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Seemingly immortal pipeline project finally dies

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Keystone XL pipeline is no more. Image credit: Government of Alberta/Flickr.

Keystone XL, the pipeline that just keeps dying over and over again, was officially pronounced dead yesterday.

After TC Energy issued a statement saying it was walking away for good from the project that has obviously been doomed for months, the U.S. business press declared the pipedream of successive Alberta and Canadian governments deader than the proverbial prehistoric Lake Athabasca mackerel.

KXL has been declared dead before, most notably in 2015 when U.S. President Barack Obama said no to it, even though Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper wouldn't take no for an answer. It happened again last January when just-elected President Joe Biden said no again, hours after he was sworn into office, even though Harper's former understudy, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, insisted pipe must continue to be laid.

But there's nothing like a press release from the former TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.'s head office in Calgary to put the staff of the Wall Street Journal to work on the obituary. This turns out to be particularly true when Donald Trump doesn't even have a Twitter account any more to promise he'll be back on the job in August to hook the electrodes back onto KXL's neck and jolt it to life one more time.

"TC Energy Corporation confirmed today that after a comprehensive review of its options, and in consultation with its partner, the Government of Alberta, it has terminated the Keystone XL Pipeline Project," the news release said. The remaining 651 words were just so much corporate folderol. Seriously, read it for yourself!

So even if it ain't over till it's over, this would suggest that, this time, TXL really is done like dinner.

Most American business obit writers barely mentioned Alberta, other than as the spot on the map where the ill-starred pipeline originated. Nevertheless, the Washington Post spilled a leaky pipeline's worth of virtual ink on the fact the entire project was intended to bring crude steamed out of the Athabasca oil sands at considerable environmental expense to the American Gulf Coast.

Hardly anyone south of the 49th Parallel, though, bothered to mention that Kenney's United Conservative Party government sank $1.3 billion free-floating Canadian loonies into the doomed boondoggle well after its condition could be described as being at risk, if not yet on life support.

"We invested in Keystone XL because of the long-term economic benefits it would have provided Albertans and Canadians," Energy Minister Sonya Savage said yesterday in a statement. Come to think of it, this is what your blogger tells himself each week to justify the money he spends on Lotto 6/49 tickets -- a considerably better investment, as it turns out.

"However," Savage continued, "terminating our relationship with TC Energy's project is in the best interest of Albertans under current conditions." Well, that part sounds about right, at least.

There were no details about whether the termination deal is going to cost us taxpayers any extra.

The NDP opposition immediately put out a news release demanding that the government fess up the details of its "failed pipeline gamble."

"The premier should release the contents of the failed deal and apologize to all Albertans for so irresponsibly gambling away their money," NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley said.

"For months, he has been hiding behind confidentiality, refusing to shed any light on this deal for Albertans," she added. "Now that this deal is dead, it's time for Jason Kenney to provide Albertans with full transparency."

Well, good luck with that, even though it's not as if TC Energy should mind. Whatever comes out is going to make them look smarter than their erstwhile business partner.

Albertans, who were already being told they were going to have to tighten their belts and take a haircut, even before the official pronouncement of TXL's death, are now going to have to make do without that cash too, which is gone like a Bitcoin ransom paid to a hacker in St. Petersburg.

So get ready to lose a little more off the top, fellow Albertans.

Like a little old lady who just gave all her money to the "bank inspectors," all we've got left to comfort ourselves is more conspiracy theories than a book about Jack Kennedy's assassination or the cover of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

No electorate in its right mind would re-elect a government that perpetrated a financial boondoggle on this scale, regardless of whether it was a bungle or a swindle.

That the electoral fate of Premier Kenney's UCP government remains an open question says a lot about the parlous state of this province's collective mental acuity.

Kenney insiders accused of boozy illegal dinners throughout pandemic

Well, somebody wants to get rid of Kenney, even if it's not the opposition just yet.

The Western Standard, the online news sheet founded and run by fired UCP finance critic Derek Fildebrandt, published a story yesterday claiming several senior cabinet ministers and political advisors have been holding regular boozy restaurant dinners for months in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.

According to the right-wing publication's report, the clandestine get togethers have been taking place behind closed doors at a restaurant blocks from the provincial legislature in Edmonton.

The publication says it has several sources for the story of the illicit dinners. Coming in the wake of the Sky Palace patio party revelations, if the story turns out to be true it could be another devastating blow to Kenney.

Notwithstanding the fact Fildebrandt was something of a loose cannon deck and an ambitious burr under the saddle for both former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean and Kenney, this illustrates the premier made a big mistake when he fired and publicly humiliated the former MLA in 2018.

He should have remembered the folk wisdom: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

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.

Image credit: Government of Alberta/Flickr.  

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