B.C. “attacks” Alberta. Really?

Thirty-six little words. That’s all it took for the media to whip Albertans up into a “how dare you” frenzy.

It started with the BC government’s Throne Speech in which Premier Christy Clark took her new election slogan—Say YES—for a test drive.

>Premier Christy Clark has, so far, declined to clear up how a Province email sent to the minister of advanced education about for-profit schools run by Eminata — a Liberal Party supporter — ended up on the desk of the company's president.  &#15

BC Premier Clark

Say YES she said to LNG, to mining, to the TPP and to Site C so that BC can become a “clean energy superpower.” (Why does everyone want to be a superpower? Can’t we just be a semi-superpower?) In order to reach that dream Ms Clark urged BC-ites to ignore “external pressures” and “internal critics” and just Say YES to economic development.

Mixed in with the 3434 words extolling the virtues of the Say YES campaign were 36 words suggesting that BC should not be like Alberta which had failed to diversify its economy or control government spending and imposed a carbon tax was not really revenue-neutral.

The leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition flew into a tizzy. Brian Jean said the onslaught was inconceivable; he’d never seen anything like it and we’d become a foot stool for other premiers. A foot stool?

In the days that followed the media continued to grind away at the gravity of the insult. They said:

  • It was a uniquely low point in Canadian interprovincial relations. Oh, I don’t know, Ralph Klein’s “Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark” was pretty pointed.
  • It failed to recognize that Alberta did expect the boom to end. Yes we did… sometime in the far away future, not last year.
  • Alberta is diversified because in 1985 energy formed 36% of the economy and in 2014 it dropped to 26%. Right, and energy at 26% of the economy creates 7.4% unemployment when the music stops so a little more diversification might be in order.

The media and the Opposition demanded Premier Notley do more to “stand up” for Alberta but were short on suggestions about what doing more looks like.

Standing Up

It seems everyone is standing up for something these days.

Premier Clark says she’s standing up for BC by imposing the Five Conditions on heavy oil pipelines.

What she’s not standing up for is the environment as she pursues her quest to be Canada’s next energy superpower.

Ms Clark has pinned her hopes on the Pacific NorthWest LNG Project. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency says the Project will likely cause significant adverse environmental effects on the harbour porpoise and as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.

The noise from dredging and pile driving during the three to five year construction period will result in behavior changes in humpback whales, killer whales and sea lions as well as harbour porpoises.

Furthermore the Project will add 350 LNG shipping vessels a year to the 500 tankers already in the area. (By 2015 the total number of tankers will be close to 2000 but CEAA couldn’t comment on the impact of vessel/marine mammal strikes because no current data was provided).

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Alberta Premier Notley

I suppose Premier Notley could stand up for Alberta by telling Premier Clark that Saying YES to the BC Project is hypocritical given its consequences on BC’s marine life.

But that’s a mug’s game. Ms Clark’s aspersions against Alberta are nothing more than political posturing.

Premier Clark is already in election mode. She’s concerned that the NDP together with the environmentalists will be a formidable problem, especially when the environmentalists realize that Flipper makes a better poster child, er pet, than Charlie the Tuna.

The real culprit

The real culprit isn’t Ms Clark it’s the media which no longer recognize the difference between news and hype.

The News Manual sets out four criteria to determine whether something is news: Is it new, unusual, significant/interesting, or about people?

Ms Soapbox would argue that the BC government’s Throne Speech is news in BC but fails to meet the criteria for news in Alberta and should not have displaced a more important story that appeared on the same day.

The Auditor General released a report that revealed the PC government doled out $1.4 billion a year to the oil patch in royalty breaks without assessing whether the royalty reduction actually increased the extraction of oil and natural gas as it was intended to do. The report also found the PC government pushed the flood disaster recovery program out of the hands of an admittedly incompetent contractor to Municipal Affairs even though it knew Municipal Affairs lacked the capacity to do the work.

The AG’s report tells Albertans something significant—namely that the administration of PC government programs is inadequate. It puts the NDP government on notice that it must correct these flaws.

Instead Postmedia chose to go with the hype and Albertans are talking about whether to cede from Confederation because no one appreciates us anymore.

What a waste of journalistic talent.

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29 Responses to B.C. “attacks” Alberta. Really?

  1. I don’t know much about politics but it seems to me that people, politicians included here, seem to like flinging poop at other people to make themselves look better. It also seems to me that the news loves writing stories about poop, not the real issues in the world, like Flipper.

    • Linda, you nailed it on both counts. We’ve come to expect this from politicians but it’s very disturbing to see this is the media. When Postmedia bought the Sun newspaper chain last October it promised the Competition Bureau it would keep the Sun tabloid press separate from the more “serious” broadsheet press. And 4 months later the Calgary Herald broadsheet runs the headline “Cheek turned to B.C. attack” and its reporters are frothing about BC’s “insult” to Alberta and the Wildrose and PC parties are throwing it around as another example of Rachel Notley falling down on the job. Get a grip already!

