Premier Greg Selinger

Who ya gonna blame? Thomas Mulcair? Pierre Trudeau?

Sorry, but that great regional block of market-fundamentalist premiers that was supposed to speed environmentally iffy projects like the Northern Gateway Bitumen Pipeline toward completion with a minimum of democratic fuss appears not to be performing up to specifications.

Here we are, less than a week after B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s secret visit to Alberta Premier Alison Redford, and Canada’s two westernmost provinces are snarling at each other like a pair of cranky Latin American republics. What’s next? Barbed wire in Banff? Small arms fire at the Great Divide?

Luckily, neither jurisdiction has troops of its own to move up to the border, unless you count Alberta’s Sheriffs, who are busy making up for the province’s pathetic resource royalties with speeding tickets on the road to Fort McMurray. For its part, B.C. hasn’t had its own armed forces since McBride’s Navy got taken over by the RCN in 1914, and it only ever had two boats and wasn’t even Constitutional.

Clark’s politically inescapable ultimatum to Alberta: no money, no pipeline. Make it worth our while or forget it. (Which means, in reality, “please give me something to wave at B.C.’s unhappy voters or I’m finished here, if I’m not anyway.”)

Redford’s response: Forget it! Canada’s all about free trade and Alberta won’t be cutting any cheques to sniveling British Columbians. (This is a good one in a country that was founded on tariffs, but never mind that just now.)

Plus, she didn’t bother saying, Alberta can hardly afford to offer danger pay to British Columbia for the greasy bitumen we ship to China via Kitimat since the royalties we charge are so staggeringly low here in the Richest Place on Earth that we can’t even balance our budget!

You want money, chimed in far-right Alberta Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, who would like nothing better than to see an Alberta budget unbalanced by the amount paid to British Columbia, go talk to the feds! You know, like our noted pan-Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper.

Indeed, with this outbreak of Western ill feeling, our poor old neo-Con PM finds himself on the horns of the proverbial dilemma. If he steps in to benefit his beloved pipeline project and his pals at Enbridge Inc. he’ll pay big time, and he’ll pay twice.

The first time will be in 2013 when B.C. voters put the NDP in power on the theory that’s the best way to slow the potentially leaky pipeline down and prevent their province from being turned into Michigan North. A B.C. NDP government won’t be shy about pointing out to everyone else in Canada at that delicate moment that Mr. Harper only works for Alberta’s advantage, either.

The second time will come in 2016 or whenever B.C. voters have the opportunity to deliver a direct rebuke to the federal Tories for the same sins — and that could turn out to be really serious if NDP Leader Mulcair continues to see things break his way elsewhere in the country.

Imagine! Even the neo-conservative “Liberal” premier of British Columbia insists that her voters get something in return other than the promise of a few dozen security jobs along the line for the huge risk the pipeline presents to the province — at least when she faces the prospect of a stinging defeat at the polls on May 14, 2013, which, to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson, “depend on it, it concentrates a woman’s mind wonderfully!”

Worse, as Redford, Harper and the environmental Keystone Kops in the executive suite at Enbridge’s Calgary headquarters must surely know, short of forcing the line through by federal legislative fiat with God only knows what consequences, whatever British Columbia’s government demands now is probably the best offer they’re ever going to get!

Talk about an excess of democracy!

Well, maybe Enbridge will have to run the pipeline out to Sarnia, Ont., and keep the refining jobs in Canada. Prime Minister Tom Mulcair will probably go along with that, although there would still the small matter of Manitoba. And who’re ya gonna call about that?

Anybody got Premier Greg Selinger’s private number?

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Speaking of cheap oil for China, it’ll be interesting to see how the “Ethical Oil” set reconciles their instinctive tendency to favour foreign control of Canada’s petroleum industry or whatever else the local oil barons want with the fact one of the controlling governments could turn out to be, erm, run by Communists.

As you’d know if you’d been reading the Report on Business all day like I have, China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd. wants to buy Calgary-based oil-producer Nexen Inc. for 15.1 billion of Uncle Sam’s Greenbacks — more than 60 per cent above what the Almighty Market says the company is worth, the ROB notes.

No reason the Ethical Oilers should object, I guess, except that they are essentially the same tiny group of full-time Twitterers and far-right Sun News Network bloviators who have been excoriating the few remaining moderates in Prime Minister Harper’s cabinet for putting money into an Ontario cottage country museum dedicated to Norman Bethune, the Communist Canadian physician who died in China in 1939 fighting alongside Mao Zedong.

Bad enough having to boycott bananas and suffer a potassium deficiency to support the oil sands, I suppose, but does this mean they’ll also have to stop driving their SUVs to battle Communism? The sacrifice!

There must be something easier and less painful they could do, say, just going along with the rest of us and voting NDP so we can add value to our resources right here in Canada!

Somehow I think they’d rather bend their already twisted logic into the shape of a pretzel to avoid that fate. Oh well, maybe we can harness all the hot air they produce to generate electricity.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...