Mirror mirror on the wall who could predict this outcome after all? One person stands out. The man who went to Washington to bolster his goal of building the Keystone XL Pipeline. That was in the spring of 2020. The problem is he read the tea leaves in the wrong cup. The administration in power was smiling glad handing and like a historic town crier they were preaching all is well.
When it comes to this pipeline there has never been a time when all is well. There have been demonstrations, clashes and violence along the route. There were proponents and those opposed on both sides of the border.
When Jason Kenney went to Washington two things somehow escaped him. First I don’t think it even occurred to him Trump would lose. Looking back I don’t see how so many believed he would win. The second serious problem was Kenney really has not envisioned how powerful the environmental groups have become. Power not only in numbers but in terms of leaders they need, i.e. Joe Biden for example.
Apparently Jason Kenney has not seen the car company adds that show vehicles using alternate energy sources for fuel, or the call for wind power and solar panels. What does this have to do with it? The young people, old hippies and regular folks are seeking new ways to do things. Politicians are now responding to change, fossil fuels are on the way to extinction.
Alberta had begun to explore ways to diversify their economy and Jason Kenney took a more single minded approach. There was an avenue to justify some salvation of the use for oil. Fuel is a minor use as oil is used in a harvest of other manufacturing uses. The real truth is, we are going to need oil for another fifty years and perhaps longer. At this point we are where we were a century ago in developing new environmentally friendly products and fuel sources, with science and advancement we will find the answers but at the moment we need to use oil.
In the case of what happened here there was no real leadership and no real salesmanship in speaking for the industry. When the crunch came Alberta, Saskatchewan and Canada were caught standing still unable to see the real negative aspects of what was coming. I liken it to the nineteenth century gold rush fever. Like gold there was plenty of oil and there were no down sides on the horizon that could be seen. Then as now we know all good things end.
Jason Kenney did not understand the world around him was not only changing it is still fundamentally changing. His biggest problem is mindset not just an oil crunch. See, oil will recover somewhat but not to where it was long term. Alberta needs to prepare for a different economy both in the long and short term.
What I see coming is said with some reservation but also in blunt terms. Biden is very unlikely to change his mind. To him oil and coal are industries of the past. Kenney is now begging Justin Trudeau to help him. The same Justine Trudeau he lashed out at when oil bubble burst. I am sure you remember, it reached a fever pitch when the fringe dusted off the western separation protest signs. Kenney had to lower the temperature at that point. So here is the scene, Trudeau will go through the motions, knowing the deed is done. From a more cynical seat in the room, Trudeau from a political standpoint has no incentive to push harder for there is no seats to gain in either Alberta or Saskatchewan in the near future. Economically, there is some pain but it’s Alberta on the hook for a billion
dollars in loan guarantees.
Yes it is a long dark tunnel without much light and little in the way of options. If Alberta was overcome by separation fever they would not be eligible for equalization payments. There are solutions however. One is to entertain the idea of a western Canadian consortium made up of three prairie provinces and BC to build a refinery to produce fuel and byproducts for the manufacturing industry. Expensive, yes but better than doing nothing. Parallel to saving what’s left of a sunset industry they must begin to diversify the economy for the long term.
Jason Kenney is living a diminishing political shelf life at the moment as Alberta under his stewardship has botched the economy and the pandemic. Kenney has gone from over 50% to 40% since December in some polls. Keep in mind polls are snapshots in time. For Jason Kenney he might be the victim of setting political expectations high above his reach. He blame the Notley Government for Alberta’s ills but things are worse under his leadership and that does not enhance a leaders prospects.