Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ignatiff Reaches Out to Alberta in a Spirit of Unity

Albertans have had a distrust of Ottawa since the National Energy Program, introduced by Pierre Trudeau, almost thirty years ago!

In the wake of the energy crisis, the intent, at least in part, was to promote oil self-sufficiency for Canada and maintain the oil supply.

However, it also kept domestic oil prices below world market prices, which prevented Alberta from enjoying the boom, while subsidizing Canadian consumers at their expense.

Trudeau also introduced several taxes which further crippled the industry.

What is important to remember though, is that then Alberta Premier, Peter Lougheed, had willingly signed on to the program and a photo of Lougheed and Trudeau toasting the deal with champagne was widely distributed across the country.

What made it turn south, was a sudden drop in world oil prices and the interference of OPEC.

However, since that time, Conservative governments have capitalized on the ill-fated plan, to win votes in Alberta. Brian Mulroney campaigned on ending it, but stalled long enough to give rise to the Reform Party.

Stephen Harper still throws it around when he's getting desperate, though he himself promised to end the tax on tax, which soon just got added to the growing list of his 'unkept'.

Sadly though, this pitting Alberta against the rest of Canada, is becoming as much of a threat to national unity as Quebec separation, and I think the next Prime Minister will really have to work at building bridges, rather than burning them down.

Recently Michael Ignatieff has extended a hand and promised not to campaign on destroying the oil sands, but instead work with the province to clean them up. That's the priority.

Environmental activists should still protest, to hold their feet to the fire, but simply putting an end to the industry will have a devastating affect on this country's economy, so the challenge for Ignatieff will be to strike a balance.

Whether or not this will win him seats in Alberta, remains to be seen, but if he can at least remove the boogey man, it might put an end to the us vs them mentality, sparked by the Tories to maintain power.

Michael Ignatieff will not abandon environmental concerns, but he will not abandon Alberta either.

Grit leader flatters Alberta, criticizes Tories
By Renata D’Aliesio,
Calgary Herald
July 4, 2009

CALGARY — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff touted Saturday the economic virtues and national reach of Alberta’s oilsands, urging Canadians to take pride in the mammoth industrial development, which has touched off international environmental opposition.

Speaking at a party fundraiser Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Ignatieff said financial ripples from the oilsands can be felt throughout the country — from East Coast workers flying to Alberta for jobs to a northern Ontario factory making pipes for the oilpatch in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

He also said Canada’s “centre of economic gravity” will shift west to Calgary within his lifetime.

“The one instinct I’ve had from the beginning about the industry at the heart of this economy is this is a national industry — a national industry in which all Canadians should take pride,” Ignatieff told about 600 Grit supporters at the Calgary Zoo.

“The Liberal Party of Canada must never, ever, ever run against that industry or against Alberta.”

Ignatieff acknowledged several environmental and social challenges may be thwarting a national embrace of the oilsands.

The massive development is a significant producer of greenhouse gases and toxic waste ponds.

Mount Royal College political scientist Duane Bratt noted Ignatieff’s continuing overtures to Alberta and the oilpatch are a “clear repudiation” of the policy plank former leader Stephane Dion put forward for the October 2008 federal election: the Green Shift carbon tax plan.

“The bigger question that I would have for Ignatieff is that’s fine, saying that in Calgary. Let’s see you say it in Montreal. Let’s see you say it in Toronto,” Bratt said. (I suspect it would be a little different, but the bottom line is that unemployment is also a big issue of the day, so promising to shut down the oil sands, throwing thousands of people out of work, is not the answer anywhere in Canada)

While Ignatieff’s oilsands stance has earned a smattering of praise from the Stelmach Conservatives, winning even a single seat in Alberta will be a difficult challenge for the Liberals — but not impossible, Bratt suggested.

The party was shut out in the last campaign, as the Stephen Harper Conservatives won all but one of the province’s 28 federal ridings. The last time a Grit was elected in Calgary was in 1968.

Though Ignatieff urged supporters to prepare for the next election, shared his vision of Canada on its 150th birthday in 2017 and accused the prime minister of taking Alberta voters for granted, he wouldn’t speculate on when the next election may come.

In taking aim at the Conservatives’ climate change record, Ignatieff said delays and a lack of clarity have created uncertainty for investors and producers. He said the Liberals favour carbon trading and hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions, but didn’t offer more detail.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice rejected Ignatieff’s assertion that the Conservative government is faltering on climate change.

Canada is in talks with the United States about developing cleaner energy from coal-fired power plants and the oilsands. Prentice said he plans to unveil all of Canada’s climate change plans before the United Nations next climate change conference in December in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Detailed regulations will follow in 2010, he added.

“We’re not waiting for the Americans just to be perfectly clear,” Prentice said at his Stampede breakfast Saturday. “The Canadian policies will be policies that reflect Canada’s national interest.”

Prentice also dismissed claims that the Conservatives take Albertans’ support for granted.

“We don’t take any vote in this province for granted. Not one single vote. We work hard and that’s why we’re so strong on the ground.”

Interesting choice of words. 'We don't take any VOTE for granted'. How about the PEOPLE of Alberta? They're not JUST VOTES!!!

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