‘Freezing in the Dark’ Prospect for Canada, says Canada West Foundation … yeah, right (Scanned image: Victoria Times).

Without decisive changes in public and government attitudes, “Canada faces a decline in living standards and a crippling dependence on foreign fuels within the next 10 years.” 

That Trudeau guy (Photo: Library and Archives Canada).

Yup, according to an independent study group set up by the Calgary-based Canada West Foundation, “without additional commitments to the development of new resources to replace those we are now using, we may all have to freeze in the dark.” 

If you’re thinking, Holy Cow! We’d better get crackin’ if we don’t want to freeze in the dark, you can calm down. 

This scary tidbit was on a piece of yellowed newsprint that fell out of a book from my bookshelf that I opened last weekend for the first time since, well, apparently since January 1977. 

At any rate, the date on the torn half page from the of the Victoria Times, three years before its humiliating amalgamation with the vastly inferior but aptly named Daily Colonist, is January 27, 1977. A copy of either paper cost 15 cents.

I mention this only as a reminder that we ought not to take dire predictions by right-wing think tanks with polices they would very much like to see adopted too seriously as they rarely come true, and even if they do, it’s usually not in quite the way predicted. 

There he is again, lookin’ at you, Alberta! (Photo: Yousef Karsh, Library and Archives Canada).

In 1977, the energy crisis of 1973 was still fresh in many minds, lending the gloomy prediction by the “non-profit organization dedicated to research on issues of concern to the four western provinces,” as the Times put it, a certain verisimilitude. 

What’s more, as the other side of the same piece of yellowed paper reveals, “Blizzards, Cold Grip East Again,” giving a certain chill timeliness to the warning that tax and royalty hikes on resource corporations “have virtually stripped the producing industry of both the ability and the incentive to commit huge sums to resource development.” 

Mmmm-hmm …

By 1979 we’d had another little oil crisis caused by crisis prices in the Middle East to demonstrate that petroleum is a volatile commodity – a lesson apparently still lost on Alberta governments.

By 1980, Albertans were grimly printing bumper stickers threatening to Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark if they thought relying on domestic fuels ought to do anything to reduce the price Albertan oil could fetch.

Gary Mar may have very little to do with this story, but he is president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, so what the heck (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But by 1986, alas, on the eve of when we were supposed to be freezing in the dark, oil prices had collapsed, apparently plummeting to about $7 a barrel in some places, if the confusing pages of price statistics on the Internet are to be believed. Then as now, if I remember correctly, we westerners were blaming it all on that Trudeau guy. 

By 1987, the Loonie was a thing, Canadians beat the Soviet Union at hockey again, the stock market crashed, but a humble newspaper reporter could afford to buy a house in Toronto the next weekend. Nobody froze. 

The Canada West Foundation is still around, still pumping out studies, although with former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Gary Mar in the head office in Calgary, the tone seems decidedly more cheerful than it did in ’77. Well, never mind, there are others ready to produce the real gloom-and-doom stuff. 

Newspapers may be pretty much a thing of the past, but my advice to you, should you come across a study that really worries you, is to print it out, stuff it in a book, leave it there and wait to see how you feel about it after a half century or so. 

Chances are good, you’re not going to say, “well, that was prophetic!” 

In other news from the same edition of the Victoria Times: “An Oklahoma woman who said she was blinded after being vaccinated for swine flu filed a $6.25 million suit Wednesday against four vaccine makers bringing to $19 million the suits filed in the United States in connection with the vaccination program.”

Gee, I wonder how that worked out?

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25 Comments

  1. As Yogi Berra once said, “Its tough to make predictions, especially about the future”. Of course, that doesn’t stop a lot of people from trying, especially around the end of the year or beginning of another. Most that are wrong are soon forgotten about.

    Also, often alarming predictions are made to serve an agenda, perhaps such as the Canada West Foundation’s at the time. More often than not the predictions are just a lazy extrapolation of trends at the time, which interestingly do not always continue as expected. So in early 2022 lots of people believed house prices in Toronto and Vancouver would continue to rise, well because they had for most of the last decade. Of course, most things go in cycles and at some point the cycle becomes unsustainable or ends.

