Tag Archives: Keystone XL Pipeline

Keystone XL, Alberta Oil Sands and International Travel in 2014

Alberta MLA Redford Prentice Travel

A Google Map tracking international travel by Alberta cabinet ministers and PC MLAs since November 2011. Scroll down to find the interactive map.

As the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline dominates political debate in Washington D.C., Alberta Premier Jim Prentice announced that he will soon travel to the American capital to lobby in favour of the pipeline.

Although most politicians in the capital appear to support the pipeline’s construction, United States President Barack Obama has not made public whether he supports or opposes the project, and his final approval will be needed to allow the pipeline to cross the American border.

Demonized by Republicans to the south of the border and Conservatives to the north for not sharing their enthusiasm for the pipeline, Mr. Obama made clear that he would wait until a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling before making a final decision.

The future of the TransCanada corporation’s new pipeline has become enveloped in the larger debate around climate change, the environment and the economic expansion in Canada’s oil sands. While most politicians in Western Canada support the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline, the recent decline in the price of oil has raised some questions about its viability.

Jim Prentice Rob Merrifield Washington DC

Premier Jim Prentice and former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield, now Alberta’s voice in Washington D.C.

Pipelines and oil sands are a big reason Alberta MLAs and cabinet ministers have made at least 16 official trips to Washington D.C. since November 2011. Housed in the Canadian Embassy, Alberta has a paid representative whose main focus appears to be lobbying for the oil sands and pipelines. in the U.S. capital Former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield now holds the position, which was previously filled by retired Tory cabinet ministers Gary MarMurray Smith and former Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier.

According to publicly available travel itineraries, Progressive Conservative cabinet ministers and MLAs logged a hefty amount of air mileage in 2014, travelling to 13 countries (down from 18 countries visited in 2013).

Alison Redford Golden Temple India

Premier Alison Redford visits the Golden Temple in India.

In 2014, Alberta politicians made a flurry of official trips to the United States, China, Japan, India, Switzerland, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Peru.

Four cabinet ministers visited Singapore last year, where the Government of Alberta opened a new trade office. China remained a popular destination for international trade missions by Alberta’s politicians.

The discovery that Premier Alison Redford hired an international travel scout caused considerable controversy in Alberta, as did her $131,000 around-the-world adventure to India and Switzerland (minus a secretly planned trip to Afghanistan, which was cancelled due to security concerns). But it was a trip to former South African President Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013 that triggered a career-ending controversy for Ms. Redford when the $45,000 cost was made public in early 2014.

The whirlwind of international travel slowed to a trickle when Mr. Prentice entered the Premier’s Office in September 2014, with only a handful of MLA trips to the United States and a trip to Peru by Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett, being released on the public itinerary.

Here is a Google Map tracking international travel by Alberta cabinet ministers and PC MLAs since November 2011:

What a year 2015 has been in Alberta politics!

Alberta Legislature Building Edmonton Canada

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly (photo credit Timorose, CC BY-SA 3.0)

December 29, 2015

Column by: Dirk Pranter, Provincial Affairs columnist, Edmonton Journal-Sun

Tories re-elected for 14th time

A snap mid-Summer election returned Jim Prentice’s renamed “Conservative Party of Alberta” to its fourteenth term as government. In an unexpected twist of fate, Finance Minister Danielle Smith was defeated in her home riding by Wildrose Party leader Randy Thorsteinson.

But don’t feel sorry for Smith. She was appointed to the Senate in one of Stephen Harper’s last acts as Prime Minister before the Conservatives lost the October federal election. Harper’s applecart was upset when the beautiful, unseasonably warm October weather caused Canadian voters to turn out in droves.

Back on the provincial scene, NDP leader Rachel Notley led her party to a breakthrough in Edmonton to form the Official Opposition with 21 MLAs. Notley’s party won its first seat in Calgary since the 1980s and its first ever seat in Lethbridge.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was the re-election of Wildrose-turned-Liberal MLA Joe Anglin, who won by 3,000 votes in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. As the only Liberal to survive the election, Anglin is now the leader of the party.

