Tuesday 23rd July 2019

Resource Clips


Alberta fights back

New government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

by Greg Klein

Updated results (seats at dissolution shown in parentheses)

  • United Conservative Party: 63 seats, 55.2% of the popular vote (25 seats)
  • New Democratic Party: 24 seats, 32.2% (52 seats)
  • Alberta Party: 0 seats, 9.2% (3)
  • Liberal Party: 0 seats, 1% (1)
  • Independent candidates: 0 seats, 0.5% (3)
  • Freedom Conservative Party: 0 seats, 0.5% (1)
  • Progressive Conservative Party: 0 seats, 0% (1)
  • (One vacant seat at dissolution)

 

The outcome wasn’t as surprising as last time, when the once-marginal New Democratic Party swept to power in what had long been a moderately conservative one-party province. Yet this was probably Alberta’s most dramatic election since 1935, when a victorious upstart tied to the economic movement known as Social Credit grabbed international attention. Rarely has Western alienation played out so strongly as in this campaign, provoked by Ottawa’s stance on, among other issues, the ongoing war against Canadian resource industries. Foreign interference in the form of U.S. money also came to light, while aspects of the culture wars helped inflame passions.

The new government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

Back in the ’30s, however, William Aberhart’s Social Credit failed to enact the radical reforms intended to deal with the Great Depression. The results of incoming premier Jason Kenney’s bold talk remain to be seen, despite the overwhelming victory of his United Conservative Party. Kenney’s biggest challenge will be to overcome the opposition to pipelines and tankers that deprives Albertan oil producers of Asian markets and consequently much higher prices.

Certainly Kenney won a decisive mandate. Barely half an hour after polls closed, media projections called a UCP majority. The party comprises a 2017 merger of the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party, which together polled 52% in 2015, compared with only 40.6% for the NDP. But that year the New Democrats took 54 of 87 seats.

Much of Kenney’s success came from his portrayal of “the Trudeau-Notley alliance,” in which he blamed the prime minister and incumbent premier for wrecking Alberta’s economy through a combination of appeasement, indifference and outright animosity. Notley, at best an ineffectual supporter of Alberta oil and at worst an ideological enemy, made an easy target. So did Justin Trudeau, struggling with an image tarnished by SNC-Lavalin, that scandal’s revelation of favouritism towards Quebec jobs, and policies towards Alberta jobs that evoked memories of his father’s National Energy Program, often blamed for wrecking Alberta’s economy during the 1980s.

The new government promises bold measures to defend a resource-based economy

Kenney found easy targets in the “Trudeau-Notley alliance”
but victory might give him tougher battles to fight.
(Image: United Conservative Party)

Allusions to the NEP surfaced in Kenney’s description of Bill C-69, “the Liberals’ ‘No More Pipelines’ Law” and “a federal sucker punch to an already-reeling Alberta economy.” Kenney promised a constitutional challenge.

He portrayed Notley’s opposition to Ottawa’s Bill C-48, banning oil tankers from northern B.C. ports, as an insincere and tardy effort.

Kenney committed to ditch Notley’s carbon tax and sue Ottawa if it tries to impose the federal carbon tax on Alberta, as Trudeau’s government has done to provinces that didn’t enact their own carbon taxes.

Addressing an especially sore point for Albertans, Kenney promised a referendum on equalization. Consistently punishing Alberta through good economic times and bad, the inter-provincial transfers of money consistently benefit Quebec through bad times and good.

Turning his confrontational stance westwards, Kenney vowed to take on Trans Mountain pipeline foe British Columbia “on day one” by proclaiming Alberta’s Turn off the Taps legislation. Also known as Bill 12, it would stop Alberta oil shipments to an Alberta oil-dependent province that opposes exports of Alberta oil to Asia. B.C., on the other hand, stands ready to defend its convenient ethics in court.

