The policies of the current provincial and federal governments are having a devastating effect on our industry and on Canada as a whole. Both levels of government are marching headlong into installing carbon taxes which will cause economic pain in Canada but have no effect globally at a time when the worlds major emitters are going the other way.
The provincial NDP has added a coal phaseout and long term renewable contracts which will increase electricity prices, an oil sands emission cap which will strand huge amounts of resources, and many other creeping regulations and increased taxes in all sectors of the economy. The federal Liberals meanwhile blocked one of the two NEB approved pipeline projects to the pacific, muse about phasing out the oil sands themselves, and are spending so recklessly they have Canada on track to rack up $1.5 trillion in debt by the time the budget is eventually balanced, the interest on which will be a noose on our economy for generations.
Understandably many of us are looking forward to the elections in 2019 when Albertans and Canadians will have a chance to replace both governments.
Provincially, the path is obvious to most: unite the right wing parties, run a sensible campaign and get the 60% of Albertans who voted for the federal Conservative party back on the same side and Rachel Notley’s NDP will be defeated easily. The biggest potential stumbling blocks are egos and inertia on the conservative side.
Federally, the ongoing Conservative leadership race will determine who will be the standard-bearer for sensible policy in the next election and until last week it was a crowded yet lacklustre competition. Luckily it got an infusion of energy and interest with the official entry of Kevin O’Leary to the field.
On policy, Kevin has been saying all the right things for the oil and gas industry, namely repealing the carbon tax, limiting regulation and keeping our taxes competitive with Donald Trump’s USA. One particularly good and unique idea is his plan to make capital gains on Canadian businesses tax exempt if the money is reinvested within 30 days into another Canadian business with at least half its employees in Canada. This would greatly increase the amount of capital available to growing businesses in Canada.
To be sure, all of the Conservative leadership candidates would be good for oil and gas, except Michael Chong who wants to more than double Trudeau with a $130/tonne federal carbon tax of his own. And several are well qualified people who would make fine Prime Ministers. But that only matters if they ever get to be Prime Minister.
Although there is little love for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan, polls show they remain popular in the rest of the country. Most governments get a second term almost by default and Justin Trudeau has shown himself to be a formidable campaigner with a charisma and media ability that can’t be overlooked. In order to be competitive in 2019 the next Conservative leader must be someone who can compete for press and attention to communicate their ideas and policies to Canadians over the next two years. Of the many contenders, only Kevin O’Leary fits that bill.
The mudslinging and attacks from his opponents in all parties have already started. One of the other contenders for the Conservative leadership, Lisa Raitt, launched a website focused on stopping him. His former Dragon’s Den co-star Arlene Dickinson, who is rumored to be planning a run for parliament as a Liberal, immediately did an interview on CBC besmirching his character as the sole reason he shouldn’t be Prime Minister (another Dragon, Brett Wilson, who came from and understands our industry, defended and endorsed Kevin). And Kathleen Wynne, the Liberal Premier of Ontario, has written an open letter full of half truths claiming he’s wrong about Ontario becoming less competitive in manufacturing relative to the new administration in the USA.
Mostly they attack his pro capitalist views as ‘proof’ that he lacks compassion, without considering that modern capitalism, and the cheap energy supplied by the oil industry, have done more to lift more people out of poverty and improve health and wellbeing than anything else in history. Capitalism is social justice and capitalism is compassion.
These attacks only mean thing though, they realize Kevin is their biggest threat and the only person who can beat Justin and do what needs to be done to keep Canada prosperous and competitive with the USA.