Alberta Politics
Jason Kenney, still celebrating Britain “choosing hope over fear by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world!” (Illustration: Press Progress).

What Brexit and Ottawa’s decision on the Teck oilsands mine have in common: Jason Kenney’s stubborn intransigence

Posted on February 03, 2020, 1:38 am
8 mins

Question: What do Brexit, which finally happened on Friday but the full implications of which are yet to unfold, and Ottawa’s impending decision on the Teck Resources Ltd. Frontier oilsands mine in northern Alberta have in common?

Answer: Both are examples of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s stubborn tendency to cling to inconsistent and unhelpful positions long after they have lost any utility. In other words, to keep digging when he finds himself in a hole.

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

Alert readers will remember how Mr. Kenney famously tweeted on the night in June 2016 British voters chose by a narrow margin to leave the European Union, “Congratulations to the British people on choosing hope over fear by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world!”

That was before the disaster Brexit would turn out to be was clear to all, but nevertheless it gobsmacked most commentators who still thought of Mr. Kenney as an experienced Calgary MP and senior cabinet minister only recently returned to the Opposition benches. In other words, a responsible grownup.

Clearly, though, Mr. Kenney was already thinking about messaging that would appeal to the base of the two conservative parties in Alberta, and the long-term consequences be damned. Less than two weeks later he would announce he was soon leaving federal politics with the goal of uniting the Alberta’s Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties.

Dog-whistling xenophobic messages like those Brexit’s hard-core campaigners had used became a key part of Mr. Kenney’s successful strategy to unite Alberta’s right and the equally successful election campaign that climaxed last April with the majority victory of his United Conservative Party and his elevation to premier.

Never mind the obvious inconsistency of supporting Brexit with the traditional position of the modern Canadian Conservative movement on the necessity of trade agreements to the economic survival of export dependent regions like Alberta, or Mr. Kenney’s insistence that all other regions of Canada must have no say in Alberta’s export ambitions, regardless of their environmental or social implications.

Teck Resources Ltd. CEO Don Lindsay (Photo: Order of British Columbia).

And never mind the growing realization throughout the world that Britain’s decision to pull out of a market into which it had deeply integrated over half a century was bound to unfold catastrophically — which no amount of cheerful whistling past the graveyard by conservative politicians on either side of the Atlantic is now going to prevent from playing out.

But instead of shelving a strategy that had done its work, Mr. Kenney has doubled down, helping gin up an Alberta separation movement on his right-wing party’s loony fringe to bludgeon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government — and, presumably, somehow open a way for Mr. Kenney eventually to triumph in Ottawa when Canadian voters tire of the Liberals.

“Congratulations to our friends in the United Kingdom on officially regaining their independence tonight,” he tweeted unrepentantly on Friday as the clock ran out on British membership in the EU, and the soon-to-be-obsolete Cross-of-St.-Andrew version of the Union Jack was hauled down in Brussels.

It’s far from clear how this is supposed to help his cause or that of our province, but it’s obvious Mr. Kenney has absorbed the Republican lesson that flip-flops are somehow un-conservative, never mind the circumstances. So we can expect him to stick with his discordant Brexit/Wexit theme music as background noise for his ongoing campaign against Mr. Trudeau.

Which brings us to that other hole he’s digging himself into, the twinned ideas that Alberta’s economic fate hinges on the development of projects like the $20-billion Teck mine and pipelines to carry their output to the sea.

Alberta blogger Susan Wright (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Last year, Mr. Kenney campaigned on the notion lowering corporate taxes and focusing solely on the fossil fuel industry is the only way forward for Alberta.

He convinced many voters, probably a majority, that seeking social license by trying to diversify our economy or moderate our carbon footprint with, for example, a carbon tax, were useless fripperies, and economically harmful as well.

At the same time, he refused to acknowledge an economy solely dependent on a dying industry and subject to the whims of an international market over which Alberta has little control is not sustainable.

Confronted with evidence his right-wing economic nostrums don’t seem to be working — consider the 50,000 jobs Alberta has lost since he slashed corporate taxes by $4.7 billion — Mr. Kenney and the UCP default to casting Mr. Trudeau and Confederation as scapegoats for Alberta’s troubles.

But as blogger Susan Wright pointed out in a post yesterday, by making Ottawa’s upcoming decision on the Teck mine “a litmus test for national unity,” Mr. Kenney may have painted himself into the proverbial corner, making the compromise with Ottawa required to move the Teck project forward impossible.

When asked about the feds’ pending decision, the federal Environment minister said the feds are looking for ‘concrete action on climate change’ and hinted Alberta might want to reconsider its position on the federal carbon tax,” she wrote.

