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It's not you it's the Carbon Tax

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.

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Op Ed: With regards to Trans Mountain, what’s going on?

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.

Varcoe: Another jolt hits Alberta’s power sector

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.

Panda: Energy policies undercutting Alberta's resource and revenues

In the 2015 election, Albertans clearly voted for change. But after nearly two and a half years of this new government, how would voters grade the NDP’s energy strategy?

With the price of oil at a three-year high, Albertans may not realize that we’re not reaping all the benefits of the recent uptick. In fact, the opposite is happening: the price differential between what the market price is and what Canadian oil and gas producers get for their product is increasing.

Why is there a price differential? Well, because Canada lacks the necessary energy infrastructure to get its oil products to new markets we’re left selling our product to one customer: the United States. As a result, American buyers of Canadian oil receive a steep discount. The difference in the price of Western Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Western Canadian Select (WCS) is known as the price differential.

According to the Economics Dashboard at the Government of Alberta, “[t]he differential of WTI over WCS was US$11.02 in November 2017.” An $11 differential on already-low oil prices means lost revenue (in the form of taxes and royalties) for an NDP government that is already drowning in debt. This week that differential grew to roughly $30.

Under the NDP, Alberta appears no closer to closing the price differential gap. We are now saddled with a costly carbon tax, while other jurisdictions continuously try to kill approved pipeline projects worth billions in investment and employment for Albertans.

The NDP never campaigned on the carbon tax yet announced it just months after assuming office. With no mandate to impose a carbon tax, the NDP needed to justify this astronomical tax increase through other means. They told Albertans that a multibillion dollar tax on virtually everything was necessary to secure the so-called ‘social licence’ for pipelines — the same pipelines needed to close the gap on the oil price differential!

After two and a half years of ‘social licence,’ it’s clear the NDP didn’t do their homework. During that time, we’ve seen the federal and provincial government pile on additional job-killing regulations and taxes, like the NDP’s new industrial carbon regulations and the combined provincial-federal carbon tax increases.

Unswayed by the supposed benefits of carbon taxes, the National Energy Board added up-and-downstream emissions tests to its assessment of future energy projects. In addition to being a clear violation of provincial jurisdiction, the federal government’s overreach will kill future investment in Alberta’s oil and gas sector. TransCanada blamed the new federal emissions tests when they killed their own $16-billion Energy East project, politely citing a review of “changed circumstances.” Sadly, Alberta’s NDP remains muted in the face of these changes implemented by the Trudeau Liberals.

Meanwhile, our biggest customer, the United States, is now our biggest competitor: they’ve become a net exporter of gas; they’re also enjoying record oil production numbers while building liquid natural gas export terminals. And they did all of this within the same low-price environment that we currently find ourselves in. Canada’s oil and gas sector is flat while the U.S. is prospering because of policy not price.

Regardless of what your opinion of the petroleum industry is, Alberta’s oil and gas sector is critical to everyone in this province. The resource belongs to us, the people of Alberta. And we deserve to get fair market value for our resource precisely because this is how we pay for our valuable public services. Right now we’re losing billions in revenue while borrowing to pay for schools, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure.

Of course, we want Alberta’s industry to succeed, and a United Conservative government would enact grassroots-approved policies that send a clear message to job-creators: Alberta is once again open for business. And we think those signals will propel Alberta to the head of the class.

In the meantime, I’m giving the NDP a failing grade.

Panda: Notley's attempt to win social licence for pipelines is a failure

Let’s face it, the NDP’s social licence scheme is a massive failure with far-reaching consequences for everyday Albertans.

Last year, Premier Rachel Notley made a very risky bet with Ottawa. She bet that if she imposed a massive new carbon tax on the Alberta people with no mandate to do so, she’d win so-called social licence from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. She lost.

Nearly a year later, we’re certainly worse for wear, while jurisdictions across North America scoop up the jobs and investment we’ve lost, thanks to the NDP’s risky play.

This was a big win for Ottawa on Alberta.

Ottawa is actually collecting GST on the carbon tax we pay (Wildrose warned the NDP about this tax-on-tax last year). Every time you fill up your vehicle or heat your home, you’re sending even more money to Ottawa because the carbon tax is itself taxable.

Ottawa just solidified the tanker ban on the British Columbia coast, which could significantly harm our energy industry, beyond what it has already suffered.

Ottawa continues to collect billions more out of our province through a broken equalization and transfer system than it gives back, even though our province is down on its luck.

