The last few years have not been kind to Alberta’s oil and gas sector and the families that depend on these jobs.
A deliberate effort to block and obstruct needed pipelines has left our resource landlocked, hurting jobs and our economy, and forcing our oil to be sold at a discount.
That’s why it was so disturbing to learn that last month the NDP government appointed Ed Whittingham to serve as a director of the Alberta Energy Regulator, the provincial regulatory agency for the energy industry.
It’s a problem unto itself that the NDP is appointing its friends to prominent positions at the last minute before the election — Mr. Whittingham was a key speaker at the NDP’s 2016 convention, praising their carbon tax, and now finds himself appointed to the AER on Feb. 12, almost two weeks into the legal campaign period before the election.
But what’s really disturbing is Mr. Whittingham’s history of anti-resource activism.
Mr. Whittingham presided over the Pembina Institute as its executive director. As independent researcher Vivian Krause uncovered, under Mr. Whittingham’s leadership Pembina and its sister organizations pocketed over $8 million in foreign funding specifically to oppose pipelines (specifically “research, education and organizing on dirty fuels and pipelines” and “targeting Tar Sands policy.”)
Mr. Whittingham’s organization pocketed foreign money from the Tar Sands campaign, and he put it to use:
He specifically lobbied for the very change that led to TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline getting scrapped, a 1.1 million barrel per day project to the east coast.
He travelled to Washington, D.C., to lobby the Obama administration against the needed KeystoneXL pipeline. It worked — the Obama administration vetoed the project.
He opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline, a much-needed 525,000-barrel-per-day project. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers recently said that “If Northern Gateway had come on as planned, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” referring to the devastating oil differential in late 2018.
Of course, NDP Premier Rachel Notley also opposed the Northern Gateway project and stayed silent when the Trudeau Liberal government scrapped it. Back in 2013, NDP Environment Minister Shannon Phillips travelled to NEB hearings to oppose the project and even took part in a protest against it in B.C.
We can only imagine how much different today’s situation would be if Mr. Whittingham’s efforts hadn’t been successful.
I was disappointed to see the NDP government double-down and defend their appointment of Mr. Whittingham when it was revealed earlier this week.
It is, however, consistent with the NDP pattern: after years of attacking energy jobs, they’re now talking up the energy industry in the lead-up to the election, but their actions demonstrate that they’re the same-old anti-energy NDP at heart.
It is only the latest in a string of problematic appointments.
As is now well-known, in 2016, Alberta’s NDP government appointed Tzeporah Berman, a well-known anti-resource activist from British Columbia to chair the Government of Alberta’s Oil Sands Advisory Group. Her views were well-known: as she said prior to her appointment, “We need to shut down the tar sands. We need to move away from the development of oil.”
Today, she continues to lead efforts to block needed pipelines to the coast.
Another NDP appointee to their Oil Sands Advisory Group, Karen Mahon, pledged to do “whatever it takes to stop Kinder Morgan’s risky pipeline” and, as part of her campaign, roped herself to a barge in an effort to stop the pipeline.
To date, the NDP have never apologized for any of these appointments.
Only a few short years ago, David Eggen, now one of Rachel Notley’s most senior ministers, stood on the steps of the Alberta Legislature, facing an anti-pipeline rally, leading them in a chant of “No new approvals!”
I’m afraid that the appointment of Ed Whittingham to the AER is only the latest act making that wish come true.
As our Official Opposition’s Energy Critic, I am proud to stand up for our province and against the federal government’s recent efforts to stack the deck against Alberta.
In a recent column, the federal Liberal government’s Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi took some significant liberties with truth regarding the state of the energy industry here in Alberta.
First, the Minister states that his government has been successful in ensuring economic growth and “creating middle class jobs.” The numbers tell another story. Since 2014, the year before the Trudeau government came to power, Alberta has lost 40,000 private sector jobs. Today there are more than 100,000 Albertans who are out of work and not receiving help from employment insurance (EI).