Mr. Kenney has an opportunity to help the feds decide in Teck’s favour, but he won’t take it.” Much the same can be said of Alberta’s ongoing campaign for more pipeline access to salt water.

The CBC reported yesterday the federal cabinet is considering approving the mine — but only if Alberta legislates an emissions cap that would require the province to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Even if the mine is approved, though, Teck CEO Don Lindsay suggested last week it may never be developed if the Vancouver-based corporation concludes the economic case for the investment falls short. Current calculations suggest the mine can’t be profitable unless North American oil prices reach $75 US a barrel.

You’d think that sooner or later even die-hard Alberta Conservatives might start to wonder if all of Alberta’s problems can really be Justin Trudeau’s fault.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney keeps digging.

19 Comments to: What Brexit and Ottawa’s decision on the Teck oilsands mine have in common: Jason Kenney’s stubborn intransigence

  1. Dave

    February 3rd, 2020

    The Brexiters may not be as much climate change deniers as some of the Wexiters may be, but they are sure both geography deniers or at least very geographically challenged.

    The Brexiters seem to now place their hopes on securing new trade deals with distant countries after throwing away the deal with nearby ones. The Wexiters seem to forget a seperate Alberta will still be landlocked. If you think it’s hard to get pipelines now, it will be even harder dealing with a separate country.

    I don’t think Kenney much believes the Wexit stuff, although in some weird way I think he does more the Brexit stuff. Perhaps it is a nostalgia for the British Empire from his chidhood upbringing in Ontario or something. I think he is just trying to build up Wexit enough to scare the rest of Canada into giving him what he wants, or if that doesn’t work, then making it worse so he can eventually ride in as the national savior.

    If whoever wins the Federal Conservative leadership race, that so many heavyweights have mysteriously again decided to take a pass on, fails to be beat Trudeau, that will give Kenney a few more years to work on his savior plan and hope voters will eventually tire of the Federal Liberals when he is ready.

    Of course his plan involves a bit of a scorched earth economic policy for Albera in the meantime, which he may not be able to entirely blame on Trudeau, so he may want to time his departure before the next provincial election. I’m not sure he can quite make the timing work.

    Reply
  2. Athabascan

    February 3rd, 2020

    Great article – as usual.

    I can’t help but notice that your caption on Kenney picture should probably read “God save the Queen.”

    Reply
  3. Anon

    February 3rd, 2020

    Well, never mind. Special K is off to Montreal and Washington, so we all know what’s up. There will be a horrendous, disastrous, doom-worthy announcement from one of his minions. It must be one heckuva doozy, too, because he’ll be hiding out — er, promoting O&G — for a week. Cue Tyler Shandro and cuts to health care. Some tidbits came out on Friday afternoon. Couldn’t happen at a worse time, with a potential international health crisis looming. The O&G promo trip seems like selling tea to China, so there’s that. Since we never hear or see any evidence of actual business meetings or any productive use of the citizens’ money for these trips, perhaps we can come up with some binge-watching recommendations from Amazon Prime? One must occupy time between spa treatments and fine dining.

    Reply
  4. Farmer Brian

    February 3rd, 2020

    Norway and Switzerland are both very successful examples of European countries that are not EU member states.

    Personally I think Alberta should go the route of the Atlantic provinces and negotiate more favourable carbon tax regimes with the federal government. If you do some research you will find that they pay less carbon tax on gasoline and home heating fuel than we do under Justin Trudeau’s federally imposed carbon tax here in Alberta. Then there is Quebec, will their Cap and Trade deal with California increase every year as mandated by the federal Liberal’s? I doubt it, at present it is the equivelent of an $18 a tonne carbon tax. It appears to me that the federal carbon tax is more about punishing those who don’t play the game!

    Reply
    • Bill Malcolm

      February 3rd, 2020

      “The market encompasses the EU’s 27 member states, and has been extended, with exceptions, to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the Agreement on the European Economic Area, to Switzerland through bilateral treaties, and to the United Kingdom through the duration of its transition period as specified in the Brexit withdrawal agreement.”

      So not so totally sovereign and isolated after all, those examples you pick.

      Norway has its ducks all in a row and $1.4 trillion saved up for its 5 million inhabitants from its oil industry royalties, unlike Alberta which through its Conservative oink oink give-aways has squandered its oil royalties on folks like you to keep voting for nonsense and no provincial sales tax.

