Al­berta rant­ings about En­cana are par­ti­san hot air

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION -

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.

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