Ms Soapbox and her daughter were admiring the statues in the Borghese Gallery in Rome when Amnesty International published an open letter expressing its concern that Mr Kenney’s decision to fund a $30 million war room and a $2.5 million public inquiry into foreign funding of environmental groups undermines and violates Canadian and international human rights.
Mr Kenney fired back with a mendacious diatribe that failed to address the issue (violation of human rights) and spewed nonsense intended to convince everyone that environmentalists were bullies and the energy sector and Albertans dependent on it were their victims. He’d promised to protect these “victims” and by golly he’d deploy the full power of the state to punish those who got in his way.
His supporters lapped it up; the rest of us were disgusted.
Which brings me back to the statues in the Borghese Gallery, specifically Bernini’s magnificent statue of David.
So here’s Mr Kenney’s problem. He’s got it backwards. He’s not David taking on Goliath, he’s Goliath taking on David and we all know how that turned out.
Those who oppose Mr Kenney’s policies on climate change, heck his policies in general, are like David, determined and unafraid. We’re gathering strength and refining our focus and one day that stone will fly and Goliath, the champion of the Philistines will fall.*
Mr Kenney’s cavalier response to a legitimate concern expressed by Amnesty International all but guarantees it.
*Ms Soapbox is not for one moment suggesting someone slingshot Mr Kenney. Like Mr Kenney’s use of the Putin/Greenpeace off-to-Siberia example, Mr Soapbox’s reference to David and Goliath is meant to be instructive, simply instructive.
When Jason Kenney asked former finance minister Janice MacKinnon “to conduct a deep dive into Alberta’s fiscal situation” he told her to deliver recommendations to balance the budget by 2023 and develop a plan to retire the province’s debt without considering the revenue side of the equation.
Ms M accepted this
cock-eyed mandate and worked her magic.
There’s been a lot of talk about Ms M’s recommendations, but very little discussion about whether her data support those recommendations or indeed whether the Blue Ribbon Panel lost all credibility when she agreed to Mr Kenney’s wonky mandate in the first place.
Half a budget
For a government
that prides itself on being willing to use “all of the tools in its toolbox”,
the fact Kenney prevented Ms M from considering the revenue side of the
budgeting process confirms he was looking for a political report, not one based
on economic logic.
Ms M started by
reassuring Albertans she understood the importance of revenues. She defined a budget as a plan “outlining
anticipated revenues and expenditures” and warned that to manage
Alberta’s finances it would be necessary “to increase stable sources of
revenue and decrease reliance on volatile non-renewable resource revenues”.
That said, she began
to spread the pixie dust.
She selected three
comparator provinces, BC, Ontario and Quebec—all of which have a provincial sales
tax and higher personal income taxes than Alberta and factor them into the revenue
side of their budget deliberations—and concluded Alberta had to cut $600
million in spending and radically change its approach to capital investment or
No one, not even Ms
Notley’s NDP, disputes the idea that Alberta’s economy is facing “crisis” given
its unsustainable reliance on volatile non-renewable resource revenues to
balance the budget; where we part company
with Ms M and Mr Kenney is on how best to address it.
rule: cheapest is best, always
Throughout the report Ms M’s tries to justify her recommendations with evidence but when the evidence isn’t in her favour she simply defaults to the magic rule: Alberta must match the cheapest province in the comparator group; and when Alberta is the cheapest province she sets the bar even lower by expanding the comparator group.
Ms M said Alberta’s
healthcare spending per capita ($5077) is higher than BC ($4267), Ontario
($4080) and Quebec ($4370). She noted Alberta’s
healthcare spending increased by 26% over the last 10 years but the rate of increase
slowed to 3.2% (in line with the other provinces) under the NDP. Ah, so the NDP’s plan to “bend the cost
curve” was working.
Ms M said one would
expect higher spending to produce better health outcomes but Alberta’s
“outcomes are no better and are often worse than comparable provinces.” This is not entirely true.
