While Alberta's leading right-wing politicians engage in their usual sophomoric Twitter bitter battles this week, our social democratic premier will be far above the fray, hobnobbing with the titans of the oil industry in Houston and the political movers and shakers of the Great State of Texas in Austin.
I expect Premier Notley and Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, the NDP Government's energy minister, will be made to feel right at home by the nabobs of the petroleum industry in Houston, and will feel naturally at home in Austin, the state capital.
The U.S. oil industry, after all, is pretty sophisticated about getting along with folks who can help them make money, whether or not their political convictions are precisely calibrated with those that prevail in the office towers of Houston. Premier Notley and Minister McCuaig-Boyd have already proved with their royalty and pipeline policies that Alberta social democrats can go along to get along. So I doubt Houston will think we have a problem.
Anyway, Texans are unfailingly friendly and polite because, as a security guard scanning me for metal objects at the Texas State Capitol a few years ago matter-of-factly explained, "an armed population is a polite population."
So Notley and McCuaig-Boyd should have no problems in Texas other than their shock at the size of the sales tax -- 8.25 per cent in both Houston and Austin. (I know, I know, they don't have an income tax in Texas … which is why municipal taxes are so high. But let's not get sidetracked by that right now.) Plus, the temperature is forecast to be about the distance from zero today as it is in Edmonton, in the opposite direction.
I notice that CERAWeek, the major oil industry conference the two will be visiting today, is even welcoming a speaker this year from a country with a nationalized oil company that's high on the current U.S. president's hit list, not to mention some guy named Justin Trudeau, who the new American president has apparently taken a shine to.
There doesn't seem to be a speaker from Russia this year, but that's OK. Past guests have included Rex Tillerson, late of Exxon Mobil, and he got a medal from Vladimir Putin, and Putin in turn is the president of Russia. (In case you missed it, Tillerson is now the U.S. secretary of state, so maybe there was no need for a speaker from Russia.)
On Tuesday, Notley and her small entourage will go to Austin, where she's scheduled to meet Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is also commander-in-chief of the Texas National Guard. Just sayin'.
As noted, though, Notley would feel right at home in Austin even if she'd gone there with Lou in a VW bus. For one thing, Austin is considerably more liberal than anywhere you’ll ever visit in Canada, and that includes Edmonton, which people in Calgary used to think it was funny to call Redmonton. (This is a reference to the European political party that used to be associated with the colour red, not the American one that is now, although both, it could be argued, have strongly authoritarian tendencies.)
Accordingly, Texans from elsewhere will never miss an opportunity to tell you that "Austin isn't the real Texas," which is what Albertans used to mean when they said Edmonton isn't the real Alberta, a place that therefore would never vote NDP.
But that was before demographic change, which, come to think of it, is also happening in Texas.
If Notley learns nothing else from the elected officials she meets in Austin, she should take note of the fact that the magnificent State Capitol Dome is taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. This was probably easier to do than it would be to retrofit the Alberta Legislature's dome to make it taller than the Peace Tower in Ottawa. Still, it's worth thinking about.
I am sure Notley will find that Canadians and Texans are just naturally simpatico. I have a theory about this: You see, we're both from places that occupy some of the world's most beautiful real estate, and we're both citizens of countries that used to be independent.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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