      Norway has and always has had very high taxes – it has worked out well for them, but is the complete opposite of the Alberta paradigm of dogged fundamental conservatism and low taxes. Actual brainpower is at work in nordic land, thus Norway has enough financial independence to do what it wants without formally joining any trade group. It does, however have an agreement with the EU as mentioned above.

      Switzerland has been a strenuously neutral unaligned bagman for ill-gotten corporate and oligarch money for a long long time. They’ll never formally join a trading group, but have special bilateral treaties with the EU, so including them as an example of a sovereign nation doing well is disingenuous, but about what I’d expect from reading your other comments over time. Your examples of sovereign nations doing well outside the EU are thus futilely inapt, as is most of the rest of the unresearched upside down guff you serve up.

      The UK, by comparison, has SFA agreements with the EU but will be treated like Norway until the formal disentanglement at the end of this year. It’ll then be the only sovereign nation of any note in Europe.

      England will get the cold shoulder from the EU on future trade deals for having been a d!ck when it came to Brexit negotiations under the sociopath Boris. Retired president Donald Tusk of the EU has already said as much – now that Brexit has happened, no need to be polite any more with that bunch of right wing clowns running Blighty. Scotland wants out of the UK for a start as well, and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic now being out at sea rather than on land is what happens when you get characters of the brainpower and classical Greek play training of the UK Tories running things, their ultra right wing leaders being recently re-discovered and exhumed from Adventures in Wonderland, tweedledum and tweedledee are Boris and Rees-Mogg. The UK has no friends – it rode roughshod over the world for a couple of centuries for its own gain; Trump will try to make a buck off the situation as Blighty has embraced Huawei for 5G and needs a comeuppance from paranoid America, but the delusional Brits think they still have a special relationship with the US on the basis of nothing whatsoever. The standard of living is going to begin to drop immediately, even more enforced austerity and reduction of social spending will soon seed mayhem. Cameron started that foolishness in 2010, and like the unimaginative dogs Conservatives and UCP are, kenney is trotting out the same failed nonsense of an austerity program in Alberta. You’d think these Brains would learn fom actually doing a bit of research, but following nothing but sloganeering is a Con trait. The trickle-down theory is still a kenney feature, decades after its uselessness was demonstrated by the run to hide money in offshore tax havens instead of investing it for the creation of jobs for fellow citizens. The Brits have cut off their own nose to spite their face. And I was born in England but have been here 60 years, thank goodness, so have perhaps kept up a bit more on things over there because of relatives than you probably have. It’s a sad situation.

      The carbon tax being labelled by you as a “game” is silly. Disregarding the world around Alberta and climate change, calling the tax a “game” is a ploy played by blinkered folk who get their yuks from spouting silliness and somehow think they’ve got it all aced, much like kenney and the dried prunes he has assembled for cabinet that bark woof woof to his every move. From the position of out-in-sticks minded navel-gazing, it all looks so simple to ideologues who on purpose cannot see trees for the woods. kenney’s Alberta correct, everyone else wrong. Sure.

      As for the application of carbon tax, I see kenney has reduced the solar panel installation subsidy. There’s forward thinking for you – every buck his government can spare minus the all-important $4.7 billion corporate tax giveaway, but including the provincial government employees pension plan fund, is apparently going to be used to push and fund the Teck project. For kenney, that most socially regressive of little rooster dictators, using the pension money of what is likely people who did not vote for him is a deliciously spiteful move. Your suggestion that Alberta negotiate a carbon tax reduction from Ottawa while spewing ever more GHG is an idea only a person out of touch with reality could advocate or even suggest. Well done. How to be laughed out of the room! How do you come up with this stuff and expect to be taken seriously?

      Nova Scotia is up to 19.7% renewables for electricity. How’s Alberta getting on? If NF&L had got its new Muskrat Falls hydro built on time, we’d have added at least another 15% renewables, and retired a coal thermal plant two years ago. The money has already been spent on the huge undersea cable two years and more ago, well over $200 million just lying there doing nothing and which we’re all already paying for in my province – that’s why we get a break on the carbon tax — for now. New Brunswick has no special deal. What does Alberta have to offer in mitigation for low or no carbon tax? Not a damn thing but a truculent premier eager to blame everyone else for his shortcomings and eager to mine even more CO2. Give a reduction in carbon tax when the plan is to produce more carbon? — where do you come up with such illogic? You have apparently swallowed kenney’s warped idea that Alberta is so special the rest of us should all fall down in wonder and awe at the mere spectacle of its magnificence. Count me right out on that score.

