Tag Archives: Oil Pipelines

Looking past pipelines, the NDP-Green agreement looks pretty good for BC

“Mark my words, that pipeline will be built, the decisions have been made.” – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Alberta politicians, media and pundits are unsurprisingly focused on what the governing agreement between British Columbia New Democratic Party leader John Horgan and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver will mean for the future of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline.

The agreement would have the province’s three Green Party MLAs support the 41 NDP MLAs on confidence motions and money bills in the Legislative Assembly, allowing the NDP to form a minority government. Christy Clark‘s Liberals have 43 MLAs, one MLA short of a majority.

Aside from oil pipelines, the NDP-Green agreement commits to holding a referendum  on proportional representation in fall 2018 (though it is not clear what form of proportional representation will be proposed) and reforming BC’s wild-west election finance laws (banning corporate and union donations, placing limits on individual donations, and limiting party loans to banks and financial institutions).

The agreement also commits to appointing a commission to create a plan to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage, preserving public health care and education, and improving funding for public transit. While some of the points are intentionally vague, overall it reads like a fairly positive guide for the next BC government.

Andrew Weaver Green Party British Columbia

Andrew Weaver

But back to that pipeline from Alberta, the agreement states: “Immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast, and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province.”

The pipeline expansion has already been approved by the federal government, but faces opposition from the public and the courts in BC. In an article earlier this month, James Wilt outlined three ways the BC government could stop or slow down the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby.

Political opposition to the pipeline from an Green-supported NDP government in BC could create a lot of political trouble for Rachel Notley‘s NDP government in Alberta. There is no shortage of irony that the NDP-Green agreement could create a world of political problems for the most progressive and environmentally-friendly government Alberta has ever had.

Despite the Notley government’s Climate Leadership Plan, disagreement over oil pipelines has lead to a significant split between the Alberta NDP and its counterparts outside the province.

John Horgan BC NDP Leader Premier

John Horgan

Notley has been steadfast in her support for the pipeline, and as far as Alberta politicians go, she is probably in the best position to negotiate some sort of political compromise with a future Premier Horgan. The two politicians know each other and many NDP political staffers in Edmonton have deep connections to the BC NDP. Alberta’s Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips even worked in the BC NDP campaign war-room in 2013.

In many ways, it would be easier for the BC NDP, and probably the federal NDP, if Alberta was governed by climate change denying conservatives. At least then they would be able to oppose these oil pipelines without the kind of complications that having an NDP government in Alberta has caused for them.

It is not clear when, or if, Horgan and Weaver will be able to enact their agreement. Clark has said she will remain in office for the time-being, likely until her Liberal Party loses a confidence vote in the Legislative Assembly. When that takes place could determine the political future of the pipeline, and who will be representing BC when the Council of the Federation meets in Edmonton from  July 17 to 19, 2017.

Schweitzer is back, again, probably

Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer is not running in the PC leadership race.

Doug Schweitzer

Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer, who pulled the plug on his bid to leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party last September and backed Jason Kenney instead, has announced his plans to run for the currently non-existent United Conservative Party. He is the former CEO of the Manitoba PC Party and was involved in Jim Prentice‘s campaign for the Alberta PC Party leadership in 2014. He served as Kenney’s scrutineer when the ballots were counted in the 2017 PC leadership race.

Schweitzer’s candidacy is entirely dependent on whether members of the Wildrose and PC parties vote to form a new party on July 22, which I expect will happen.

Len Webber: we’ll give you safe injection sites if you give us oil pipelines

File this under: totally clueless politicians.

In the midst of an opioid crisis that is reported to have claimed the lives of more than 400 Albertans in 2016, Calgary-Confederation Member of Parliament Len Webber told the House of Commons Health Committee last week that opposition to the potentially lifesaving facilities was comparable to opposition to oil pipelines.

Here is Webber’s shockingly tone deaf response to Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies during a discussion about Bill C-37 on February 9, 2017:

I don’t need five minutes. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It was really just a thought here. I think Mr. Davies’ intention here is to try to make the application process for safe injection sites easier.

