Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney - no Saudi flags just yet, but wait for them (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta chases multi-billion-dollar deal with Saudis, never mind what Jason Kenney used to say about them

Posted on November 01, 2020, 1:07 am
6 mins

Now that Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party is desperately trying to a do a deal with a Saudi Arabian company to build a petrochemical plant in Alberta, I wonder how long it will take before some clever environmentalist in Quebec or British Columbia says they don’t want no stinkin’ “dictator petrochemicals” transported through their province?

If that happens, the outrage in Alberta will be undiminished by the jaw-dropping hypocrisy of Alberta’s “ethical oil” crowd.

Alberta Natural Gas Associate Minister Dale Nally (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

As students of Alberta politics will be aware, it wasn’t that long ago Premier Jason Kenney was appearing in all the usual places, complaining bitterly about how companies in provinces that were reluctant to host Alberta pipelines were buying oil from totalitarian places like Saudi Arabia.

“OPEC and Putin’s Russia are trying to end North America’s vital energy industry by surging supply while demand crashes,” Premier Kenney complained on April Fool’s Day, just as the impact of the coronavirus epidemic began to be felt in Alberta.

In a video message “to the Russians, the Saudis, the special interests who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning against the responsible development of Canadian energy,” Mr. Kenney wagged his finger and vowed, “we will not allow the world’s worst regimes to have a monopoly on global energy markets.”

“If oil doesn’t come from Alberta, countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia will increase their market share despite our much better standards,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage opined just days ago.

When Amnesty International Canada dared to criticize the Alberta government’s bullying style of defending the fossil fuel industry, Mr. Kenney responded with an open letter to Secretary General Alex Neve, lecturing him that “no one will cheer your letter harder than Vladimir Putin, the Houses of Saud and Al Thani, the caudillo Nicolás Maduro, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. OPEC’s oleogopolists will be chuckling from their gilded palaces at your naïveté.”

Mr. Kenney even went to Washington to urge U.S. officials to impose tariffs on Saudi Arabian oil if the country wouldn’t end the price war with Russia that was driving oil prices ever lower even before COVID-19 touched down in Canada.

But that was then and this is now.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Now, Mr. Kenney’s government is pursuing a $5- to $10-billion deal with the unfriendly Middle Eastern bad actor, its state-owned oil industry notwithstanding.

This is different, Natural Gas Associate Minister Dale Nally blithely explained to a Globe and Mail reporter on Thursday. “A state-owned company producing oil in a Middle East dictatorship is far different from a company from the Middle East that comes to Alberta and adheres to our environmental regulations and adheres to our rule of law and treats everybody equally.”

This is what the legal profession calls a nice distinction, but it was nice of Mr. Nally to clear that up for us just the same.

There’s no need, apparently, to bring a long spoon any more now that we plan to sit down to sup with this particular devil.

Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Indeed, in the unlikely event the unnamed Saudi company ever actually decides to invest that much money in Alberta, they’ll probably take on a pretty rosy hue out here in Wild Rose country, notwithstanding their unsavory practices at home and abroad.

It may even turn out Alberta never had any complaints with Saudi Arabia, that Saudi Arabia has always been our ally.

Not that anything will change if someone in Quebec or B.C. raises a complaint about a pipeline that Alberta wants. The notion of “dictator oil” will certainly come up again, although Russia is now more likely to be mentioned in this context than Saudi Arabia.

After all, the UCP has no trouble accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs at the same time. Why should this be any different?

And should Washington, whether led by Joe Biden or Donald Trump, tardily follow through on Mr. Kenney’s demand for tariffs against Saudi Arabian oil, I’m sure Mr. Kenney will be happy to journey back to the Imperial capital to tell them they don’t need to bother with that any more.

29 Comments to: Alberta chases multi-billion-dollar deal with Saudis, never mind what Jason Kenney used to say about them

  1. Bob Raynard

    November 1st, 2020

    “…different from a company from the Middle East that comes to Alberta and adheres to our environmental regulations and adheres to our rule of law and treats everybody equally.”

