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Alberta is not Texas North and Kinder Morgan's big brains in Houston must've known it

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The author’s favourite boots, handmade by the Alberta Boot Company of Calgary. Photo: David J. Climenhaga

There are a few Albertans who happily imagine this place is Texas North.

Alas for those who do, and notwithstanding the media stereotypists who encourage this nonsense, we are as Canadian around here as folks in any other Western province. Maybe more so, since so many people from other parts of Canada keep moving here.

Sure, lots of us who would never actually get up on a horse own a nice pair of cowboy boots and maybe even a wear a ten gallon hat to work for a week in July, but that's about the limit of this regional affectation.

As for knowing anything about this history of Texas, not to mention its current reality, that would be unusual, even among Albertans who think of themselves as Texaphiles.

Never mind the Alamo and the details of the Texas Revolution, I suspect most Albertans would be shocked just to learn Texas has a population almost as big as all of Canada's -- closing in on 30 million at last count.

This road runs both ways, of course. I doubt most Texans have ever had a random thought about Alberta. If they do, they likely think of it as Oklahoma North -- a slightly more apt comparison, to be fair. As for Canada, they'll know about snow. And Mounties, if they're particularly alert. Maybe they're aware that the President is a young guy who wears nice blue suits with brown shoes.

Still, you have to wonder how the great minds of Kinder Morgan, the Houston-based pipeline corporation that has given Canada until the end of May to provide the assurance it needs its Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project will generate huge profits in a timely manner, failed to notice Canada is a federation with a Constitution, political parties, a democratic way of choosing governments, and an electorate that sometimes disagrees about stuff.

If Kinder Morgan hadn't missed this -- and one would have thought a corporation with revenue of US$14 billion could afford to hire people who would keep them au courant about this kind of thing -- you have to wonder how its head office could have been surprised there might be some opposition in British Columbia to their plan to expand their pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast.

Yet there was Kinder Morgan CEO Steven Kean a few days ago explaining the company's April 8 decision to stop spending any money on the project thusly: "It's become clear this particular investment may be untenable for a private party to undertake."

And they didn't get this when they … you know … undertook it?

Kean's pronouncement set off a major-league brouhaha in these parts that has been discussed at length here and, well … pretty much everywhere else.

Maybe Kinder Morgan's strategic brain trust was just as aware of how things run in Canada as they are of other petroleum-jurisdictions like Kazakhstan and Nigeria. It's always possible they simply assumed they could leave things up to the local strongman and be assured of results -- Stephen Harper, what did you tell them?

Or maybe they just got Alberta mixed up with Oklahoma -- they're both on the route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, after all -- and thought we could leave any extra-jurisdictional trauma up to the White House.

In fairness, while the Trans Mountain Pipeline has been operating since 1953, Kinder Morgan only got its hooks into it 13 years ago. So maybe the company's big brains in Houston hadn't had time to figure out that we operate under the rule of law here in Canada. If they had, they'd know means there will be court cases, and inevitably delays, in getting controversial megaprojects done.

Or, to put that another way, maybe this huge and sophisticated international energy corporation's business plan really was so lousy they couldn't hold out for an entirely predictable delay while the plan's legality was clearly established.

Then again, maybe there were other factors. Yes, things change over time. Perhaps Kinder Morgan's leaders now understand the economics of the pipeline expansion plan don't look nearly as good as they did a few years ago. You know, when renewable energy seemed like a pipedream, oil prices were higher, and everyone thought everything would stay that way.

Isn't that the way business decisions based on an understanding of how the wonderful, magical market are supposed to work?

Or maybe like a predator they whiffed the scent of desperation on the wind -- coming from a couple of governments facing electoral challenges. In which case that May 31 deadline really could be more about a shakedown, and not about the need for confidence at all.

Or perhaps they have a political agenda of their own, one that isn't all that sympathetic to the current governments in either Edmonton or Ottawa. Or some combination of such things.

Whatever, most of us here in Canada like Texas well enough, even with the guns and bluster. After all, Texans and Canadians do have one important thing in common: Both used to be citizens of countries that were independent of the United States! But just so you know, the boots and hats are an Alberta thing, not a Texas North thing.

Alberta is not Texas North, no matter what we wear. The rest of Canada isn't Kazakhstan, no matter what Harper used to tell foreigners when he was prime minister. And Kinder Morgan's big brains in Houston must have known that!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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