Would you be in a similar position, Mr. Davies, if we were sitting around the table here talking about application processes for pipelines in Alberta? To apply for a pipeline is extremely onerous. It’s extremely burdensome and time-consuming. It can often take years.

We fought hard as Conservatives to try to make it easier to get pipelines built throughout this country, but we’re not talking about pipelines here today; we’re talking about safe injection sites.

Would you agree, Mr. Davies, that it is very onerous to put in a pipeline in this country? Would you be in favour of making it an easier process to put pipelines in, just as you would like to have safe injection sites put in without consultation from the community?

Basically, I see the changes here giving the minister the power to basically overrule any community consultation or community decisions, whereas communities opposing pipelines is something the minister can’t overrule.

The thought is there. I was just thinking that in Alberta we are having a very difficult time trying to get pipelines put in place, and you are here talking about how you want to make it easy to put in safe injection sites. I think it’s very important that we have community consultation, that we have approval from all areas with regard to getting these sites put in place. I know there are some communities that would be opposed to safe injection sites, yet the minister can overrule the desire of the community.

I don’t support what you’re doing here, Mr. Davies, in your motion or your amendments. However, I am making again the comparison between pipelines and safe injection sites. I may not have explained it quite clearly, but you know what I’m thinking here. It’s very onerous for pipelines, yet you want it to be very simple for safe injection sites.

If you’re willing to make it easier for us in Alberta, we can make it easier for you to put in safe injection sites throughout the country.

Webber was first elected to parliament as a Conservative in 2015 and previously served as a Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-Foothills from 2004 to 2014. Between 2009 and 2011 he served as Alberta’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. He does not hold a critic position in the Conservative Official Opposition Caucus in Ottawa.

Update: Len Webber issued a statement in response to the backlash created by his comments at the parliamentary health committee.

What President Obama said about Canada, Alberta and Climate Change

During his address to the Canadian Parliament on June 29, 2016, United States President Barack Obama singled out Alberta as a leader in the fight against climate change. Here is the excerpt from his speech where he spoke about climate change:

There is one threat, however, that we cannot solve militarily, nor can we solve alone — and that is the threat of climate change.  Now, climate change is no longer an abstraction. It’s not an issue we can put off for the future.  It is happening now.  It is happening here, in our own countries.  The United States and Canada are both Arctic nations, and last year, when I became the first U.S. President to visit the Arctic, I could see the effects myself.  Glaciers — like Canada’s Athabasca Glacier — are melting at alarming rates.  Tundra is burning.  Permafrost is thawing.  This is not a conspiracy.  It’s happening.  Within a generation, Arctic sea ice may all but disappear in the summer. 

And so skeptics and cynics can insist on denying what’s right in front of our eyes.  But the Alaska Natives that I met, whose ancestral villages are sliding into the sea — they don’t have that luxury.  They know climate change is real.  They know it is not a hoax.  And from Bangladesh to the Pacific islands, rising seas are swallowing land and forcing people from their homes.  Around the world, stronger storms and more intense droughts will create humanitarian crises and risk more conflict. This is not just a moral issue, not just a economic issue, it is also an urgent matter of our national security.

And for too long, we’ve heard that confronting climate change means destroying our own economies.  But let me just say, carbon emissions in the United States are back to where they were two decades ago, even as we’ve grown our economy dramatically over the same period. Alberta, the oil country of Canada, is working hard to reduce emissions while still promoting growth.  

So if Canada can do it, and the United States can do it, the whole world can unleash economic growth and protect our planet.  We can do this.   We can do it.  We can do this.  We can help lead the world to meet this threat.

Already, together in Paris, we achieved the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change.  Now let’s bring it into force this year.   With our agreement with Mexico that we announced today, let’s generate half the electricity on this continent from clean energy sources within a decade.  That’s achievable. Let’s partner in the Arctic to help give its people the opportunity they deserve, while conserving the only home they know.  And building on the idea that began in Montreal three decades ago, let’s finally phase down dangerous HFC greenhouse gases.  This is the only planet we’ve got.  And this may be the last shot we’ve got to save it.  And America and Canada are going to need to lead the way. We’re going to have to lead the way.   