“Unlike the 2012 election, 2015 gave Albertans two clear choices in the PCs and NDP,” said Rick Dunderland, a professor of political science at University of Red Deer. “Even though the PCs still won, there is now a difference between the government and official opposition and that will be a good thing for democracy.”

Tough Economic Times behind us

With a return to $120/barrel oil, Premier Prentice praised good economic times ahead for Albertans in the 2016.

“Back to budgeting as usual,” a senior government official said. “Now we don’t have to worry about saving money for the future, because the price of oil is never going to go down again.”

The Prentice Government is facing international criticism for his government’s continued lack of climate change plan. “Alberta’s climate change framework is important and will be a continued focus of our government in 2016,” Energy Environment Minister Rob Anderson said. “Under new management, we are continuing to take the time to ensure the decisions we make are right.”

And big city mayors have a lot to celebrate. The recently negotiated City Charters granting the municipalities new powers are expected to be unveiled in early 2016. A newly released poll showed Mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi with 95% approval among voters.

Redford tell-all

Palm Springs resident Alison Redford is set to launch a new tell-all book about her time as Premier of Alberta. Driven out by scandal in 2014, Redford has dedicated her time to charity work and has announced all proceeds from the book will go to charity. Not surprisingly, Tory insiders are expecting the wurst about what might be included in the book.

Keystone XL Pipeline

Recently elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau celebrated the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline over a bottle of champagne with President Barack Obama during his first visit to the White House last month. Conservative opposition leader Jason Kenney complained that Canadians should thank former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the pipeline’s success.

In an unexpected gesture, Prime Minister Trudeau named Harper the Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine where, unfortunately, the Canadian Ambassador’s residence was burned down last week by a pro-Russian mob.

Read Dirk Pranter’s December 20, 2014 column: What a year 2014 has been in Alberta politics!

Alberta Politics Roundup – Eve of Fall Sitting

Alberta Legislative Assembly

Alberta’s Legislative Assembly will begin the fall session on Monday, November 17, 2014.

Fall Legislative Session
November 17, 2014 will mark the start of the first legislative session for new Premier Jim Prentice, Health Minister Stephen Mandel and Education Minister Gordon Dirks. The 43-year old governing Progressive Conservatives have promised to introduce new laws focusing on property rights and ‘ending entitlements’ for their MLAs.

This will be Rachel Notley’s first session as leader of the NDP Caucus. And Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman will introduce a private members’ bill supporting students who want to create Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools. Newly Independent MLA Joe Anglin is also expected to introduce a private members’ bill.

With the price of oil declining to the mid-$70 range and next year’s budget being prepared, Jonathan Teghtmeyer has shared 9 ways that Alberta could better manage our resources.

Constitutional Property Rights
Flanked by Lethbridge Conservative Member of Parliament Jim Hillyer and Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith announced her plans to introduce a motion calling on property rights to be included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Wildrose motion will likely call for stronger action than will be included in Mr. Prentice’s flagship property rights bill. Also, it is almost politically impossible to amend the Canadian Constitution.

Wildrose in Red Deer
The Wildrose Party is holding its annual convention in Red Deer on November 14 and 15 (the PCs will meet in Banff). Sparks are expected to fly as activists vent their frustration about the party’s poor showing in four recent by-elections.

The departure of Mr. Anglin, a cancelled leadership review and a controversial motion to take away the ability of MLAs to remove their leader and the leader’s staff are also expected to fuel intense debate.

Government House leader
CBC reporter John Archer tweeted news that Justice Minister Jonathan Denis has replaced Municipal Affairs Minister Diana McQueen as Government House leader. Ms. McQueen was appointed to the position two months ago.

Tobacco
Mr. Mandel has announced plans to make it illegal for adults to smoke tobacco in vehicles with children and ban flavoured tobacco, but not menthol cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes are said to be favoured by seniors, who also tend to vote in larger numbers.

In 2012, Liberal leader Raj Sherman introduced the Tobacco Reduction (Protection of Children in Vehicles) Amendment Act, which would have made it illegal for adults to smoke tobacco in vehicles with children. Dr. Sherman’s bill was passed but never proclaimed by the PC Government.

