Through the Looking Glass – NDP cabinet ministers awkwardly join pro-pipeline, pro-UCP rally

Today’s rally at the Alberta Legislature in support of the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline was one of the strangest rallies in recent memory.

Maybe it was because the first speaker introduced himself by bragging about having confronted actor Jane Fonda in a parking lot outside a Moxie’s restaurant.

Maybe it was because in the crowd of 600 or so Albertans I was standing between one guy who kept yelling “Free Alberta from Canada!” and another who was yelling “Go back to Ottawa you Commie!”

Or maybe it was because as this was happening, there were a dozen New Democratic Party cabinet ministers and MLAs standing beside the podium, with most of the United Conservative Party caucus standing beside them.

We are through the looking glass.

Organized by the pro-pipeline Rally 4 Resources group, the event was promoted by both the NDP and UCP, and included speakers ranging from NDP cabinet minsters to UCP leader Jason Kenney to Edmonton mayor Don Iveson.

Despite the presence of senior NDP cabinet ministers and backbench MLAs, and two mass emails promoting the event sent by the NDP caucus, one from Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson and one from Calgary-Shaw MLA Graham Sucha, the crowd did not feel like an NDP friendly group. Or at least not any type of NDP-friendly group I would recognize.

Cries of “bullshit” could be heard as Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous spoke at the mic. The crowd booed, jeered and heckled federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, a popular former Edmonton city councillor, as he spoke about the Trudeau government’s commitment to the pipeline expansion.

A small group can be heard on video trying to begin a chant of “NDP, NDP, NDP” as Kenney spoke, but it didn’t catch on.

While the rally was billed as a non-partisan event, it felt like the NDP showed up to a UCP rally, or at the very least an anti-NDP rally.

Premier Rachel Notley is on a roll as Alberta’s top pipeline champion, but this rally should give the NDP pause about whether hitching the final year of their first-term as government to the pipeline issue was a smart move.

As a government in Alberta, being anything but pro-pipeline is an almost impossible option. Support of the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline in Alberta is likely somewhere near 98 percent (with a 2 percent margin of error) and I suspect many Albertans are becoming increasingly frustrated with pipeline opponents in British Columbia (where opposition to the pipeline is a valid mainstream opinion).

Supporting these rallies and escalating the war of words into drastic action against BC may play well with the Chambers of Commerce and certain Postmedia columnists, but it may fall flat among the supporters the NDP will need to activate and energize in the next 12 months.

Notley will meet with BC Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa next Sunday to discuss the pipeline dispute. If the meeting can deescalate or even resolve the pipeline dispute to end official political opposition to the pipeline in BC, then perhaps Notley’s gamble will pay off. But it not, then we may witness more pro-pipeline rallies with NDP cabinet ministers standing awkwardly in front of crowds of UCP supporters.

5 thoughts on “Through the Looking Glass – NDP cabinet ministers awkwardly join pro-pipeline, pro-UCP rally

  1. Sam Gunsch

    Polling data in the last 8 months regarding Dave’s ballpark: ‘Support of the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline in Alberta is likely somewhere near 98 percent (with a 2 percent margin of error)’

    1) 18% of Albertans agree with the BC gov’t’s opposition to KM, based on 501 Albertans polled by Angus Reid. February 2018. But an online poll. See this on 1st page of the poll report here: http://angusreid.org/alberta-bc-transmountain-dispute/

    2) 11% of AB’s opposed or strongly opposed KM’s TMX, in Sept 2017 Abacus online poll.

    3) 1/3 of AB’s want to oil use decline: ‘In Canada’s top oil producing province of Alberta, more people would like to see demand for oil declining (38%) in 10 years as would like to see it increasing (28%)’ Also from Abacus 2017.

    Here’s is the most remarkable finding at odds with the ‘all AB’s love oil’ narrative:
    4) 20% of Albertan supported this position: “We need to greatly slow or stop development of and transmission of oil and gas in Canada.” in another 2018 Abacus poll for the Ecofiscal Commission which has Preston Manning on its advisory board, advocating carbon taxes.

    Reply
  2. Beck

    98% ?! B. S.

    The most infuriating thing about this whole mess is the deliberate manufacturing of unanimity and the complete erasure of Albertans who are not in support of this pipeline.

    We are not eco-terrorists. Some of us simply have the temerity to question the economic case on which this pipeline is being sold. Some of us wonder why this government is determined to hitch our financial future to the “volatile royalty rollercoaster” instead of pursuing real revenue reform. Some of us voted for a party that was supposed to be the antithesis of the conservative cabal who ruled this place like their own private petro club for the last 4 decades. And now our voices don’t matter.

    Reply
    1. David

      There never is unanimity in a democracy, so that argument goes both ways. Polls in BC have actually shown more people support the pipeline than not. Should some vocal determined protestors be able to stop a project that has been approved and is felt by many to be both in Alberta’s and Canada’s interest?

      If anything we did in society required unanimity, we would do nothing and be at an impasse. The energy industry is an important part of Alberta’s economy and most Albertans realize that, particularly if they have family members, friends or neighbours who work in that industry and that is partly why a huge majority of Albertans support this pipeline. I would not casually dismiss it as a private club – it is actually hundreds of thousands of jobs in this province, as well as a significant source of government revenue for both Alberta and Canada.

      I think the pipeline debate is more of a partisan issue in BC, where political parties are divided on it, but in Alberta most parties seem to be in agreement with it. It is unfortunate that protests in general, wherever they are, tend to attract a more partisan and extreme crowd, but this shouldn’t cause us to lose sight of this here.

      Reply
  3. Mike in Edmonton

    Tying herself to KM’s pipe was NOT a smart move. Rachel has managed to make herself an embarrassment, even inside Oilberduh. Somehow I doubt any UCP’s or even ex-PCs will ever, ever vote for her. She must be sucking up to the oil patch. I can’t see any other explanation for her belligerent channeling of Ralph Klein’s ghost. I wonder how many people, like me, will vote “Left of New Tory Party” next year.

    Reply
    1. Bob Raynard

      I think you are correct, Mike. Rachel Notley is pursuing votes that are unattainable to her, and leaving her base of support disenchanted. I will still vote NDP in the next election, but more to try and stop Jason Kenney than out of enthusiasm.

      Reply

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