Mr. Obama’s mention certainly qualifies as high praise for Premier Rachel Notley and Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips, as they spearhead Alberta’s ambitious Climate Leadership Plan. The President’s speech and its affirmation of the Alberta’s government’s climate change policies is likely the type of ‘social license‘ that Ms. Notley hopes will lead to more oil pipeline construction approvals in the future.

As an Albertan, it was difficult not to feel a sense of pride when the President of the United States singled out my home province. For years, Alberta was seen as a laggard on environmental issues, but our province appears to have turned a corner. This may have increased Alberta’s cache in Ottawa and some circles in the American Capitol but it is unclear what impact the Presidential praise will have on public opinion in Alberta. Despite the government’s leap forward, our opposition politicians are still questioning the existence of climate change and environmental issues are frequently framed by the mainstream media in the context of building new oil pipelines out of the province.

A Wildrose Party rally in Calgary on May 1, 2015 drew hundreds of supporters.

Party Business: Leadership Races and Palace Coups

– The Wildrose Party constituency association in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills passed a motion calling for Brian Jean to face a leadership review at the party’s annual meeting in Red Deer on October 28 and 29, 2016. That constituency is represented by MLA Dave Hanson, who was one of the 9 Wildrose MLAs who signed an article comparing carbon pricing to genocide. Postmedia reports that Mr. Hanson was present at the constituency meeting where the motion was debated but did not speak in Mr. Jean’s defence or vote on the resolution. Similar motions are expected to be proposed by a number of other Wildrose constituency associations.

Late last month, pressure from party activists and MLAs inside his caucus forced Mr. Jean to back down from his attempt to suspend Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt from the Wildrose Caucus.

Mr. Jean received 78 percent support in a leadership review following last year’s provincial election, which appears to mean little now as elements within his party are openly challenging his leadership.

– The Progressive Conservatives will be choosing a new leader before April 30, 2017. Party President Katherine O’Neill will chair the leadership race and former premier Dave Hancock will act as a senior advisor to the Leadership Election Committee. Cynthia Williams and Krista Balsom will co-chair the Delegate Convention & Debates Subcommittee. A motion introduced by Ms. Williams at the PC Party’s recent convention led to the adoption of a delegate system to choose the new leader.

– The Alberta Liberal Party executive board appointed Calgarian Nirmala Naidoo and Edmontonian Kevin Feehan as the co-chairs to oversee their leadership campaign scheduled for 2017 (Mr. Feehan is the brother of Edmonton-Rutherford NDP MLA and Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan). The next Liberal Party leader will be selected by a system that counts votes through a constituency-based point system. Calgarian Russell Scantlebury appears to be the only candidate openly campaigning for the position.

– The Alberta Party is holding its annual general meeting on June 11 to elect a new board of directors and debate constitutional amendments. One proposed amendment would limit future leadership candidates to those who have been a “member in good standing of the Party for at least one (1) year prior” to the candidate nomination deadline. The amendment would allow the board of directors to waive this requirement by a super-majority vote.

– It is not a leadership change or challenge but this motion might set off some fireworks at this weekend’s New Democratic Party convention in Calgary. Members of the Edmonton-Calder NDP association in the constituency represented by Education Minister David Eggen‘s are expected to introduce the following motion for debate: Be it resolved that the Alberta NDP urges the Provincial Government to discontinue advocacy or promotion of specific pipeline projects while stakeholders such as First Nations communities,Metis settlements, farm owners, and municipalities have expressed objections to a pipeline project being built through or terminating on their land.

Since entering office last year, Premier Rachel Notley has become a strong advocate for oil pipelines and has taken a more diplomatic approach to pipeline advocacy than her predecessors.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley NDP

One year ago today the NDP won in Alberta. The next day hell froze over.

The attention of most Albertans this week is rightfully focused on the wildfires that are raging through northern Alberta and the more than 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray who have fled to safer ground in the south. It is a testament to our resilience as Canadians that a mandatory evacuation order could be carried out in a community of 80,000 people without any violence or resistance.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Overshadowed by the wildfires, and rightfully so, is today’s anniversary of the major political earthquake that reshaped our province over the past year. On May 5, 2015, Albertans turned their backs on the Progressive Conservative regime that had governed since Peter Lougheed won in 1971 and replaced the old guard with a choice that would have been unbelievable in previous elections, the New Democratic Party.

