Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday February 27, 2020
Jason Kenney’s tantrums do not flatter Alberta
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is good at a lot of things. But when it comes to pointing the finger, he’s an absolute champion. Pointing the finger of blame at his predecessor Rachel Notley. At British Columbia for balking at his pipeline demands. At the rest of Canada (except Saskatchewan) for not sufficiently supporting Alberta’s oilpatch interests.
But when the federal government is the target, Kenney is a gold-medal Olympian finger pointer. Take this week’s Teck Frontier oil sands mine decision, for example. Announcing the company’s decision to not move forward with the project (even before the federal cabinet had approved or denied it), Teck CEO Don Lindsay said very clearly the reasons for shelving Frontier are a mix of low investor interest and environmental concerns. He pointedly did not blame the federal or any other government, although he made reference to Canada needing energy policy solutions that satisfy competing interests.
But to hear Kenney and his ministers talk, Teck holds Justin Trudeau personally responsible for the pullout. Kenney and friends certainly do. They say the Trudeau government’s lack of enthusiasm for new oil projects has created the national crisis we are now experiencing, and has also discouraged investors like Teck to the extent that they want nothing to do with investments like the $20 billion required for the mine north of Fort McMurray.
It is not hard to imagine that the sort of civil conflict now playing out across Canada over resource development would cause companies like Teck to be squeamish. But are political and societal volatility really enough to derail a project like this? To believe that, as Kenney seems to, would be beyond naive.
Lindsay wrote in his letter: “Global capital markets are changing rapidly, and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change.”
Speaking of money, Teck’s stock recently dropped more than 20 per cent in under a week. Like a lot of fossil-based resource companies, it is struggling, most recently with a weak fourth quarter. The simple fact is the global landscape is changing, and those “capital markets” are increasingly skittish about investments that rely on fossil fuels.
Lindsay has also said in the past that if the price of oil doesn’t increase significantly in the coming years, Teck would not be financially viable. There is no indication that will happen.
Bottom line: Teck was an iffy bet at best, and the uncertainty caused by deeply divided public opinion may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But isn’t the Trudeau government responsible for the current lack of consensus over resource policy? It certainly shares some of the responsibility. But leave it to a partisan extremist like Kenney to say with a straight face there isn’t blame all around. So Alberta is only a victim here? Its reluctance to commit to enforceable emission caps isn’t part of the problem? Its refusal to support any sort of price on carbon, even though the majority of Canadians expressed support for just that in the last election? (Parties that support a price on carbon got more electoral support than ones that didn’t, especially Kenney’s ideological roommates the Conservatives.)
Alberta’s problems are real. But they cannot all be laid at the feet of the federal government. The rest of Canada wants a serious plan to address climate change. Kenney may not like that, but unless he can figure out a way to move Alberta someplace else — say, next door to Kentucky — he would be wise to become part of the solution instead of being a champion, foot-stamping finger pointer. (Hamilton Spectator editorial)