“Well, I think we made a little history tonight!”— Rachel Notley’s victory speech
Indeed we did! The 99% were jubilant. The 1% hit the panic button. And those who deflected political fearmongering with a healthy dose of hope and optimism found themselves facing a more insidious attack—fearmongering dressed up in a three-piece suit and renamed “economic risk and uncertainty”.
Here’s what fearmongering 1.0 and 2.0 look like.
In the last week of the provincial election the Orange Wave became a tsunami. Corporate Alberta went into overdrive, flocking to the media to warn Albertans that the economy would be destroyed and their lives ruined if they failed to think straight and give Team Prentice another chance.
Editorial after editorial said the government needs to run the province like a business and Jim Prentice, an ex-banker, was perfectly suited to be the government’s CEO.
As we all know, it didn’t turn out that way.
Albertans rejected Corporate Alberta’s effort to colour the democratic process as an exercise in corporate succession planning. Instead they elected Ms Notley who promised to represent all Albertans, not just those in the corporate sector.
Team Prentice was reduced to 10 seats. Mr Prentice won his seat but abandoned his constituents before all the votes were counted (not very CEO-like behavior by anyone’s estimation).
We rested for a nanosecond; then the media (Corporate Alberta’s BFF) rushed in to finish the job. God only knows what they thought they were doing, the election was over.
The media breathlessly reported that Albertans had made a terrible mistake.
The proof was right before our eyes. Canadian energy stocks plummeted overnight in response to the “economic risk and uncertainty” resulting from Albertans’ foolhardy decision to replace the business-friendly PC regime with an untested “left-leaning” NDP government that promised a royalty review, no further support for the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines and a two-point increase in corporate taxes.
Industry lobbyists demanded that Ms Notley clarify her intentions immediately.
She did. She told them everything would be A-OK.
Before someone circulates a petition recalling the entire NDP government, let’s look behind the curtain.
Plummeting energy stocks
Business columnists highlighted a 6% to 8% drop in share price at MEG Energy, Trilogy and Cenovus, but they failed to mention that Suncor, Husky and Imperial dropped less than half that amount (about 3%) and that all energy stocks were up by the close of business Friday due to higher crude prices and “a more positive sentiment for things oil-related these days.”
Fortunately, many energy companies filed their Q1 earning reports that same week, giving Albertans an opportunity to discover what energy sector CEOs really thought about the impact of an NDP government on their company’s business.
Of the 15 companies covered by the Daily Oil Bulletin, nine made no mention of the impact of the new NDP government.
Of the companies that mentioned the regime change, Crescent Point said the new NDP government wasn’t an issue because only 2% to 4% of its revenue was subject to Alberta royalties. Vermilion said it wouldn’t “pre-judge” the new government, preferring to wait until the NDP released its policies.
CNRL and Enbridge (the proponent of the Northern Gateway pipeline which would no longer be propped up by the Alberta government) said the change in government had created uncertainty but they were heartened by Ms Notley’s comment that the NDP would be a good partner for the industry.
Seven Gen embraced the change saying that while the PC government had been very good to the company, change creates new opportunities that they were eager to explore.
Husky said it operates in many jurisdictions with many regulators in Canada, the US and Asia and it enjoyed a good working relationship with the NDP governments in BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. As far as Husky was concerned it was “business as usual”.
Keep calm and carry on
The mainstream media moderated its tone. Perhaps they’ve gotten over the shock of discovering that Corporate Alberta no longer runs the government. Or maybe they’ve come to grips with the fact that they have absolutely no influence over Albertans whatsoever.
In any event, even the right-leaning CanWest Foundation warned the energy industry not to rush to judgment, suggesting “the faster the energy sector moves from fear and resentment to constructive engagement, the better off Alberta will be”.
Thank you Ms Notley
In her victory speech Ms Notley said “Whether you are a business leader, a union leader, a municipal leader, someone who leads in civil society, or just a plain Albertan – the Legislature belongs to you; the government belongs to you, and you will be treated with respect.”
I am thankful that Ms Notley gave Albertans a chance “to make a little history”.
I can’t wait to make a little bit more!