Pipeline success, not Leap Manifesto, will determine Notley’s future in 2019

NDP convention resolutions routinely ignored by Saskatchewan NDP governments, why not Alberta?

Wow, wasn’t that some convention this weekend? Rachel Notley was thundering for pipelines. The federal NDP responded by endorsing the schizo-anarchist climate change strategy charmingly dubbed the “Leap Manifesto.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley during her Saturday speech to the federal NDP convention in Edmonton: Photo: CBC.

Some pundits are already writing the Alberta premier’s political obituary and she hasn’t been in office a full year. Don’t buy it. The reports of her electoral death are greatly exaggerated.

Why? Two reasons.

One, governing parties aren’t bound to enact party resolutions. They may be guided by them, they may not, depending on the issue politics.

Certainly other NDP governments have ignored federal or provincial resolutions condemning resource development. I’m thinking specifically of the Allan Blakeney government that ruled Saskatchewan from 1971 to 1982 and uranium mining.

Blakeney created the Saskatchewan Mining Development Corporation in 1974, partly to explore and produce uranium, which is plentiful in the northern portion of the province. Provincial NDP riding associations regularly sent outraged resolutions to annual conventions, provoking heated debates and hard feelings within the party.

Was Blakeney’s government dictated to – or even guided, for that matter – by party resolutions? Not a whit.

And when Roy Romanow succeeded Blakeney and became premier in 1991, he supported uranium mining. The issue came to a head at the 1992 convention, where an anti-uranium mining resolution was defeated by a 60% margin, thanks to some deft maneuvering on the floor by NDP cabinet ministers and insiders.

“The NDP needs to create wealth before it can redistribute it,” Romanow was quoted as saying by the Northern Miner.

Sounds an awful like Notley, who perhaps not coincidentally has consulted with Romanow on various issues.

Two, her government will live or die based upon its ability to increase market access for the Alberta oil sands and restore the kind of economic growth Albertans regard as a birthright.

In a word, pipelines. Or even just the 1.1 million b/d Energy East pipeline will do.

The Alberta oil sands is still growing – contrary to recent popular opinion – and that means more ways to get crude oil to market so the economy can get back to expanding and Notley’s government has revenue with which to staunch the river of red ink.

If 2019 rolls around and there are still not at the very least shovels in the ground for Energy East or another export-oriented pipeline, then all bets are off for Ms. Notley.

But her passionate speech Saturday defending the Alberta oil and gas industry – and pipeline projects in particular – left no doubt about which hill she has chosen to live or die upon, Leap Manifesto be damned.

“We need to be able to get the best possible world price for the oil we produce here,” Notley said, as reported by the National Post. “And the way to do that is through pipelines to tidewater that allows us to diversify our markets and upgrade our products – here in Canada.”

Notice the Alberta premier used the plural of pipeline, suggesting Energy East is not enough and that she intends to engage the battle in British Columbia over the Trans Mountain Express project (having publicly written off Northern Gateway before last spring’s election).

Ok, she’s planted her flag. Let’s see how well she defends it.


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