McGuinty’s Comments Unhelpful

Yesterday, the Member of Parliament for Ottawa-South and Liberal Natural Resources Critic suggested that Alberta MP’s are mere shills for the oil industry and that if we don’t develop a more national perspective with respect to resource development we should all “go home” and perhaps run for the Provincial Legislature or a Municipal Council.  In fact he told Sun Media: “they are national legislators with a national responsibility, but they come across as very, very small p-provincial individuals who are jealously guarding one industrial sector-picking the fossil fuel business and the oilsands business, specifically as one that they’re going to fight to the death for.  It’s not what they’re here for”.

Really??  That is exactly what we are here for—not necessarily to defend an industry to the death but to represent our constituents unequivocally and to the best of our ability.  As it happens, my constituency and the entire province I represent, depends on the energy sector as the driver of economic growth not just for Alberta but for the country as a whole.

If it was not for the strength of the western Canadian resource sector generally and the Alberta Energy Industry specifically, Canada would not have been able to weather the international recession of 2008 as well as we did.

Over 140,000 Albertans are employed directly in the oil and gas sector. Tens of thousands others are employed in industrial construction.  Last year over $25 Billion was invested in Alberta in conventional oil and gas and in the oilsands.  Canadian energy security, in addition to the vitality of the Canadian economy, is directly dependent on Alberta’s oilpatch.

I would find the notion of a “national responsibility” with respect to resource development laughable if others were not so serious about it.  Firstly, natural resources are owned by the provinces.  Although that was not always the case with respect to Alberta, the “Natural Resources Transfer Act” of 1930 makes it quite clear that the Federal Government is neither the owner nor the regulator of provincial resources.

However, the Federal Liberal Government of 1980, exercising a “national responsibility”, implemented the catastrophic National Energy Program on October 28, 1980.  This Ottawa-centric policy included an artificially low price for crude and a special tax on revenue (not profit).  It was a deliberate attempt by the Ottawa Mandarins to get their hands on Alberta’s resource wealth in order to satisfy that Government’s insatiable appetite to spend money on welfare state social programs.  Given that the population of Canada was (and still is) concentrated in Central Canada, the entire NEP was an attempted wealth transfer of billions of dollars away from Alberta.  The result was economic catastrophe and Constitutional crises.

I would fight to the death (notionally at least) against the imposition of another “national” policy of resource development that replaces wealth and prosperity with recession and misery.  This is not a zero sum game; the prosperity of Alberta and Canada are far from being mutually exclusive.

This attempt of pitting region against region and Alberta against Ottawa is unhelpful.  When the energy sector is healthy, not only does it create wealth for Albertans, it creates prosperity for all Canadians.  We are all in this together.  As a Member of Parliament from Alberta, the health of the Alberta energy sector and the Canadian economy are certainly worth defending and fighting for.


1 comment for “McGuinty’s Comments Unhelpful

  1. Ceren
    November 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Great post.Perhaps there is another leossn to be learned here? A leossn for greens to follow the AB oil industry example; invest as fast as possible while the going FIT is good, and deal with the consequences in the future.I think it’s in the AB oil industry’s interest (but perhaps not the Gov’s) to build as fast as possible. It’s much easier to build quickly and then defend current facilities and jobs in the face of criticism, than to go slow and advocate for expansion later if public perception changes.Most fallout over developing too fast hits the government not a company’s bottom line, and AB has too much invested for the oil industry to significantly lose its social license to operate it’s current facilities. So for companies; build fast, build now, and fight off the public and environmentalists later.In a similar vein it may be in the interests of green advocates to push for even poorly designed FITs, or make claims (solar power parity next year!) that they know is likely wrong. Convince the public to support as much green investment as possible, lock it in, and weather any following public relations or public opinion storms. Under this approach, hopefully people will adjust to the new prices (how much does 82c/kWh averaged with the majority of low cost conventional power really increase the bill?), criticism will wane, and Ontario will be left with a nascent green power industry. Repeat.If people have short enough memories, then one in the hand is better than two in the bush, and green energy advocates should be in favour of even poorly planned FITs.