Heed Lougheed’s warning on oilsands fight

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The Article

Former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed has never been given to excessive alarm.  The only criticism many had of his conduct of the energy wars back in the ‘70s and ‘80s was that he wasn’t alarmist enough.  Therefore, when he came out of retirement last week to warn of an impending Alberta war with Ottawa “10 times greater” than the one he had to fight against the National Energy Program, Albertans should have been listening.

Were we? 

Not so’s you’d notice.  Some were, of course.  But most of us were too busy working hard, making good money, playing golf and playing the market.  So I’ll repeat it.

He said that Ottawa—the same Ottawa that fought so hard 25 years ago to take over the Alberta and oil and gas industry—is going to strike again.  But this time it won’t be just a money grab.  This time Ottawa will be saving the world from “global warming.”  And money-grubbing Albertans, they will say, who don’t give a damn about the world, or the environment must be forcibly subjected to sound, sensible regulation by the sound, sensible federal government.

Sound, sensible in whose eyes, one might ask.

Those of the people whose views have obviously taken possession of the Harper government—they being David Suzuki and Al Gore.  They now dictate Canada’s environmental policy.  They have persuaded the Toronto and Montreal voter that Alberta is helping to ruin the world, and Alberta must be stopped. Now Lougheed didn’t say all this. What he did say was: “The government of Alberta, with its acceleration of oil sands operations will, in my judgment, be seen as the major villain in all this in the eyes of the public across Canada.” 

Specifically, Ottawa will enact environmental legislation that effectively vetoes provincial control of the oil industry.  That legislation will come before the Supreme Court of Canada, which will rubber stamp it.  Even before that court was packed with liberal ideologues, it almost never sided with a province against the federal government.

Is it likely to do so now?  Some hope!  But would Stephen Harper—our own dear Steve Harper—do something like that to us?

That is certainly the implication of Lougheed’s message.  Lougheed, remember, is a realist.  He has run a government.  He knows the chief criterion of the success or failure of a government is whether it stays in power.

If Harper were to ignore the Gore-Suzuki hysteria, and “stand up for Alberta,” he would certainly be defeated in Toronto and Montreal and probably lose power altogether.  So he has no choice.  Tough luck, Alberta, but that’s politics.

Is there likely to be a serious protest movement in Alberta?

Of course, there is, but here’s the point.  We’re now all happy making big bucks, buying SUVs and spending our weekends in Vegas. So we don’t even listen to Lougheed, until Ottawa has made its move, and we’re all rapidly out of work.  Then we get mad. We want action!  We’re going to rebel!

But by then it’s too late.  The deed has been done, and we have been defeated.  Ottawa knows it will work like this.  That’s why they will move with such confidence against us.

So our cause is hopeless, then?  Nobody can do anything?  Not quite hopeless.  There is one man in this province who has it in his power to do something.  He has the money.  He has the authority.  And he might even have the will.  His name is Ed Stelmach—and he happens to be our premier.

I know, I know.  I was as dubious as anybody about his willingness to actually fight.  Like a great many people, I felt that Honest Ed was also Gutless Ed.  Now I’m not so sure.  He is, after all, our first premier of Ukrainian ancestry, a people who have never been prone to pick fights and start wars.  They are methodical, steady, endlessly patient, work tirelessly, and by raw diligence brought this province into production and eventual prosperity, when WASPs (like me) proved unable to do it.  Characteristically, they won’t fight until they find their home under attack.  Then they will fight to the death, and have often proved impossible to defeat.  Well, if Lougheed is right, Ed’s home is about to come under attack.  Let’s see what he will do.

Ted Byfield
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