Alberta’s new socialist premier won’t lobby for Keystone XL – and she’s right

Keystone XL won’t get approved any faster with the Alberta NDP lobbying for it

Americans will be shocked to learn that voters in Alberta – often called the Texas of Canada – elected a socialist government 10 days ago that has promised to stop lobbying for the Keystone XL pipeline. They may be even more shocked to learn that Rachel Notley has made the right decision.

Keystone XL
Rachel Notley, Alberta NDP leader and premier-elect.

The New Democratic Party, usually referred to as the NDP, is responsible in one way or another for Canada’s beloved socialized medicare system, public pensions, publicly owned power and gas utilities, and much of the modern welfare state. Alberta’s incarnation is a mildly left of centre party that was elected because it promised to clean up the many messes left by a conservative party that wielded power in the heart of the Canadian oil patch for 44 years.

Stumping on the campaign trail, now Premier Notley said fogetabout her travelling to Washington to lobby Congress about the Keystone XL pipeline, which is designed to transport 830,000 bbls/day of oil sands crude from Edmonton – Alberta’s capitol – to Steele City, Neb. and then on to the Gulf Coast.

Notley said there is “no realistic objective” to be achieved because Keystone XL is caught up in domestic American politics and nothing she could do will change that.

Edmonton is 2,334 miles north and a whole lot west of Washington, DC. Maybe it’s the distance and the clear Prairie air that gives Notley, a smart and articulate labour lawyer, such a clear perspective on an issue that has consumed so much time, energy, and ink in the United States.

Keystone XL has been a major irritant between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper – from Calgary and a big supporter of the oil and gas industry – and Obama. Canadian-American relations are probably at their chilliest in 40 years.

Keystone XL
American President Barack Obama.

Keystone XL isn’t about the merits of the pipeline. President Barack Obama’s criticisms of the pipeline project have been effectively refuted many times, including by me. The State Dept. is right and the President is wrong.

Keystone XL isn’t about climate change or protecting the environment, either. The Obama Administration’s approval of drilling in the sensitive Arctic waters off the shore of Alaska effectively disproved that theory. Royal Dutch Shell says the drilling is perfectly safe, but no one believes that. Drilling off-shore always presents risks. In this case, far more risks for damage to a fragile ecosystem than Keystone XL could ever manage.

No, Keystone XL is all about raw, naked politics.

Barack Obama finally has something the Republicans really, really want. They pass bills, he refuses to sign them. They issue press releases by the bushel load, he laughs at them. Talk about energizing your electoral base heading into 2016!

I outlined in a Markham On Energy column how the Republicans could (probably) get President Obama to sign the permit and get construction of Keystone XL underway. But I suspect they’re as happy about the stand off as the Democrats. Beating up on Obama energizes their base heading into 2016!

What could Rachel Notley possibly hope to accomplish in the poisonous atmosphere of Washington?

Absolutely nothing.

Besides, the Canadian and American oil and gas industry is doing just fine getting product to Gulf Coast refineries, rejigging existing pipelines, building new oil by rail capacity, and building new pipelines in some cases.

By the time a new president is sworn in January of 2017, Keystone XL may not even be needed.

Notley has more important things to worry about at home. Two days ago, she had to order the outgoing Progressive Conservatives to stop shredding office documents and an investigation was started.

Maybe by the time she gets that figured out, balances the provincial budget, reviews oil and gas royalty rates, and gets down to the serious business of governing, Keystone XL will have sorted itself.

If not, there will always be 2017.

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