Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Alberta’s new pan-Canadian energy illusion

Pique and fear can make history in politics, and that’s what’s going on in Premier Alison Redford’s new Alberta Government.
The creation of a North American energy market has driven investment and politics in Alberta over the last four decades. It was the vision that guided Alberta’s push for a more decentralized Canada and for better constitutional protections for provincial energy projects. It was at the heart of the Free Trade Agreement of 1988, which established Canada-US investment protections. Undoubtedly, it has helped make Alberta the youngest, most prosperous urban region in Canada.
However, two immediate—if not permanent—challenges to the status quo have emerged.
This continental vision is the brand of a 41-year-old Alberta government. And its new leader, Alison Redford, feels compelled to make “sweeping changes” before the next election. Further, continental integration has been made to look naïve by its American partner. The Obama government has temporarily blocked Alberta’s oil export expansion by delaying the Keystone Pipeline project—a project that is necessary for the expansion of Alberta exports, at world prices, to Americans and Asians as well.
In responding to these two challenges in Tuesday’s Alberta Throne Speech and in various interviews, Redford and her ministers have outlined an east-west pan-Canadian energy alternative that should make retired Central Canadian nationalists blush.
Behind Redford’s rhetoric, however, is a long-shot proposition: in order to escape the whims of Washington, other Canadian provinces and the federal government will support the creation of an east-west energy grid and make federal government subsidies available for strategic provincial energy projects.
At the center of her “Canadian energy strategy” is an ambitious, dollars-and-cents dream: the Harper government of Canada and the Clark government of BC will do whatever it takes, and use all necessary political capital, to get the alternative to The Keystone Project—the Northern Gateway project—approved and promptly built across British Columbia. The Globe and Mail reports:
Unsurprisingly, federal government sources are not volunteering any federal monies to sweeten Redford’s pitch to British Columbia.
Possibly, both oil pipelines will be built and, possibly, if environmentalists have their say, neither will. However, the idea of throwing untold billions at building an east-west energy grid simply to be “free” of the Americans makes no more practical sense for Alberta now than it did when it was championed in the East and rejected in the West by previous Alberta governments.
Doing what makes the most sense continentally still makes the most sense for Alberta.
A pipeline down the Midwest to the Gulf has more commercial champions along the route, would give Alberta reliable secure access to Asian markets, and, most likely, would entail far fewer environmental, regulatory, and NIMBY risks as the proposed route across British Columbia and along is exquisite coast.
When continentalists in the West have been thwarted by politics elsewhere, historically, they’ve upped their game rather than switched sides. That’s still what the interests of the West deserve.

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