The year is 2020: print news has been in a downward spiral after more than a century of being the source for every tidbit to keep citizens in the know.
Newspapers know this – hell, everyone knows this – yet they are still offering precious space to thoughts from decades gone by.
Over the weekend, the National Post offered its front page to three easily recognizable names in Conservative-thought leadership; Ted Morton, Jack Mintz, and Tom Flanagan.
For reference, these three are still talking about a future for Alberta that has as its foundation; a reliance on, and deference to, oil; victimization of Alberta by the rest of Canada, and; a fair deal based on ideas that have been visited, and revisited, for the past 50 years in this province.
Personally, I do not believe oil is dead. I do, however, believe that it will no longer be a major source of employment or income for Alberta, or, subsequently, a major source of revenue for the federal government. That alone will drop the amounts Alberta sends to the feds and maybe the equalization arguments will also drop accordingly – at least, I truly fricking hope.
One of the reasons these three are so recognizable is because their names have been gracing newspaper bylines for decades. They are respected experts in their fields, have years of experience, and they are the go-to authors when seeking supporting evidence for Conservative policy.
Which is why it made me smirk to see three men who have been advising Conservative governments for the majority of my adult life claim that strategies of the past generation (like, properly, their own) are not working.
Strategies that include making Alberta a real player in the global energy scene when, if they actually wanted to, could have been easily accommodated with, again, decades of oil-friendly provincial governments, and at least one self-proclaimed oil supporting Prime Minister since Pierre Trudeau wanted to build pipelines from coast to coast and secure the country’s energy independence.
It’s still a remarkably unpopular position, in Alberta, to acknowledge that P.E.T. wanted the country supplied with Canadian oil – and they really don’t like anyone pointing out that it took Conservatives 40-some odd years to get over the fact that a Liberal had the idea first – but I digress.
The three non-Wexiteers – who are still willing to entertain the idea of separation if the federal government does not display more support for oil than buying a pipeline project – also offered more provincial autonomy (such as Kenney’s Fair Deal Panel, which was also researched by MLAs under Ralph Klein in 2002-03, and has been a subject area of research in the province for more than 30 years).
Reaping what they’ve sown
Conservatives and their associate thought leaders have spent decades demonizing the National Energy Program in Alberta. While beneficial to the electoral fortunes of Conservatives in the province, they did such a good job of placing blame on P.E.T.’s proposal of the program for a global oil bust in the 1980’s that they had absolutely no chance of reviving the idea themselves – and they kept getting elected.
Why let the future economic health of a province get in the way of a good thing for 38 loyal Conservatives, many of whom hail from east of Manitoba themselves?
Feel free to let that marinate for a moment.
Amazingly, it wasn’t until 2017 – some 40 years later – that a Conservative MLA even dared to try.
For context, oil prices began to fall unhindered in 2014, the Progressive Conservative dynasty fell in 2015, and the further right opposition party member had managed to win the Calgary by-election, which was forced when former Premier Jim Prentice resigned his seat after his party’s loss.
By 2017 though, it was too late.
Harper had lost his majority government two years earlier and the world was already working on a coordinated effort to diversify energy sources.
The Paris agreement had been ratified and Canada had signed on.
Canadian companies in the eastern part of the country had been forced to seek other sources for oil – for over a half century.
We know Conservatism moves at a slower pace than forward-thinking ideologies, but taking four decades to come to terms with an idea that no longer has national support is spectacularly embarrassing.
The three Conservative policy experts got together and wrote a piece not unlike many they have authored before; support Alberta oil, support independence to gain more leverage over Ottawa because our incomes are unfairly taxed at the same rates as other Canadians, and if all else fails, threaten – or actualize -secession.
Less than 48 hours later, Royal Dutch Shell announced the company was looking to decrease oil-related production costs by 40 per cent so they could invest in green energy.
If the editors of national publications don’t know what’s going on outside of the editorial board’s personal opinions, let the market do its thing.
The Old Boy’s Club may have a big fan base in our national and local news outlets but Albertans cannot wait another 40 years for Conservatives to accept what they should be doing today.
This post contains opinion.
Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a political commentator physically distancing in Southern Alberta. Connect: @Mitchell_AB for more, @thisweekinAB for posts