    Likewise, a lot of people expected the Alberta PC party to win reelection in 2014, because well they always had for the last four decades. Maybe if they chose Mr. Mar, they might still be in power.

    He seems too pleasant to be a typical conservative leader, although I suspect underneath that nice surface is a tough shark. However, maybe that’s what people really want, someone who isn’t nasty, but can still be tough when needed. If so, I guess its too late for the UCP at this point. I suspect they are stuck with nasty for now.

  2. This is the kind of misinformation that Albertans love to devour, and they take it as the gospel truth, when it is very far from reality. These pseudo conservatives love to propagate this drivel. Oil is a commodity, like other things are, such as gold, and silver. The Canadian government doesn’t have any control over oil prices, whatsoever. If there is a large glut of less expensive oil on the market, that’s going to play a role in what happens. What comes out of Fort McMurray, has more processes that are needed to get it to market. It’s impossible to compete with what else is out there. There’s also the issue of how things were so badly looked after in Alberta for a very long time. Peter Lougheed being a legitimate conservative, never, ever let oil companies fleece Alberta. He wouldn’t allow this to happen. When the Alberta PCs turned the oil royalty rates of Peter Lougheed’s era into a very substandard level, out went $575 billion. This was also followed by letting foreign oil conglomerates grab our oil, and take the money that belonged to us and run away with it. Environmental regulations were severely neglected, and the result was that oil companies in Alberta could do damage, and get away with it. This is why Albertans have a very expensive cost burden that sits at $260 billion to fix up all this damage from the oil companies. Ralph Klein was the driver behind those bad policies. Also, the Alberta PCs threw away money on petrochemical projects that cost us billions of dollars, because they can’t even break even. The UCP are doing similar things, and Albertans are paying for it. There are billions of dollars wasted on a botched pipeline. Oil companies are getting away with not paying property taxes, and municipalities are forced to cough up the difference, via steep property tax hikes. What’s also sad is that the supporters of these pseudo conservatives and Reformers love to blame the Liberals in Ottawa, or Rachel Notley. When we see the wealth that Alaska and Norway have from their oil, in comparison to what we have in Alberta, there is a big difference. How much more foolish can you get?

  3. One thing I remember from my weird and misspent years in the RPC was that there was is culture that favoured people who had associations to certain approved bodies that were dedicated to “telling the truth”. You know, the Fraser Institute, the Sun tabloids, and Alberta Report. (later the Report) Even back then, I was aware that there were such things as echo chambers and those who sought them out. I remember commenting to a colleague at that time that these people “just want to hear what they want to hear.” To that, she replied, “Well, that’s how lies become truths.” She wasn’t speaking in terms of revealing the same cynicism I had. Rather, she was defining what needed to be done to to convince voters that what they wanted to hear IS the truth. Josef Goebbels would have been proud. Of course, her take on that was that Goebbels taught us how to do things the right way. Yeah, RPC really didn’t have much of a moral grounding.

    More recently, I’ve noticed that CONs are becoming more and more comfortable saying shite that is weird and offensive to many because it is weird and offensive. If anything, the crazier the stuff, the more hateful and destructive it is, the more the CONs’ fellow travellers want to hear it. I mean if it offends people, it must be the truth, right?

    I remember, also back in my RPC days, the case of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel kept coming up. Why? Obviously for many, Zundel was revealing truths long suppressed by the International Jewish Conspiracy. I noticed that, out of the RPC ridings in Edmonton at that time, there were two that offered a fantastic and colour mix of crazy that had to be seen to be believed. For example, Edm-SW was a relatively normal riding, where the crazies, despite the mega-church crowd, were often told to GTFO. However, my favourite RPC riding association was by far Edm-Strathcona, which seemed to be a vortex of lunacy. It is in this group I found all the racists and the Antisemites in abundance. There was always a character in the room at the meetings who would wax on about how the Hollywood Jews were running and ruining everything. All those films and records that documented the Holocaust were the invention of Hollywood, denying the well-documented fact that Himmler was very proud of his efforts and their historical importance. Usually, the resident Holocaust denier would argue why would Himmler want to leave evidence of a crime? (So, the Holocaust was a crime? Whaaaa?!)

