Sun Column: NDP shows true colours on energy

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.