Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Does this explain why Jim Prentice left (i.e. was fired)?

The departure a few weeks back of Jim Prentice, one of the last "Red" Tories in the Conservative government, may finally have a bit of an explanation.    Of course, it's about Big Oil, in particular the Tar Sands.

While at some levels I am troubled by what's being leaked by Wikileaks (some things which are potentially important such as, say, proof positive where Osama Bin Laden is hiding tonight, should not be public info -- since it only would make the search even more futile than it is already), I do think in general the best government is open government.

A newspaper in Norway has revealed that -- based on a cable from the American Ambassador in Ottawa -- Prentice was prepared to push for more stringent environmental regulations to get tough on oil companies that frequently flout the very weak (or otherwise unenforceable) rules set down by the province of Alberta.   He wasn't prepared to see the oil sands developments stop, seeing in fact a doubling of production to 4 million barrels per day, but he did say that someone had to act before it was too late.

The Norway connection was that Prentice was shocked at the huge level of opposition in that country to even a minor stake in "dirty oil" -- perhaps not realizing, unmentioned in the cable, that Norway's sovereign wealth fund is a locked box and not the open sand box the Alberta Heritage Fund was long ago turned into.   If he looked into it further he should not have been.   The second largest in the world after the United Arab Emirates, Norway's wealth fund is over USD 440 billion -- compared to Alberta's which is just a puny 13.8 billion.   And Norway's plan excludes companies that in its judgment flouts ethical practices such as Canada's Barrick Gold.   (No such no-scruples rule for Heritage, it would appear).  It should be pointed out too that Norway first found oil on the high seas at Gulfacks in 1979, landlocked Alberta at Leduc in 1947.

The cable goes on to say that Prentice and the ambassador had a rapport develop quite quickly and that Prentice was the most respected Cabinet member amongst all the diplomatic corps in Ottawa.

So was Prentice fired because he was actually willing to "Stand Up For Canada ™"?

Hard to say, but the fact there are STILL no federal regulations to govern air emissions across Canada -- that Alberta is effectively allowed to thumb its nose at such federal rules and not just mitigate but also reverse all the cuts all the other provinces combined have made in discharges to air and water, is simply unacceptable.   Yes, non-renewable natural resources and forests are the responsibility of the provinces as well as they should be -- but birds of the air and fishes of the streams do not respect provincial or international boundaries.   A scorched earth policy does not do any one any good.   Certainly not the people of Alberta who like the rest of us deserve to have clean air and water.

Heck, even Preston Manning said back in August it is time to "Think Big" and impose a carbon tax to make up the difference for what's extracted and the pittance of what's put back (something I wrote about).   But there are positive signs.   For example in Fort McMurray, people are fighting against Big Oil on what they are allowed to extract even more water from rivers, saying there are cleaner and better ways to do it than to even further parch the land -- after all, their water is glacial water and the glaciers are rapidly and permanently melting thanks to global warming (not like here in the centre and east of Canada where there are hundreds of thousands of lakes and rivers but even that's starting to slowly dry up).

Did PMS see in Prentice a potential rival that had to be quashed?   PMS has to answer that question himself.   But it is clear he cannot tolerate any form of dissension even if it is based on solid science as well as what is good for the country long-term and not just the short-term.  It's horrible that Prentice has had to choose the private sector from which to continue his fight, but sometimes more good can be done from the outside.   Given Alberta's long history of gerrymandering and propensity for picking parties that go further and further right over time (United Farmers of Alberta, Social Credit, Progressive Conservative and perhaps Wild Rose Alliance next -- even though its candidate for Premier, Danielle Smith, is actually an old style libertarian in the true sense, her party like the federal Cons has been hijacked by the religious right), it doesn't look good at least for now.   But sooner or later common sense has to prevail.

After all, most white people in the US South didn't get it on race relations, until two white "Freedom Riders" were murdered.   Maybe when Albertans see how much their comely land is being raped by foreign and hostile interests (and their wealth fund is nothing more than a slush fund) will they finally understand and they make sure that what's taken is put back.

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daveberta said...

Hi Robert - Thanks for the link to the wikileaks story, I hadn't read that yet.

I have a hard time believing that Prentice was fired over this oilsands report. A closer inspection of the past year will show a running battle between the provincial government and federal government over oilsands regulations and management.

Take a read of Graham Thomson's column in today's Edmonton Journal, which sums it up quite nicely:

Exacerbating the problems of an out-of-date monitoring system is the turf war between the federal and Alberta governments over environmental issues. We saw it rear its head last October when Renner said he was about to name an independent scientific panel on the oilsands, only to be beaten to the punch when then-federal environment minister John Prentice announced a panel of his own. And his panel was going to issue a report faster than Renner's.
This week, one day after Renner announced a new provincial monitoring system that won't be in place until June, federal Environment Minister John Baird announced he'd correct flaws in the federal monitoring system in 90 days.

It is a little misleading to characterize Albertans as having a "propensity for picking parties that go further and further right over time." The PC Party in 1971 under Premier Peter Lougheed was quite a bit more progressive than the Social Credit government that preceded him, and the election of the Social Credit government was a very much a reaction to the unreasonable demands of Ontario banks during the great depression (that said, the current version of the PC Party is very much a centre-right party in a similar "mushy middle" vein as the Liberal Party of Canada).



Saskboy said...

I think he just wanted more money, and to distance himself from the Harper train wreck.