When it comes to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is not a fan.
This will not come as a complete surprise to anyone who follows either Alberta or British Columbia politics. Weaver, after all, is the leader of the B.C. Greens. He is also a PhD climate scientist. In some circles, either of those factoids might be enough to make folks conclude they are natural enemies.
Just the same, when it comes to Premier Kenney, Weaver is scathing. "He's just a bully," he said dismissively in his office in the provincial legislative building in Victoria last week. "He's a bombastic bully that I think is looking out for his own interests and not for the interests of Albertans or, frankly, broader Canadians."
"I find him very confrontational. He's not somebody that I personally think I can trust. Those are my views."
Weaver compares Kenney's vision unfavourably to that of Peter Lougheed -- "an esteemed statesperson who … recognized that the wise approach to policy development would be to ensure that you put something aside in the good times." Or Rachel Notley's -- "she was trying to navigate a very difficult situation whereby there are still a large number of Albertans who believe, and I would say foolishly, that their prosperity lies in extracting bitumen from the tar sands."
A more apt comparison might be the leadership provided by Ralph Klein, Weaver suggests. "We start giving out Klein Bucks, frittering this away, and we now have a situation where there's nothing left of the Alberta Heritage Fund."
Anyway, Weaver continued, Kenney "wants to be prime minister of our country, and this is his pathway there. I think he's actually taking Albertans back in time, which ultimately will not help them economically."
The Green leader's assessment of the future of a petroleum-dependent Alberta is bleak: "Kinder Morgan Canada's now divested itself. … Statoil's gone. Total's gone. Shell's out. Where do I end?
"We know that the Alberta oil sands (require) some of the most expensive ways of getting oil out of the ground. We know that you must mix it with diluent to make it flow in pipes. We know that everybody in the world has discovered horizontal drilling technology, and we know, for example, that the Trans Mountain pipeline was going to be approved to create a means to get Alberta diluted bitumen to the California refineries, but with the onset of horizontal fracking and the huge reserves in the Bakken shale, that market's dried up.
"So we have no market left for the Alberta diluted bitumen. And for (Kenney) to suggest that we have to somehow get it to tidewater for economic growth …" Uncharacteristically, Weaver momentarily runs out of words. He shakes his head.
"The fact that Kenney continues to think that there is prosperity in this direction is fiscally foolish. I would think a good Conservative government would recognize that conservative fiscal policy plans ahead. It doesn't try to continue down this path of race-for-the-bottom economics where we essentially eliminate royalties for our Crown resource, where we basically give subsidies and tax credits to these multinationals -- who are looking out for their shareholders, not necessarily for the people here."
Now you may think, who cares what Weaver thinks? After all, he's the leader of a party with only three members in the B.C. legislature. Kenney, by comparison, is the leader of the government of Canada's richest provincial government and, if recent history is a guide anyway, among the country's most influential for all the whining to the contrary. Kenney's United Conservative Party has an overwhelming majority.
Ah, but those are the sort of small ironies that make history interesting. The Green Party of B.C. may have only three MLAs, Weaver included, but for the moment it holds the balance of power in the B.C. legislature. And the Greens have chosen to uphold the B.C. NDP over the B.C. Liberals, who, despite their name, are really conservatives not all that far removed from Kenney's worldview.
There will be an election in B.C. on or before October 16, 2021, and that may change. But if the current federal auguries mean anything, that could very well result in more power than less for the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, a provincial riding that shares territory with Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May's Saanich-Gulf Islands electoral district.
May and the federal Greens, it would appear, are on something of a roll. This would not be a bad thing for the B.C. Greens, even if May and Weaver don't see eye to eye on every issue.
Certainly the NDP and the B.C. Greens don't share the same views on a variety of environmental issues -- for example, the rush to drill for gas in northeastern B.C., which Weaver sees as a public relations sleight of hand, since "we're actually drilling for the condensates," used to dilute bitumen, to ship the stuff from Alberta's oil sands back through B.C. and on to whatever markets can be found for it. And "there isn't an international market for this stuff," he asserts.
As Weaver sees it, in the 2017 B.C. election, which resulted in the current delicate but surprisingly stable balance in the legislature, that province's environmental leaders lined up behind the NDP as their best bet.
But if the Canadian green wave persists though the October 21 federal election, Weaver wouldn't be the first political leader to ride another politician's coattails to greater success.
In the meantime, his advice to Kenney is to have at it. Go ahead, by all means continue "saying outrageous, completely ridiculous things."
Because outside the Prairies, certainly in B.C., he believes, no one is paying the kind of attention Premier Kenney wants.
"We're only getting stronger because of his outrageous behaviour," Weaver concluded. "It brings people to us. So keep it up! Every day you keep opening your mouth, more people come to the B.C. Greens!"
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Image: David J. Climenhaga
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