Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Obama denies permit for Keystone XL pipeline

Obama denies permit for Keystone XL pipeline

Obama denies permit for Keystone pipeline

Alberta Tories to blame for our friendless status

By Don Braid, Calgary Herald January 19, 2012

As the Keystone XL pipeline collides yet again with U.S. politics, nobody cries for Alberta. Our licence plate motto could be: Alberta, The Friendless Province.

And we've earned our lonely state; or at least, successive PC governments have won it for us.

This latest fiasco results from decades of bad provincial policy, lax oversight, and overweening, belligerent pride in money and resources bestowed by nature, not by virtue.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his natural resources minister, Joe Oliver, might seem to care. But their concern is national; jobs, federal revenues, and opportune stomping of the left through "reform" of regulatory regimes.

The feds have a message for the U.S., too. If you don't take our oil, we'll sell it elsewhere.

That sounds like support for provincial goals. But those who recall earlier battles over resources will detect an ominous background rumble: Ottawa is gradually stripping Alberta of the strategic lead in regulation, environmental protection, development and promotion.

Yet the local PCs have earned that problem, too, through years of casual, misleading assurances that the oilsands were not damaging the environment.

That only changed after 1,600 ducks died, northern First Nations concerns began to be believed, and two broad studies showed the soothing claims were wrong. Within two years, provincial credibility on environmental stewardship was virtually crushed.

Among other provinces, Alberta and the oilsands have few public friends apart from Saskatchewan. B.C. Premier Christy Clark won't even acknowledge the industry as a legitimate source of energy.

Quebec and Ontario have also taken their share of whacks at the Alberta pinata, even though their governments are fully aware of economic benefits that spread far east of Alberta's boundaries.

When Redford attended this week's premiers' meeting in Victoria, she actually had to sit still for Alberta getting pounded over health-care funding.

Why? Because the new federal formula gives back just a fraction of the billions Alberta was shorted for nearly a decade. Newly poor, we still get spanked for being rich.

Redford is now combing the country to meet other premiers and find common interests. She at least recognizes that Alberta needs friends.

But it's a decade too late. Redford's humble olive branch would have been welcomed and admired during Alberta's flush years. Now, it looks like the desperate plea of a province in trouble.

And we are in trouble. Keystone is stalled, perhaps for years. Northern Gateway looks even more contentious. The same day this version of Keystone went down, key First Nations backers of Gateway backed out of a deal with Enbridge.

The enemies of the oilsands can now see their dream of Alberta swimming in a resource that's locked-in, undeveloped and virtually valueless. Alberta could be reduced to selling to Eastern Canada, and shipping small volumes by rail to the U.S.

Former Premier Ed Stelmach, bless him, saw this coming nearly four years ago. Unfortunately, the resulting provincial solutions - $2 billion for carbon capture and storage, prosecuting Syncrude for the duck disaster, frantic efforts to regain an environmental edge - were too late to stop Alberta's reputation from skidding downhill.

It's easy now to be angry at U.S. politicians, radical environmentalists, or Canadian leaders eager to lift themselves up by pushing Alberta down.

But this province will not rise again until we recognize the government's dismal role in this - and our own in letting them get away with it.

Don Braid's column appears regularly in the Herald dbraid@CalgaryHerald.com
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald


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