    Besides, the red tape reduction people will soon take care of any unnecessary regulations the Saudis don’t like.

    Reply
  2. Johny

    November 1st, 2020

    Jason has and always throw people and nation under the bus. He just loves to pit other poeple in Alberta, provinces and other counrties against each other. He tells the people of Alberta what he thinks they want to hear to make it look like he is here for Alberta, but in the mean while tearing it apart.
    But, this is not bad for Alberta, a petrochemical plant would give alot of long term jobs. We all know that USA and all these foreign oil companies do not want to build one here. Manly the USA that would decrease the control of the said market.

    Reply
  3. tom

    November 1st, 2020

    Jason Kenney is a great believer in conversion of all kinds.

    Reply
  4. jerrymacgp

    November 1st, 2020

    “Dictator oil”, indeed. From what I’ve read in reliable sources, most imported oil in Eastern Canada comes from the United States, and the “dictator” in question is the one facing the voters on Tuesday.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      November 2nd, 2020

      JERRYMACGP: How right you are. People in Alberta falsely believe that the oil in eastern Canada comes from Saudi Arabia. It comes from three primary sources. Out here, in Alberta, and from western Canada, America, and a smidgen of it comes from Algeria.

      Reply
  5. Abs

    November 1st, 2020

    Ah, well, it was mere moments ago that Jason Kenney introduced a Saudi-developed app to Alberta. Kenney’s motto: say one thing, do another behind everyone’s backs, even if Coroplast is involved. Petro-Pinocchio, remember?

    Telus Babylon Health is now happily accessing all Albertans’ health and pharmacy records, whether they use the app or not. Funny, that. Covid-tracking apps are a mystery to the UCP, but Kenney knows how to force Saudi medical software onto an entire clueless population on the sly without any of us knuckleheads catching on.

    Might as well make a deal with Saudi Arabia, now that Alberta’s going to h+ll in a handcart, and pump all that oil out of the ground at any cost, before it’s totally worthless. Jason Kenney can sweeten the deal by adding on a disused hospital system, whose sale will be revealed at a laterb date (2023-ish), because apparently Saudi Arabia has a lot of Canadian-trained doctors whose expensive skills could be put to use here. Do we think Tyler Shandro was kidding when he said he could easily replace all of Alberta’s departing doctors? All the better to rub in Justin Trudeau’s face, since Saudi Arabia recalled them from Laurentian shores not long ago.

    Always look one step ahead and around the corner with these Con-men.

    Reply
    • Jay

      November 15th, 2020

      I’m sorry but I’m wondering where to find the information on Telus Babylon having our health records? Not discounting you as I know Kenney is more than capable. Bill 46 is a push to give our health info and support their move to privatization. No one but my doctor needs my health information.

      Reply
  6. Mike in Edmonton

    November 1st, 2020

    “…[T]he special interests who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning against the responsible development of Canadian energy[.]”–Jason Kenney

    Responsible development ended in 1986, when Don Getty followed Peter Lougheed as party leader.

    “…Saudi Arabia and Russia will increase their market share despite our much better standards[.]”–Sonya Savage

    Our standards might well be higher (begging the question of which standards, exactly) but their PRODUCT, light sweet crude, is far superior to Alberta bitumen.

    Reply
  7. Mike in Edmonton

    November 1st, 2020

    “Petrochemicals” include plastic. The commonest are polyethylene and polypropylene, derived from ethane and propane. Guess where ethane and propane come from? Natural gas and “natural gas liquids,” the lightest stuff spewed from an oil well.

    Alberta is already the biggest producer in Canada of petrochemicals, because of cheap feedstocks and low transport costs. Jason’s doubling down, again. Never do anything new if same-old, same-old will cost more up-front.

    Just great. It’s not enough Canada has a 40-year deal, signed by Stephen Harper’s government in secret, to protect and promote Chinese investment in Canada. (Will cite chapter and verse when I find it. Checking CBC archives….)

