moody Blues indeed!

      You will also note Kenney has already served notice to the civil service and judiciary that toeing the UCP Party line is compulsory. So we are back to business as usual in an authoritarian single party state. Pity the Ab NDP was too high-minded to understand the water they were swimming in. The only consolation is two-thirds of Canadians voted against the Cons as did one-third of Canadians living in Alberta.

  8. I guess in the Infowars-lite version of Kenney’s world, Moody’s is now a front for the UN, the Bilderberger’s, the Rockefellers, Illuminati, and every other bugaboo that has been tossed out of the UCP’s fevered babbling world salad.

    You can’t make this stuff up anymore.

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