Kenney also vowed action on foreign funding in Canadian campaigns. The issue gained prominence just days before the vote, with an April 12 Financial Post article by researcher Vivian Krause. American money, she stated, was helping finance efforts to defeat UCP candidates, part of a much wider, ongoing U.S.-funded campaign to “landlock” Albertan oil and gas, as well as destroy other Canadian resource industries.

From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.—Tar Sands Campaign
director Michael Marx,
as quoted by Vivian Krause

According to documents she’s made public, foreign money moved from activism and court challenges to specifically anti-UCP efforts that benefit the NDP.

A group called Progress Alberta was working against UCP candidates, while another group called Leadnow urged its supporters to join Progress Alberta’s anti-UCP efforts, she stated. Referring to U.S. tax returns, Krause reported that “both Leadnow and Progress Alberta are partially funded—US$62,843 (2016-2017) and US$162,587 (2013-2016) respectively—by the Tar Sands Campaign.” The Tar Sands Campaign gets its money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, she added.

Krause quoted Tar Sands Campaign director Michael Marx as stating: “From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.”

Krause charged that Notley knew about the foreign-funded activity but refused to act.

Kenney was quick to follow up. “We now know that for months Rachel Notley has been sitting on a legal opinion indicating that the government of Alberta could take action against groups behind the Tar Sands Campaign,” he declared. “Some have estimated that Alberta is losing up to $16 billion a year in value from the price discount that results from our oil producers being captive to the U.S. market. This is a direct result of the campaign to landlock Canadian energy supported by the Tar Sands Campaign, which in the last year has succeeded in delaying the Trans Mountain Expansion, Keystone XL and the Line 3 replacement project.”

Some have estimated that Alberta is losing up to $16 billion a year in value from the price discount that results from our oil producers being captive to the U.S. market. This is a direct result of the campaign to landlock Canadian energy supported by the Tar Sands Campaign.—Jason Kenney

Kenney pledged to challenge the charitable status of foreign-funded groups, cut off their provincial funding, hold a public inquiry into foreign funding that attacks Albertan energy, ban foreign entities from financing political action committees and urge Ottawa to pass Bill S-239, which would ban foreign money from federal politics.

Krause has previously stated that Rockefeller money helped fund Leadnow’s anti-Conservative campaign in the 2015 federal election.

Now that a provincial government intends to act on her findings, something that started as a Quixotic one-woman campaign could have enormous impact. According to her figures, U.S. interests like the Rockefellers have paid Canadian activists well over half a billion dollars so far.

Of course the extent to which Kenney’s tough talk produces results remains to be seen. Still Notley had nothing to show for any claim of supporting Alberta resources. Kenney found it easy to associate her with the prime minister, the UCP’s continual target. The anti-pipeline Bill C-69 “is just one of the terrible consequences of the Trudeau-Notley alliance,” Kenney argued. “Alberta’s NDP gave Justin Trudeau licence to kill Northern Gateway, to surrender to a U.S. veto of Keystone XL, to change regulations that led to the death of Energy East and to fold in the face of the B.C. New Democrats’ obstruction of the Trans Mountain expansion. On top of that we’ve got Trudeau’s tanker ban, Bill C-48 and a cap on our oilsands.”

Krause pointed out that heavy-handed enviro-activism persisted despite Notley’s attempts at appeasement. The NDP increased the carbon tax, capped allowable emissions and created the world’s largest boreal forest preserve. “Surely the campaign against Alberta would finally be over,” Krause wrote. “But, again, no.”

The UCP victory adds considerable weight to moderate conservative provinces, now stretching from Alberta to Ontario and including New Brunswick. Along with the federal Conservatives, they could present troublesome interference to the federal Liberals’ re-election efforts in October. In fact as a six-term MP who served a number of cabinet positions in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, Kenney could overshadow federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

On the other hand, a strong conservative bloc might discourage the Liberals from almost any interest in economic issues, thereby freeing them to campaign exclusively on their Trudeauvian zeitgeist.

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