The Minister also stated that Alberta’s oil industry has seen “continued growth.” Yet, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), at a time when energy demand and capital spending are increasing globally, total investment in Canada's oil and natural gas sector is expected to fall to $42 billion in 2018. That’s down from $81 billion four years ago.
Mr. Sohi goes on to challenge the former Conservative government’s record on pipelines, while ignoring his own administration’s failures. During Jason Kenney’s time as a Cabinet member, four major pipeline projects were completed adding capacity to move 1.74 million barrels per day. During Mr. Sohi’s time in Cabinet, the Trudeau government halted the Northern Gateway project, announced a tanker ban, and regulated the Energy East project out of existence.
The Minister claims that Justin Trudeau’s No More Pipelines Law, Bill C-69, “actually provides greater certainty” for industry. Industry leaders from Canada’s Pipeline Association, Explorers and Producers Association, Chemistry Industry Association, Petroleum Services Association have a much different take. Penning a joint column, recently published in the National Post, they pointed out that Bill C-69 replaces both the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, effectively erasing every relevant precedent currently in place.
Finally, the Minister accused conservatives of “talking down our energy sector.” I take issue with this empty rhetoric. Standing up for the people of Alberta is my job. It’s one reason why, on the day he became Natural Resources Minister, I personally wrote to Sohi to request a meeting to discuss Alberta’s energy sector. I received no response.
The federal Liberal government is clearly intent on stacking the deck against Alberta. And the people of our province deserve better. They deserve facts. They deserve the truth. And, perhaps most importantly, they deserve leadership that will stand up for our province.
The numbers are staggering.
Over the past several years, more than $40 billion in investment has fled Alberta’s oilsands, and our province stands to lose much more in the years to come.
The major players fleeing Alberta are hardly fly-by-night operators: we’re talking about some of the world’s leading companies, employing tens of thousands of workers with the knowledge and expertise to implement cutting edge technology.
These folks don’t cut and run on multi-billion dollar programs without just cause. So what has them so worried? It is the recognition that governments are stacking the deck against Alberta.
Take Justin Trudeau’s No More Pipelines Law, Bill C-69, the most damaging legislation to Alberta’s oil and gas industry since the National Energy Program. This bill completely overhauls the federal approval process for major projects like pipelines. These changes virtually guarantee that even if pipeline projects are approved, they will be tied up in the courts indefinitely.
According to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, this legislation makes it “difficult to imagine that a new major pipeline could be built in Canada.”
The red tape gets thicker. As the overland mining leases in the oilsands have already been awarded, the remaining oil must be collected using SAG-D (steam-assisted gravity drainage) technology. Under Bill C-69, all future SAG-D projects could require federal approval.
Even worse, as C-69 legislates a double standard against Alberta oil, measuring upstream carbon emissions for Canadian pipelines, but imposing no such hurdle on foreign-tanker oil. This is an amazingly good deal for our global competitors, who don’t pay a carbon tax.
Prime Minister Trudeau also stacked the deck against Alberta with his tanker ban, Bill C-48. This legislation only bans tankers that export Alberta oil for the northwest coast of BC, not those that import oil from foreign jurisdictions.
Because of decisions like these, today much of Alberta’s oil cannot reach world markets and now sells at a nearly 60% discount to our American competitors. That’s great news for President Donald Trump, not to mention the foreign CEOs cashing in our mistakes.
It is worth noting that if any other Canadian industry faced such a massive trade inequity, be it supply managed dairy, aerospace, or auto manufacturing, the federal government would be scrambling to offer compensation. However, the owners of Alberta’s oil are unlikely to ever see a dime.
You see, the abundant natural resources in Alberta’s oilsands don’t belong to the oil companies. It’s not the environmental activists’ oil. It’s not our foreign competitor’s oil. It’s not Premier Notley’s oil, and it certainly is not Prime Minister Trudeau’s oil. The deck is not being stacked against any of them.
Thousands of Alberta jobs and families depend on our oil and gas industry.
