Rachel Notley’s Folly

Rachel Notley’s approach to diversifying Alberta’s economy.

Let’s look at this last week in the ever-escalating war between the NDP governments of BC and Alberta. On Friday, BC Premier John Horgan asked the federal government to investigate why gas prices in BC are so high. Many premiers over the years have asked for all sorts of investigations into why we pay so much at the pumps. This is not out of the ordinary in any way. It does seem like BC’s gas prices fluctuate greatly and can be higher[1] particularly in the Lower Mainland. In looking at a comparison between the two provinces, BC pays an additional $0.317 per litre over Alberta. I am not an expert on gas prices, however, over the years I have heard that prices can be affected by switching between winter and summer blends, bad weather in the Gulf of Mexico and OPEC.


Back to Rachel Notley. In response to John Horgan’s call for a federal investigation she suggested that if BC wants to pay less for gas then Horgan should stop opposing the twinning of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. This statement is patently ridiculous. It’s almost like Notley is forgetting that it is raw bitumen that will be travelling through those pipelines destined for China where it will be processed into some usable fuel (providing it doesn’t leak and destroy natural habitats between here and there). It’s like she envisions British Columbians lining up at the terminus of the pipeline to fill their vehicles! Will we also get frequent filler points and will it be full serve along with a window clean and a winning smile? Is Notley going to demand that income tax for employees in the new terminus be submitted back to Alberta? That way she can take advantage of all the stoners (probably smoking BC bud) living in their parents’ basements with laundry piles that have their own postal codes. After all, with BC’s unemployment rate being the lowest in the country we may not have the people to pump the raw bitumen.

After that ridiculous statement, Notley went on to call Horgan a hypocrite for agreeing to look at subsidies for an LNG project in northern BC. The big difference between Alberta’s bitumen and BC’s natural gas is that processing will happen here in BC thereby guaranteeing ongoing jobs and selling a value-added product on the market. By processing the gas here we move beyond our resource extraction (hewers of wood and drawers of water) of our past. Make no mistake, much of the Canadian economy relies on the extraction of our natural resources whether it’s bitumen, natural gas, trees or minerals. BC is not perfect in this regard as we send a lot of unprocessed, raw wood out of the province. However, where we can keep processing in the province we stand to gain good paying jobs.


Adding to the idiocy of Alberta politics , enter Jason Kenney the new leader of the United Conservative Party. Fresh off of destroying the Conservative Party of Canada, along with Stephen Harper, he has now turned his sites back on his home province. Here’s the thing about Kenney he has been bleating negative rhetoric for years. I have yet to hear him come up with an original idea and he is true to form in this debate:

“You can’t make this stuff up. It’s like comedy hour coming out of Victoria. They’re trying to shut down their major source of oil. They are increasing their carbon tax while telling ordinary British Columbians they’re concerned about high gas prices?” he said.

So, let’s have a look at the ‘comedy’ hour coming out of Victoria. The budget introduced by Finance Minister Carole James has new commitments for housing, childcare, a freeze on BC Ferries fares, increases in health care spending and will see the elimination of MSP premiums a year earlier than promised. With all of these new initiatives you would think BC is running a deficit. It’s not. The Horgan Government is hoping this will be the 6th balanced budget in a row (building on the balanced budgets of the BC Liberals). Even though BC is still dependent on natural resources, the economy is diversified enough to ride out the peaks and valleys of resource extraction without resorting to deficit spending.

Notley is wasting her time going after BC. She needs to focus on the wolves at her door: Jason Kenney and the UCP. She also needs to figure out how to diversify Alberta’s economy. If she doesn’t at least take some steps towards that goal her government will be no more than a footnote in history. The oil peaks are over and have been over for quite some time now.

I am no economist. However, it seems like the answer to some of Alberta’s fiscal woes lay in the taxes it charges on gas. Perhaps if Notley raised the gas tax in Alberta she could get closer to a balanced budget. It really is time for Albertans to pay the full cost of the destructive fossil fuel royalties that buttress the economy . Maybe if the tax went up there would be an appetite for alternative energies and economic diversification. BC seems to have good luck with wine and BC bud.