It wasn’t always a forgone conclusion that Albertans would elect an NDP government. At points during last year’s campaign. Two polls released days before the writ was dropped showed the governing PCs and official opposition Wildrose Party in a race for first place with the NDP in a distant third. Disillusionment with an arrogant and entitled PC regime that had squandered the last oil boom and the pitch-perfect campaign led by Rachel Notley’s NDP resulted in a majority government.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

Those election results exposed a demographic shift, including a split between urban and rural Alberta. The NDP elected most of their 54 MLAs in Alberta’s fast-growing urban areas and central and northern rural Alberta. The Wildrose Party, led by former Member of Parliament Brian Jean won back most of the seats lost in the 2014 floor-crossings and made gains in rural Alberta. Jim Prentice‘s Tories earned 27 percent of the vote but fell victim to the first-past-the-post system and only elected 10 MLAs. The Alberta Party elected its first MLA, leader Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow, and the Liberals were reduced to one MLA, interim leader David Swann in Calgary-Mountain View.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

May 5, 2015 saw the election of the a record number of women, including nearly half of the MLAs in the newly minted NDP caucus. The soon to be appointed provincial cabinet would have gender parity, a first in Canada. A contingent of under-30 MLAs were elected, bringing a new sense of diversity into the stodgy Legislative Assembly. Openly gay and lesbian MLAs were elected. And soon after, expecting and new mothers would become a common sight on the floor of the Assembly. Our Legislative Assembly felt more reflective of Alberta than it had in previous years.

The tone of government had changed.

The NDP banned corporate donations to political parties, a move that would never have happened under the corporate-donation fuelled PC Party. The new government not only admitted it believed in Climate Change, it also announced plans to do something about it. The NDP introduced a progressive income tax system and raised corporate taxes. They also reinstated funding to education, health care and post-secondary education that was cut by the PCs in their pre-election budget.

Smart, articulate, tough and quick on her feet, Ms. Notley has proven to be the government’s greatest asset. The senior cabinet ministers surrounding her, Sarah Hoffman, Danielle Larivee, Shannon Phillips, Kathleen GanleyDavid Eggen, Deron Bilous, Joe Ceci and Brian Mason, to name a few, have developed into a stronger team over the past year.

CBC National News Anchor Peter Mansbridge reacts to the results of Alberta's 2015 provincial election.

CBC National News Anchor Peter Mansbridge reacts to the results of Alberta’s 2015 provincial election.

Getting off the royalty rollercoaster’ by fixing a revenue system that was over-reliant on natural resource royalties to fund the government’s operations budget is a central theme of the new government.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

A sharp decline in the international price of oil meant the new government faced higher private sector unemployment and decreased activity in the oil industry in our province.

The Alberta Advantage, a myth spun by conservative politicians and pundits over the past twenty years quickly turned into a disadvantage. The low taxes boasted by the previous government turned into a disadvantage when the price of oil dropped and left the province with a $10 billion shortfall in revenue.

Instead of slashing the budget, as the conservative opposition parties would have done, the NDP looked for outside advice from former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge. The budget tabled by Mr. Ceci included investments in infrastructure while keeping operating funding steady to avoid major service cuts and job losses that would increase the province’s unemployment levels.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

The NDP plan focuses on stability and job creation but it is yet to be seen whether those large deficits will be embraced by Albertans at the next election. The future of this government, like the PC government before it, may ultimately depend on the international price of oil.

The optimism of the new government masked a certain naivety. Transitioning into the role of government has been challenging.

The transition from a 4-MLA opposition caucus to majority government led the NDP to import senior political staff from across Canada, including those with experience working in Ottawa and for NDP governments in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

Kathleen Ganley NDP Calgary Buffalo

Kathleen Ganley

The rushed introduction of new farm safety laws made the NDP look as if they were more interested in dragging rural communities into the 21st century rather than leading them in that direction.