Some of Alberta’s outcomes lag the comparator provinces, but others are better (eg. general mortality rates and the treatment of kidney disease) or on par with the other provinces (eg. hospital sepsis, patient readmittance to hospital, the number of family practitioners and specialists per 100,000 and wait times).
poorer health outcomes do not justify reduced spending…and it doesn’t need to
because the magic rule is Alberta’s spending must be as low or lower than the
rest of the comparators. Period.
There’s no doubt
Alberta needs to improve its health outcomes (all provinces do) but Ms M
provided no evidence to support her recommendation that the solution lies in
more privatization and picking fights with doctors and other medical
professionals over compensation.
Alberta’s K – 12 teachers are not the highest paid in the land. They make less than Ontario teachers, and more
than BC teachers, there is no comparative information for
The same is true for
Alberta’s spending per student and the split between program spending versus
administrative spending—Alberta spends more than BC but less than Ontario and
Nevertheless, the magic
rule dictates Alberta’s education budget be reduced to match BC with no
consideration of the fact that Alberta has two education systems (public and
separate) while BC only has one (public).
This is so easy when you don’t have to think about it.
The most troubling
part of Ms M’s analysis is she fails to distinguish between public and private
education. By blurring the lines, she obscures the impact of her recommendation
that the funding formula move away from one based solely on enrolment to one
that considers outcomes including a school’s success at delivering “strategic
outcomes desired by the ministry”.
Leaving aside the
uncertainty around what “strategic outcomes” means and how it would be
measured, this recommendation paves the way for private schools to get more
public funding than public schools whose outcomes are impacted by fewer
resources and the fact they can’t screen out higher needs students.
With respect to post
secondary institutions, Ms M found Alberta spends $$36,510 per full time
student, this is more than BC ($31,299), Ontario ($21,536) and Quebec ($25,
822), and less on administration than Quebec but more than BC and
What’s not clear is
why. (Ms Soapbox found the bubble charts
and bar graphs incredibly unhelpful).
In any event Ms M’s
recommendation is clear: some
institutional aren’t as financially viable as others and should be on the
chopping block. One suspects institutions with strong UCP supporters on
their boards of governors will be just fine. The rest are on their own.
This is where Ms M’s logic went
right out the window.
Ms M says the government grew in
size from 2014 to 2019 despite the recession and growing deficit and debt.
What’s that got to do with it? A
caring government strengthens the social safety net in tough times, it doesn’t
rip it apart. (Incidentally, the increase
over those five years was small, only 5.4%).
Ms M says the government is too
big, but the metric she uses (# of employees per 100,000 population) shows it’s
just right. Alberta’s public service is similar in size to BC, higher
than Ontario but much lower than Quebec. It’s in the sweet spot and
arguably should be left alone…but for the magic rule, cheapest is best.
Ms M acknowledges the unions exercised
“restraint” in past years but suggests a 2.5% pay hike in 2016/17 and 0% and 0%
in the next two years wasn’t enough “restraint” because union employees are
well paid and get other benefits. This ignores
the fact that they did not get sky high salaries and bonuses in the good times; if they can’t take advantage of the “boom” why
should they be penalized for the “bust”?
Then Ms M does an about face and
recommends the pay freeze on government non-union employees be lifted. The only distinction between these two groups
is one is unionized and the other is not.
She wants to overhaul collective
bargaining by tying pay raises to salary levels in comparator provinces. This
recommendation undermines the role of unions which is to negotiate the best
deal for their members here in Alberta. Furthermore, it’s inconsistent with the
practice in the private sector where compensation is based on annual surveys performed
by Towers Perrin and Mercers who compare salaries and benefits across the employers’
peer group in a specific marketplace. What
an oil company’s peer group pays its engineers in Calgary sets the benchmark
for Calgary, no one cares what a company pays its engineers in Ontario.
