Notley’s threats to BC remind us of Enron and the California energy crisis

It would be great to see a healthier dialogue between Alberta and BC regarding Canadian energy and our future development. Sadly, the bar just gets dragged lower and lower. It’s March 2018 and despite opposition from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producerspopulist prairie politicians are voicing support for Alberta strangling British Columbia’s supply of domestic oil and gas. This in order to punish the West coast province for defending its environmental and economic interests by raising concerns about Texas-based Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion and the multiple serious risks it poses. Threatening to punish an entire province by shutting off domestic energy supply in order to gain support for shipping energy resources out of the country is a bizarre kind of false equivalency. It’s also a tactic taken directly from the pages of the disgraced Enron Corporation which imploded spectacularly once corrupt business practices and financial malfeasance resulted in criminal prosecution and conviction of its executives

One of those corrupt practices was strangling California of energy supply to manipulate prices, which resulted in the 2000-2001 California Energy Crisis. While Enron covertly punished California energy consumers in the interest of short-term profits, eighteen years later Alberta’s political leaders seem publicly proud of the suggestion they could do the same to BC in the interest of serving their short-term political goals. It shouldn’t be lost on any of us that at the centre of it all is Kinder Morgan, a company that was birthed within the corrupt walls of Enron’s Houston headquarters

This petty and vindictive behaviour feeds into a deeply concerning narrative that Canadians who stand ready to defend the environmental, economic and cultural interests of communities and regions threatened by resource extraction and transport (not to mention the effects of climate change) are acting against the National Interest. Some of the more extreme elements of the conservative political community have even called such everyday actions treasonous and have promoted violent treatment of Canadians who oppose pipelinesWith Bill C-51 still lurking in the background this should concern all Canadians, this should be called out. We are better than this. 

This emergent narrative of punishment and violent action to people or a province, opposition to pipelines as treason, and multinational corporate expansion as national interest amounts to a toxic cloud over our political discourse. All we have to do is look across the border to the south to see where things end up when you don’t challenge this type of language and allow it to become normalized. It’s outrageous that communities on the west coast of North America might be made to suffer because of the greed and shortsightedness of the oil and gas sector and the politicians who appear wholly devoted to multinational corporations while appearing wholly dismissive of the concerns and needs of communities in their neighbouring provinces and states. Alberta’s Premier, and it appears now Saskatchewan’s too, have lowered themselves to Enron’s level and appear damn proud to have done so.   

Instead of a constant barrage of threats and intimidation where is the discussion about compromise and collaboration? Where is the discussion about mutually beneficial alternatives? And can someone please point me to a discussion explaining how an export pipeline owned by a Texas-based multinational corporation is in the National Interest of Canada? 

Threats, bullying and intimidation won’t bend British Columbians to Notley’s or Kinder Morgan’s will, it will only further embolden and alienate a province that now counts among its closest allies the province that has tried the hardest to separate from Canadian federalism and Washington State, who BC now finds more in common with than any provinces to the East despite being a part of a federal framework with them.

As for Notley and the Alberta NDP, the province appears likely to settle back into the natural state of things when a United Conservative Party forms the next government. Any chance to do politics differently now squandered as the Alberta NDP prove they are just as captured by the oil and gas sector as their predecessors in government. Despite his recent commitment to raise the bar of decorum in the Provincial Legislature Notley has now paved the way for Jason Kenney to push the unhealthy and dangerous rhetoric against BC even further by lowering the bar for inter-provincial dialogue to the level it’s at now. Which is pretty Low. Enron low.