Like something out of the 1950s, Wildrose MLAs and conservative newspaper columnists have become prone to red-baiting, accusing Alberta’s NDP government of holding communist or socialist sympathies. While some individual NDP MLAs have self-identified as socialists, the reality is the new government has been quite moderate and even small-c conservative at times. Ms. Notley has become one of Canada’s strongest advocates for oil pipelines and the NDP even decreased the small business tax from 3 percent to 2 percent in the recent budget.

Days before last year’s election I asked the question, ‘how bad would Alberta’s conservatives need to screw up for Albertans to elect an NDP government.’ We found out on May 5, 2015.

The NDP had been elected in Alberta. Hell had frozen over.

On the morning of May 6, 2015, Albertans woke up to a new government and an unwelcome spring snowstorm. Today, as most Albertans focus on wildfires instead of politics, we can only hope for a repeat of that snowstorm to put an end to the fires ravaging Fort McMurray.


The governments of Alberta and Canada will be matching individual donations made to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Fires Emergency Appeal to help the people impacted by the Fort McMurray wildfire. Click here to donate.

An actual wall of fire.

Thank Goodness we didn’t build that Firewall!

Fifteen years ago, in Jan. 2001, six prominent Conservative lobbyists and university professors, including future prime minister Stephen Harper and provincial cabinet minister Ted Morton, penned the Firewall Manifesto.

Prime minister Jean Chretien‘s Liberals had been re-elected to a third-term in office and the failed rebrand of the Reform Party as the ‘Canadian Alliance‘ was quickly becoming apparent.

In reaction to the re-election of the Ontario-based Liberal government, the Firewall Manifesto called for then-premier Ralph Klein to build a firewall around Alberta by taking a number of actions, including the creation of an Alberta police force, an Alberta pension plan and the reduction of funds transferred from Alberta to the federal government*. Thankfully for Albertans, Mr. Klein ignored the Manifesto.

Fast-forward to Feb. 2016 and Alberta’s economy has slowed following a sharp decline in the international price of oil. For the first time in decades, Alberta’s traditionally cash-flush government is asking for economic and financial assistance from the rest of Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley at the Alberta Legislature on Feb. 3, 2016.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley at the Alberta Legislature on Feb. 3, 2016. (Photo from Rachel Notley’s Facebook Page)

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley stood in the Legislature Rotunda yesterday and explained plans to fast-track $700 million in previously committed infrastructure funds from the federal government to Alberta. Mr. Trudeau also announced changes to Employment Insurance rules to help recently unemployed Albertans.

Alberta’s current economic situation and the drive to expand oil pipelines across Canada serve as an important reminder about why building bridges is more effective than burning bridges and erecting (fire)walls between our province and the rest of the country.

Thank goodness we didn’t build that firewall.

*It is completely unclear how this actually would have been done.

Throwback Thursday: Alberta ‘should annex’ parts of Canada’s North

On April 19, 1972, Calgary MLA Dave Russell, minister of municipal affairs in the newly elected Progressive Conservative government led by Premier Peter Lougheed publicly suggested that the Province of Alberta should annex parts of the Northwest and Yukon territories.

The Calgary Herald reported that Mr. Russell’s plan was to redraw the map so that on the eastern border the province would run from the American border to the top of Canada. The province’s western border would include the Mackenzie River Valley and parts of the Yukon.

“It makes sense in view of transportation and pipelines,” Mr. Russell told the Herald.

Here is an excerpt (pdf) from Mr. Russell’s speech in the Legislative Assembly as recorded by Hansard:

Mr. Speaker, because of what is happening in the field of energy resource development and transportation on the North American continent at this time, it seems to me that there is a great deal of logic in extending the existing northern Alberta boundary from its present location up to the northern limit of our country. I am thinking that the entire area lying between an extension of Alberta’s eastern boundary and the Yukon-Northwest Territories boundary, logically some day probably belongs in the Province of Alberta.

I am putting this proposition in the form of a question, because I am wondering if it has occurred to the hon. members what an exciting prospect there is there in making the entire area, from the 49th parallel right up through the Greater Slave Lake region and the Mackenzie Delta the energy and resource corridor and political entity on the North American continent. I think the potential there and the logic of carrying out such a move makes a great deal of sense.