And now, to add insult to injury, Ottawa is pondering yanking the National Energy Board out of Calgary and moving it to Ontario, simultaneously insulting our great city, and our world-class energy regulator.

Notley bet it all and lost. She served Alberta up on a platter to Trudeau and his friends. She was badly outplayed by a slick Liberal with nice hair.

The only perceived benefit of this social licence scam has been the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Notley touts this accomplishment daily, as it’s one of her sparing achievements.

But that project is now under severe doubt, thanks to the efforts of the B.C. NDP and Greens, who’ve pledged to stop it by any means possible.

Industry hopes for this pipeline are fading fast on the heels of the B.C. election. And members of Notley’s own oilsands advisory group, such as Tzeporah Berman and Karen Mahon, are fundraising and working around the clock to ensure it never gets built.

Wildrose previously warned Notley about trafficking in these risky deals to obtain essential, nation-building projects such as energy pipelines. The facts and necessity of these projects could have compelled them to creation on their own. Now these approvals are stuck in a web of bad political gamesmanship.

The people of Alberta are suffering and Notley and the NDP are still chasing social licence. They don’t understand that real families are suffering, while they chase this fool’s gold.

They laugh in the legislature when we raise concerns about the record 100,000 Albertans on employment insurance, the double-digit unemployment, the 84,000 good, full-time jobs that were lost last year, and the major, international companies that are fleeing our province.

It’s time for the government to drop this notion of social licence and get back to work on attracting investment and creating jobs through common-sense policies.

So long as we’re stuck with this premier, we need her to have our backs, and stop worrying about what her fancy environmental friends or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau think.

Let’s take care of our own families, friends and communities, before we worry about taking care of anybody else’s.

Tax hikes make tough times even harder

NDP policy is hitting Calgarians hard at a time our city can least afford it.

Our unemployment sits at more than eight per cent, the highest in decades. Home values across the city are dropping, and just last month, Alberta shed 40,000 full-time jobs across several industries.

Many Calgarians would agree that now is not the time to make things worse, but that’s just what the latest series of government policies is doing, on the backs of working families right across our city.

It starts around the kitchen table. With the average family seeing their wages go down, or possibly even facing unemployment, they are being forced to squeeze every penny out of their monthly budgets. That could mean pulling a child out of hockey for the next season, cutting out a family trip, or having to downgrade on some of the essentials.

And that’s before taking into account the series of new taxes families are being forced to pay. By January of next year, households will be paying more to heat their homes, drive their cars and pay for groceries because of the NDP’s new carbon tax.

By 2018, the full cost of this tax will take roughly $1,000 out of the typical Alberta household’s budget to pay for over $6 billion in new government spending and expensive corporate welfare projects.

Yes, Alberta should continue to be part of the solution in the effort to reduce global emissions: that’s why Wildrose has long advocated for natural gas and clean air strategies. But the fact is, Alberta is already a world leader in research and innovation in reducing emissions. The NDP government’s approach will only make it more difficult for Alberta to compete on a global stage.

In the private sector, companies perform risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses before any major investments or decisions are made. But Alberta’s new carbon tax bill fails to give Albertans any information on the full economic impact of the carbon tax, or any emissions reduction targets the government plans to achieve by spending the billions in new taxes that will be collected every year.

Under this plan, our local producers will see costs rise, small business owners will have less money for hiring and innovating, and our export sector will be increasingly less able to compete with other jurisdictions, such as Saskatchewan, which do not face the same regulatory burdens Alberta now does. That means fewer jobs for Calgarians at a time we badly need them.

Homeowners and businesses won’t just be feeling the pinch from a new carbon tax; today, Calgarians are seeing a massive jump in their property taxes as a direct result of the NDP government’s 10.2 per cent hike to the provincial share on everyone’s property tax bill.

Premier Rachel Notley will try and pin this excuse on a fixed funding formula based on new government spending, but the fact is, her NDP government had a choice, and they chose to raise the tax bills on families in one of the most difficult economic climates Alberta has faced in decades.

It was the wrong choice, and now city council is wrestling with the difficult decision to reduce services to help compensate for this massive provincial tax grab.

Taken together, these policies are proving a dangerous recipe for families and an economy that many feel is fragile enough already.

The direction our province is heading is the wrong one for Alberta. When families and business are hurting, they shouldn’t be seeing their taxes increase. Policies should be put forward to bring stability back to Alberta’s economy, encourage investment in our province and restore the Alberta Advantage.

These are the policies Albertans are asking for, these are the policies Wildrose has been asking for and it’s time Notley and her NDP government start to listen.