Throne speech provides scant details on key Alberta issues

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Appeared in the Calgary Sun, March 20, 2019
Throne speech provides scant details on key Alberta issues

Alberta’s speech from the throne, while overshadowed by Premier Notley’s election call a day later, was long on pomp, ceremony and platitudes but short on specifics, particularly on one of Alberta’s most pressing issues—the resuscitation of the oil and gas sector and the end of the Alberta oilsand land lock.

Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell used all the right words, much as Premier Notley does. We will fight for a pipeline with a plan to build national consensus. We have fought to get pipelines built, that have been frustrated by failed federal governments. We will not give up until the Trans Mountain pipeline is built. And so on.

Mitchell said we must end the oil production curtailment “as soon as possible,” and touted the premier’s plan to prevent future gluts by leasing 4,400 rail cars to move Alberta oil to markets east and west. And of course, Mitchell touted “diversification” of the energy sector with more upgrading and refining in Alberta.

Of course, words are fine things, but they are not deeds. And on the energy file, little mention was made of easing the regulatory burden that’s causing investment to flee the province.

The endorsement of the Trans Mountain pipeline was ringing and generated applause, but no detail was offered about how we will get the pipeline build. That national consensus on pipelines that the throne speech touted stops rather abruptly at the borders of British Columbia and Quebec, which have, if anything, hardened their opposition to Alberta oil in direct proportion to how much Alberta has done to harm its economy in the name of building social consensus and social licence.

And Alberta has done plenty. Expanding carbon taxes, setting a cap on carbon emissions from the oilsands, implementing carbon-emission reduction regulations, coal-power plant phase-outs, renewable energy targets and “efficiency” programs that have failed virtually everywhere they’ve been tried (including Ontario).

Last but not least, the speech ignored that Premier Notley has once again appointed an anti-energy activist, in the person of Ed Whittingham, a former executive director of the Pembina Institute, to serve on the Alberta Energy Regulator for a five-year term at $76,500 per year. This is the same person who stood beside the premier when she introduced her onerous Climate Leadership Plan. And it was Whittingham who managed to pressure the Trudeau government and the National Energy Board to strike the death blow on the Energy East pipeline by requiring the “indirect CO2 emissions caused by the end users of Alberta’s oil and gas, instead of just the emissions caused by the pipeline itself.”

Throne speeches are, by nature, puff pieces for the sitting government—a laundry list of all that has been done to help the little people with little talk of the cost of government’s expanded activities that will land on their grandchildren’s tax bill. But I can’t help but hear Eliza Doolittle’s voice coming from the oil sector: “Words! Words! Words!, I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through. First from him, now from you. Is that all you blighters can do?”