A historic lack of enthusiasm by the Alberta NDP for the energy industry played into the image that there was something badly wrong with the oilsands and with pipelines, that they didn’t deserve the support of right-thinking Canadians, says columnist David Staples.
Jason Franson / The Canadian Press, file
The karmic justice of the 2019 Alberta election is that Rachel Notley’s NDP paid for its previous stance on Alberta’s energy industry, which before taking power in 2015 was lukewarm at best, hostile at worst.The main issue in coming years is whether Jason Kenney will also pay for his own dicey oilsands policies, such as cutting the carbon tax. Kenney managed to unite conservatives around a new party and a fierce approach to oilsands advocacy, but can he now unite Canadians and keep Alberta on the same page when it comes to getting pipelines built?There’s no certainty he’ll do better than Notley, though Notley started out in a deep hole of her party’s own making.The historic lack of enthusiasm from the Alberta NDP for our energy industry played into the image that there was something badly wrong with the oilsands and with pipelines, that they didn’t deserve the support of right-thinking Canadians.This negativity fuelled protests against pipelines. It helped create the justification for devastating legislative proposals, namely the Trudeau Liberal’s Bill C-48, the plan to ban Alberta oil from being tankered off the northwest B.C. coast, and Bill C-69, its pipeline-killing plan for socio-political show trials into all industrial projects.One benefit of the NDP’s time in office is it should help Kenney maintain unity on oilsands issues. Alberta politics will be different for a generation now that the NDP ran our government. It has belatedly realized that without our oil and gas industry flourishing there’s much less money for schools, hospitals and various government programs.Job one in pushing forward with a pipeline agenda is to dig deep into the malignant force that helped to divide us, the “Tar Sands campaign” which saw tens of millions in funding coming from U.S. foundations dedicated to demonizing the oilsands and landlocking Alberta oil. Kenny promises a public inquiry into this foreign attack on Alberta’s interests. During the campaign, Notley said she was “frustrated” with the Tar Sands campaign. She also gave credit to researcher Vivian Krause for exposing it. The NDP should now join in the call for a public inquiry. This would be a meaningful step in dispelling the notion that the NDP was previously too cozy with groups that took money from the Tar Sands campaign, an issue that haunted the party during the 2019 campaign.Indeed, the single most significant bozo eruption that influenced this election came courtesy of big wig U.S. activist Michael Marx on his CorpEthics.org website in 2016 or 2017, as Krause has now reported.Marx trumpeted the success of the multi-year campaign to throttle Alberta oilsands production, saying: “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. This meant national and grassroots organizing to block all proposed pipelines.”In one paragraph, Marx admitted that a) the so-called grassroots movement against the oilsands wasn’t so grassroots after all, that it was orchestrated and foreign-funded and b) the foreign interest was not just about climate change, but was also economic, about landlocking Alberta oil.Marx’s statement put into question the credibility and motivations of anyone who worked for organizations who took that money. It also tarnished the two parties, Notley’s NDP and the Trudeau Liberals, most closely aligned to those Canadian groups, such as Greenpeace and the Pembina Institute, and their policy agenda.Kenney will now fiercely attack the Tar Sands campaign and its Canadian allies, including those still holding power in Trudeau’s inner circle. This isn’t to say, though, that Kenney’s overall campaign of aggression will work.Albertans do not grant their own licences to build pipelines. Other governments and our courts do. Pipelines are also funded by international investors open to pressure from efforts like the Tar Sands campaign.We are in a difficult, complex, multi-dimensional battle.We can hope Kenney will play the game better than did Notley, but she herself came on strong while in office.But a united Alberta at least has a chance.And when it comes to oil and gas policy Alberta hasn’t been this united in a generation.