  2. Marilyn Koyanagi says:

    British Columbians were equally as disgusted with our premier as Albertans but not surprised. One of her most often used tactics is to deflect criticism by focusing attention on to something else and the media blindly follows along. The Queen of LNG is the last person who should be pointing fingers at any province for failing to diversify its economy.

    • Excellent point Marilyn. The disturbing element in Ms Clark’s diversity pitch was her commitment to reduce “red tape” by promising a “net zero increase” in regulations by 2019. While that sounds good on paper (who doesn’t want to see less red tape) it makes no sense to turn this exercise into a number count because if Ms Clark is seriously committed to diversification and climate change she’ll need to pass more regulations to govern those activities which means that the only way she’ll meet her “net zero” target is by eliminating perfectly good regulations on existing industries like mining and forestry and services like the provision of healthcare and education. It’s a silly metric that produces silly and sometimes dangerous outcomes.

  3. Sarah Palin’s sister, Christy Clark, speaks for no one save herself; therefore, she and Brian Jean should then really like one another, not be feuding, as their talent of extolling banality can only be matched by Saskatchewan’s soon-to-be-“ex” Premier Brad “The Invisible” Wall

    • Ken, you made me smile. I’m sure you’re right, Sarah, Christy, Brian and Brad are birds of a feather. It’s a shame they don’t all fly south and stay there!

    • Carlos Beca says:

      It is scary to think that we are being governed by people of this caliber.
      They wished they were birds of feather. The Keas of New Zealand can accomplish more than this people. At least they think.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      That is funny and very right
      Brad is becoming a pain in the neck as well. Now he wants the Federal government to pay for the cleanup of old oil wells!! This is amazing really. So the oil companies come in, take the oil, barely pay royalties, and then we clean up the mess? I wonder what his bonus is on this sale?

      • It’s odd that conservatives like Brad Wall and Ric McIver have no problem with taxpayers paying for the clean up of oil wells that have been abandoned by poorly managed oil companies, but they go balk at the idea that taxpayers should pay a little more to cover shortfalls in funding for healthcare or education due to increased population growth. Corporate welfare is fine but people welfare, not so much.

  4. ABCanuck says:

    It would be a journalistic waste of talent if there were much talent left after the PostMedia “re-structuring”.

    • ABCanuck, you raise a very important point. The Postmedia “re-structuring” has had a detrimental impact on the quality of the reporting we’re seeing here in Alberta. A good friend pointed out that many of the journalists and editors who’ve been shown the door are women. This loss of diversity results in bizarre stories from the old white men, one of whom said he was surprised that Premier Notley promoted two female MLAs (Stephanie McLean and Brandy Payne) to Cabinet–he’d written them off because they were pregnant. Wow. Did he miss the story about Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who returned to work 2 weeks after giving birth and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, who has two young children, a high powered career and returned to work 10 days after the death of her husband? We’ve moved into the 21st century but journalism is still stuck in the 20th, no make that the 19th, century. Sad.

  5. jvandervlugt says:

    Hi Susan. Thank you for this blog. I’m concerned about the environmental effects of the LNG project. I appreciate you bringing that to our attention. You should be a reporter. You’d do a much better job. The media. I don’t want to use a wide brush stroke and say when are they going to really start doing their job, but seriously? Those 36 words the media jumped all over when there were so many important issues they could have reported about? Talk about missing the mark.

    • Thanks Joanna. You’d think the first thing a news editor would ask himself is: Is this news? Sadly the Calgary Herald, which is a conservative newspaper owned by Postmedia, a conservative publisher, seizes any opportunity to promote the conservative agenda especially when it stirs up righteous indignation on the part of its readers. This is a real disservice to everyone because it obscures the important questions, like what’s the real impact of LNG projects on the environment and marine life. I’m waiting for the inevitable tabloid story: who’s hottest, Rachel or Christy? Groan!

  6. political ranger says:

    Thank you Susan. You’ve hit the nail square on!
    The MSM are doing an abysmal job and have been for a good while now. How can we, the body politic, hope to find a sensible way forward when the ‘news’ is so slanted, tainted or non-existent?
    One way is to abandon MSM and transfer the lion’s share of news reading to excellent blogs like yours. There a number of such, even here in Alberta, and in BC.