Tailing Ponds
It has been one year since a breach of a containment pond at the Obed Mine spilled 670 million litres of toxic tailings into the Athabasca River and its tributaries.

The Alberta Wilderness AssociationMikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations  and other groups are criticizing the federal and provincial governments for laying charges against the mine’s former owners, Sherritt International, or new owners, Westmoreland Coal Company.

Pro-pipeline Democrats force Keystone XL Vote
Hoping to stave off defeat in a December 6, 2014 runoff vote, Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is trying to force the United States Senate to vote on approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline before the end of 2014. Approval of the pipeline’s crossing the US-Canada border ultimately rests in the hands of President Barack Obama.

Yellowhead by-election
Voters in the Yellowhead federal riding will cast ballots in a by-election on Monday, November 17, 2014. Although Conservative candidate Jim Eglinski is expecting an easy victory, federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau visited the constituency to campaign with candidate Ryan Mahugn last week.

Calgary Liberals
November 28. Kent Hehr expected to be acclaimed as federal Liberal candidate in Calgary-Centre. The popular MLA was first elected in Calgary-Buffalo in 2008. It is unclear if Mr. Hehr and fellow Liberal MLA Darshan Kang, who is running for the federal Liberals in Calgary-Skyview will resign their provincial positions before the next federal election.

Borderlands By-election
Voters on the Saskatchewan side of the divided city of Lloydminster elected a new MLA in a by-election held yesterday. Saskatchewan Party candidate Colleen Young was elected with 64% of the vote, defeating second place New Democrat Wayne Byers, who earned 29%. It is almost impossible to image an NDP candidate receiving that much support on the Alberta side of Lloydminster.  

Ms. Young replaces former Rural and Remote Health Minister Tim McMillan, who resigned in September to become the President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

A plug…
I had the pleasure of joining the good folks at The Unknown Studio podcast to chat about Alberta politics this week. I also appeared on this week’s Alberta Primetime politics panel with Edmonton lawyer Roberto Noce and Mount Royal University professor Lori Williams.

Alberta rep in USA pitched climate change strategy – days before AG ripped it apart

South Portland Maine Alberta Canada Oil Sands Crude

The Seal of South Portland, Maine.

What’s going on in South Portland, Maine? Elected officials in the port city are on the verge of banning crude oil from Canada’s tar sands from entering their port. With a large and busy port, South Portland is the home of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, which pumps millions of barrels of oil each year.

According to PressHerald.com, the proposal to “ban tar sands oil from coming into the city won the Planning Board’s endorsement.. The board voted 6-1 to recommend that the City Council approve the proposal…

The proposal would prohibit loading crude oil, including oil sands, in bulk onto tankers and block construction or expansion of port terminals for that purpose.

A public hearing on the ban held on on July 9 attracted more than 500 people, including Alberta’s Representative in Washington D.C., former Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers President David Manning. Standing at the microphone, Mr. Manning defended Alberta’s oil sands, citing the Alberta government’s climate change and carbon capture strategies (see video above).

While Mr. Manning was likely just sticking to government’s standard talking points memo, the examples he cited were unfortunately timed.

Last week, Alberta’s Auditor General ripped into the provincial government, claiming he found no evidence the Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development properly monitored the performance the provincial government’s six year old climate change strategy. The Auditor General also criticized Alberta’s carbon capture program, saying that “with only two carbon capture and storage projects planned, the total emissions reductions are expected to be less than 10% of what was originally anticipated.”

As stewards of the land in which the oil sands are located, Canadians need to approach this debate intelligently and ensure that our politicians put the best interests of current and future citizens as priority. As the long-governing Progressive Conservative Party is expected to coronate Jim Prentice as Alberta’s next premier, Albertans should pray that our new leader looks to the wisdom of former Premier Peter Lougheed, rather than blindly preaching the status-quo of bad planning and limitless export.

Canada’s oil sands have become a lightning rod in American politics, and not just in regions impacted by controversial pipeline projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. Over the past months, protests and petitions against oil sands crude have made headlines across the New England states.