    Now we’ll have a made-in-Alberta deal with, say, Saudi Aramco for 10 years’ worth (I’m being optimistic) of government loan guarantees, tax breaks and royalty holidays. In return for a handful of jobs we’ll get yet another massive cleanup bill when the whole thing folds.

    All so a handful of businessmen in Calgary can frack their way to bigger stock options, by selling ultra-cheap natural gas as feedstock.

    Meanwhile, in the REST of the world, global heating is causing oil companies to shift investments toward renewables, becoming “energy companies” instead. Plastic pollution is recognized as a global crisis by everyone except a handful of paid shills for the petrochemical industry and their political cronies. The terms “divestment” and “stranded assets” (sounds much more sophisticated and modern than “white elephants”) haunt oil-company boardrooms.

    Nice going, Jason. Arse-first into the future, as usual.

    Reply
  8. Albertan

    November 1st, 2020

    It remains as to how long the Kenney UCP, et al, talking out of the sides of their mouths, holds credibility.
    Say, act, do, anything they want with impunity? It’s something new every day with this bunch.

    Reply
  9. Bret Larson

    November 1st, 2020

    Hmm, the house of Saud has been supporting the price of oil by limiting production. Say if you have to currently limit production by a million barrels a day. At $40usd a barrel that is $40 million a day. You can buy a lot of green angst in Vancouver for alit less money than that. Only the foolish would think otherwise. As to the hypocrisy involved in making a deal with SA. The hypocrisy isn’t on the ucp side. It’s on the side of those who are pushing the green agenda while buying from elsewhere where having such an agenda would risk decapitation.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      November 2nd, 2020

      Bret Larson: A little research would go a long way. Jerry, in his above post, clearly said where eastern Canada gets its oil from. It is only via oil companies, not governments. The UCP were the ones that condemned eastern Canada for not accepting oil from Alberta, and getting their oil from places like Saudi Arabia. Regarding the green agenda, it’s been in Alberta for years. The windmills that the Alberta PCs got installed in the south end of the province, and Jim Prentice wanting to add more of them, with a good helping of solar power on the side, and the political campaign of every party in the province of Alberta, to be in pursuit of more green energy kinds, 5 and a half years ago. The UCP has also admitted that they must do more for the environment.

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        November 10th, 2020

        Sounds like youre into research?

        You should probably google what a commodity is. Buying from Nigeria or Russia or the unions favourite Venezuela still supports the price of the commodity.

        I dont think hedging your bets in different infrastructure is a bad thing. However, supporting the commodity production which is your natural advantage is only logical.

        Thats how international trade works. The trade you are able to provide is where you have an advantage.

        For instance, we dont have access to labour like China or India might…

        Reply
  10. Kang

    November 1st, 2020

    It was PM Stephen Harper and his right-hand man Jason Kenney who essentially gifted the Canadian Wheat Board and all its assets to the Saudi Arabian Government’s food company SILAC and one of the four giant multinational grain companies. No direct compensation to prairie farmers who paid for the thing and had the discipline to build up its brand reputation. So, the UCP have experience giving away things in that part of the world. They have done it with wheat, why not with oil and natural gas?

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      November 2nd, 2020

      KANG: You are right. Why are there no complaints about this? At least 60 percent of Canada’s farmer’s wanted to keep the Canadian Wheat Board. Was it not the CPC, who also did a $15 billion military equipment deal with the Saudis? We now see what the UCP is doing here.

      Reply
      • Kang

        November 2nd, 2020

        There is a great deal of anger about the killing of the CWB. The Friends of the CWB are still in court in Manitoba with a class-action law suit to recover some of the value stolen from farmers. Time will tell how that turns out. BUT the Harper government established the precedent that anyone’s property can be seized without compensation before the Federal Court of Appeal when the Friends attempted to use the Federal Court system for their class action. The Harper government argued that even though the CWB was entirely built and financed with farmers’ money, since the legislation seizing it did not mention compensation, no compensation was due. Unbelievable, but true.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          November 3rd, 2020

          KANG: That’s very interesting. Thanks for the information.

