Now that Premier Jason Kenney has declared it "un-Canadian" to say oil is dead, I wonder if it's OK to admit Alberta's fossil fuel industry is on the ropes?
Probably. Kenney said as much himself in a remarkable rant yesterday directed at the parliamentary leader of the Bloc Québécois and the former leader of the Green Party of Canada.
But if you don't want to be accused of un-Canadian activities, you'd better make it clear none of these troubles are the fault of anything that's ever been done by any Alberta government, except perhaps the NDP's, and especially not by the United Conservative Party Kenney leads.
There is acceptable speech in Alberta, you see, and it doesn't include saying that oil is done like dinner, which is probably not true just yet, but is nevertheless a position that can be argued in respectable company almost anywhere else in the world, including a number of countries known for producing what Kenney rather sophomorically calls "dictator oil."
As has become his practice lately, Kenney took over Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw's daily COVID-19 briefing in Edmonton yesterday afternoon for the sustained blast of gaslighting he directed at Yves-François Blanchet and Elizabeth May.
Blanchet had dared to suggest at a news conference Wednesday that oil "is never coming back" (uttered en français, bien sûr) and that Ottawa's bailout package should really be directed at "something which is more green." May, for her part, opined at the same event that "oil is dead."
Specifically, the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands told the media: "My heart bleeds for people who believe the sector is going to come back. It's not. Oil is dead and for people in the sector, it's very important there be just transition funds." This may be wrong, but outside Alberta I doubt it sounds like a stab in the back or a curb-stomping.
Nevertheless, that is what sent Kenney over the edge, in a calculated sort of way, responding to a set-up question provided by Calgary Sun political columnist Rick Bell, who can be counted on to get the first question at one of Hinshaw's frequently hijacked news conferences.
"I just think it's deeply regrettable that we would see national political leaders piling on Albertans and energy workers at a time of great trial for us," Kenney said piously, opening what appeared to be a carefully rehearsed answer. "This is the opposite of leadership. Leaders should be seeking to bring us together, not to divide us."
This is a bit of an irony, of course, coming from a premier who has been ginning up an Alberta separatist threat for months while denying the oil industry had anywhere to go but up, but let's just take it as a lesson in gaslighting 101.
In his remarks, Kenney trotted out benefits he said have been conferred on Quebec by Alberta's oil industry, noted the province's equalization complaints, blamed "predatory actions" by OPEC countries that "want to dominate the world with dictator oil," reminded Quebecers they like to drive cars and go on airplane trips, and totted up the medical equipment recently sent by Alberta to other provinces.
Having said it in English, he said it over again in French.
Tsk-tsking and shaking his head, Kenney declared, "I would say to Mr. Blanchet and Madam May: Please stop kickin' us while we're down!"
"These attacks on our natural resource industries are unwarranted, they are divisive, they're, I believe, in a way, un-Canadian at a time like this. It's like blaming the victim!" (Italics added for emphasis. And, yes, Kenney really said that.)
Premier Kenney also took particular umbrage at Blanchet's remark that Quebec receives a string of insults from Alberta -- although anyone who has paid attention to political discourse in this province for the last half century would have trouble refuting the claim.
After the news conference, backup was provided in columns filed by Bell and his Postmedia colleague Don Braid.
Bell pronounced Blanchet and May to be "the Bobbsey Twins of B.S." and the "deluded duo," and accused them of choosing "to kick Alberta when we're down" and indulging "in a little curb-stomping."
Braid, the Dinger's bookend of acceptable oilpatch opinion, charged them with "the foulest kind of cheap shot," to wit, saying "Alberta's oil and gas industry should be left prostrate in the dust with no help from the federal government."
Well, there you have it: the debased state of political discourse in Alberta in the plague year 2020. It's not reassuring.
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 at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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