Alberta Politics
One of G3 Canada Ltd.’s primary grain elevators on the Prairies, this one at Maidstone in northwest Saskatchewan (Photo: G3).

No press release, but Kenney Government quietly moves to help Alberta’s friends in the Saudi Arabian government

Posted on June 01, 2021, 12:58 am
6 mins

The Kenney Government has quietly moved to ensure that Alberta’s friends and business partners in the government of Saudi Arabia are free from the complications of inconvenient foreign land ownership rules.

Now, many readers are doubtless thinking, “Say what?” After all, isn’t the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the land of “dictator oil,” regularly reviled by United Conservative Party politicians, up to and frequently including Premier Jason Kenney, for among other sins trying to shut down our oilsands?

Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish (Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Indeed, on April 1, 2020, alert readers will recall, Premier Kenney rebuked the Saudis. “Our message to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the OPEC dictatorships, and the foreign special interests who have campaigned for years to try and shut down Canadian energy,” he tweeted forcefully, “You will not succeed.”

In the video linked to his tweet, Mr. Kenney’s 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” was that “we will not allow the world’s worst regimes to have a monopoly on global energy markets.”

Well, perhaps that was just an April Fool joke.

No, seriously, this isn’t about dictator oil at all. It’s only about dictator grain, in a manner of speaking, which is obviously a different matter entirely.

It’s telling, though, that there was no glowing press release announcing the jobs that will doubtless be created because G3 Canada Ltd. and its affiliates aren’t going to need to worry about the operation of the province’s Foreign Ownership Land Regulations getting in the way of their plan to build and operate a grain elevator in northwest Alberta.

Instead, the announcement, required by law, was discreetly made in the opaque language of Parliamentary insiders, by way of an Order in Council, which is more plainly described as a cabinet order. Order in Council No. 145/2021, brought forward by Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish, sets out the plan to make Alberta safe for the government of Saudi Arabia in just 64 words.

Thanks to the schemes of Stephen Harper, back when he was the Conservative prime minister of Canada in 2015, most of the assets of the Canadian Wheat Board were sold off for a song to G3, which is now almost entirely owned by the government of Saudi Arabia.

Former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper in 2015 (Photo: Rob Romard, Creative Commons).

G3 has plans to build a primary elevator at Rycroft, about 70 kilometres north of Grande Prairie, along the CN line that connects directly to Prince Rupert, which in turn is closer to the markets in Asia that want Canadian grain even if they’re not particularly interested in Alberta bitumen.

Say what you will about the Saudis, they understand the importance of controlling the flow of grain, and they were happy to take advantage of the fact that for ideological reasons Mr. Harper and his agriculture minister Gerry Ritz were determined to take the power of the Wheat Board away from Canadian farmers during the Conservatives’ last hours in power.

The deal was completed in 43 business days. There were no public hearings and there was no scrutiny by the House of Commons Standing Committee of Agriculture. Three days after the sell-off, Mr. Harper called the election that brought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to power.

By dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board – a democratically run organization that sold grain around the world on behalf of Western Canadian grain farmers – Mr. Harper ensured Western wheat and barley farmers lost their direct access to the international grain market. Now they must deal with multinational corporations like G3 and U.S.-based Cargill Inc., which have enormous speculative power.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Some Canadian grain farmers, it must be conceded, were naively delighted to go along with Mr. Harper’s scheme in 2015. They may be less pleased about it in 2021, now that they see how life without the Wheat Board is working out.

With the demise of the Wheat Board, the days when they benefitted from the fact their grain was sold abroad in U.S. dollars are over. That currency differential now pads corporate bottom lines instead.

A class action lawsuit against the Canadian government by farmers seeking repatriation of $150 million in Wheat Board assets continues in Manitoba. The farmers’ group alleges the assets were unlawfully diverted from pool accounts by the Harper-Government-appointed board of directors to make the sale more attractive to potential buyers.

The farmers’ group is also seeking punitive damages of $10 million. With interest, the total award sought would be about $190 million if the suit were successful.

Meanwhile, back here in Alberta, last we heard the Kenney Government was also pursuing a petrochemical deal with a state-owned Saudi company. But no one ever said you have to be consistent to succeed in Prairie politics.

14 Comments to: No press release, but Kenney Government quietly moves to help Alberta’s friends in the Saudi Arabian government

  1. Anonymous

    June 1st, 2021

    The hypocrisy of the UCP, and even with Conservatives in general is astounding, but not surprising. Here it is clearly evident. Postmedia won’t pick up on this matter, because it would go against what they believe the UCP to be like.

    Reply
  2. P. Wilson

    June 1st, 2021

    Many years ago there was an Alberta crown corporation called AGTL, set up by the government of Preston Manning’s dad, Ernest.
    In the 1960’s this corporation was privatised and became Nova.
    There was a joke at the time : Do you know the boss o Nova!?…. Not that funny if you don’t know any historical latin dances moves.
    Anyway, as it seems as with all of Alberta’s crown corporations, Nova became a really big corporate fish which swallowed many other corporate fish until it was swallowed by the enormous sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates .
    The big plant at Joffre getting subsidies and the lowest corporate tax rate in North America is wholly owned by the sovereign wealth fund of a tiny incredibly rich, undemocratic country that even has its own space agency, the United Arab Emirates , the same UAE that allegedly funds Hafter in the Libyan Civil War, which a Canada led mission inadvertently started.
    Alberta Energy became Encana now Ovintiv based in Denver
    AGT and Edmonton Telephones became Telus based in Vancouver.
    It is evident that “selling the farm” is a tradition in Alberta.

    Reply
  3. Dave

    June 1st, 2021

    By now we have gotten to know Kenney well, although perhaps better than we wanted to One of the most surprising things about him, is that despite being a rigid ideologue, he has a great deal of inconsistency.

