NDP’s $50B PROM­ISE GETS A SHRUG

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On Thurs­day, Premier Rachel Not­ley promised more than $50 bil­lion in petro­chem­i­cal in­dus­try in­vest­ment.She was talk­ing to stake­hold­ers at the In­dus­trial Heart­land con­fer­ence in Ed­mon­ton — the very peo­ple, in the very place, that would ben­e­fit the most.And yet, no­body ap­plauded. No­body cheered.She first said the new In­ter Pipe­line Petro­chem­i­cal Com­plex project east of Ed­mon­ton has at­tracted $3.5 bil­lion in in­vest­ment.Then she added: “Imag­ine tak­ing what we’ve done with In­ter Pipe­line and mul­ti­ply­ing it by more than 15 times — that’s what our Made In Al­berta plan means.”Fif­teen mul­ti­plied by $3.5 bil­lion equals $52.5 bil­lion in in­dus­try spend­ing.That’s a heck of a prom­ise. You’d ex­pect a twitch of life from the au­di­ence.When Not­ley talks to a quiet crowd, she likes to say peo­ple were just pay­ing close at­ten­tion.There is, how­ever, a big dif­fer­ence be­tween at­ten­tive­ness and rigor mor­tis.The sig­nal is danger­ous for the NDP be­cause she was pitch­ing her party’s core re-elec­tion strat­egy. If peo­ple find it hard to be­lieve, that’s big trou­ble.The early slo­gan is “The Fu­ture is com­ing — and it’s Made in Al­berta.” This is a ma­jor gov­ern­ment (not party) cam­paign on TV and so­cial me­dia. It fo­cuses on up­grad­ing oil, gas and other re­sources at home.The prom­ise is sup­posed to make peo­ple look be­yond the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line fail­ures to a bright fu­ture that’s en­tirely in Al­berta’s con­trol.Ed­mon­ton thrived for years as the stag­ing point for north­ern oil­sands growth. Mas­sive petro­chem­i­cal ex­pan­sion would bring an­other eco­nomic burst (as well as equally huge en­vi­ron­men­tal con­tro­versy).But if this cam­paign isn’t fir­ing peo­ple up in Ed­mon­ton, it’s likely dead on ar­rival in the rest of the prov­ince.The pro­gram isn’t op­por­tunis­tic, though. The NDP has ad­vo­cated more up­grad­ing and re­fin­ing for decades. In gov­ern­ment, Not­ley pro­vided roy­alty in­cen­tives that at­tracted In­ter Pipe­line.She says talks are now un­der­way with 14 com­pa­nies.What’s new, though, is the in­cen­tive pro­gram’s sud­denly high im­por­tance to the re-elec­tion cam­paign. Not­ley’s claims about the mam­moth scope and ben­e­fit seem to be in­flat­ing along with the elec­tion stakes.The premier is by no means aban­don­ing the pipe­line fight. She con­tin­ues to crank up the an­tiOt­tawa rhetoric, jok­ing that Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau would like to put her on an ice floe.But, in gen­eral, the NDP would much rather have you think about petro­chem­i­cals than pipe­lines.Af­ter prais­ing the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion plan, Not­ley turned her sights on Ja­son Ken­ney and the UCP.“The op­po­si­tion in Al­berta has no in­ter­est in di­ver­si­fy­ing our en­ergy sec­tor,” she said. “The choice as to whether we con­tinue to di­ver­sify or bring it all to a screech­ing halt is in ev­ery way on the bal­lot in the next elec­tion.”The UCP’s cau­cus spokes­woman, Chris­tine My­att, coun­tered:“The premier’s claims are pa­tently false and this is just more of the same ridicu­lous des­per­a­tion we’ve seen re­cently from the NDP. Ja­son has spo­ken at length about his plans to re­new the Al­berta Ad­van­tage and reignite our econ­omy, which will help fur­ther di­ver­sify by at­tract­ing job-cre­at­ing in­vest­ment back to Al­berta.”Not­ley also claimed that Ken­ney would im­pose road tolls vir­tu­ally ev­ery­where.“Tolls when you ship your equip­ment.“Tolls when work­ers com­mute. “Tolls on the week­end, when you head to Costco, to soc­cer, any­where.“Mr. Ken­ney needs to come clean about what his plan to toll your road is go­ing to cost you, your fam­ily and your busi­ness.”To this, My­att said: “The United Con­ser­va­tives have never sug­gested ap­ply­ing tolls to ex­ist­ing pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture. This is more fear­mon­ger­ing from an NDP un­able to run on its own record.”She said Ken­ney was talk­ing about a com­mon de­vice used in other prov­inces — tolls to help pay for new in­fra­struc­ture serv­ing in­dus­try.We haven’t seen full cam­paign plat­forms yet, of course, and noth­ing at all from the UCP.There’s a long way to go, but al­ready it seems the NDP will need a lot more than petro­chem­i­cals.

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