10 April 2016

Will Notley get a pipeline built?

In a recent Rabble article, David Climenhaga quotes a unite-the-right Albertan as predicting that if the NDP "actually get a pipeline built. … they're going to govern for the next 20 years!" That may be the overstatement of a panicked conservative, but certainly if the NDP want to win the next election, they will have to make nice with the oil industry.

Premier Notley made that clear in her address to the NDP convention in Edmonton when she emphasized that the party was governing “on the basis of a concrete plan that is actually being implemented,” and adding, in effect dismissing the Leap Manifesto, "That is what you get to do when you move up from manifestos, to the detailed, principled, practical plans you can really implement by winning an election."

The Premier was elucidating the ancient clash of the practical with the ideal. Ideology may be a necessary guide for your party, but if you actually want to do something you have to gain power. You have to gather the support of people who may not like your ideology, but will support you if you consider their interests. If you only appeal to your true believers, you may while away your days in opposition, nobly achieving nothing. For the NDP, or at least for its Alberta brothers and sisters, adopting the Leap Manifesto could be a leap into the political abyss.

According to Premier Notley, Alberta's Climate Leadership Plan is "the single most important step any Canadian government at any level has taken so far to actually act on climate change." And it may well be, but if it involves another pipeline the question is whether it's enough or if it is simply slowing down the race to environmental Armageddon. Is the cost of electoral success for the Alberta NDP more rapid warming for the planet?

Time, I suppose, will tell. Unfortunately, time may tell us too late.


  1. It's a simple question, Bill. Do you accept the powerful and growing scientific consensus that, if we're to have any realistic hope of limiting global warming to 2C, we must leave at least 80% of known fossil energy reserves in the ground, untouched, stranded for all time? If you accept the science if follows that you accept that the world has to shift to the lowest-carbon fossil energy options during the transition to clean energy. High-carbon fossil fuels must be the first stranded. That means coal and bitumen barring some massive investment in costly and inefficient CCS systems that no one, including premier Notley, is advocating.

    I don't support the fanciful Leap Manifesto for the same reasons as Cliff of "Rusty Idols":

    "The Leap Manifesto was a masterpiece of high level manipulative communication. Long sections full of stuff that all progressives can find to agree with but inextricably bound with poison pills in every section couched in rhetoric deliberately designed to force 'If you disagree with this that means you also disagree with THIS' false conclusions. I've already had one earnest and slightly hysterical young ND tell me that opposing Leap means 'attacking our environmental and indigenous allies'. Leap and its supporters rhetoric is explicitly designed to result in such nonsense."

    There's simply way too much of Naomi Klein in that Manifesto. I bought her book "This Changes Everything" and was left very underwhelmed. Sad, really.

  2. One other thing. Notley, like her conservative predecessors, shows no interest in doing the environmentally responsible thing of fully refining bitumen into crude on site, in Alberta. Why is it that, Tory or NDP, they insist on exporting hazmat oil that no one can clean up when it's inevitably spilled at sea? I churns my stomach to hear them use the word "tidewater." Economists use the term "externality" to describe costs or risks on party pawns off on another, keeping it off their own financial statements. Fouling the atmosphere is one such externality. Transporting bitumen via pipelines and supertankers transiting pristine and vulnerable coastal waters is another. It all comes back to the fact that bitumen isn't really economically viable. To boost the bottom line risks and losses have to be foisted onto others. Notley and her New Democrats are in on that too.