Rachel Notley

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This tale of pipelines, Rachel Notley’s NDP, the environment, federal Dipper delegates and the Leap Manifesto is starting to have enough plot twists to confuse even the imaginary Hercule Poirot!

The nattering nabobs of neoliberal negativism — in other words, Alberta’s two main right-wing opposition parties and their many media cheerleaders — have been spinning a yarn about how the decision to talk about the Leap Manifesto by the federal NDP last weekend proves the Notley government’s pipeline strategy of not fighting with absolutely everybody all the time is never going to work.

On Monday, Postmedia Alberta Frankenpaper political columnist Lorne Gunter published a bitter screed excoriating Premier Notley for daring to suggest “make-nice relations with the federal government and other premiers is just what this province needs to get pipelines built and get our oil flowing to coastal ports.”

Calling the Notley government a “gang of bungling NDP ideologues,” Gunter’s diatribe ends with the conclusion the premier’s approach “was never going to work. Now we have proof.” (Emphasis added.)

It matters not to Gunter or most commentators on the right, apparently, that the Leap Manifesto has nothing to do with the Alberta NDP government’s policies, something that in normal times would be the end of the story. These are not normal times, however, as Alberta’s infuriated conservatives are still coming to terms with the fact they are out of power for the first time in 80 years.

Still, this argument is pretty bold coming from an apologist for a gang of market-fundamentalist ideologues who, despite having had majorities in both Ottawa and Edmonton for a decade and an authoritarian bent, couldn’t budge the dial on their pet pipeline projects. One suspects, indeed, that Gunter and Postmedia may have bigger issues with the NDP.

Regardless, Gunter contended, the NDP have had 11 months to work on this and they’ve failed, failed utterly, failed irrevocably. Obviously, he concluded, it’s time to go back to the disagreeable Harper-Prentice-Redford strategy that … erm … also failed, and over a much longer span of time.

To be fair, the various species of conservatives found in Alberta and Ottawa had only about two years to work on the Energy East Pipeline-to-New Brunswick proposal, although the Northern Gateway pipe-to-B.C. plan has been around for more than a decade and the Trans Mountain Pipeline to B.C. was built in 1953, which makes it almost as old as your blogger!

The Con coalition also managed to contribute significantly to blowing their beloved Keystone XL proposal through the States to Texas when former prime minister Stephen Harper told the Most Powerful Man in the World he wasn’t going to take No for an answer, even though once upon a time it seemed like a sure thing.

All this presumes such pipelines are a good idea, of course — which as commenters to this blog keep pointing out, ain’t necessarily so. Still, we’re just talking about a strategic question here, OK?

Alas for Postmedia’s narrative, Gunter stated his argument as indisputable fact just at the instant Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had his pipeline-to-Damascus moment and declared both Energy East and the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion had better be built if his Liberals are going to keep to their economic growth projections.

So, while these are far from done deals, it sure sounds as if Notley and the NDP have already made more progress on this file than phalanxes of Tories and Tory lookalikes who can’t get along with anyone, even each other, could ever manage.

Indeed, we could now be nearing the very moment of the “Doomsday Scenario,” articulated by that questioner at the so-called Alberta Prosperity Fund’s recent unite-the-right meeting in Edmonton. He asked: What do we do if the NDP “actually gets a pipeline built?”

Answering his own question, the speaker wailed, perhaps presciently, “If that ever happens, they’re going to govern for the next 20 years!”

He isn’t the only one thinking things like that, either. As the National Post’s Michael Den Tandt put it the day before yesterday:

“[t]he sudden surge to prominence of the anti-pipeline Leap Manifesto, quite strangely and maddeningly for its advocates, may have helped create the political conditions needed to get one built. As the law of unintended consequences goes, this would be a rich outcome indeed.”

Den Tandt helpfully notes “how thoroughly this file was botched by the previous federal government.” That would be the Conservative government Den Tandt’s Postmedia stablemate holds up as the sine qua non of pipeline advocacy.

If I may be so bold, all this strongly suggests — just hours after we’ve all been pronouncing the Alberta NDP deader than the proverbial defeatist East Coast mackerel — that the entire prevailing right-wing narrative about Alberta is bunk.

Personally, I am looking forward to the re-election of the NDP in 2019. Just remember where you heard it first!

Another bump on the road to uniting the right?

Speaking of conservatives who can’t get along with one another, Metro Edmonton reported yesterday that the founder and president of the Alberta Prosperity Fund is suing the Wildrose Party for not paying for his consulting services last year.

In its statement of defence, Metro reported, the Wildrose Party denies it owes Barry McNamar anything. The free paper also said the party alleges McNamar “failed to raise funds for the party, inappropriately directed funds to an unnamed third-party organization and misrepresented commitments from potential donors.”

McNamar, who is also vice-president of operations for the Frontier Centre, a right-wing think-tank based in Winnipeg, told Metro he believes the disagreement can be settled amicably.

Progress Alberta suggests that the case may hinge on when McNamar actually began work for the Alberta Prosperity Fund, an occasion for which different dates appear in different places.

A short word of thanks and acknowledgement to Spiro T. Agnew

I am indebted, I am compelled to note, to the late U.S. Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew for his famous and useful aphorism, “the nattering nabobs of negativism,” which I have modified with the zeitgeist of the new century in mind.

If Agnew, VP in Richard M. Nixon’s Republican Administration, had somehow managed to hang in there just a little longer, he could have been the 38th President of the United States. Indeed, Nixon said he kept the former Maryland governor around because with him only a heartbeat away, as they say, from the presidency, “no assassin in his right mind would kill me.”

There might have been something to that. Only 10 months after Agnew was run out of office for criminal tax evasion and rumours of accepting bribes, the president himself fell to the Watergate scandal and VP Gerald Ford elevated to the job of POTUS.

For all his flaws, Agnew or some speechwriter in his employ had a way with words. Not only did he give us the resilient “nattering nabobs of negativism” and eternal “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history,” but he responsible for the ever-useful “effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

Agnew, who died in 1996, is thought by many historians to have been the worst vice-president in U.S. history.

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

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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...