A strong oil and gas sector benefits all Albertans — and that’s who the deck is being stacked against.
You deserve better.
— Calgary-Foothills MLA Prasad Panda is UCP Energy Critic.
It was disappointing, but not unexpected, to read NDP Environment Minister Shannon Phillips’s brazen defence of the NDP’s carbon tax in these pages this past Saturday (“On climate change, Albertans expect their leaders to lead”, June 23, 2018).
The NDP’s carbon tax was always just a government cash grab — one that comes with considerable expense to Albertans.
While the NDP minister talks about “the interests of everyday Alberta families” in her column, the reality is that the “the interests of everyday Alberta families” are a lot more expensive with the carbon tax.
From heightened costs for schools to keep the lights on, to Albertans facing an added cost at the pumps on top of an already high fuel cost just for the crime of getting to work or driving for groceries, the carbon tax affects everybody in Alberta.
Ms. Phillips claimed that the carbon tax is needed “to secure future growth and market access through new pipelines.”
Since the NDP sprung their surprise carbon tax on Albertans, not one pipeline opponent has moved from “No” to “Yes.”
Here’s what has happened: the federal Liberal government stopped the Northern Gateway pipeline.
They tampered with the regulatory process and stopped the Energy East pipeline.
The previous U.S. administration halted the Keystone XL pipeline.
And, of course, British Columbia’s NDP government has been fighting tooth and nail to stop the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, a much-needed, job-creating project.
Meanwhile, extreme activist groups remain determined to illegally obstruct the Trans Mountain expansion project.
None of these groups or governments received the memo about the carbon tax and social licence, apparently.
These are the NDP’s fellow travellers obstructing the pipeline: including some of those organizing illegal protests, Tzeporah Berman and Karen Mahon, who Alberta’s NDP government actually named to their oilsands advisory group; or Greenpeace ringleader Mike Hudema, with whom Minister Phillips collaborated on a how-to book on stopping resource projects.
In her column, the NDP minister did find room to attribute Calgary’s Green Line LRT to the carbon tax.
She fails to mention that federal funding for the Green Line LRT came under the former federal Conservative government, announced by Jason Kenney in mid-2015, and there was no condition of a carbon tax.
The NDP’s carbon tax, from the start, has been a false bag of goods: they never campaigned on it, they just imposed it right after taking office.
In 2015, the premier claimed that revenue collected through the carbon tax would never go to pad the government’s deficit-heavy budgets, but that’s exactly where it’s going.
As time passes, the only defence the NDP seems to have for their carbon tax cash grab is to try and guilt Albertans into supporting it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I know that Albertans are smarter than that, and I know they do not believe for a minute that the only way to address climate change is through a carbon tax.
In November of 2016 we debated a motion on equalization in the Alberta Legislative Assembly. The NDP voted it down.
Here is an edited excerpt:
November 28, 2016
Motion 509. Mr. Jean moved:
Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the government to complete and make public a report by August
31, 2017, that evaluates the current equalization formula and outlines the improvements the government will seek on
behalf of Albertans when the equalization program is next renegotiated.
Mr. Panda: Mr. Speaker, I'm really disappointed that government members forgot who elected them, who they have to represent, but
the Official Opposition and all the opposition here are actually representing Albertans because they know that they were elected by
Albertans. We are on the side of Albertans.
I am proud to rise to support the Leader of the Official Opposition's Motion 509, calling on the government to make
Alberta's position public by next summer so we can begin a national conversation. This reasonable motion before us today gives
everyone in this House the opportunity to tell their constituents about this danger and do something to help Alberta get a better deal
The aim of equalization payments is to ensure that reasonably comparable levels of services are available at similar
taxation levels and, second, that the commitment is only to the principle of achieving reasonable comparability. In 2014 over $28
billion was extracted from Alberta taxpayers and sent to Ottawa, never to return. How are we supposed to grow and develop Alberta
if we force Albertans to make a net contribution to Ottawa that is bigger than the entire budget for the national defence of the
Canadian federation? It's not right.
