Shock! Horror! No joy here in Mudville as Keystone XL Pipeline strikes out!

The betrayal! This just wasn’t supposed to happen! Who would’ve thought Obama would listen to voters? Below: A U.S. voter holds a sign, Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins. (Wilkins photo grabbed from the website of the Greenville County Republican Women’s Club. Really!)

Post No. 710

Tout le monde Alberta is in a state of shock and horror this dark Monday morning. It’s as if this were Mudville, and the Mighty Casey has struck out! This just wasn’t supposed to happen!

Barack Obama, President of the United States, has delayed approval of the $7-billion Keystone XL Pipeline – which Canadian politicians from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Alberta Premier Alison Redford on down have been trooping to Washington for months to beg for. And they thought it was a slam-dunk!

The shock! The horror! The betrayal!

“Keystone strategy ‘didn’t work,’” proclaimed the local Postmedia News rag in its front page headline Friday. Well, no kidding!

This is going to cost us billions, screeched the Wildrose Party, Official Voice of the Calgary Oil Industry.

“I can’t believe the environmental elite’s influence in the U.S.,” wailed an anguished Calgary political commentator, best known for her right-wing views, via Twitter.

The Obama Administration’s decision to put the environmentally dubious project on hold for further study – at least for 18 months and quite possibly forever, if the delay costs Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. too much – has been variously described around here in the gutter media as “stunning,” “shifty,” proof the U.S. is “not open for business,” evidence of more “celebrity ranting,” “a travesty,” yadda-yadda.

The former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, opined on the perfidy of it all in an interview with the Globe and Mail on Friday, describing the decision as “blatant politics” and “politics at its worst … a move by the president to placate a certain wing of his party.”

Actually, this gets pretty close to the real point of the story, although it’s not necessarily as bad as former George W. Bush-appointee Wilkins, now a business lobbyist, makes it out to be. To wit: The United States, apparently, at least at the level of presidential elections, is still a functioning democracy.

And in a democracy that still works, sort of, if you’re a politician looking to get re-elected, you have to pay attention to what your constituents have to say for themselves. In other words, now and again, you may have to placate a certain wing of your party, or a certain group of citizens. So imagine that… politicians placating voters in a democracy. No wonder Mr. Wilkins was upset.

A columnist for the Calgary Herald, that fearless champion of the overdog, made the same point a backhanded way when he lamented: “If Dubya were still in the White House, TransCanada would probably be building Keystone by now.”

Quite possibly. But what Herald columnist Don Braid likely really had had in mind when he made that observation, whether he knew it or not, was that if the White House were in downtown Edmonton right now, TransCanada would be at work on its pipeline and we could just shut up if we didn’t like it

Because that’s the Alberta way. What really happened here is just that a bunch of politicians from Alberta made the fundamental error of concluding the United States was so much like home it was exactly like home.

Here in Alberta, after all, we don’t let the opinions of voters stop us when we decide to blast a massive power transmission line right through an urban neighbourhood or past a community school. Our motto’s lead, follow or get outta the way! And if you don’t like it, we’ll roll right over you.

That’s the way things have operated in Alberta since oil squirted out of the ground. We have elections from time to time, but it’s not really all that clear that we have a functioning democracy.

If we do, after a fashion, it’s a petro-democracy in which occasional referenda endorse the one-party system, in which there is no place for opposition voices to be heard, especially in the media, and in which lobbyists and corporate donors enjoy all the perks and power and citizens have very little influence.

And it’s the model of Alberta’s so-called democracy that Mr. Harper – who is both the PM and the MP for Calgary Southwest – has taken to Ottawa and, for the moment at least, which seems to be working for him there.

In other words, in Canada, we would have simply ignored the opposition to the pipeline, or rolled over it and shut it down if it became a nuisance to our corporate bosses.

President Obama, who unlike Premier Redford, may need to actually pay attention to his electors now and then to have a chance at reelection, doesn’t have that luxury even if he wishes he did, hence his supposed “betrayal” of Alberta.

Well, we can be bitter if we like, but since we’re going to have to live with this, maybe we should take President Obama’s lemons and make lemonade.

After all, this pipeline wasn’t ever really that much more in the interests of the people of Alberta than it was in those of the people of Nebraska. So let’s build an upgrader right here in Alberta and keep the jobs and the profits in Canada.

We can continue to supply our friends in the United States with a product they need, but one in which the value has been added by Canadian hands, earning wealth that stays in Canada.

