Ms Soapbox was thinking about the fog of words when she received a mass mailout letter from someone she’ll call Mr X urging her to join him and thousands of others (who shall remain nameless because their names were not provided) in an effort to motivate Canadians to make the federal government treat Alberta better.
Mr X makes his argument in full caps, heavily bolded and liberally sprinkled with exclamation points; he claims Alberta’s relationship with Canada is a travesty. The only solution is for Alberta to separate unless we are given what is rightfully ours.
Ms Soapbox immediately thought of Harold Evans’s book Do I make Myself Clear? in which Evans tears a strip off those who intentionally or unintentionally use words to create a fog of misinformation to goad people into doing something stupid.
Here’s an outline of Mr X’s argument.
The oil price differential has narrowed, but only because the Alberta government imposed a 9% reduction in production.
The Notley government’s decision to cut production has indeed narrowed the differential, but many other factors impact oil prices. We may think Alberta is the centre of the universe but it’s not.
Canada has a ridiculous energy policy. We can’t build pipelines because we’re stopped by special interest groups largely funded by US groups and we’re forced to import evil Saudi oil instead.
Canada’s energy policy is entwined with its environment/climate policy and its investment policies so it’s unclear what Mr X is referring to here. Also, the reference to US funded special interest groups is a Kenney conspiracy theory lacking substance. More specificity please.
Saudi Arabia supplies 10% of our oil imports and all of it goes into Irving Oil’s massive refinery at Saint John, New Brunswick. Alberta oil sands oil is more difficult to process than Saudi oil and transportation costs are high because of the distance it has to travel. This is why Alberta oil is sold at a discount to Saudi oil.
Peter Tertzakian, an economist well versed in the industry, said a west-to-east pipeline was considered and scrapped in the 1940s because it was cheaper to import foreign oil by tanker than pay the additional cost of domestic supply.
Encana just bought Houston-based Newfield Exploration, Trans Canada Corporation just announced it will change its name to TC Energy and is investing in projects in the US and Mexico. Is Alberta going to lose its largest head offices?
Is Elvis still alive? Who knows, there’s no factual response to this comment, it’s speculation. However, if Mr X is worried about the influence of Americans on Canadian energy and pipeline companies, he may be surprised to learn Americans already have a significant voice in the future of Trans Canada and Encana. Trans Canada’s board is made up of 6 Canadian directors, 4 American directors and one from the Arab Emirates. Encana’s board is comprised of 5 Canadian directors and 5 American directors. Directors have a statutory obligation to act in the best interests of the corporation. If they think it’s in the best interests of the corporation to move its head office to Timbuktu, they’ll do it.
Let’s be clear, shifting a corporation’s head office to the US won’t stop it from investing in Canada. Nova Chemicals was an Alberta company that moved its head office to Pittsburgh. The company was eventually bought by International Petroleum Investment Co, an Abu Dhabi state-owned company. It recently invested $1 billion to expand its polyethylene plant near Red Deer.
The Trudeau government sent 126 people to the UN Global Warming Conference in Poland. These conferences are fake!
Oh dear. The fact 126 people went to the UN Conference is interesting but does not support the conclusion that these conferences are fake. This sentence alone destroyed Mr X’s credibility.
For the first time in three decades Alberta’s unemployment rate is relatively high compared to Canada.
This is true. Mr X’s numbers are slightly higher than those provided by the Alberta government, but he identified the trend correctly. What he failed to explain was why this statistic is relevant to his main point which he presented in a crescendo of bold print, scare quotes and exclamation points, namely…
…Canada is broken…
Canada is close to the top in any survey of country performance. For example, the US News Best Country report ranked Canada second (Switzerland came in first, the US was eighth). The Economic Freedom survey ranked Canada ninth, the US was ranked eighteenth. If Canada is “broken” the US must be pulverized beyond recognition.
…Jason Kenney’s referendum on equalization, if approved, will force the provinces and the feds to renegotiate equalization, and Alberta must put independence on the table as part of the negotiation process.
Even if Kenney’s equalization referendum passes with an overwhelming majority, Alberta can’t unilaterally force the feds and the provinces to renegotiate anything because the equalization program falls under the fed’s jurisdiction. All Alberta can do is influence the outcome. This must be where Mr X’s independence argument comes in, but his suggestion that Alberta gets leverage by threatening to leave Confederation is akin to Alberta holding a gun to its head and saying give me what I want or I’ll shoot myself.
This is not an effective negotiation strategy, it’s insanity (on the upside we could hold a referendum on our new name, Ms Soapbox is partial to Bert).
Mr X is an educated man, but he’s succumbed to sloppy political language that, in the words of George Orwell, have as much substance as a prefabricated henhouse.
Mr X’s letter cobbles together words and phrases that are whipping through Alberta political environment like a virus. He thinks his letter is a call to action, but it’s a chimera, a delusion that enflames the emotions while offering nothing of substance.
2019 is an election year. Surely, we can do better than this.