Alberta’s NDP has an extremely troubling history of being anti-oil and gas. Prior statements, activist appointments and several policies have altogether shone a dark light on the party for many Albertans. However, there is one NDP MLA who stands out as being reasonable and approachable. There are many examples where Marg McCuaig-Boyd has shown compassion and a willingness to understand the plight of the oil industry and its workers.
— Marg McCuaig-Boyd (@MargMcCuaigBoyd) November 8, 2015
After many discussions with people in the oil industry who have spoken with her, the general consensus is that she is reasonable, willing to listen and learn. She is respectful and does not engage in mudslinging, unlike some of her bench mates.
Sometimes, it’s the subtle things which are most noticeable. Cody Battershill of Canada Action sent out “I heart Oilsands” sweaters to every NDP MLA. Most did nothing with them, but Minister McCuaig-Boyd immediately had a picture taken of herself wearing it and then sent a thank you.
She was clearly nervous through the process, but Minister McCuaig-Boyd deserves large credit on the royalty review. Though the review took way too long for many, the result was as good as it could be for the oil industry considering the NDP has said many times in the past royalties need to increase.
McCuaig-Boyd oftentimes directed questions and concerns to the chair of the panel, Dave Mowat, the President and CEO of ATB – the one institution with the most to lose from a higher priced royalty regime. She also reverted to oil and gas experts often when her knowledge of the industry was insufficient. That is the quality of someone without an agenda.
A Telling Gaffe
Minister McCuaig-Boyd had what many consider to be an unfortunate gaffe after a reporter asked her what advice she would give unemployed Alberta oil workers. She replied: Move to BC for work. The immediate reaction from the public was outrage, and the public did have a right to feel that way. However, that ‘gaffe’ was quite telling when closer examined.
Her advice is something many of us have told our friends and family. Times are tough and their are jobs in other parts of Canada. Encouraging people to look for work shows empathy. And her answer is remarkably direct. She didn’t pull a typical political card (example: Alberta will recover blah blah), she offered advice because she genuinely cares.
Another important aspect, is her subtle admission that she feels her party will not do anything to help unemployed Albertans. This raises a larger question of policy. Does she think her party is inactive or does she think her party is in the wrong? Either way, her response was genuine and starkly different from her own party. Almost sounds like the advice an opposition MLA would give.
Old School NDP vs New School NDP
Marg McCuaig-Boyd has lived on a farm in rural Alberta, near Peace River, since 1980. Very different background to her colleagues who spent most of their adult lives on university campuses immersed in political bubbles and only believing in their thick and impractical ideology.
Many believe there has been a major change in the NDP over the years, from staunchly pro-labour, pro-unions to anti-industry, strict-regulations, and radical-tax-hikes. McCuaig-Boyd seems to fit the former. There’s no way of telling, but it would be hard to imagine her walking up to a group of coal miners and telling them she believes they deserve to lose their jobs and fight to make that happen.
A Difficult Position
A multi-decade teacher, McCuaig-Boyd was placed in an extremely difficult position when she was made energy minister. A sector of the economy which she is very unfamiliar, albeit as much if not more understanding as any other NDP MLA. Someone had to do the job though, and she was the choice.
She has been very quiet overall, oftentimes not answering questions in the legislature. From the public perception, most would say she holds no clout in cabinet. Most would say the NDP ringleaders (Notley, Phillips, Premier’s chief of staff Brian Topp) pull the strings at the expense of the Energy minister.
It will be interesting to see what McCuaig-Boyd’s actions are going forward. Will she fight back against her party when high-minded ideology gets in the way of pragmatic problem solving? Will she continue to play nice or show some teeth in the legislature? What will she do to address policies such as the provincial carbon tax, raising the minimum wage and increased regulations on oil and gas companies. She must be aware that these policies are hurting Albertans; especially the vast numbers of the unemployed.
As the NDP mandate marches along, with evermore rumblings of waning support, McCuaig-Boyd’s role as a reasonable person could very well become more prominent in Alberta politics.