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        February 4th, 2020

        Bill you are in a particularily bad mood today. Norway is a sovereign nation with coastal access, Alberta is a province with no coastal access and a federal government which takes far more in taxes than is sends back to Alberta every year. I can certainly appreciate your intense dislike of Jason Kenney, there are certainly politicians in Canada I dislike as much as you dislike Kenney. As for renewables at present 17% of our electrical generation capacity in Alberta comes from renewables with more in the planning stage.

        Reply
    • anon

      February 3rd, 2020

      Alberta can set its own carbon levy at whatever amount it wants from Stelmach’s five bucks to Notley’s twenty five bucks. Kenney threw out the Provincial carbon tax, so Ottawa will choose what the level is. Too bad, so sad, so stupid.

      Speaking of sad, how are your payments for those abandoned gas wells on your land going? I hope you are saving those welfare payments because those abandoned wells need to be repaired every twenty or so years. They will always be a liability on your land. Better keep farming because only an idiot would buy your land with that kind of liability against it – no selling out and going to the coast for you.

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      February 3rd, 2020

      It’s not a tax!

      It’s a price on carbon (pollution). The vast majority of people will get back more than they pay.

      Don’t buy into the right-wing propagandist label given to a very effective method of reducing peoples’ carbon footprint.

      Reply
    • Doug

      February 3rd, 2020

      It is all about payback for not voting Liberal, playing favorites and projecting a metaprogressive image.
      -the carbon tax is all show. It isn’t high enough to impact consumer behavior but will impact business investment so it is lose-lose for Canadians but great for the fake progressive Liberals. Ideally it would be much higher, only exempt exports to ensure competitiveness and only rebate the lowest of low income earners
      -climate change activism targets supply instead of demand as suppliers are easier targets. When will protestors blockade the 401 or the Toronto airport? The warroom may be a fiasco but all it need do is tie up activists
      -the carbon tax regime should be exactly the same across the country and imposed by the Feds so they experience all the blowback. Allowing Quebec to get away with WCI is yet another example of favouratism. Cap and trade cannot compare to carbon taxation as it more or less gifts incumbents
      -asking Alberta to take action in return for a project approval is in effect asking for a bribe. If the Environment Minister is truly tacking this way, he is corrupt and should exit politics
      -Wexit is a flash in the pan. Kenney is wisely exploiting it to up the national unity stakes. The Feds do not want highly divisive constitutional negotiations. The Liberals reap what they sow. Playing favorites for political gain is high risk and it is blowing up. National unity issues were at a low under Harper as his government treated provinces and industries far more equitably

      Reply
    • David B

      February 3rd, 2020

      What favourable tax regimes have the Maritimes negotiated? I would like to know. If you mean the HST, I doubt that is doing any favours for the tax payer.

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        February 4th, 2020

        I will first look at Nova Scotia which has its own Cap and Trade system. The following quotes are off the Nova Scotia climate change website.
        “The program will add about 1 cent per litre to the price of gas, compared to about 11 cents per litre by 2022 under the federal approach.”
        “The program will increase electricity rates by about 1% versus about 8% by 2022 under the federal plan.”

        In PEI, again off the government website. “For 2019 and 2020 no carbon tax on furnace oil used for heating or on propane.”

        In Newfoundland and Labrador off government website. “Will not be taxed on home heating fuels, as they would have been under the Federal government’s plan.” “The four cent temporary gas tax will be eliminated and replaced with a federally-mandated 4.42 cent carbon tax which equates to $20/ tonne.” “The five cent additional tax on diesel will be eliminated and replaced with a federally mandated 5.37 cent carbon tax, which equates to $20/ tonne.” So in Newfoundland and Labrador’s case existing taxes were eliminated and replaced with a carbon tax.

        As for New Brunswick read on CBC: “Ottawa approves New Brunswick’s carbon tax plan for consumers.” As you will see a work in progress.

        First and foremost I agree with what the Atlantic provinces have done. I don’t believe that home heating fuels should be taxed, I also don’t think natural gas or propane used for drying grain should have a carbon tax as there is no alternative. There are days in Canada when heat is necessary for survival and that shouldn’t be penalized by another tax.

        Reply
    • Farmer Dave

      February 3rd, 2020

      Farmer Brian not sure where you get your facts from about successful examples like Norway and Switzerland. My daughter went to university in London and she worked there in the professional medical field along with other Europeans including many from Switzerland. As soon as Brexit was announced most European workers started looking for jobs in other countries because they knew their job would be lost particularly in the field with World Health so England lost most of their best in that field. They are trying to get those professionals back but none are returning including my daughter. And Alberta can’t go the route of the Atlantic provinces because Alberta has the worst Premier ever and the Feds with eat Kenney alive in any deal making.

