Edmonton Journal - - LETTERS - DON BRAID Cal­gary Don Braid’s col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Cal­gary Her­ald. dbraid@post­ twit­ter: @Don Braid

Al­berta’s wine boy­cott is eco­nom­i­cally puny. It threat­ens to de­prive B.C. com­pa­nies of only $70 mil­lion, com­pared to $1.5 bil­lion a year de­nied to Al­berta by the B.C. gov­ern­ment’s stalling.

How about a boy­cott that re­ally stings? Alex Mac­don­ald, once the top aide to the late Al­berta Lib­eral leader Lau­rence Decore, has an idea that could make B.C. Premier John Hor­gan col­lapse in a faint.

Oil­sands com­pa­nies, Mac­don­ald says, should stop buy­ing sup­plies and ser­vices from firms in Bri­tish Columbia.

Now, that would hurt. There are 738 such sup­pli­ers in B.C. They bill oil­sands out­fits for $1.3 bil­lion a year, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures up­dated to early 2017 by the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Pe­tro­leum Pro­duc­ers. More than 400 com­pa­nies in Fort St. John send their bills to Al­berta. There are 141 sup­pli­ers in Van­cou­ver and even, if you can be­lieve it, 78 in Burn­aby, the ter­mi­nus city and heart of pipe­line re­sis­tance.

CAPP said in early 2017: “B.C. com­pa­nies pro­vide en­vi­ron­men­tal tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing equip­ment ser­vices, camps and cater­ing, parts sup­ply, cor­po­rate ser­vices, tech­nol­ogy and trans­porta­tion, and oth­ers.”

CAPP CEO Tim McMil­lan added then that “Bri­tish Columbia is (a) lead­ing part­ner in Canada’s oil­sands — a part­ner­ship that cre­ates jobs and pros­per­ity to sup­port com­mu­ni­ties across B.C.” He said more pipe­line ca­pac­ity via Kin­der Mor­gan’s ex­pan­sion would “cre­ate even more jobs and pros­per­ity for com­mu­ni­ties across Bri­tish Columbia.”

If Hor­gan has his way, that will never hap­pen. So, maybe the pay­ments from Al­berta shouldn’t hap­pen ei­ther.

A com­mer­cial boy­cott like this wouldn’t de­pend on the Al­berta gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment. It would im­pact the in­dus­try in ques­tion, not by­standers like winer­ies. Nor would it vi­o­late trade agree­ments. Com­pa­nies can buy, or not buy, wher­ever they like in Canada.

Why not send that B.C. work to Saskatchewan or even On­tario? Or sim­ply cre­ate more sup­ply ca­pac­ity in Al­berta?

CAPP staff told me Thurs­day that McMil­lan wouldn’t an­swer ques­tions about a pos­si­ble shift of oil­sands spend­ing to other prov­inces.

It’s no sur­prise. On Wed­nes­day, McMil­lan said the in­dus­try doesn’t want more “politi­ciza­tion” be­cause that ends up hurt­ing busi­ness. He counts on gov­ern­ments to sort all this out.

But Mac­don­ald made the boy­cott sug­ges­tion pre­cisely be­cause he’s an­noyed at oil­sands pro­duc­ers for fail­ing to step up.

He calls the com­pa­nies wimpy and PR-chal­lenged. The in­dus­try “should threaten to find al­ter­nate sup­pli­ers. That’ll get Hor­gan’s at­ten­tion!”

For the past decade, Al­berta pre­miers and the pro­duc­ers have tried count­less times to make Cana­di­ans aware of the in­cred­i­ble spend­ing gen­er­ated all over Canada by the oil­sands.

Last year, for in­stance, $7.6 bil­lion in na­tional spend­ing was spread across ev­ery prov­ince, all the way to lit­tle P.E.I.

Six P.E.I. sup­pli­ers were paid $6.4 mil­lion. That’s not neg­li­gi­ble in a prov­ince of 152,000 peo­ple.

On­tario is by far the largest ben­e­fi­ciary out­side Al­berta it­self, with 1,570 com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing $3.9 bil­lion worth of goods and ser­vices. In Que­bec, 385 com­pa­nies billed for $1.2 bil­lion. Forty­five sup­pli­ers in New­found­land and Labrador made $333 mil­lion. Oil­sands firms paid $479 mil­lion to 460 com­pa­nies in Saskatchewan.

There’s never been much ev­i­dence that re­peat­ing those statis­tics changed minds among politi­cians or the gen­eral pub­lic.

Que­bec rose up against En­ergy East de­spite the oil­sands bo­nanza for com­pa­nies there. The B.C. NDP seems wil­fully blind to any­thing ex­cept en­vi­ron­men­tal alarmism.

Telling peo­ple what they’ve al­ready got just puts them to sleep. But they wake up fast when it’s be­ing taken away.

If oil­sands pro­duc­ers sud­denly started shift­ing their sup­ply con­tracts else­where, B.C. would be in an up­roar. Even John Hor­gan would have to count the cost.

The in­dus­try “should threaten to find al­ter­nate sup­pli­ers. That’ll get Hor­gan’s at­ten­tion!”


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