Ms M recommends the government
reduce the size of the public service by attrition (good), eliminating lower
priority services and programs (let’s talk) and alternative delivery options
(oh you mean privatization, we really need to talk!).
This one had poor Ms M
It turns out Alberta’s capital
spending is low when compared to BC, Ontario and Quebec. No problem, Ms M simply ditched the
conventional way of measuring capital spending (it’s used across Canada and
internationally) and replaced it with a metric that compared Alberta’s capital
spending on a per capita basis with the 10-province average. And voila, Alberta’s spending was above
average for the last 20 years.
She wants Alberta to decrease capital
spending to align with the 10-province average.
Furthermore, she’s against borrowing to finance capital spending. She wants the government to implement a long
term capital plan that finances capital spending out of current revenues.
This is contrary to David Dodge’s advice that the government should borrow to finance capital spending in times of slow growth. He believes “attempting to maintain a balanced budget each and every year will exaggerate cyclical economic volatility and have a perverse impact on long run growth.”
So, who do we trust: Ms M or David Dodge, the former governor of
the Bank of Canada, and the national and international community?
The magic continues
Ms M expects Alberta to increase its revenues by growing the economy. She applauds the corporate tax cut as one way to get there. Given the fact Alberta was already the lowest tax jurisdiction in Canada it’s questionable whether the $4.5 billion gift to corporations will make a significant difference. However, any moves on Mr Kenney’s part that damage publicly funded and publicly delivered healthcare, education and other public services will negatively impact Alberta’s reputation for offering a good quality of life.
On Sept 1 Premier Kenney wished Alberta a happy birthday. Not once in his video message did he mention Canada. It was as if Alberta became a province in 1905 only to float around in No Mans Land for the next 114 years.
He did, however, acknowledge Alberta’s connection to Canada in the official press release by noting Alberta became “a full and equal partner in the Dominion of Canada”, “Albertans have built a province that is the engine of Canada’s prosperity (actually it’s not the engine, it’s one of three engines, Ontario and Quebec both contribute more to Canada’s GDP than we do), and Alberta is “the best place in Canada to live, work, play and raise a family.”
Both the video and the press release repeat the
message that Albertans are “people of destiny”.
Given the ambiguity of the phrase (it can refer to anything from
evangelical groups to pop stars) it’s important to note how Mr Kenney
characterized the phrase.
Mr Kenney said a “program” entitled “A People of
Destiny” was printed to mark the day Alberta became a province in 1905. He doesn’t tell us what the “program” said. He does tell us that he believes generations
of Albertans have lived up to the “notion of being people of destiny, that we
have created something exceptional here, a culture of enterprise, of personal
responsibility and strong communities.”
He asked us to remember those who helped build Alberta “while
rededicating ourselves to live by the values of community enterprise and
freedom in an Alberta that in the future will continue to be strong and free.”
Perhaps this is just feel good talk Alberta-style, but it’s troubling in the context of Mr Kenney’s misleading rhetoric that the feds are using the equalization formula to unfairly benefit other provinces at Alberta’s expense and his contradictory campaign promises about the purpose of a referendum—the UCP policy document says it’s to (a) remove equalization from the Constitution, and (b) use the threat of the referendum to demand changes to the equalization formula (do we want it removed from the Constitution or not?) if there isn’t substantial progress on a coastal pipeline and if Bill C-69 isn’t repealed, (so we’re okay with the equalization formula if we get Trans Mountain and Mr Scheer becomes prime minister and repeals Bill C-69?).
Mr Kenney’s sloppy language has led many
Albertans to conclude that Mr Kenney will call a referendum on equalization and
if the majority of Albertans say the feds should restructure the formula and the
feds refuse that gives Mr Kenney the mandate to start working on Alberta’s
Mr Kenney attempted to disabuse Albertans of this
notion with an angry press release upbraiding Quebec Premier Legault for saying
Mr Kenney was “starting to become a separatist” and reminding Albertans that it
was he who insisted the UCP merger agreement include a principle of loyalty to
a “united Canada” and for him “that loyalty is non-negotiable”.