      Reply
    • Curious George

      February 4th, 2020

      Ah yes always these incomplete references to Norway and Switzerland, which when investigated just a bit more indicate on how completely foolish they are.

      Norway (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Economic_Area): When read into a bit you will realize on just how closely they are aligned with European regulations especially in the the regards to movement of people. Of course the UK is opposed to that.

      Switzerland (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland%E2%80%93European_Union_relations) and here in particular the paragraph on the “Proposed framework accord” which indicated the supremacy of the European Court of Justice. Again something that the UK opposes.

      So yes these countries might be successful, but that is perhaps because of their tight integration with the EU. Lastly and perhaps just as important please keep in mind that Norway has a sales tax north of 20%. Perhaps Mr. Kenny should try that – might address some the budget issues… oh never mind … let’s not have facts interfere with reality.

      However have a wonderful day and please provide all the facts.

      Reply
  5. alan

    February 3rd, 2020

    Interesting times indeed; where, Justin says potayto and Jason say potahto and no matter which way you say it, “it” is most probably a done deal. So, “Damn the climate change activists and all of the ‘leftist’ academics! Four bells. Premier Kenney, go ahead! Prime Minister Trudeau, full speed!” The grand global climate change experiment continues, with the only guarantee being that the politicians making the decisions today will be wholly unaccountable for the future negative spillover effects/externalities.

    https://thenarwhal.ca/why-the-proposed-frontier-oilsands-mine-is-a-political-hot-potato/

    Reply
  6. Just Me

    February 3rd, 2020

    What the UCP and its fellow travelers are conveniently ignore are the revelations of Teck’s CEO when he declared that even with federal approval the project may not go through without significant JV partners, among a myriad of other factors. In other words, the practice of blaming PMJT for all the woes that are befalling Alberta maybe fast losing its effect and credibility. Worse, Kenney is going to keep uttering his nonsense talking points because that’s all he knows.

    Building a long political career out of conspiracy theories and flim-flammery is one thing, but trying to make it reality is something else entirely. Worse, what if Ken-Doh decides to go full-on crazy and starts punishing those who challenge his worldview?

    Living within Postmedia’s echo-chamber may have given Kenney comfort, but to have that feedback loop breached may just give Kenney cause to punish anyone who doesn’t subscribe and promote his version of reality. Once he has reached that tipping point, who knows what he’ll do?

    Remember: Kenney is a middle-aged man who has never known to have been in any kind of adult relationship. Why? Because he can’t handle views contrary to his own. He lives in a fantastic universe where he is the wisest of all, where he and he alone controls the destinies of all, and he can bend reality into whatever shape to suit whatever purpose he desires. In other words, he’s a textbook sociopath and narcissist. When one lives in a world surrounded by yes men (and there are clearly no women in Kenney’s life, other than his mother, as certain documented revelations have determined) Kenney’s whole existence is validated by the reinforcement of the falsehoods that got him this far in life.

    As more and more Albertans begin to realize that they have all been had, what will they do? Run to Wexit and start their own nation in a fit of petulance? Or will they do the right thing and accept reason and logic in dealing with their circumstances?

    I am not optimistic about Alberta’s capacity for reason.

    Reply
  7. Mike in Edmonton

    February 3rd, 2020

    And here we go again. First the bad news–yet another oil-soaked gigaproject in the making. Teck Resources promises to be “carbon-neutral” by 2050. I promise to flap my arms and fly. Both are equally likely.

    I’d really prefer that Teck and their Number One boy, Jason “King Ralph II” Kenney promise in writing, cross their hearts, that Teck won’t demand and Kenney won’t give, tax breaks, royalty holidays or loan guarantees. That’s even less likely than their carbon-neutral promise.

    And now the worse news. Anon’s comment about the “horrendous, disastrous, doom-worthty” announcement that’s coming is certainly true. CBC has published a post about yet another report on how the Alberta Republicans can save money by cutting health spending and maybe privatizing its subsidiaries (first I’ve heard AHS had “subsidiaries”). Here’s the link:

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/ahs-review-alberta-health-services-shandro-results-calgary-1.5449978

    I’m surprised Jason’s not traipsing off to Texas. Maybe next time we can cancel his return ticket and make him stay there.

    Reply
    • Hana Razga

      February 4th, 2020

      Well, he did skip town for a week, the day the health care review report was made public…..

      Reply
    • tom in ontario

      February 4th, 2020

      “…and make him stay there.”
      Texas suffers aplenty with Alberta born Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate. How much misery do you want to inflict on the Lone Star State?

      Reply

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