Thursday, May 7, 2015

Oh, Canada Alberta!

What just happened Tuesday in Alberta will result in a major policy shift in the Province toward a more responsible approach on a number of issues, from Global Warming to Keystone XL pipeline, which Trans Canada has been trying to bully us into accepting.

After four decades of Conservative rule, Albertans on Tuesday handed a landslide victory to Rachel Notley's NDP, shattering the Tory dynasty.

"And it was a spectacular demise. The NDP won a solid 53-seat majority. The Wildrose will form the official Opposition with 21 seats. The Conservatives have been reduced to 10 seats. One seat is undecided because of a tie. One is now vacant following the resignation Tuesday of leader and former premier Jim Prentice. The Liberals and Alberta Party have one seat apiece." (Edmonton Journal)

An article in the Edmonton Journal details the concerns of Alberta's energy industry to the drastically revised provincial government.

When it comes to oil and gas production, Alberta is to Canada, what Texas is the US. For those not familiar with Alberta, the infamous Alberta Oil Sands have given rise to as much angst as the Bakken crude.

As reported in The Globe and Mail, "Ms. Notley has said she is not opposed to TransCanada Corp.'s $12-billion Energy East proposal and Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Trans Mountain project. But she has said she would end lobbying for Keystone XL and has cast doubt on the viability of Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway - the only major pipeline proposal to obtain regulatory approval.

"Canada's national energy regulator gave the $7.9-billion project the go-ahead last year, but it is subject to 209 conditions. The project also faces legal challenges and entrenched opposition from coastal aboriginal groups in British Columbia. If built, it would deliver up to 525,000 barrels a day of oil sands-derived crude to a super-tanker port at Kitimat, B.C., giving the energy industry long-sought access to richer global markets." 

I love the response rendered by Art Sterritt, Executive Director of Coastal First Nations, when asked by Inside Climate News, about the "thousands" of jobs we all hear about, surrounding pipeline installations. Mr. Sterritt responded:

"We're not a bunch of poverty stricken, illiterate people. This is a highly developed society—a culture that's sophisticated in terms of respecting the environment, recognizing what you need to do in order to maintain it, and with a sophisticated art form and languages and everything else. That's what they didn't realize. They just figured, oh we'll flash a couple jobs and a couple bucks under their nose, and they'll just jump up and down."

By the by, in Canada, transparency in campaign funds is the norm. And, there are caps on contributions and spending. Unlike the secrecy afforded by the dastardly "Citizens United" here in the States, wherein the rich 1% buy and sell representation like options on the stock market.

One could speculate that election spending limits may have contributed to yesterdays outcome. Which begs the question, would it be possible to turn the tide of conservatives in the States who are gung-ho for unrestricted drilling,  reduced environmental regulation, and global warming denial, if we could repeal Citizens United?

Someone joked with me about John Boehner, saying he would put a drill derrick in his living room if he thought there was oil under his house!

Campaign Spending: How We Stack Up 

•  The no-limits nations: Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. In these places, there are no limits on contributions, and no limits on what candidates can spend.

•  The all-limit nations: Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Slovenia. In these countries, there are limits on both contributions and on spending.

•  Nations with limits on spending but not on donations: Austria, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia, the United Kingdom. It does seem a little odd that you would have limits on what a parliamentary candidate can spend, but no limits on what someone can donate to her.

•  Nations with contribution limits but no spending limits: Finland, the United States. Not knowing much about Finnish elections, I'm not going to speak to what goes on there (though if I had to guess I'd say they're polite, thoughtful affairs). But for American candidates, it's the worst of both worlds. (From The American Prospect.)

Conversation Starter:  Are you fed up with Big Oil (who, don't forget, we subsidize) who screw us at the gas pump whilst bragging about their historic profits? And do you think the Canadian Model of campaign spending is one we should strive for?

It will be interesting to see how the new government in Alberta plays this hand.

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