But it’s too late.
His supporters firmly believe that Mr Kenney will
lead them to the promised land if the federal government fails to come to heel.
And goofy happy birthday greetings telling Albertans they are “people of destiny” without acknowledging how fortunate we are to be part of a diverse and wealthy nation called Canada only add to the confusion.
This just in from the
Mr Kenney’s government issued two press releases this week,
one about the restart of construction of the TMX pipeline project, the other
about the favourable ruling of the Nebraska Supreme Court on Keystone XL. Both of these announcements are about a good result
achieved by someone else.
And that’s why Mr Kenney’s knickers are in a knot.
Good news isn’t really good news because…
The TMX press release contains just one word that’s not critical or negative. It appears in this sentence: “The news that construction will restart on this project is positive; however there is still not reason to celebrate.”
The Keystone XL press release contains two words that aren’t critical or negative. They appear in these sentences: “Today’s approval is encouraging news for both Alberta and our nation as a whole. This court victory is another step forward for this vital pipeline project after far too many years of regulatory delays and hurdles.” No wait, there’s a third positive word, Mr Kenney expressed gratitude to the US administration (is he afraid to say the word “Trump”) for issuing the second permit for Keystone XL.
After offering those tepid “attaboys” the press releases
shift into campaign rhetoric and misleading information.
Mr Kenney promises his government will “fight” those who “obstruct
progress,” and who must not be allowed to “illegally block” construction and “essentially
veto a project.” He fails to mention that
TMX protestors (including Elizabeth May) who violated the injunction protecting
the TMX work site in Burnaby were arrested and fined and will be arrested and
fined if they violate injunctions in the future. And that Canada has no jurisdiction to fight
those who illegally block the construction of Keystone XL in the US.
In case his rhetoric isn’t persuasive enough, Mr Kenney ends both press releases with a demand that the federal government repeal what he calls the ‘No More Pipelines’ Bill (C-69) and the West Coast Tanker Ban (C-48), but neglects to mention that neither bill has any impact on TMX or Keystone XL whatsoever and may have minimal impact in the future because some oilsands executives say Canada will have enough takeaway capacity for quite some time if TMX, Keystone XL and Enbridge Line 3 are completed.
Mr Kenney’s references to Bills C-69 and C-48 are red
herrings intended to divert our attention from the fact his government had
nothing to do with TMX and Keystone XL achieving these milestones.
Mr Kenney may argue he’s just being realistic. If so, he should have mentioned Keystone XL
and Enbridge Line 3 (and Line 5) are facing additional legal challenges in the
US. If Mr Kenney wants to get in on the
action, perhaps he can aim the big guns in his $30 million War Room in the
Americans’ direction. (NOTE: “big guns”
is a metaphor, Ms Soapbox is not for a moment suggesting Mr Kenney take up arms
and declare war on the United States).
Where’s a stateman when you need one?
Even the former premier, Rachel Notley (NDP) and the former Natural
Resources Minister Jim Carr (Liberal) were able to overcome their lack of
affection for Donald Trump (nutbar) when he reissued the federal cross-border
permit through an expedited presidential order that allowed Keystone XL to
proceed. They issued press releases
welcoming the news.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Mr Kenney could rise to the level of
statesman instead of defaulting to cheap partisanship and misleading attacks on
the federal Liberal government?
It was a headline befitting the National Enquire, splashed
across the top of the newspaper in four different fonts and three different
colours: “The evidence abundantly shows that Mr Trudeau knowingly sought to
influence Ms Wilson-Raybould both directly and through the actions of his
And boom, it turned into a media circus.
The fundamental problem with this headline is the Ethics Commissioner, Mr Dion, also said simply seeking to influence another’s decision is not enough to breach of section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act.
A second element is required. Mr Dion had to find that “Mr.