    As it has turned out, not much has changed. The CONs’ fellow travellers and their voting base are the usual looneys and boneheads, except that they are more virulent and more violent than I remember them. Recent events in Brazil should serve as fair warning for how dangerous CONs really are, baring Skippy Pollivere recent multi-ethnic/multi-ecumenical charm offensive, which was in reality pretty offensive.

  4. Speaking of “freezing in the dark” did you know before the present day worries about climate change and the earth overheating fears about global cooling and the return of an ice age was all the rage as this 1971 info spot narrated by Leonard Nimoy. So this “let the bastards freeze” mantra had some context. Beam us up Mr. Scott,

    https://youtu.be/yCzjSDwGSF8

    1. For a longer version of DJC’s rebuttal, you can try “Science as a Contact Sport” by Stephen Schneider (National Geographic Society, 2009). Early in chapter 1, Schneider tells how he was involved in the aerosol-vs.-carbon dioxide debate. It’s a case study in how the science of climate modelling went from simplistic to sophisticated.

  5. I think you know how that worked out.

    Freezing in the dark — who can forget? Aah, the good old days, when fossil fuel industry fear-mongering was pure and non-ironic. Nowadays, counterarguments about the need for less reliance on volatile fossil fuels and the need for more solar and wind energy are met with, “But solar and wind can’t provide 100 percent of our energy needs today (so we should not even try to decrease our reliance on oil and gas).” Then there’s the case of the unreliable power grid in Texas for a real taste of freezing in the dark. The ghost voices of petroleum present screeched, “Look, the dang wind turbines were useless in the cold because they froze up.” Sure did, Hank Hill, because the cheapskate Texans apparently thought it was too expensive to winterize them. Meanwhile, where winter is a thing every year, wind turbines work just fine year-round, as do solar panels.Heck, even electric cars can operate in sub-zero temperatures. Imagine! Winter has workarounds. Even ordinary vehicles can be plugged into a wall! We have block heaters, so how much of a cognitive leap is required for northerners to plug in an electric vehicle?

    Isn’t it sumthin’? After nearly 50 years of this babbling, it’s almost as if the petroleum industry knows we need an energy transition, but they can’t admit it until they squeeze every last penny (RIP) out of the ground.

  6. And now a guy claims a touch less car wash damaged the paint on his old car and he wants compensation. Good luck with that.
    It reminded me of the lawyer , not knowing that they had installed red light cameras at the intersection by his office, racked up fines of $2,900. in only one week for not coming to a complete stop before turning on a red light. He thought people would be sympathetic but they certainly weren’t.

  7. While we’re on this nostalgia trip, we should mention the National Energy Program (NEP) and its impact on politics in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
    The same Peter Lougheed, whose name so many people today bring up with reverence and regard, stirred up a tsunami of grievance and anger toward the Federal Government and that Trudeau fella. I would argue that Lougheed’s performative fight with Ottawa was largely responsible for the rise of the Western Separatist Party in the early 1980s, and the election of a WSP member to the Legislature.
    I mention all this, not just to relive a piece of history, but to suggest Alberta and its fragile and angry sense of self-identity have not changed much in the past 40 or more years. Premier Smith is tapping into that same sense of grievance that Lougheed manipulated all those decades ago. Plus ca change, etc.

  8. Freezing in the dark, lol. I guess I’ve been around too long, when I start thinking ” back in the day “, but– our farm NE of Edmonton, had no electricity, no running water ( chores included getting water from the well) and oddly enough, hey we didn’t freeze to death, go figure (circa 1960)i. And we were not an anomaly, once a week we got to go to our grandparents, they were “woke “, electricity and best of all, they had a, wait for it , a TV. WOW!! Very progressive !! and lord only knows how millions of people managed to survive into the 21st century without all the luxuries we have today. “We” expect to just turn on the lights, turn up the heat, without giving any thought to where the source comes from. It’s like whenever there’s a power outage, the whiners come out in full force and expect things to be fixed, immediately !!, foot stomp…!!I’ve had the misfortune of getting an earful as a flagger for the power co. — well why can’t they just through a switch—groan–
    And unfortunately the NFP think-tank people spend millions finding the weak spots, get the “victims” to contribute to their cause, then shamelessly exploit them.
    My B-in-law (he’s very pro Alberta oil)was constantly sending me memes about EV’s, and how the plug in cars would never work in Edmonton. I asked if he had stopped plugging his car into the block heater? the memes have stopped. But I also could not resist sending the clip about the # of EV’s in Norway..he did not respond..hmm