It is not just we politicians who have been saying that we need a better deal on equalization. Academics, economists, and ordinary
Albertans all realize that equalization isn't working for Canada, whether we are a have or a have-not. This is why the Wildrose
turned to the experts and the think tanks to help understand equalization better and figure out what we need to do. Yes, the Wildrose
sought help from Dr. Marco Navarro-Génie at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies out of Halifax.
Halifax is surrounded by four chronic net-recipient provinces of equalization: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec.
Some say that equalization allows those provinces to not reform their public services to get better value for money. That
is recommendation 3 from our report, that equalization be made conditional on steps being taken by
recipient provinces with relatively high program delivery costs to reduce costs so that the per capita costs of providing
programming in the recipient provinces would not exceed the national average.
Equalization also creates disincentives for recipient provinces to
grow their economy for fear of going off the equalization payments.
We see that in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick they do
not want to develop their resource industry out of unfounded
environmental fears, fears that we have dealt with in Alberta for 50
But Quebec can sure offer substantially lower tuition fee
rates at public universities and colleges than other provinces, and
the students will misbehave and riot and bang pots and pans
together to protect that low price. They will also protest Energy East
and fracking without realizing that it's Albertans, many working in
the energy sector, that are paying for their cheap tuition.
Besides the equalization program, there are other cash transfer
programs from Ottawa that put Alberta at a disadvantage – we call
these stealth equalization – programs like employment insurance. If
you fish for a living on the east coast, after two days on a boat you
can qualify for employment insurance. Fishermen's employment
insurance is income based, not based on the number of days
These self-employed people are no different than farmers
and ranchers. I don't see farmers' employment insurance based on
the income they made; in fact, they, like all the other self-employed
folks in Alberta, aren't eligible at all. It was Prime Minister Pierre
Elliott Trudeau that set this scheme up for fishers in the 1970s with
the support of his Maritimes lieutenant, Allan J. MacEachen. It was
a bad scheme then, and it's a bad scheme now.
Maritimers and Newfoundlanders – and I should know; I have
one working for me – joke about going on lotto 10/42: work 10
weeks, and get employment insurance for 42 weeks. Wow. What a
great disincentive on the search for work, job creation, and
innovation. Who would want to do anything when all you have to
do is work for 10 weeks and get pogey for 42 weeks? Then you can
spend your time going for coffee, driving a quad or snowmobile on
the trails, or working under the table in the black market.
Maritimers and Newfoundlanders will complain that their
industries are seasonal. That's right. Some probably are, but what
about the rest of the year?
Alberta farmers and ranchers have a seasonal industry, too. So
does oil and gas. Did you ever hear of a spring breakup? Some
people will complain about all the people that will have to move
away from their communities to find work. Well, I promise they
won't have to move as far away as I did. That's just life sometimes,
Mr. Speaker, especially when your government isn't generating an
investment-friendly economic environment. People all over the
world move all the time to find work. Look at all the economic
immigrants like myself. We didn't choose easy street. Why do
small communities out east get to live on easy street on the backs
of Alberta taxpayers? It's a wealth transfer, pure and simple.
Here we have oil and gas workers out of work, and their EI has
run out. What are they going to do? Our guys out here can't work
anywhere for 10 weeks and then get 42 weeks of employment
insurance. Of course, they can't rotate in and out of a rig for 10
weeks each and collect from the government for the rest of the year.
That would be wrong and a terrible disincentive. Instead, if they
can't find any work, they'll have to turn to the Minister of Human
Services and demand income support. It's not fair, Mr. Speaker.
Our recommendation 5 reads, “That substantial reforms to the
Employment Insurance (EI) Program be made to [ensure that it
treats] similarly situated Canadians with more parity.”
Alberta paid over $3.3 billion into EI in 2013 and received only $1.4 billion in
benefits. That includes maternity leave. That means that almost $2
billion was transferred out of Alberta to pay for EI in places like
Mr. Speaker, the case for reforms is clear, and negotiations will
get nowhere if we wait. We need to educate Albertans and Canadians
on the facts. So I rise today to add my voice to that of the hon.