Who knows? Maybe if we’d had a functioning democracy here in Alberta – as they seem to have south of the Medicine Line – that’s what we would have done in the first place?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

12 Comments on "Shock! Horror! No joy here in Mudville as Keystone XL Pipeline strikes out!"

  1. Andy says:

    Without debating the pro's and con's of building a REFINERY, not an upgrader here, how does one propose the finished product gets shipped to market?

    I suspect it would be a PIPELINE, regardless of what flows through it.

    In other words, the issue has nothing to do with how a product is sent south, just in what state it is in.

    There seems to be no rush to build any refineries in Alberta, or Canada for that matter.

    Why would that be?

  2. Oemissions says:

    glad to see Stephen Harper myffed

  3. Lars says:

    What a refreshing blast. Thanks, David, I really enjoyed reading this.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If there were any real leaders in Alberta, they would realize that to be an energy superpower, we need to diversify as much as possible, that means, not just focussing on serving one client. We need to also build stability and value into our own system and build refinerys in alberta, and grow jobs here. We are shipping our crude oil out, getting it refined in the U.S. and buying it back for a higher price. Where did the big energy vision and common sense go?….into short term thinking. The provincial and federal brains have NO vision to grow Canada and Alberta as energy superpowers, they are just shipping away jobs and resources for little cash, just to show a slight income for now. Peter Lougheed has reiterated the same comments as the ALP leader, that we should build pipelines for other markets, in addition to the USA market and build the refinery in Alberta. So why not build jobs here? The Tories just keep selling off the topsoil for free. Texans must think we are sleeping idiots. They are probably right.

  5. Carlos says:

    Anonymous
    Texans do know that we are more than sleeping idiots, we continue to bet on selling everything we have for peanuts. That is the way we want to develop – as an Albertan I would say we are a bunch of retards.

  6. Anonymous says:

    TransCanada brought their 19th century Alberta business model to the USA and ran up against an actual democracy. They have no one to blame but themselves along with hacks like Murray Smith and Gary Mar who thought they could eat and drink their way to building this pipeline.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Energy superpower, now there's a joke. Alberta is nothing but a third-rate petro-state on a downhill slide to irrelevence. Nobody wants the filthy product and it's only going to get worse with time, count on it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Unless I am missing something here this is a BITUMEN pipeline, and not the oil pipeline it has been so recently re-named. Redford is selling jobs and money down the pipe to the USA. Is there any Party willing to stand up for our right to process this product, and to regulate the industry on this side of the border?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Stephen Harper was trying out his wings as a dictator this week in Hawaii. I'm sure his conversation with Obama on the pipeline lasted one minute. After that, Obama sent a memo to make sure he doesn't spend another second with the tin pot bore from Canada.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Anon 6:48 "Is there any Party willing to stand up for our right to process this product, and to regulate the industry on this side of the border?"

    Yes, its the Alberta Liberal Party. Peter Lougheed reiterated the same thing as the ALP leader, build the refineries in AB and build more pipelines to sell internationally. Why are the Torie's so f'n retarded and short sighted? The WRA claims to be in opposition to the Tories, but they have not promoted the virtues of selling our product to other international markets either. It makes you wonder if the corporations have shills and stooges in the Tory and Wildrose party, looking out for their interests and their interests only. This is why the ND's have to quit making deals with the right wing to screw the Liberals, they the ND's are in fact enabling the Tories to get away these huge transgressions, by clawing away centrist votes. I have to agree with Carlos, Albertans, some of them are the dumbest, stupidest creed on earth, as are our politicians. I am voting Liberal this time. We should be awash in cash, where the hxll has all the money gone?

  11. Anonymous says:

    No problem at all David, in fact a MAJOR gain for Canada and Alberta.

    1. we can now upgrade here in Alberta and keep jobs here.

    2. building the upgrader will no doubt create jobs in the east, plus the jobs to build it here

    3. We can now sell to ANYBODY at the world price, something the keystone wouldn't let us do

    4. At least Harper told Obama we are going elsewhere. It's just more Obama politics, IF he gets re-elected he will approve it, if not, oh well blame the next guy…

  12. Anonymous says:

    The previous poster should try reading the Liberal policy, such as it is. Apparently they support bitumen exports using the Keystone pipeline and the B.C. pipeline. That is NOT refining and upgrading in Alberta. Who needs another booster Party for bitumen exports? The NDP says mine it here, refine it here. So do the trades. AFL. Who benefits from raw material exports? Big oil, the USA, and the banks.

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