    Re:” Oklahoma woman” is alive and well and living in BC interior or Manitoba or Sask. she seems to get around and is getting annoyed with PP not doing anything for her. Speaking of, PP, odd how when the cat’s away, the mouse has come out to, wow, actually talk to MSM…I could only watch for a minute, so don’t know if he was asked about Brazil, as per his Twitter account…he seems to have found a new let project after all the photo ops this past week. He’ll have his base all worked up by the time JT gets back from his ” frivolous ” trip to Mexico….wasting taxpayers money….Oye boje! when he starts bringing up the Harper government didn’t….

  9. I’d remind folks of the one coherent thing Dubya ever managed to say – “You can fool some people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” Trust that barely-functional mendicant to only ever manage to properly articulate the one thing he wasn’t supposed to say out loud.

    If modern right wingers are talking to you at all, it’s because they believe they can fool you all the time. If they don’t believe they can fool you all the time, they do their best to ensure you will be ignored, marginalized and disenfranchised. Kind of ironic that Trudeau has entrenched their ability to do this – he welched on his promise to changed the electoral system, which would have made this tactic unworkable and would have forced the CPC to make meaningful changes in order to remain electable. They really ought to send him a card for that. Hopefully it’s a musical one, and when he opens it it plays random PP quotes from question period at 200 decibels.

    Next time his plutocratic handlers change Justin’s water dish, hopefully they give him another treat – he’s earned it. Also, I hope they’re scratching behind his ears, taking him for lots of nice walks and letting him have playdates with other “world leaders” – taking good care of your pets is important.

  10. It pretty straight forward how to develop a good standard of living. And no it’s not by the way of big government and a directed economy. No government ever borrowed their way to prosperity. So the question becomes, why do you want your grand and great grand children to have less?

    1. “No government has ever borrowed its way to prosperity.” Prove it. There’s plenty of evidence governments can indeed borrow their way to prosperity, and should, as long as they borrow at a slower or equal rate than that at which the economy is growing. You-can’t-borrow-your-way-to-prosperity is one of bits of folk wisdom that owe their popularity to a certain truthy quality, not to facts or an understanding of economics. Since you conservatives love comparing national economies to household economies – not really a proper comparison – here’s a simple analogy that explains how this works: Real estate. I have bought and sold several houses, all used as my principal residence, in my life. In every case I leveraged the purchase with debt. I have always made money, sometimes quite a lot of it. Why? Because over time, the value of Canadian real estate has steadily trended upward. Now I am debt free and own a nice house in a nice place. I borrowed my way to prosperity.

      1. Yes, it does depend on what they spend borrowed money on. And governments usually do a poor job of distinguishing what it’s good to spend borrowed money on. And, no I’m not a “conservative”. Why do people always like tags so they can feel comfortable responding to the tag rather than the argument ? As to your, I’m rich because I invested in real estate and leveraged debt and made profit. Well yes the conventional wisdom is that people n North America become rich in that method. This lead to the 2008 collapse and all those people lost everything. Thank goodness it didn’t happen here because of Harper…, That said, what they found out is that it wasn’t that people accrued wealth because they got a loan and made money in real estate. It was because the banks choose the correct people to lend to. And only gave loans to people who would pay their mortgages on time every month. So, congrats to you for being loan worthy. But governments aren’t.

        1. “And, no I’m not a “conservative”. Why do people always like tags so they can feel comfortable responding to the tag rather than the argument ?”

