Alberta rantings about Encana are partisan hot air
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney insists he is not fanning the flames of western separatism by accusing the federal government of trying to kill Canada’s oil industry.
That’s about as true as Kenney’s claims that federal policies are responsible for iconic energy company Encana rebranding itself as a U.S. company.
Encana CEO Doug Suttles himself dismisses Kenney’s claims that his company’s move south — which he says will not impact operations, jobs or Canadian investments — is driven by government policy. Rather, Suttles says, Encana simply needs access to U.S.based index funds, which are not allowed to invest in foreign companies, which Encana would be had it not made this change.
That truth hasn’t stopped Kenney or fellow western separatists from seizing on the business decision for partisan reasons. Justin Trudeau is trying to strangle Alberta’s economy, he ranted. Kenney’s fellow Conservative partisan bulldog Michelle Rempel declared “losing Encana is a death blow to my city,” dialing up the rhetoric even further by saying “Justin Trudeau is putting them out of work, and it needs to stop.”
None of this is remotely true, but it doesn’t have to be to raise the temperature in the echo chamber of alienation in the West. To the extent that happens, blame Kenney, Rempel and their like, not Ottawa.
Albertans’ struggles and pain are real. The industry that drives their economy has been badly damaged, in part because of the lack of a tidewater pipeline to move product to world markets.
But blaming the crisis overall on federal policy and indifference in the rest of Canada is a gross oversimplification.
The reality is that fossil fuel companies around the world, to one degree or another, are struggling. No doubt Kenney would blame that, too, on the Trudeau government, but the truth is that the world is evolving and reassessing and fossil fuel companies are less in favour than in the past. More and more, governments around the globe, and their citizens as well, are looking into a future where fossil fuels play a decreasing role. In a very real way, fossil fuel companies are sunset industries.
That’s true in the United States as well, but to a lesser extent thanks to climate-change denial policies put in place by the Trump administration. So even though things are bleak for energy companies, they are less bleak in the U.S. than in other parts of the world, including Canada. It should surprise no one that Encana, like other companies before it, decided to cash in on that.
None of this means that Encana’s loss doesn’t hurt Calgary, Alberta and Canada overall. Nor does it mean that western alienation is as fake as Kenney’s claims are. It is real and the Trudeau government must make it a top priority to mend those fences as best possible, and soon.
But don’t make it sound like Ottawa and the rest of Canada are the bad guys here. Just a year ago, the Trudeau government introduced $14 billion worth of tax writeoffs for companies investing here. And for heaven’s sake, it bought a pipeline.
Canadians should empathize with Albertans, and encourage our national government to help. But we don’t have to buy the shallow demonization of that government for crass partisan reasons by the likes of Jason Kenney and Michelle Rempel.
More and more, governments around the globe, and their citizens as well, are looking into a future where fossil fuels play a decreasing role.