Trudeau, through his actions and those of his staff, sought to improperly
further the interests of SNC-Lavalin.”
Mr Dion said both elements were satisfied; however Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional and international law, says Mr Dion appears to have misinterpreted “his own act and his jurisdiction” and we need a “more in depth discussion of the accuracy of this report among government, the media and…the public.”
Sadly, the media is not interested in a thoughtful discussion about the Report. It’s perfectly happy running amok, cherry picking its way through the Report and blasting out the juicy bits to boost readership.
Media Spin I: Improper interference in a criminal
The media says Mr Trudeau breached the Act by trying to get JWR
to “interfere” with a criminal prosecution.
This ignores the fact the AG has the discretion to intervene and if she chooses
to exercise her discretion she’s not “interfering” with a criminal prosecution,
she’s “intervening.” (And remember Mr
Dion said Mr Trudeau trying to get JWR to do anything doesn’t violate the Act).
Media Spin 2: The women vs the old boys club
The media says JWR led a group of women (Ms Roussel, director of public prosecutions, Ms Prince, her chief of staff, Ms Drouin, her deputy minister, former Liberal MP Ms Philpott and maybe even former chief justice Beverly McLachlin who “had her own reservations”) in a fight to fend off the “Old Boys club” (comprised of Mr Trudeau, some SNC executives and senior government officials, and maybe even two former Supreme Court justices, Frank Iacobucci and John Major) who were trying to get JWR to “interfere” with a criminal prosecution.
Have they read the report?
Ms Drouin, JWR’s deputy minister, was the first to propose bringing
in an outside expert. She said the
Attorney General (JWR) could issue a directive instructing the Prosecution
Service to give the outside expert enough information to ensure the “public
interest criteria had been properly weighed”. JWR rejected
her deputy minister’s advice.
With respect to Ms McLachlin, JWR said she’d talk with the
former chief justice, then changed her mind.
Ms McLachlin was prepared to meet with JWR, Ms McLachlin’s so-called “reservations”
were that she was no longer a lawyer and couldn’t give legal advice, she needed
a proper briefing and she’d need to be retained by the AG not the
No matter how the media spins it, this wasn’t a battle
between the women and the Old Boys club.
Media Spin 3: Rushed remediation agreements
Discussions about whether Canada should adopt remediation
agreements (also known as deferred prosecution agreements) had been ongoing since
May 2015 when SNC engaged in discussions with the Harper government. Talks stalled and were suspended pending the
outcome of the federal election in Oct 2015.
The Trudeau government revisited the idea in Feb 2016. It held public consultations from Sept 25,
2016 to Dec 8, 2016 and found the majority of the participants supported the
idea. It introduced amendments to the
Criminal Code in the omnibus Budget Bill that was tabled on Mar 27, 2017. The Budget Bill was reviewed by the House
Standing Committee and several Senate committees before receiving assent on
June 21, 2018. The Criminal Code amendments went into effect on Sept 19,
JWR complained that the consultation process was rushed and
refused to lead the memorandum on the Criminal Code amendments to Cabinet, speak
publicly or speak before parliamentary committees about it.
Was the consultation rushed?
There are no rules setting out how long public consultation should
last. Consultations range from three
weeks for input on national historic sites, to three months for input on the
agenda for Canada’s Sustainable Development Knowledge, to three years for input
on the implementation of the Species at Risk.
JWR didn’t say how long the consultation should have been, but she was
so unhappy with the process she boycotted it.
Media Spin 4:
It’s all about Quebec votes
Mr Trudeau had direct contact with JWR once, in a meeting
in Sept 2018 that included Mr Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council. Mr Trudeau said he understood the decision
was JWR’s to make and she’d made it. He said
he wanted to find a “solution” and when she agreed to talk further with Mr
Wernick and her own deputy minister (who’d suggested bringing in an outside
expert and reaching out to the Prosecution Service) he thought she was prepared
to revisit the issue.