          Well Bret, why would anyone think you are a “conservative”? Could it be your constant promotion of far-right conservative dogma, complete with the appropriate catchphrases and dog whistles that would make PP Poilievre proud? Or your bootlicking of politicians/political parties that espouse such conservative drivel? How about your obvious hatred of anything resembling left-of-centre thought? Seems pretty clear to everyone where you stand on the political spectrum!

          Thanks for the laugh today Bret, I needed it.

          1. I was going to say the same thing. With Bret it’s the conservative cliches that tell the tale. If I’ve heard Bret slam unions once I’ve heard him 50 times. I think governments ought to provide basics such as healthcare, education and infrastructure. By my count Smith is making herself and the UCP unpopular by not getting that. She seems to want to cater to big business such as oil companies in need of an extra cash incentive to do what they’re already supposed to do, clean up abandoned wells. Or private health providers who want to make more off the public.

        2. Firth of Fifth has explained adequately why one might mistake you for a conservative. As for the rest, I didn’t claim that I’m rich, I merely stated accurately that I’m prosperous, which isn’t nearly as grand a thing. While there are flaws (apparently obvious to everyone except conservatives) with pretending that households function the same way as national economies do, I thought and still think that turnabout is fair play. As for the people who lost big on the real estate market, to channel the typical conservative, they should have done like me and bought a more modest house. The market may be god, but it is a cruel and capricious one. If you worship it and it bites, don’t complain to me! You are right about me being loan-worthy, though. I’m forever telling banks to get lost when they try to persuade me to borrow more. But you’re wrong to say governments aren’t. Civilization was built on taxes and debt, and renouncing both is the road to perdition. Plus, they always get a lower interest rate – which is how banks acknowledge they’re good for it.

    2. Bret: Our grand kids etc. having less? Could it be because they will have to contend with the nuclear waste that dates back to 1945 and has never been cleaned up and disposed of safely? Like so-called small, modular fission reactors and nuclear fusion, safe and effective disposal of nuclear waste has always been 10 or 20 years “in the future.” The bumper sticker on some boomer RVs reading “We are spending our children’s’ inheritance” is about the only honest statement I have seen from UCP types.

      Have you heard of the TMX pipeline? That is just one of the many ways Trudeau and the UCP are directing the economy to support oil and gas and spending billions to do so.

      1. Another problem with “small modular reactors,” is that they’re not small and they are not really modular. No one can deny they contain reactors, though. Inefficient Nuclear Reactor Megaprojects would be a more accurate description. They are huge, just not as huge as the rows of Candus in Ontario. Because they’re not as huge, they return less on the nonetheless huge investment. As you point out, they come with all or most of the same risks, in particular disposal of nuclear waste. Private industry won’t pay for them, so the public is always expected to pony up. Once the fusion revolution comes along, of course, they’ll all just be radioactive white elephants. Or, actually, that’s their likely fate even if there is no fusion revolution.

      2. Supporting hydrocarbon infrastructure is smart, for numerous reasons, here are a few.

        1. The world is feed because of hydrocarbon technology. Without, its unlikely we could feed half the current population. So saving half the current population is the moral decision.

        2. Its is a strategic commodity. It is necessary to be able to defend yourself. So peoples of fair behaviours should make sure they are not dependent on states who may not align with them when you have to fight.

        3. Furthermore, this strength will dissuade war like behaviour and save us from the inequities of war. And I note, there’s not alot of CO2 sequestration going on in eastern europe right now.

        I could go on….

        1. Bret: you asserted that governments pouring public money into directing the economy does not create wealth, and then two posts down give a list of the benefits that government money being spent on hydro carbons creates. It is going to be a long transition to a future where we stop burning stuff, so interim steps are appropriate. It is just a question of degree. How much public money do we want to spend on a sunset industry vs renewables?

          A similar benefits list could be done for renewable energy. Most of renewable energy advances have come from a comparatively tiny amount of government money, arguably with much better results. For example, battery storage costs reduced by 90% in a decade, compared to zero success in defying the laws of physics to make carbon capture and storage economic on fossil power plants.

          I just think the UCP, with its deep crazy is the biggest enemy the fossil fuel sector can have.

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