Friday, June 27, 2014

Stephen Harper's National Energy Program May Do More Damage Than OPEC

" I witnessed first-hand the movement of an economy from historic boom to deep recession in a matter of months. A radical, interventionist blueprint of economic nationalism, the NEP caused the oil industry to flee, businesses to close and the real estate market to crash. The lives of honest, hard-working Albertans were upended and I came to know many of those who lost their jobs and homes." (Looking Back at Trudeau, Stephen Harper, National Post, October 5, 2000)

By 2000, Harper had left the Reform Party, and was running the National Citizens Coalition, a right-wing, anti-liberal non-profit; created initially to end public healthcare; but grew to include a fight against unions and a fight for the ability of corporations to fund politicians and political parties.

I don't know if Stephen Harper really believed that the National Energy Program caused the devastation he describes, or he was simply reviving an old wedge issue, while attempting to rewrite history.

Admittedly, the NEP was not popular in Alberta, but its cancellation by Mulroney, was the cause of most of their woes.
Oscar Wilde wrote that there are only two tragedies: one is not getting what one wants; the other is getting it. In the fall of 1985, the latter tragedy befell Alberta's oil industry. The OPEC cartel failed to agree upon a world oil price. The result was a global free-for-all among producing nations. Canada's oil and gas producers were caught in the middle. Having recently gained freedom from the NEP, Canada's oil and gas industry was not protected as the price of oil dropped from US $27 per barrel ... to $8 per barrel by August 1986. ... Forty-five thousand oil workers lost their jobs." (Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6 3, p. 97)
In fact, most in the industry liked Trudeau's program because it allowed further exploration on public land. What they opposed was the proposed closing of tax loopholes by then Liberal finance minister, Allan MacEachen.

However, they couldn't campaign against that to attack the Trudeau government, so instead sold it as Ottawa aggression toward the West, and Ted Byfield, an early Reform Party organizer, kept the campaign alive. Wrote Harrison: "In the months and years that followed, Byfield's Alberta Report continued to mythologize the intent and the impact of the NEP", giving the Reformers their battle cry, "The West wants in".

Harper's National Energy Program

Since coming to power in 2006, the new and improved Reform Party, now calling themselves the Conservative Party of Canada, has done everything they could to deny that Climate Change exists, or that the Alberta Oilsands has anything to do with it, if it does.

That stance has made Canada a symbol around the world, of what Climate Change denial looks like, though it has increased Harper's creds with the diminishing Denial crew.

In the CPC's latest campaign, they suggest that the toxic bitumen coming out of the Oilsands is actually good for us. No more harmful than cooking a steak on a barbecue. Heck maybe we could bottle it and sell it as a sauce.

Economically, we've been turned into a Petro State with our fortunes dependant on how well the industry is doing.

Yet, according to the International Monetary Fund for every dollar in growth from oil, 82 cents goes to Alberta, with Ontario seeing just 4 cents. Yet the entire country has subsidized the Oilsands to the tune of 34 billion dollars.

Harper has also increased Alberta's federal transfer, while decreasing Ontario's and is moving the National Energy Board to Calgary, creating jobs in a province already apparently experiencing a labour shortage.

Will All of This Largesse Really Help Alberta?

The Harper government recently tried to bury a report, warning of the economic and health risks of the Alberta tarsands. Just another attempt at denying Climate Change exists, that has included muzzling scientists and ending tax breaks for environmental groups.

In the debate over the pipelines, we are told that without them Canada’s economic recovery would suffer serious damage. Says Russ Blinch in the Huffington Post: Prime Minister Harper says he won't lift a finger to help the environment because he's working too hard to protect jobs. In fact he is imperiling our future by blocking innovation in order to support a fading industry: fossil fuels.

The World Bank says that tackling climate change would grow economies, not hinder growth or recovery.

And while John Baird is putting pressure on the U.S. To approve the XL pipeline, a former Canadian ambassador claims that there is a very good chance that they won't be needed. Obama is now allowing American crude to be exported, which might also bring the price of oil down.

The Northern Gateway that would send the tar to China for refinery, is also not looking too promising. China is moving away from oil and switching to natural gas, which they are getting from Russia. Looks like Putin is laying claim to the Asian market with his own pipelines. So much for sanctions, as he's also moving away from the U.S. dollar.

So will Harper's National Energy Program cause the oil industry to flee, businesses to close and the real estate market to crash? Will it upend the lives of honest, hard-working Albertans, many of whom will lose their jobs and homes?

Jeffrey Rubin Former Chief Economist with CIBC World Markets asks Are Harper's dreams of Canada as energy superpower going up in smoke?
In the last decade, his Conservative government has done everything but roll out the red carpet for the energy sector. Whether it's multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in the United States, gold-plated junkets to foreign energy markets, or muzzling opposition from domestic environmentalists, never before have we seen Ottawa shill so unabashedly for a single industry ... Unfortunately for Canadians, it’s becoming clear that despite the Prime Minister’s best attempts at economic intervention, their government is playing a losing hand.
If Harper's Reform Party used the revisionist history of the impact of Trudeau's energy policies, with a tagline "The West Wants In", maybe the next election ours should be:


But that won't happen until Harper is out.

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