          Reply
    • Albertan

      November 2nd, 2020

      Yes, re: the Canadian Wheat Board giveaway, in basic terms, it was, indeed, handed over the the Saudis and the Americans on a silver platter by the Harper/Kenney Conservatives. The buyers wanted Canada’s high volume international sale points and they got them. After all, globalized wheat and its spinoff industries are worth $trillions.
      We are retired grain farmers who did not get any return on our investments into the Canadian Wheat Board, i.e.grain rail cars, laker ships used on the Great Lakes, the CWB building and assets in Winnipeg……No wonder farmers in our area are growing more canola, mustard, lentils and barley. And, some ‘grain’ farmers in our area have actually, and quietly, admitted that they wish they still had the CWB. So much for the likes of Kenney, et al, being on their side.

      Reply
    • Nancy Jones

      November 10th, 2020

      You left out some really vital information about the Canadian Wheat Board. First it only affected prairie farmers, those in the east were free to sell their wheat to anyone they wanted. Second, it was not dismantled, rather it became voluntary for farmer to sell their wheat through the wheat board or any other way they wanted to. While you are on here complaining about the losses incurred when Harper stopped the forced selling of wheat by western Canadians through the wheat board, let’s talk about how JT and his group have completely killed Canada’s durum and other wheat trade with the EU by agreeing to labelling and other protectionist measures that the Italians have instituted to make sure that the Canadian products fell into dislike. It is one thing to not like one government but it is another to be so partisan that you completely dismiss the issues with all governments when it comes to trade and Canadian farmers.

      Reply
  11. Just Me

    November 1st, 2020

    It can inferred from Kenney’s suddenly deciding that “dictator oil” is now okay now that he is ready to accept investment dollars from any source, including the Saudis.

    I guess that “ethical oil” is kind of overrated these days.

    Now, that Kenney is going cap-in-hand to the Saudi Kingdom for a very small portion of their massive sovereign wealth fund, one wonders how far the Angry Midget will go to win over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the Magnificent. Given MBS’ tendency to engage in all kinds of plots that include theft, extortion, libel, kidnapping, torture, terrorism, and murder, one wonders if Kenney and the UCP are fooling with forces they cannot begin to comprehend let alone survive against.

    Considering the UCP’s recent antics against Albertans, one can conclude that they are all over being honest and moral, and intend to drag Alberta with them into the abyss.

    The wise ancient Arabic saying reads, “The hungry man dreams of the bread market.” Let’s see how hungry the Angry Midget is when he is at his weakest.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      November 2nd, 2020

      JUST ME: Didn’t the Saudi Arabian government buy shares of the Alberta oilsands? I thought I heard about this, not so long ago.

      Reply
  12. Anonymous

    November 2nd, 2020

    I must say you have given another cut to the facts blog. I also recall the UCP being against eastern Canada getting its oil from Saudi Arabia, and wanting them to get their oil from Alberta, and that Canada should benefit from the oil from Alberta. (Doesn’t this sound like the National Energy Program, that Albertans bashed 40 years ago?) We know where eastern Canada gets their oil from. Furthermore, you had a blog where you mentioned the CPC (former) leader, Andrew Scheer, talking about a National Energy Corridor, and were saying how it sounded similar to the Liberal’s National Energy Program. If the UCP are against dictator, or blood oil, why are they doing this deal with Saudi Arabia? I enjoy reading your blogs immensely. This one touched on many great points.

