Calgary is choked – How is your Gag Reflex?

The Pharyngeal Reflex is an unpleasant, involuntary contraction of the back of the throat

This week the Prime Minister showed up in Calgary in an effort to promote his deficit budgeting. But he arrived at a time when Canadian heavy oil prices had fallen through the floor.  He was met with protesters and groups of highly skeptical Calgary industry and business leaders.  Premier Notley made sure she wasn’t seen in any photo ops with him!

Trudeau was careful not to call low prices for heavy oil a crisis of the federal government.  He defined the crisis as: “folks in Calgary are living through extremely difficult times”. Massive price differentials against world prices are: “a challenge to local industries and the livelihood of a lot of Albertans”. He offered up some empathy. “I want you to know that I feel your frustration and I understand that anxiety”.

And when pressed about solutions for the problem that is costing the Canadian economy $80 million dollars a day, he had no solutions to offer. Trudeau said, “it is very much a crisis” and “it’s a complex problem”.

Complex perhaps because while the federal government can create pipeline problems, it can’t solve them. Complex because any action to support energy development in Alberta would raise the ire of his anti-oilsands base.

So what has those protesters in Calgary so choked? Could it be:

  1. The Trudeau government blocked Energy East, Northern Gateway pipelines and now have indefinitely delayed construction of the TransMountain pipeline?
  2. Kinder Morgan threatened to pull the plug because of federal inaction and the government was forced to buy the pipeline?
  3. The Northern BC Tanker Moratorium (Bill C-48) specifically targets stopping oil shipments resulting in de facto a blockade of Alberta oil from Northern BC ports?
  4. Transport Canada decided to speed up the schedule for retiring older tanker rail cars just at the time when oil rail shipments were increasing?
  5. Environment Canada plans to replace the National Energy Board and its regulatory process by putting new roadblocks in for pipelines (Bill C- 69)?
  6. The federal government won’t challenge the BC federal Court of Appeals on its over-reaches on Northern Gateway and TransMountain pipeline decisions?
  7. The promised legislation to clarify and support TransMountain that never appeared but the national carbon tax policy was passed?
  8. The failure of the Alberta carbon tax to provide the “social license” to reach international markets?
  9. Saudi Arabian tankers that make their way to Eastern Canada and Montreal un-impeded by tanker concerns or the human rights issues in Yemen, Turkey and at home, while Alberta oil is barred from that market?
  10. Canada gives $275 million to the Shell consortium’s BC liquid natural gas project, exempts it from carbon taxes and steel tariffs, while Alberta capital investment nosedives?

What Now?

Severely Normal Albertans surely recognize that the federal government is deeply invested in blocking oilsands development.

In the Liberal big picture view, oilsands thwarts their climate change policy and alienates a good chunk of their voter base. Although the world will find oil elsewhere, the federal government has decided to myopically focus on limiting oilsands as our strategic response to the global problem.

But public demonstrations are not going to cut it! Let’s face it they are just not our thing.

Alberta will have preserve its energy economy in spite of the federal agenda – this means focusing on more rail shipments and working to optimize the products we send down the pipeline.  It could mean thinking more creatively about how we use the carbon tax.

It also means changing the narrative in Canada to focus to federal government’s inaction and hypocrisy. For example, a full court press against Bill C-48 and Bill C-69 currently stuck in the Senate is needed so that those anti-energy bills die on the order paper.