Broadly speaking, Premier Notley is disappointed. Not in the final decision, because she never believed in Keystone XL. Rather, Premier Notley is disappointed that President Obama called Alberta’s chief export “dirty.” She certainly agrees with the substance of his decision. Troublingly, it also appears that she agrees with the “dirty” characterization, though not necessarily the specific choice of words.
“It was not necessary to be quite so critical in the way they described our energy product… But it also underlines the fact that we need to do a better job in terms of the work we do here in Alberta on climate change,” she said.
That superficial quibble is a sop to Alberta’s oil & gas industry, little more. Premier Notley’s conduct has on numerous occasions heavily implied that her government views Alberta’s crude as something akin to dirty.
Revising climate change policies and pushing for carbon taxation implies this. The appointment of Toronto carpetbaggers with a strong record of anti-industry activism to key positions all but confirms this.
Of course, part of the premier’s opposition to Keystone XL stems from her belief that more upgrading should be done domestically.
“First of all, our position on the Keystone was that if we ship unprocessed bitumen to Texas, according to this government and to the American government, we will give tens of thousands of Alberta jobs to Texas — not to Albertans — and that’s not what Albertans want to see,” Premier Notley said.
Premier Notley’s government has absolutely no experience in oil & gas, so its views as to the efficacy of upgrading in Alberta should be taken with a huge dose of skepticism. Were it viable, it would have happened. But even if wrongheaded, there is no reason to believe that this policy choice does not animate some of the government’s opposition to Keystone XL.
Given the inherent weakness of the upgrading argument, however, the NDP frequently supplements it with, or falls back to, the environmental critique of Keystone XL.
“Albertans have been trapped in a discussion where when you stand up for our air and our land and our water, you are accused of being a job killer, and what that does is that contributes to the very record which is actually inhibiting our ability to access markets,” Premier Notley said.
So the Premier’s own words erase any doubt that the government has accepted the premise that Alberta’s oil is uniquely dirty. Sure, it may dispute the exact wording, but not the thrust of the statement. Why else would Premier Notley tout her environmental policies as necessary to bringing our oil to market? If she disagrees with the “dirty” moniker, why would she claim that Alberta needs to do more on the environment before we can sell our product in peace? Why would she be so eager to make common cause with Democratic hopeful Hilary Clinton, who only recently discovered her conscience at an Iowa campaign stop?
The answer should be no more surprising than the presidential rejection. Premier Notley agrees that Alberta’s oil is dirty.
Even previously sympathetic commentators have brought the premier to task. Premier Notley’s NDP campaigned on the environment, it rode the wave of activist discontent, and it contributed to, and benefitted from, the anti-industry dynamic prevalent in environmental circles. Indeed, from low-level staffers to cabinet ministers, the current Alberta government has no shortage of functionaries who cut their teeth in environmental activism. Far from disciplining party members who made statements similar to, and worse than, those of the president, Premier Notley has granted succor to the activist class and given the language of “dirty oil” room to fester.
In short, Premier Notley was not a passive beneficiary of the current wave of environmental activism and its accompanying polemics; she was an active participant and contributor. Given the substantial political benefits she has derived, and given her responsibility in stoking the fires, the last thing the premier should be afforded is the luxury of distancing herself from the damage her policies and statements have wrought. She certainly should refrain from further insulting our intelligence with her feigned disappointment. Since she campaigned on accountability, it is hardly unfair that she be brought to account.