Tanks full of Venezuelan oil just waiting to supplant Alberta’s supposedly more ethical version of the same thing (Photo: Beatrice Murch, Creative Commons).

If United Conservative Party leaders like Premier Danielle Smith are looking for another fight to pick with the Trudeau Government, they could always complain about Canada’s slavish and continuing support for U.S. efforts to get rid of the Venezuelan government of Nicholas Maduro.

Former, and possibly future, U.S. president Donald J. Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

I recognize that this might make it more difficult for UCP big shots to suck up to Donald Trump – the former American president known for his inexplicably visceral dislike of Venezuelans – who the Alberta government would clearly like to see back in the White House soon. 

Mr. Trump was busy during his rambling Super Tuesday victory speech complaining about Texas refineries buying Venezuelan heavy oil, and in the process slagging all “tar oil,” which by definition would include bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands that, tellingly, used to be described by the Alberta government as “tarsands.” 

But, really, Premier Smith has shown time and again that she is capable of advocating completely contradictory things at exactly the same time without suffering even a tingle of irony. (This is something a politician can only do if she is completely without shame, a quality Ms. Smith obviously shares with Mr. Trump.) 

So it should be quite possible for the UCP to describe Ottawa’s efforts to side with the Americans over Mr. Maduro’s continued leadership of Venezuela as a vicious attack on Alberta’s economic security at the same time as they tell American politicians exactly the same things as Ottawa does.

Five years ago in this space I explained why, if the State Department’s quest for regime change in Venezuela were to succeed, it would be very bad news for Alberta. At the time, the potential for unintended consequences in Alberta’s oilpatch was being ignored completely, if it had even occurred to anyone as a possibility. Nothing appears to have changed since. Let me reprise my argument: 

Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro (Photo: Government of Venezuela, Public Domain).

Readers will recall that in 2019, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, the hapless Barack Obama lookalike who was ironically the Trump Administration’s favoured replacement for President Maduro, had promised that if he were installed in power, his government would give foreign (read U.S.) oil companies the right to make bigger investments in joint ventures with Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela.

Mr. Guaidó is now living in exile in Miami, presumably comfortably, but it is reasonable to assume that a similar investment arrangement remains a minimum concession for any Venezuelan opposition figure who hopes to win the favour of the Americans.

So why is that a problem for Alberta? 

As I wrote in 2019, it would open the door to heavy U.S. corporate involvement in the vast Venezuelan oil reserves, said to be the largest in the world, and which include oilsands similar in size to Alberta’s. That, in turn, would end the United States’ blockade of Venezuelan oil, part of its ongoing campaign to topple the Maduro government.

Indeed, President Joe Biden loosened the Trump Administration’s sanctions on Venezuela last fall in response to an agreement between the Maduro Government and opposition parties for elections to be held next July. So it’s quite possible that this is the reason Mr. Trump was being so cranky about “tar oil” on Tuesday. Presumably if he returns to the White House, his vindictive sanctions will return to Venezuela with full force.

Miami resident and Barack Obama lookalike Juan Guaidó (Photo: Leo Alvarez, Creative Commons).

Regardless, regime change would be a potentially serious problem for Alberta because Venezuela is conveniently located just across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico near the U.S. refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas, where a lot of Alberta’s low-quality bitumen ends up.

Running a pipe to Houston was the ultimate goal of former UCP premier Jason Kenney’s foolish bet that Mr. Trump would win the 2020 presidential election. That gamble cost Alberta taxpayers $1.5 billion – enough to build the South Edmonton Hospital that UCP just cancelled, to give but one example. 

In the simplest terms, I wrote in 2019, one likely effect would be to flood those American refineries with cheap, heavy oil from Venezuela.

After that, it’s just a matter of supply and demand – another concept the UCP, oddly for a supposedly conservative party, doesn’t seem to understand. 

A big increase in supply, conveniently located for quick and inexpensive ocean transfer, would depress the price fetched by Alberta oil, especially low-quality oilsands bitumen.

Given the size of Venezuela’s oilsands, bigger even than ours, the low prices could last for a very long time — possibly even until the planet’s transition from a fossil fuel economy is complete, a prospect that now looks more likely to happen eventually than it did five years ago. 

U.S.-owned fossil fuel companies that long resisted building refining capacity in Alberta because they don’t want to compete with underused capacity at their Gulf Coast operations will have no problem replacing their Canadian supplies with cheaper Venezuelan crude.

After all, they have no loyalty to any jurisdiction, or to any notion of “ethical oil.” Their only loyalty is to the best price and the best return on investment.

So how is Canada campaigning constantly for regime change in Venezuela, good news for Alberta’s oil patch?

Oh ye of little faith! AFL president is now officially an NDP leadership candidate

Recent rumours to the contrary notwithstanding, Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan is now officially a candidate to lead the Alberta NDP. 

Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. McGowan’s name appeared yesterday on Elections Alberta’s list of registered NDP leadership candidates along with those of MLAs Kathleen Ganley, Sarah Hoffman, Rakhi Pancholi, and Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse.

Later in the day, Mr. McGowan tweeted that “I’ve officially been approved to stand as a candidate in the Alberta NDP leadership race” and also that “I have Covid.”

He included with the tweet an image of his letter accepting his candidacy from Alberta Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler. 

President of the AFL since 2005, Mr. McGowan drew fire from the United Conservative Party when his candidacy was first reported for his intention to continue in that role while he campaigns. However, Mr. McGowan says he will not draw on AFL resources for his leadership campaign. 