    • Thank you Political ranger! You’re right there are a number of on-line services that carry the news and there’s always the CBC. Speaking of the CBC, The Current did a program on this topic. Professor Smith-Fullerton (Western Univ) said journalism was more than a business, it was a cornerstone of democracy and we needed independent journalists to ask tough questions of politicians and institutions. For this reason she supports public funding for journalism. This was countered by Lorne Gunter, an Edmonton Sun journalist, who said journalism was a business and public funding of journalism smacks of propaganda. If journalism couldn’t find a new business model it would fail but there were other sources (like Facebook) on which to find news. I’m more in the Smith-Fullerton camp. Social media tends to filter the “news” in accordance with your biases. Even the Soapbox tilts to the left. 🙂

      • political ranger says:

        Yes, I heard that piece on CBC. Gunter drives me nuts; I can’t believe an educated person can be so …. obtuse? grrr!
        It has always been the case the ‘democracy’ requires institutions; the demos always needed a forum. Because, it has also always been the case that big (at least bigger) money will buy the influence it needs.
        It’s a power imbalance. That’s what the Magna Carta liberatum, the French Revolution and the Great American Experiment were about. Since others have brought John Raulston Saul aboard, so will I (I like to refer to him as Mr. Adrian Clarkston), he says that without the institutions that give voice to the people the ‘legitimacy’ to govern will be found elsewhere.
        A government with the legitimacy to govern FOR the people is a powerful countermeasure to other forms of governance, all much less benign or open.

      • Carl Hunt says:

        If Lorne Gunter thinks “public funding of journalism smacks of propaganda” he must also conclude that private funding of news smacks of propaganda, by private owners and their rich advertisers. I’ll stick with public funding and unpaid bloggers. Thank you.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Lorne Gunter is like Brian Jean except his cassette is that everything public is controlled by the government and it is bad. I have never heard anything so childish.

      • It was really hard to listen to Lorne Gunter. First he described the cuts as devastating and going right to the heart of the newsroom, then he denounced publicly funded journalism. Anna Maria Tremonti reminded him that the CBC was publicly funded and he said the government and the taxpayers don’t like funding it (which is simply not true, at least as far as the public is concerned). He closed by saying there are only two solutions: (1) a philanthropic approach to journalism, namely if you want the CBC you should pay for it the way the Americans pay for NPR and public television (this ignores the fact that the US has 10 times the population of Canada and more people to draw upon) and (2) find a new business model that appeals to the twitter/facebook reader.

        It was a classic case of the progressive and conservative viewpoints flying past each other yet again.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I heard that interview and Ana Maria Tremonti got a bit agitated because as usual Lorne Gunter lies without any problem at all and he said that Canadians did not want the CBC anyway. It is quite unreal. I do not trust him at all. I have read in more than one of his articles, that Germany’s wind and solar programs is a failure. He is as bad as Ezra Levant. These people thrive on irritating others and getting attention as bullies.

      • Ah yes, Ezra Levant. I have to bite my tongue when it comes to Ezra Levant. I’ve been thinking about the dustup he got into with the NDP government over being banned and then unbanned from media events. There are a lot of interesting angles to that story.

  7. tomjenness says:

    As much as I dislike Ralph Klein it was Peter Lougheed who said ‘Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark’

  8. midgelambert says:

    You might be interested in seeing what BCers ARE saying YES to:
    From the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition http://skeenawatershed.com/

    It’s the Fish – It’s the Economy It’s the Science
    It’s about saying YES!

    YES to wild salmon from the Skeena continuing to contribute more than $110 million dollars each year to our local economy.

    YES to reducing Canada’s climate emissions.

    YES to local & regional economies

    YES to building safe and healthy communities

    YES to peer-reviewed, published science informing our decisions

    YES to building a new sustainable energy economy

    Which means that sometimes we need to say NO to the very things that threaten all the stuff we want to say YES to. Time to quit our bad habits – like proposing massive LNG terminals in our wild salmon estuary – so we can move onto building an economy that works.

    • Carl Hunt says:

      ‘YES’ to the ‘Yes List’ that the Alberta Energy Regulator, National Energy Board and most politicians never consider while making decisions to approve destructive industry projects that deliver short term benefits to multinational corporations and long term damage to renewable resources.

      • Carl, sadly the AER, the NEB and the politicians are supposed to be considering the items on the YES list right now. Companies address these concerns by setting out mitigation plans or arguing that the action plan should be considered at some point in the future, not now. This approach works well for the companies, but can be disastrous for the rest of us.

    • Midge what an excellent YES list. I especially liked your last sentence. Indeed, let’s “move onto building an economy that works”. Sometimes it feels like we’re at the end of the Medieval period trying to burst through to the Industrial Age and beyond but those who benefit from the Medieval period are fighting the transition with everything they’ve got.

  9. “Alberta lost its focus,” said Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon. “They expected their resource boom never to end, failed to diversify their economy and lost control of government spending.”

  10. Joe, David Mowat who headed up the Royalty Review Panel would likely agree with the BC Lt. Gov. Mowat said that in the past the PC government’s approach to managing our energy resources was “ad hoc”. That sounds a lot like a lack of focus doesn’t it.

    I like what our Lt-Gov said in Alberta’s Throne Speech. “Albertans want to build an economy that is widely diversified and resilient to energy price swings: an economy that captures the full value of our resources, holds the promise of prosperous futures for our children, and shares its benefits widely and fairly among all Albertans.”

    Smart diversification is the key. Notley is setting up the Energy Diversification Advisory Committee to get us there. It’s about time.

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