    Perhaps this explains how he has managed to alienate as many on the right wing recently, as on the left in the past. He is above all a political opportunist, while remaining a rigid ideologue. It is a most unsuitable and unsatisfactory combination.

    So he criticizes the Saudis and dictator oil for political effect, then goes about making clandestine deals for them to skirt around the rules for investing here. At this point another contradiction in his character is not so much surprising and hardly even disappointing, as it is pretty much expected.

    Reply
  4. Abs

    June 1st, 2021

    But Stampede! And what benevolence in today’s announcement of a half-percent increase in funding for long-term care for the next two years. It’s what those oldies deserve for living past their expiry dates, am I right? If corners must be cut in LTC due to inflation, at least we can take comfort in knowing that people in faraway lands will have food security. And we have Stampede!

    Reply
    • Abs

      June 1st, 2021

      That’s half a percent per year, for two years!!! Amazing!!!

      Reply
  5. tom

    June 1st, 2021

    “Meanwhile, back here in Alberta, last we heard the Kenney Government was also pursuing a petrochemical deal with a state-owned Saudi company. But no one ever said you have to be consistent to succeed in Prairie politics.”

    Who says they’re succeeding?

    Reply
  6. Expat Albertan

    June 1st, 2021

    Those of us who knew about Jason Kenney before he went into Alberta politics knew he is not on the straight and level (even by Conservative standards). He, like many conservative politicians around the world, are neo-liberalisms last anguished howls of pain as that ideology shuffles off its mortal coil. I think that’s why conservative politics has become so belligerent and autocratic – they know that people have finally woken up to the rip-off that was neo-liberalism and they have nothing left to offer the world – so, like a wounded animal, they growl and bite. Of course, it just shows the world ever more clearly what they were really all about…and it was never about making the world a better place for everyone.

    Reply
  7. Lulymay

    June 1st, 2021

    And yet, voters in all three provinces affected by many of the underhanded tactics emanating from the Harper era, still vote in ReformaCon governments at a provincial level. Amazing, simply amazing!

    Reply
    • tom in Ontario

      June 1st, 2021

      You westerners may have voted ReformaCon in three provinces but we Ontarians were culpable in handing Stephen Harper minority governments and a majority one as well. Because of large blocs of seats in Ontario, Stevie couldn’t have done it without us. We assisted in the shameful demise of the Canadian Wheat Board.

      Reply
    • Gail

      June 1st, 2021

      Sure the prairies vote conservative but have you looked at the votes in urban central Canada? They sure bring in a bunch of blue too! But what does it matter? With the first past the post system the vast majority of voters aren’t represented by the person elected anyway.

      Reply
  8. Just Me

    June 1st, 2021

    I recall from my misspent youth with the RPC, many, many members, who were farmers, swore that mammon would rain from the heavens if the Canadian Wheat Board was abolished. No doubt the scourge of Venezuelan-socialism would be throttled to the ground, thanks to Presto Manning’s promise that all ills would be cured if the Wheat Board was no more. These days, I hear many of these former-Reformers are grumbling about being taken by Neocon slickers, like Harpo and Presto.

    So now, we have the Saudi slickers and their heathen ways directing Alberta’s anti-dictatorship government to do their bidding. Of course, Premier Crying & Screaming Midget, witnessing his political career and dreams of becoming PM fast turning into ashes, declares that the Saudis are not really dictators but Alberta’s best friends. Of course, this weird relationship between the House of Saud and the Alberta CONs goes way back, to the days when Premier Don Getty strangely declared that he spoke personally with then Saudi Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani and was assured that the Saudis would raise the global oil price as a favour to Alberta. That never happened, and Getty remains everyone’s favourite punching bag to this day.

    Fast-forward to today, and Kenney is now having to deal with the likes of the powerful Prince Mohammed bin Salman (The Magnificent) and getting forced to head to the cleaners again. All these bizarre episodes between Alberta and the Saudis proves is that Alberta must be some kind of punchline among the power-brokers in Riyadh.

    Reply
  9. theo

    June 1st, 2021

    Of all the things that the Harpertreason government did, the selling of the CWB was the one that pissed me off the most. I know the Liberals and Cons would never do this but here is a thought game for the federal NDP:

    Put a plank in your election platform to nationalize the company owned by S.A., if they form the government. In the interests of national security, I am thinking it could be done. Offer S.A. their buying price and interest accrued at the federal bank rate. If they don’t agree, offer them nothing. Play extreme hard ball.

    I think that is a good plank for the NDP. It would generate a lot of controversy and hopefully, rational discourse. If not, at least entertaining.

    Off-topic, the NDP should also have UBI on their election platform, with all the data of how it would be paid for.

    I am such a dreamer!

    Reply
  10. Gail

    June 1st, 2021

    Yet another sneaky quiet little gift to billionaires and their friends. It would be shocking if it wasn’t so status quo at this point. It is amazing how much is being reaped from the killing of the CWB even years after its demise.

    This is exactly the sort of post I enjoy on your blog—an interesting subject that would go without commentary if it wasn’t brought to light by your watchful researching eye.

    Reply
  11. Scotty on Denman

    June 2nd, 2021

    -t’s funny: after being surrounded by the Arabs thirteen centuries ago and seemingly subsumed seven hundred years later, Byzantines have apparently been re-discovered halfway around the world in Alberta, Canada.

    I bet most people’d be surprised—unless they read it here.

    And thank you for reminding us that the last (pray) Conservative government railroaded Prairie grain farmers when it de-registered the Canadian Wheat Board against the majority’s vote, and seized members’ bank account. Now, even the shills and fools who actively promoted this kibosh are sorry they did.

    Gotta be sharp to put this all together. Thanks again.

    Reply

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