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.
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.
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.
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.