While there is no doubt that oil sands exploitation continues to produce significant environmental impacts, there are natural resources that cause a much larger impact – like dirty coal.

It is unclear whether there were ever any plans to ship crude oil from Canada’s oil sands to South Portland or whether the municipal ban would actually stop any shipment. But with the debate around Canada’s oil sands expected to be a hot-button issue in the American mid-term election season, expect there to be more debates like the one being held in South Portland, Maine.

Bitumen bubble deflates as Redford visits Washington D.C.

Alberta Bitumen Oil Bubble

Photo may not reflect actual “bitumen bubble.”

Remember the “Bitumen Bubble?”

The “bitumen bubble” spin was unleashed by Premier Alison Redford during her January 24, 2013 televised address that claimed our province was in the midst of a fiscal crisis caused by the so-called “bitumen bubble” — the difference between the price Alberta can get for its heavy oil (Western Canadian Select) and what the world is willing to pay for Texas crude (West Texas Intermediate).

On the day of Premier Redford’s January televised address, Western Canadian Select sat at $59.95 per barrel, compared to $95.95 per barrel for the West Texas Intermediate.

Albertans were told this price gap was why our oil industry needs more pipelines and why our provincial government claimed it needed to institute financial cuts to public services, including a drastic 7% cut to post-secondary education funding.

As of April 8, 2013, Western Canadian Select sat at $82.97 per barrel, compared to $93.36 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate.

Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

By some act of nature, the dreaded “bitumen bubble” has miraculously deflated.

Alas, this price increase has little to nothing to do with our long-ruling Progressive Conservative government. Commodity prices are determined by international markets beyond the control of any individual government or ambitious politician.

No new pipelines have been built in the meantime, but Premier Redford, along with International Relations Minister Cal Dallas and Environment Minister Diana McQueen, traveled to Washington D.C. this week to lobby for the approval of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline that would carry crude oil and bitumen from Alberta to refineries dotting Texas’ Gulf Coast.

I expect the Premier has left the words “bitumen bubble” out of any speeches she plans make while visiting the American capital.

During her speech at the prestigious Brookings Institute yesterday, Premier Redford argued the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline has misled Americans about Canada’s oilsands. The Premier promoted Alberta’s new proposed carbon tax, defended the province’s environmental record, and championed the investment in two major Carbon Capture and Storage project (she did not mention that two other major projects have been cancelled due to poor economic predictions).

Making a strong case for Alberta’s environmental record, Premier Redford’s economic arguments fell flat. She claimed that the Keystone XL Pipeline would create 75,000 jobs for Americans, despite the fact that a U.S. State Department reported the number of new permanent jobs could be as few as thirty-five once the pipeline is complete.

Premier Redford also argued that the Keystone XL Pipeline would lessen America’s dependance on countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia for oil imports. As the proposed pipeline would end at major Texas ports, it is widely suspected that the corporations that would own the Alberta oil refined in Texas could easily ship it overseas to China or India, rather than sell it in the United States or Canada.

Premier Redford’s fact-based talk was heavy in statistics, which unfortunately will have little effect on a national discussion about the environment and economy that is driven heavily by emotional arguments on both sides of the debate (as demonstrated by the hecklers at her speech). At least Albertans can be proud our leaders have come a long way since Premier Ralph Klein compared the causes of today’s climate change problems to “dinosaur farts” sixty-million years ago.

Sitting at 29% approval in a recent Angus-Reid survey, Premier Redford is searching for a win in the American capital that could boost her popularity at home. Even if the Keystone XL Pipeline is approved, there will be no evidence that Premier Redford’s lobbying was the reason for its success. That decision will be made by President Barack Obama.

———–

The Wall Street Journal:

President Obama hit California for some fundraising this week, including stops with various billionaires who fervently oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. The visit had the virtue of showing how Mr. Obama is cross-pressured between his superrich green friends who don’t need to worry about a job and the blue-collar types who wouldn’t mind laying oil pipe for $25 an hour.