During this meeting Mr Wernick mentioned the upcoming Quebec
election and Mr Trudeau said he was a Quebec MP. JWR asked Mr Trudeau if he was politically interfering
with her role. He said no and never
mentioned politics again, unfortunately some of his staff did in their meetings
with JWR and her staff.
Professor Mendes and others say the Shawcross doctrine precludes
an AG from considering political interests in a criminal prosecution. But here’s the kicker. Professor Mendes says the Shawcross doctrine
does not apply in a consideration of section 9 of the Act
and the Ethics Commissioner misinterpreted the Act and his jurisdiction when he
Media Spin 5:
This is about ethics
Mr Dion said Mr Trudeau attempted to influence JWR’s decision
not to intervene in the SNC prosecution on four occasions:
At the Sept 2018 meeting when he said he was
an MP for Quebec. Professor Mendes
says the Commissioner inappropriately applied the Shawcross doctrine and
misinterpreted his jurisdiction when he did so.
When PMO and Privy Council staff asked whether
the AG could intervene in SNC’s application for judicial review to expedite the
hearing or get a stay pending the outcome of discussions about the remediation
agreement. Does staff asking the question
amount to “influence”?
Suggesting to JWR that she seek external advice
from “someone like” former chief justice Beverly McLachlin when SNC had legal
opinions from two former Supreme Court justices and shared them with the
government and these opinions were prepared for the “sole purpose of persuading
[JWR] to reconsider her opinion.” This
is highly insulting. Ms McLachlin is not
a puppet on a string. She would have
formed her own opinion which may or may not have agreed with that of the two former
Supreme Court justices.
The “final and most flagrant attempt to
influence” JWR was her conversation with Mr Wernick where he asked her to
reconsider. The irony here is palpable. The Ethics Commissioner is relying on a conversation
JWR secretly taped (most people would call that unethical, but the Ethics
Commission calls it an “audio recording”) to condemn Mr Trudeau for things Mr
Mr Dion said these four instances tick the box for “seeking
to influence.” He then embarked on a mushy
discussion of the “national public interest” to demonstrate Mr Trudeau sought to improperly further SNC’s interests.
Mr Trudeau said he was trying to save 9,000 jobs. Mr Dion said this was improper because a prosecutor cannot consider the “national public interest.” Mr Trudeau’s lawyer argued “national public interest” as defined in the Criminal Code is modeled on the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the former Secretary-General of OECD said it was never intended to include job loss so a prosecutor can consider it . Mr Dion rejected this argument.
And Mr Trudeau was done.
When its all over
Yes, the Report contains evidence of discussions between
Mr Trudeau and his staff and JWR and her staff, but these discussions are not
enough to find Mr Trudeau in breach of the Act.
To cross that bridge Mr Dion applied the Shawcross doctrine, perhaps in
error, and relied on a definition of the national public interest which may be
incorrect. The Report requires more in
Not that it matters to the media who are guided by the
maxim: what would the National Enquirer do?
Based on what we’ve seen so far, the National Enquirer would
“Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.” Mark Twain
Last week Mr Kenney joined the patriot squad. On August 4 and August 7 he released two odious videos on social media. Let’s call them “Patriot Games One” and “Patriot Games Two.”
The gist of Patriot Games One was that Mr Kenney is a Canadian patriot who comes from a long line of Canadian patriots and is descended from people who fought for Canada even before it became a country (um, wouldn’t that make them British patriots?). Mr Kenney said Alberta is getting a raw deal from the other provinces and the feds, Alberta is paying the bills and getting no respect, but fear not Mr Kenney will not let Justin Trudeau “push us out of our country”. Mr Kenney said instead of focusing on Alberta separating from Canada, Albertans should focus on “separating” Justin Trudeau from the prime minister’s office.
Message: Be a patriot.
Vote Conservative because Trudeau is trying to push Alberta out of
Games Two came out three days later.