Member for Fort McMurray-Conklin and call on the government to
evaluate the current equalization formula and outline the
improvements they will see on behalf of Albertans.
Mr. Speaker, with that, I ask all members of this House to support this private member's motion. Thank you.
For the motion:
Aheer Hunter Panda Barnes Jean Rodney Clark Loewen Schneider Cooper MacIntyre Smith Cyr McIver Stier Fraser Nixon Taylor
Against the motion:
Anderson, S. Horne Miranda Babcock Jabbour Nielsen Carson Jansen Payne Ceci Kazim Piquette Connolly Kleinsteuber Renaud
Coolahan Littlewood Rosendahl Cortes-Vargas Loyola Schreiner Dach Luff Shepherd Dang Malkinson Sigurdson Drever Mason Sucha
Fitzpatrick McCuaig-Boyd Turner Goehring McKitrick Westhead Hinkley Miller Woollard Hoffman
Totals: For – 20 Against – 40
The NDP is at it again.
This time, pedalling the false notion that a rejection of their carbon tax agenda is equal to a rejection of science.
These worn out talking points came last week from Steve Williams, president and CEO of Suncor.
Speaking at an event in Calgary, Williams stated that “the science of the left wing is different that the science of the right wing,” and blamed conservatives for dividing the public on the issue.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Some wealthy CEOs might criticize us for rejecting the NDP’s carbon tax, but we are on side with the vast majority of Albertans who are forced to bear the costs of this government’s policies.
Albertans who don’t appreciate being shamed by elites who have no trouble making ends meet for rejecting a policy that has wreaked havoc on household budgets across the province.
Poll after poll shows just how unpopular this carbon tax is, and with good reason — it hasn’t done a thing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead, it simply punishes Alberta consumers by increasing the cost of everything from heating our homes in the winter to putting gas in the vehicle that gets us to work each day.
What it has done is drive emissions, along with good, mortgage-paying jobs, to jurisdictions without a punitive carbon tax regime.
We already see energy jobs booming in places like North Dakota and Texas, while the oil and gas workers in Alberta remain unemployed.
The fact of the matter is that Albertans were sold a false bill of goods when the NDP introduced its carbon tax — a tax they never campaigned on.
They were told that it would buy us the so-called “social license” we needed to get shovels in the ground on a pipeline to tidewater.
Not one pipeline opponent has become a pipeline supporter as a result of this carbon tax and the Trans Mountain pipeline project now hangs in the balance, despite the fact that taxpayers have now assumed the financial risk.
These opponents — the same ones the NDP promised would become supporters if we handcuffed our economy with a punitive tax on everything — are now doing everything in their power to block Trans Mountain.
They are the elected officials in British Columbia that are denying permits and bringing progress to a standstill with an endless stream of court challenges.
They are the so-called “activists”, funded by foreign anti-Alberta interests, that are illegally blocking construction.
Not one of these opponents has been swayed by the Alberta NDP’s carbon tax.
Instead, they are digging their heels in for the long haul.
So, rather than admit it was wrong, the NDP has chosen to smear every Albertan opposed to the carbon tax as a climate change ‘denier,’ a phrase deliberately intended to invoke Holocaust denial.
Anyone that dares challenge this government on the false logic of “social license” or raise a question about carbon leakage is branded as backwards and anti-science.
But, I know that Albertans are smarter than that, and I know they do not believe for a minute that the only way to address climate change is through a carbon tax.
The NDP would be wise to remember this the next time they feel an urge to insult the people they are supposed to represent.
On April 15, 2018 the Prime Minister hosted a trilateral, closed-door meeting between himself, the Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, and our Premier, Rachel Notley, to hash out some sort of way to move forward on the Trans Mountain Pipeline. This was a significant moment for Canada (Prime Ministers rarely call meetings to resolve disputes amongst provinces), and Albertans expected something significant to emerge from this meeting (construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline is critical to the economic future of Alberta).
