4.01.2012

P.C.s: Failing Record On Oil Sands

The Alberta election is humming along at a poll-a-day pace.  One question often asked is which party do voters believe would do the best job handling our oil sands and energy sector.

As with most other questions, results have been mixed, usually showing the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose parties neck and neck.  Those who say the P.C.s are the best people for the job cite experience as their number one reason.

Those who think the Wildrose gang is better equipped gave the very same reason: P.C. experience.

You only have to go back a few years to see where the P.C. mishandling of our crown jewel began.  When the Ed Stelmach government came up with their brilliant idea to raise royalty rates on the ‘sands, it caused the expected grumbling and warnings from the Opposition and segments of industry.

Coinciding with the economic slide of 2008, the policy turned out to be a massive and proven success - for Saskatchewan.

Energy firms looked at our neighbor, saw a much friendlier business climate with their own burgeoning oil sands industry and set up shop.  I’m willing to bet for the next decade not a Holiday season will go by without Stelmach receiving a Christmas card from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

Repeated ‘re-structuring’ of the policy framework followed, but the damage to the industry - and to the government’s image – was done.

Skip ahead a few years.  Faced with the spread of misinformation and fear mongering from enviroNazi’s and leftwing special interest groups (see: B-list celebs), the P.C. government decided the best course of action which would turn the tide and get the truth out to the masses would be to invite one of Hollywood’s most well-known tree huggers and outspoken anti-oil sands icons for a personal tour of our ethical oil sites.

The James Cameron Tour 2010 became one of the most chuckle-worthy gaffes in modern Alberta political history.  While I am certain that Stelmach’s intentions were honest and that he meant well, Cameron played our then-Premier like a violin.

Cameron, whose movie ‘Avatar’could easily be taken as an analogy of his impression of our oil sands, soaked up the cameras in his hardhat and boots, was told from those who work and run the industry the real story, then did the expected and publicly criticized the oil sands on the way out the door.

This after it became public that he had already promised to work with local Native groups to ‘protect their land and their way of life from the threat of the tar sands’.

The episode ended up as nothing more than a way for Cameron and his ilk to add ‘legitimacy’ to their claims. “I toured it. I saw it firsthand. It was horrible.”

With the change in the Premier’s chair came no change to the slapstick routine.

Soon after Alison Redford was appointed Leader of Alberta, the Chiquita banana company announced it was joining other businesses in a boycott of our oil sands.  Normally, Albertans would have read the headline, yawned, and gotten on with their day.  These P.R. stunts are a dime a dozen and have proven to be quite ineffective.

It would have gone by relatively unnoticed if it not for a bizarre statement from the person charged with defending Alberta’s interests.

Asked about the boycott, Redford actually defended Chiquita.  She explained that the banana company with the record of unethical business practices was ‘concerned about the environment’, and called the backlash against the company ‘spin’.

Did it ever occur to her that those who were lashing back were Albertans?

Those are just the highlights.  The Progressive Conservatives have a sorted history of mismanagement, image-tarnishing blunders, and out-of-touch methods when it comes to overseeing our most important resource.

The pro-energy industry Wildrose may be an unproven bunch when it comes to government, but there is a wealth of industry and business experience in the ranks and their platform seems sensible.

If the P.C. record of managing our oil sands industry says anything, it says it’s time to put someone else in charge.

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His Name Was Steven