Rachel Notley

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

You may have missed it, but something truly remarkable happened in Alberta politics yesterday.

Premier Rachel Notley, after less than nine months in office, secured the tentative approval of the premier of Ontario and the enthusiastic endorsement of the prime minister of Canada, both members of a different political party than hers, for a pipeline to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to New Brunswick for refining.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne praised Alberta’s climate change plan at a news conference in Toronto yesterday as the key to the progress, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau practically swooned over the potential benefits of the pipeline while attending an international meeting of powerful political and business leaders in Switzerland.

This, of course, is not all that is needed for the so-called Energy East Pipeline to succeed. The biggest hurdle is likely to be the province of Quebec, which, like Alberta, has a history of aggressively promoting its own interests on many issues.

Still, as far as Energy East is concerned, four of the five provinces through which it must pass now appear to be on side, more or less. Some were already there, but this has nevertheless come about largely because of Notley’s environmental policies and her mature approach to Canada’s national conversation about pipelines.

The Notley Formula involves both finding ways to lower the province’s carbon footprint and building consensus through respectful collaboration with other provinces for the infrastructure we need to market this resource.

As for Quebec, where the prime minister’s party dominates in Parliament, provincial politicians are negotiating, aren’t they? Exactly as we would expect our provincial government to try to do if a major project with significant environmental risks was passing through our territory.

All this has come about in very short order. There’s only been progress on this file since Notley’s NDP Government was elected on May 5, despite economic circumstances that might seem less than propitious for energy megaprojects.

It is important to note that since the Energy East project was announced on Aug. 1, 2013, the Conservative governments of Alberta and Canada made no progress under premiers Alison Redford, Dave Hancock and Jim Prentice. As for Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, whose government was voted out of office on Oct. 19, his only plan seemed to be to shove it up the noses of reluctant Canadians, which undoubtedly contributed to his loss.

The two Conservative governments’ efforts pretty well killed off the attempt to force the Northern Gateway Pipeline to tidewater through British Columbia, not to mention pushing the Keystone XL Pipeline through the continental U.S. to the Gulf Coast, for which readers will recall Harper wasn’t going to take No for an answer.

Yet, if you listen to mainstream media or the Opposition in Alberta, you’d think Notley’s strategy was an utter failure. “Her NDP government’s embattled pipeline strategy,” as the Calgary Herald put it in a report yesterday that should have extolled her success.

Indeed, things being said by Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean seem intentionally designed to outrage Quebeckers and sabotage the NDP Government’s chances of getting Energy East!

Jean insulted the mayor of Montreal and demanded Notley do the same in one shrill press release, and all but accused the NDP of intentionally trying to wreck the energy industry in another.

The Wildrose Perpetual Outrage Machine, of course, has no such limits. Its social media operatives accuse the NDP of declaring war on Alberta, calling anyone who fails to support the Wildrose a Communist, as in the crazed screeds published by agitator Ezra Levant’s acolytes, and muttering darkly about coups d’état.

It’s only a matter of time before one of these nuts suggests that landlocked Alberta go it alone as an independent country, because that would be sure to force our recalcitrant neighbours to accommodate our pipelines!

The Opposition campaign “may damage the prospects of ever getting approval for the very pipeline projects Jean says he supports,” observed Canadian writer Markham Hislop in American Energy News, an online publication. Hislop assumes Jean doesn’t intend to do just that, and one can only hope he’s right.

Here in Alberta we seem to have reached the seventh stage of establishment backlash, as described earlier this week by author and lawyer Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept: “Full-scale and unrestrained meltdown, panic, lashing out, threats, recriminations, self-important foot-stomping, overt union with the Right, complete fury (I can no longer in good conscience support this party of terrorist-lovers, communists, and heathens).”

Greenwald was describing the hysterical campaigns against U.S. Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, but he could as well have been talking about the parallel campaigns by the Canadian right against Notley and now Trudeau, both before and after their elections.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media reports Notley’s success as if it were a complete failure, and excoriates her government for not adopting the tactics of the Harper and Redford-Hancock-Prentice governments that have been proven not to work.

Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid and Calgary Sun political columnist Rick Bell took exactly this line yesterday and the day before. Both also bleated about the NDP’s refusal to insult Montreal politicians in their identically reasoned columns.

Well, perhaps a certain amount of intellectual cross-pollination is inevitable now that Herald and Sun columnists are sharing digs in the Sun’s low-rent offices down the Deerfoot Trail from the Herald’s palatial former bunker — now, alas, abandoned.

As Hislop pointed out, progress to date is fragile. Between them, the Opposition and the media probably have a decent chance of derailing it.

But Notley has made headway, and that’s something that never happened under any species of conservative, the screeches of all the Usual Suspects on the right notwithstanding.

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

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

David J. Climenhaga

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...