Coal for Alberta’s Christmas Stocking


Twitter and trucker convoys sprang into action as one affront after another filled up Alberta’s Christmas stocking this December.

In advance of the First Minister’s meeting, the Prime Minister mused on CBC maybe he would consider extending unemployment insurance benefits to Albertans who have run out of pogie.  He might help out with buying railcars, but no firm commitments were made.

But he was just teasing – at the meeting Premiers Notley and Moe failed to get anything firm beyond more study and more discussion among officials.

But Quebec Premier Francois LeGault thundered; “There’s no social acceptability (for Alberta oil) in Quebec.”  “I am not embarrassed to refuse dirty energy while we are offering clean energy at a competitive price”.   

Prime Minister Trudeau jumped in to second the motion!  He announced; “There is clarity that under the current approach, there is no support for a pipeline through Quebec.”

This month the Finance Ministers met too; and Minister Ceci came away empty.  Federal Minister Morneau reminded everyone that the Feds had bought TransMountain pipeline – so really isn’t that enough?

But just in time for the meeting, the latest Equalization Program payments were announced. Quebec will get a bump up of $1.4 billion to $13 billion thus taking 2/3rds of the Equalization pie. Nobody west of Quebec (save Manitoba who scored $218 million) received equalization funds. 

Not lost on Alberta truckers was the arrogance of the Quebec Premier – very happy to take cash that was in part generated by “dirty energy” and insist that a pipeline was défendu or even tabou! 

But sadly, there was more coal for our stocking.  The Liberals have sent legislation to the Senate that Alberta and the energy industry deeply oppose.  The Liberal plan is to do away with the National Energy Board and replace it with another board that is anti-pipeline and anti-energy development.  Its flaws are many, but the Liberal dominated Senate chose to ignore calls to reject it and began the process leading to approval.

About then the federal government began to sense that maybe they needed to put a toy in Alberta’s stocking after all.  So, the Minister of Natural Resources announced a $1.6 billion program to help the energy sector.  The program was mostly loans to energy companies to improve technology, or ironically (without pipeline access) seek new markets. Trade Minister Carr was on hand to assure the environmental community that the loans were not “a fossil fuel subsidy”- so relax… no real benefit is being offered.

The words were scarcely out of poor Minister Sohi’s mouth before Alberta’s politicians started breaking his Christmas toys.  There was a competition among them for the best sound bite:

Notley: We didn’t ask for the opportunity to go further into debt as a means of addressing this problem. What we asked for was for them to remove the handcuffs.”

Jason Kenney called the investment “too little, too late.”

Alberta Party Leader Mandel said, “Corporate welfare is not a solution”.

But the winning response came from some wag on the internet:

Alberta: “I got a broken leg”

Canada: “Here is a band-aid for your head”

Well, Albertans are not very good at protesting. Much too polite and not keen to hang off bridges to make their point.  But they are finding their groove!  They get into trucks and form into convoys.  Long convoys that snarl traffic and make it clear the truckers and energy patch know that they are in an existential battle for their jobs and the energy industry.  It looks like it will be another couple of decades before anyone in Alberta votes for a Trudeau. 

Alberta Politics

Recently the conversations among pundits have been about the re-emergence of “Western Alienation” and “Western Separation”.  Most of the ideas presented about separation and withholding taxes are improbable and unworkable.  And poking the feds in the eye over a carbon tax might feel good, but it is borderline self-defeating.

The challenge for Severely Normal Albertans is to figure out workable solutions.  It is clear that the current federal government will not help except when they have no other choice; TransMountain is a clear demonstration of that reality. Their climate change objectives and left leaning political base will prevent them from supporting Alberta’s energy economy.

So that means Alberta will have to solve this problem. Some of the tactics are beginning to emerge. What we need to do MORE of:

  • Reaching past the politicians to severely normal Canadians to explain Alberta’s contribution to Canada’s prosperity
  • Focusing attention on Canadian energy self-sufficiency and the hypocrisy of welcoming “un-ethical” oil from Saudi Arabia
  • Advocating for climate change initiatives that are different than a knee jerk “shut down the oilsands” response
  • Intervening in every possible venue and government or judicial hearing where our interests are at risk.

Things we need to do LESS of:

  • Put air in the separatism trial balloon – seriously – that is not feasible!
  • Maybe not too many more convoys – Do we think we are winning the hearts and minds of the rest of Canada by driving around in multi-million-dollar rigs?
  • Buy into the ‘woe-is-us’ political rhetoric – We are in a fight – but getting hysterical won’t help!

Things we need to do – NOT AT ALL:

  • Give up – this pendulum will swing back! 
  • Forget that climate change is important – we have a dog in that fight too!