[1] In the Lower Mainland for example, we pay  federal and provincial taxes, a carbon tax but we also supplement Translink.

When is an NDPer not an NDPer?

Rachel Notley

When is an NDPer not really an NDPer: when they are in power in Alberta. The rise of Rachel Notley and her party to majority government status was such a shock to most Canadians given that the Progressive Conservative party had run the province since most people alive could remember. However, the rise of the Wild Rose Party split the conservative vote in the province and allowed Notley’s NDP to come up the middle. I am beginning to wonder about Notley’s NDP credentials. Seriously. What NDP premier prioritizes pipelines, carrying dirty, polluting bitumen over the environmental concerns of another province? It’s not her province it’s going through. What is even more galling is that BC assumes all the risk of oil spills while the usual suspects continue to get rich and the province goes through another boom/bust cycle that detroys lives.



This what is wrong with brokerage politics. She is doing this no doubt so that she will get re-elected. What Canada (and Alberta) needs is a LEADER who will diversify the economy and get Alberta off the oil and gas teat that has done nothing but provide boom and bust cycles for the average Albertan while making a very few rich beyond their wildest dreams. BC used to be a primarily resource extracting province (mining and logging, mostly). However, given the often wild fluctuations in the world’s demand and therefore price for commodities, BC has had to diversify. There are still pockets of the province that are reliant on resource extraction but as time goes on diversification has helped to stabilize some of these regions.

The BC NDP does not report to Notley or Justin Trudeau – they are accountable to the Green Party, who are providing the necessary support for a majority position in the legislature and they are accountable to the electorate. The NDP have seen what has happened to the BC Liberals when they break promises. The introduction of the HST in 2010, three months after the election promise where they said they wouldn’t, was an education in BC politics. Led by former premier Bill Vander Zalm, the ‘axe the tax’ was ultimately successful. We have been the only jurisdiction in the world to ever successfully repeal a tax because of a grassroots movement. John Horgan knows this. He has already had to backpedal on the Site C Damn. (Although I think they did the responsible thing. If they hadn’t, we would have had several billion dollars of debt either at BC Hydro or the provincial government with no asset to show for it. The BC  Liberals made it so that the project could not be stopped).

I am guessing that neither Notley or Trudeau know their BC politics well. Justin Trudeau, standing in Nanaimo yesterday at a downhill meeting, saying that the pipeline will be built is wrong. These kinds of proclamations are only going to inflame the situation more. There will be massive protests should shovels go into the ground on this project. Right now we have Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan who has made a science out of opposing and obstructing Kinder Morgan. Burnaby residents have not forgotten about a 2007 spill that saw several companies charged and Kinder Morgan fined. Oh and this was crude oil, not bitumen – which is way worse. Imagine what it would be like to clean up bitumen from our pristine coastline? It would be a disaster.

The geyser of crude oil when the pipeline was accidentally hit
Burnaby after the spill

I am a proud transplanted British Columbian (it’s a long story, I should have been born here, but that’s a story for another day) by way of Alberta. I live through the National Energy Program (which Albertans seem to forget being forced to sell their oil at lower prices to the rest of Canada). Alberta was certainly strong on provincial rights and opposing what was seen as an ‘out of touch’ federal government that was robbing Alberta to power the rest of the country. In those days, saying you were a Liberal supporter in Alberta was almost grounds for murder. I am not exaggerating.

So, Alberta, don’t buy our electricity or our wine. We will find other markets. We are economically resilient in BC. I am pretty sure that California likes our power. Your threats will only serve to escalate this situation and force us to dig in our heels. And Justin, you better be prepared to not vacation in BC for a very long time (he lived her for god’s sake! He should understand the province). I hope you can find good surfing and caves in Atlantic Canada. Oh and if you are going to force the pipeline issue, I would send in the Canadian Armed Forces. Anything less will be a fool’s errand.

I am guessing we are not going to see Justin in BC vacationing for a while