    Reply
  13. ELK

    November 2nd, 2020

    I do not think AB oil and gas is in any way ethical; all of it is dirty and all of it is tainted.
    Our big companies are majority foreign owned, not AB companies at all! Each of them have $ invested in subsidruary firms off shore. Imperial Oil began planning for the melting permafrost at the same time they began an expensive campaign to cast doubt on the increasingly vocal sharing of environmental concerns with carbon emissions and global warming. How frightening that AB’s shadow government (our economic advisory panel) now includes an oil baron tied to Imperial Oil. Don’t assume that our big players, whose CEO’s earn multiple millions each year have acted in good stewardship and have always cleaned up and decommissioned their well and plant sites.
    The small gas companies are well known for ceasing to pay landowners lease payments and for not paying their taxes to our rural towns and counties. For whom else is squatting and tax evasion considered ethical behaviour??? They trade off worthless wells back and forth until they are eventually abandoned for the public purse to clean up. Even though we supposedly have legislation ensuring the o&g companies clean up after themselves. LOL
    Then consider our environmental liabilities from abandoned (and potentially leaking methane, gas, etc,) wells, plants and pipelines. The week after an independent third party verified that the tailing ponds next to the Athabasca River were indeed leaking into the ground, violating federal laws, our environmental minister proudly proclaimed that the UCP had drained the Innovation and Emmissions Research fund to enable o&g companies to lower their carbon emissions!
    Look at the history of relationships between the Conservative parties, the energy regulator, and the major energy operators in AB’s past to see a revolving door in which I can not trust our claim to having and maintaining high standards in AB. The entire industry was given a break from even monitoring their emissions or minor spills, because the Corona virus made field work too dangerous, even as our northern oil work camps spread the virus to multiple provinces.

    Yet, almost everyone uses the phrase ethical oil easily and frequently here in AB. You can not listen to Corus Radio or read any Post Media conservative news letter without seeing it. Does the entire province suffer from a mass delusion? We must because right not, in 2020, with our Nation having declared a climate emergency, we are engaged in public debate over mountain top removal Coal development with the potential of poisoning yet another river.
    The wealth from oil and gas in AB has been mostly siphoned away from AB. With the single exception of the Notley government, every single time the price of oil dropped, children, the elderly, the poor and the marginalized have had to subsidize the industry with their quiet, nearly invisible suffering. So please, where is the ethical oil and gas in AB?

    Reply
  14. Dave

    November 2nd, 2020

    Perhaps this is a sign of how desperate Kenney is for any good economic news that the Alberta government is touting this, as far as I know not yet finalized, petro chemical deal with some unknown Saudi company. In some ways it seems like a bit of deal with a devil, given the things Kenney has said in the past about Saudi Arabian oil. Whether it is a private company or not, it still based in a country where political dissent is not tolerated and there are many ongoing concerns about human rights.

    This situation does bring up questions. For instance, one wonders why Kenney and the Alberta government chose to engage with a Saudi company. I suspect it was because all the American and European companies they approached were not interested. However, I also wish Kenney would do more to promote the growth of local Alberta businesses, rather than try lure large foreign companies with the enticement of low tax rates and grants.

    So if our oil is ethical and Saudi oil is not ethical, then what are petrochemicals produced by a Saudi company operating in Alberta – semi ethical? Actually semi ethical might be a good description for Kenney and the UCP – ethical when it is to their advantage and no so much when it is not, or maybe the more accurate term for this behaviour is not ethical at all.

    Reply
  15. Just Me

    November 3rd, 2020

    Since Kenney appears to be lost in a vortex of bizarro actions that are turning him into a universally loathed little troll.

    So…looks like the Saudis are in line to receive a substantial subsidy of public funds if they come on as a project financier. Something to the tune of $600M to $1.2B could be on offer. While His Magnificence, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must surely be falling laughing over at the prospect that the funny little infidels of the UCP are willing to pay to have investment dollars come their way just adds to the dark comedy that is Alberta in 2020.

    Once called “Dictator Oil”, now called the UCP’s last hope, the Saudi Kingdom’s prestige has been restored.

    Praise be to the Angry Midget of Chastity, for he really know not what he do.

    Reply
  16. DV

    November 4th, 2020

    Didn’t Kenney cut funding for disabled Albertans, programs like AISH, because it ‘wasn’t in the budget’. Apparently, throwing money into a dying industry and watching it burn is more important to him than the people who live here.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)