Apparently, Albertans continually ask Mr Kenney about separating. He says he’s a Canadian federalist, always
has been, always will be…but he understands Alberta’s angst. Alberta contributed $600 billion to Canada
over the last six decades and Trudeau “killed” and “surrendered to a veto” on
Northern Gateway (I guess killing it wasn’t enough), he “killed” Energy East,
he “bungled” Trans Mountain, he’s “threatening us with a punitive carbon tax,”
he brought in the “no more pipelines” law, he attacked Alberta oil exports off
the northwest coast and did other bad things to Alberta. But Albertans are “proud Canadians”, we
should fix the problems with the federation by electing a conservative federal
Be a patriot. Vote Conservative because
Trudeau is hurting Alberta.
where Patriot Games Two got really interesting.
Kenney said, “I believe we Albertans are patriotic Canadians we
believe in Canada even if we’re frustrated with how the current federal
government has been injuring our economy and I’m trying toisolatethefrustration on a series of federal government policies that
have injured our economy, the only alternative is for me to pretend that
this frustration doesn’t exist and when political leadership ignores that level
of frustration, that’s where things can go in the wrong direction. (Is
he going to “isolate the frustration” by magnifying it? If he ignores the
frustration what direction will it go? Car bombs and kidnapped politicians?)
He ends the clip by
repeating his claim that he’s a proud Canadian patriot who wants Alberta “to be
a key member” of federation, contributing to the rest of Canada.
Message: I’m not a separatist, I just sound like one because I’m isolating your frustration.
Patriot or Nationalist
There is so much
wrong with Patriot Games One and Two it’s hard to know where to begin.
Let’s start by
defining terms. Merriam Webster defines
“patriot” as someone who loves and supports his/her country.
Mr Kenney says he’s
a patriot, but his actions aren’t those of someone who loves and supports his
A patriot does not spend years maligning federal institutions (like the equalization formula) or telling Albertans they’re getting a raw deal and “no respect” from other provincial governments and the federal government.
A patriot does not pretend the language of separatism is an effort to “isolate” frustration and he has no other alternative. Mr Kenney could try working with Mr Trudeau to gain his support like Ms Notley did when she convinced Mr Trudeau to buy Trans Mountain and increase unemployment insurance benefits for Albertans, or Mr Lougheed did when he engaged with Pierre Trudeau on changes to the 1982 Constitution Act. These fine premiers found an alternative that did not suggest the federal government was trying to throw Alberta out of the country.
(As an aside, why would Mr Trudeau push Alberta out of Canada when he just spent $4.5 billion on a pipeline to transport Alberta bitumen to tide water?)
Lastly, a patriot does not use the language of patriotism in a crass partisan pitch for the federal Conservatives coming to the people directly from the premier’s office and the lobby of the Alberta Legislature no less. Does Mr Kenney seriously think Albertans will vote for anyone else?
The historian, Timothy
Snyder, said a patriot sets a good example of what the country means for
generations to come.
George Orwell said a
nationalist, “although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge”
tends to be “uninterested in what happens in the real world.”
When Ms Soapbox read the “open letter” to Canadians published by three oil executives she was reminded of Sigmund Freud. Freud spent 30 years asking himself: what do women want?
After 70 years of riding the boom/bust roller coaster with
the energy industry Canadians are wondering the same thing: what do they want?
The answer is contained in the “open letter”.
Here’s the letter as it appeared in 30 newspapers. (Ms Soapbox’s comments appear in italics).
big decisions to make as a country, and there is an opportunity for each of you
to influence the outcome. (How will
you vote in the federal election?)
want to know what the energy sector is doing to address the global climate
change challenge while working to strengthen our economy. (True).
company leaders, we believe Canada is ideally positioned to do its part to both
positively impact climate change and ensure a strong and vibrant economy for
the future. (Good).
not an ‘either’ ‘or’ conversation, it’s an ‘and’ conversation. (Got it).
