Alberta remains a petro-state under the NDP

Alberta's perspective that what’s good for the oil and gas industry is good for Albertans is wildly out of whack with reality

CALGARY, Alta. Oct. 9, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Alberta’s NDP government is more intent on appeasing the oil and gas industry than serving the best interests of Albertans.

The federal government recently announced it would impose a carbon reduction scheme on any province that doesn’t take steps on its own to tax carbon effectively. The goal is to ensure that Canada meets its commitments under the international agreement signed in Paris last year to reduce emissions and keep global warming under two degrees Celsius.

Although Alberta’s New Democratic Party government likes to brag about being climate leaders, it has said it will not support this federal initiative unless it sees movement on approvals of new pipelines.

The stance shows conclusively that the main preoccupation of the NDP is keeping the energy industry happy.

Mike Hudema of Greenpeace Canada puts it well: the Alberta government “needs to realize that new pipelines aren’t compatible with a climate-safe future and there’s no climate leadership to be found in building one. It’s incredible that the Alberta government would withhold its support for an action to combat climate change until it gets a new pipeline that further accelerates the problem. … Rather than pushing to deepen the problem, the [Alberta] government should be focusing on clean energy solutions that get us out of them and create thousands of jobs in the process.”

The provincial government’s choices on this file are tragic for Albertans. We need to be less dependent on damaging carbon industries, not more so. Oilsands production should not be allowed to expand and if there were no expansion, there would be no need for new pipelines.

Albertans need to live within existing pipeline means. And, contrary to increasing production rates, we need to rein them in through much tougher enforcement of environmental regulations.

The province has for too long operated under the principle that what’s good for the oil and gas industry is good for Albertans. That principle has never been entirely valid. And now it’s wildly out of whack with reality.

Even looked from an economic perspective, ramping up oilsands production is a mistake. Prices are low and the greater returns we would get when prices rise – inevitable since oil and gas will be needed for some purposes for a long time – are gone if we sell on the cheap now.

More broadly, we know we have to diminish the industry’s impact. Carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions harm the atmosphere. And the industry leaves damage to water, air, soil, and to Alberta’s people, in its wake.

We must put our petro-state tendencies behind us. Delaying the transition to a lower carbon regime can only harm Albertans. Particularly when that delay comes through pathetic efforts to extort pipeline approvals from a federal government trying to ensure Canada reaches its international commitments.

We can move with the times and capture our share of the investment and jobs that will pour into cleaner energy paths. Or we can wallow in the past, ensuring we are left in the dust as the rest of the world moves on.

It’s easy to see which direction Alberta should move and it’s not toward more pipelines.

Only politicians who have capitulated to the fossil fuel industries could choose to ignore the obvious.

Janet Keeping is leader of the Green Party of Alberta.

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