Still missing, but widely expected to declare his candidacy on Monday, is former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Join the Conversation


  1. The US is very good and patient at advocating for regime change, but not always so good about achieving it. So, I suspect the Venezuelan stand off may continue for some time, just like in nearby Cuba where the US has made efforts for decades to try and change the government with punishing economic actions without success. I suspect Alberta’s oil market will remain safe and I also doubt the current Government of Alberta will do much to help the US achieve regime change there other than occasionally say a few supportive things about it. After all, it is probably in our best interests for things to remain as they are and even Smith probably realizes that, even if she will not say so.

    A half dozen is a good and respectable number of leadership candidates in any party leadership race and we may soon end up with that number very soon. Even though it is attracting some outside interest, I still feel the advantage may go those who are currently MLA’s and those who started earlier. However, both McGowan and Nenshi do bring with them a good size pool of supporters they may be able to quickly get to become members. Having prominent outsiders run generally makes the race more interesting and this race is already one without a clear favourite.

  2. How about Canada export some of it’s crude to Cuba? They have refineries for it, Venezuela has been having trouble sparing enough to sell them, and although their requirements would only be a tiny fraction of what we have it would be a bit of diversification. Cuba won’t complain about it being tar oil and we could trade them for sugar & good Rum – bonus…

  3. It’s important to remember that while Trump did support Keystone XL via executive order, as was his habit because he never really wanted to do anything, the final paragraph of the order affirmed that the order did not set aside or suspend any of the ongoing lawsuits against CT Energy for building the pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer. The aquifer provides fresh water supply to four red states, and Trump didn’t want to mess with his voters there.

    Of course, Jason Kenney, being the mental giant he is, wasn’t paying attention when he agreed to offer public money for a pipeline to nowhere.

  4. And another thing that CONs in Alberta fail to notice …

    During his presidential bid, candidate Mitt Romney declared that Canadian (RE. Alberta oil) belongs to the US. He said so publicly when he called Alberta oil “our oil”.

    So much for trusting Republicans.

  5. “Five years ago in this space I explained why”.

    As perhaps many others, I often struggle with remembering what I had for breakfast, while DJC can remember things from five years ago. Very impressive. I guess that’s what separates the men from the boys in the world of Political Word-Smithery.

    Rex Murphy immediately comes to mind. Reading one of his columns was like listening to someone telling a never before heard joke but the punchline is somewhat elusive due to the intellectual elitism of the language that is used. Mr. Robert Rex Raphael Murphy is after all, according to many but not all, a Rhodes Scholar which would tend to immediately catapult him into the intellectual stratosphere just by virtue of the extra number of brain cells in his cerebrum that he must have been bestowed with by the Creator when he was being woven together in his mother’s womb.

    So after reading his column over a number of times and chasing Mr. Murphy down one rabbit hole and then another, the light in the fridge often went on and the punchline appeared with an “Aha….of course!”.

    Reading one of David’s columns is pretty much the same experience for me as the Rex Murphy experience. Due to not being cut from the same intellectual cloth as the Rex Murphy’s and David Climenhaga’s of the world, I find I have to slowly and methodically also chase him down his many rabbit holes in order to be able to finally connect the dots in his thinking. It could perhaps even be compared to a jigsaw puzzle….putting all the pieces together until the bigger picture emerges.

    When I do, the fridge door opens and there is that big piece of intellectual cream pie waiting to be enjoyed. Peter Mansbridge would often be caught looking like he had just wolfed down a very big slice of Rex Murphy intellectual pie when the camera would pan to him just seconds after a segment of Rex’s Point of View on the CBC had concluded. Mr. Mansbridge looked like he had died and went to intellectual heaven while wiping the coconut cream from his lips.

    I often wished that Rex Murphy would dumb it down a little for his readers to make it easier to get his vision but then that wouldn’t be Rex being Rex, or by the same token, David being David. It’s usually worth the effort to burn some wood in the process of these intellectual pursuits.

      1. I dunno DJC, comparing you to Rex Murphy, the batshit crazy Canadian uncle that no one invited over for Thanksgiving dinner but showed up anyway….I’m not sure if you are to take that as an insult or not!

  6. FWIW— the things that make you go hmmm???

    Reuters- June 27 2023…
    “Exclusive: Russian firm asks Venezuela to match Chevron oil-for-debt deal”…
    BNN Bloomberg-Feb 20 2024
    “Russia Ships Urals Oil to Venezuela, Expanding Pool of Buyers “…..
    A supertanker carrying Russia’s flagship Urals crude has arrived off the coast of Venezuela as Moscow looks for new buyers amid tightening sanctions and disruptions in the Red Sea……
    It collected about 1.7 million barrels of Urals via ship-to-ship transfers off southern Greece last month before sailing to Venezuela.

    Just another ” interesting ” tidbit in the O&G industry.

    And off topic, but I see that your local MP ‘Cooper’ was showing his best misogynist side, AGAIN, on International Women’s Day, by going after former PM, Kim Campbell, for what impo, was stating a fact ” Hallelujah ” ,someone had the wherewithal to say in public, what alot of us are saying ,but with no voice.
    She said* about PP ” he’s a liar and a hate-monger “.
    Bravo Kim !!!!
    * paywall for me, but the article is in the Toronto Star (which I’m sure will havePP posting another ” JT” funded yada yada yada.)

  7. KXL was $7.5 billion, or $10 billion USD. There is the issue of the missing loan guarantees.

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