The world needs more energy to sustain a growing global economy that is expected to lift three billion people out of poverty in the decades ahead. We need more wind, solar and hydro, but oil and natural gas remain a large part of the mix too. This is true in even the most optimistic scenarios for the worldwide adoption of renewable energy. (Lifting three billion people out of poverty involves geopolitical and macroeconomic issues as well as climate change, but okay).
The world also needs to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But shutting down Canada’s oil industry will have little impact on global targets. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, with higher carbon fuels replacing our lower emissions products. (This is not an excuse for doing nothing, Canada can set an example. It’s called moral leadership).
A healthy Canadian oil and natural gas industry is vital in leading the way to a lower carbon future. (Not if “healthy” means “profitable” and “profitable” means minimal GHG reduction).
technologies that reduce emissions at our oil and natural gas operations could
be adapted for sharing with other industries worldwide. We are already making
meaningful progress developing those solutions.
reduced the emissions intensity in the oil sands by about 30% over the past two
decades, and a number of oil sands operations are producing oil with a smaller
greenhouse gas impact than the global average. We’re working to get those
numbers even lower.
Suncor says it’s reduced emissions by 50%.
Is Suncor sharing its technologies with you, if so, why are you at 30%?)
energy companies are the country’s single largest investors in clean tech.
Through organizations such as Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA),
Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) and the Clean Resource Innovation
Network (CRIN) we are continuing to work on – and share – breakthrough
technologies. (Good, but you don’t
get brownie points for doing the right thing).
can’t do it alone. (Here it comes…)
that’s why we are writing this letter. (Wait
head into the upcoming election, we are asking you to join us in urging
Canada’s leaders of all political stripes to help our country thrive by
supporting an innovative energy industry. One that can contribute to solving
the global climate change challenge and play a significant role in creating
future energy solutions by developing our resources in the cleanest most
responsible way possible today.
(So you want to elect a government that will support the industry. According to 80% of the investors and industry executives who attended the 2019 ScotiaBank Conference, the biggest issue facing the industry is lack of egress/takeaway capacity—only 10% thought regulatory issues were the biggest challenge—the Trudeau Liberals bought Trans Mountain to fix the egress problem. The holdup is Charter challenges in the courts. A change of government won’t “fix” the courts.
say they’ll repeal the carbon tax. This will
put more cash in your pocket. How will
you invest it? 85% of the ScotiaBank
guys said they’d buy back shares or pay off debt (ie. give the money to shareholders
or banks), 0% said they’d invest in growth (ie. more jobs). So why should Canadians support the
The choices we make will determine the quality of life we create for ourselves and future generations. These choices will impact our ability to fund schools, hospitals, parks and the social programs that we as Canadians so deeply value. (Canadians also value the environment).
isn’t about any particular pipeline, policy or province. This is about the
future of Canada.
(So let’s talk politics. The ScotiaBank guys were asked who’d win in the fall election: 11% predicted a Conservative majority, 5% predicted a Liberal majority and 75% predicted a minority government of some sort. A CBC poll showed 35% of Canadians support the Conservatives, 31% support the Liberals, 13% support the NDP and 11% support the Greens—this foreshadows a non-Conservative minority government).
the Presidents of CNRL, Cenovus, MEG Energy
signed by the presidents of industry giants like Suncor, Husky and Imperial and
mega pipelines like Enbridge and Trans Canada).
Instead of publishing an open letter asking Canadians to elect a government that won’t push the industry on GHG emissions and supports less regulation, these three executives should have paid attention to economist Peter Tertzakian who told the ScotiaBank crowd in order to succeed the industry must: (1) lower its costs, (2) pay more attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and (3) do the best job it can to get the highest value markets because politics in Canada and the world are unpredictable.
To paraphrase Freud’s question: What do these industry executives want? Answer: a government that gives them everything.
what Canadians want? We’ll find out in