So what’s happened since then?
Well, heading into the meeting, Premier Notley promised Albertans legislation that would give the Alberta government the authority to “turn off the taps,” thereby limiting Alberta’s oil and gas exports to British Columbia. The NDP made good on their promise to bring forward a bill giving them that authority, but they appear to be misleading Albertans about their intent to use this legislation.
Forget the fact that this legislation was needed last year, when the BC NDP first came to power with the goal of harassing the Trans Mountain pipeline to the point that its proponent, Kinder Morgan, just cuts their losses and walks away, which, of course, would be disastrous for Alberta’s vital economic interests and Canada’s reputation as a destination for investment. The NDP wasted precious time underplaying the threat posed by Horgan’s government and their determination to obstruct this project.
Following the trilateral meeting, Premier Horgan made quite a revealing comment that has gone largely unnoticed in Alberta. Despite all the tough talk from Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Notley, Horgan offered a candid assessment of the meeting that doesn’t jive with what our Premier and Prime Minister are saying.
Horgan told Global News in British Columbia the following:
“The Prime Minister said quite unequivocally that he had no intention of threatening British Columbians when it came to transfer payments or any other joint projects that the federal and provincial governments are working on,” said Horgan. “When I asked premier Notley what her intentions were she said their legislative session is very brief and they were going to bring in enabling legislation and they didn’t necessarily think they were going to act on it.” GlobalNews.ca, April 15, 2018
This is quite a discouraging appraisal of an important meeting from Premier Horgan.
Think about this for a second. The purpose of this historical meeting was to enforce the idea that the government of British Columbia does not have the right to obstruct a federally approved pipeline, like Trans Mountain. Yet, the Premier of British Columbia emerged from that meeting more confident than ever that Alberta wasn’t going to act on its threats.
Compounding the problem of the Alberta NDP’s inaction is the fact that Trudeau also emerged from that meeting promising “legislation to ensure that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is completed.” Yet we still have not seen anything from the federal government to this effect.
Kinder Morgan has given notice that it will walk away from Kinder Morgan on May 31. Since then we’ve seen nothing but empty rhetoric from governments of Premier Notley and Prime Minister Trudeau. With fewer than 4 weeks to go to that deadline, the NDP has yet to pass legislation that, according to Premier Horgan, it does not intend to use, and Trudeau still has not introduced his legislation that, we were told, he intends to use.
This is political theatre of the worst kind. Alberta’s economic future hangs in the balance, while governments at different levels try to out boast each other with empty threats. Albertans deserve better than these cheap theatrics.
The chief executive of the Alberta Balancing Pool has suddenly left the organization.
And the electricity industry’s watchdog, the Market Surveillance Administrator (MSA), is still searching for a permanent head, seven months after the previous one left.
Now, the official Opposition wants Alberta’s auditor general to delve into the province’s ongoing electricity issues.
United Conservative Party MLAs want the A-G’s office to conduct an audit and tally up the total cost of the NDP’s decisions to phase out coal-fired power plants, subsidize consumer power bills and shoulder financial losses inside the Balancing Pool.
These events — along with legislation introduced last week to prepare Alberta for a new capacity market in electricity — give the impression a whirlwind has touched down in the power sector.
That impression would be right.
Alberta’s electricity industry is caught up in a vortex of change swirling across the sector.
For example, Balancing Pool CEO Bruce Roberts unexpectedly left the government agency earlier this month.
A terse three-sentence statement by the agency provided little insight into his departure. Roberts confirmed “it was my decision to leave” but declined further comment.
Balancing Pool chairman Robert Bhatia wouldn’t discuss the matter, but expects a new CEO to be in place soon.
“We’re working hard on the issues that the Balancing Pool needs to deal with,” he said in an interview.
The independent agency has been at the epicentre of change within the sector since the Notley government took power in 2015.