Fitch Downgrades Canada's Credit Rating

Fitch Ratings, one of the big three global credit rating agencies, has announced it's downgrading Canada's credit rating from AAA to AA+. This is due to the tremendous debt -- roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars -- the Canadian government took on to prop up the economy during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Though the Trudeau government was quick to argue that Canada's economy remains strong and that the country in an ideal position to turn things around, this does have the potential to significantly increase the cost of government borrowing and of doing business. That danger, moreover, will be amplified if, as some think, there are further downgrades to come:

David Rosenberg... has been predicting a downgrade on Canada’s sovereign debt since late April and thinks this won’t be the last. “The real question is: What took so long?’ .... Canada’s excessively leveraged national balance sheet has looked a lot like China, Italy and Greece for quite a while.” While Ottawa may appear to be in “solid” financial shape to some, this has “masked bloated debt ratios” in households, business sectors, and most of the provinces, he said. “This won’t be the last ratings cut, I can assure you,” said Rosenberg.

Now, it is true that governments worldwide have responded to the pandemic by racking up what would normally be unthinkable amounts of debt. Consequently, it is likely that Canada won't be the only country to have its rating downgraded.

But one thing that makes Canada unique is the shame that its governing elite feels about one of the pillars of its economy. As Dan McTeague of Canadians for Affordable Energy said the other day in an excellent piece on Erin O'Toole's environmentalist pitch in the CPC leadership contest,

Rather than championing Canada's hydrocarbon industry and creating economic growth with our country’s wealth of natural resources, O’Toole’s policies seem most focused on maintaining the what-seems-to-be-required, green-is-god image of so many politicians.... Our natural resources are an asset to this country, not a liability. They keep energy affordable, and give us one of the highest standards of living. O’Toole and other political candidates seem determined to remain blind to that fact.

You would hope that this turn of events would cause Canada's governing class to thank its lucky stars for the energy sector, a potential launchpad for recovery. But unfortunately they'll probably keep just hoping for pats on the head from similarly green-obsessed organizations like the UN  -- and how's that been working out for them?

Eventually someone is going to have to grow up and start taking things seriously.

Tides Canada Rebrands as 'MakeWay'

I actually LOL'd when I read this article announcing that the "progressive" environmentalist organization, Tides Canada, is "rebranding" as MakeWay.

The Vancouver-based non-profit group, which took its name from the American Tides Foundation 20 years ago, funds hundreds of charities across Canada in the area of environmental and social justice. But in recent years, its association with the Tides Foundation and its participation in the Tar Sands Campaign... placed it in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s crosshairs....

“Smear campaigns about Tides Canada have repeatedly misconstrued the purpose of [our] international philanthropic funding and have also conflated it with the U.S.-based Tides Foundation,” the organizations states in a press release.

Wow, so Jason Kenney (boo! hiss!) unjustly roped Tides Canada into his inquiry into foreign funded anti-Albertan oil campaigns just because they borrowed the name of an American foundation which they totally have nothing to do with today?!?! Outrageous!

Or else, you know, extremely misleading.

It may be true that people reading Vivian Krause's indispensable reporting (which influenced Kenney's inquiry) on the millions of dollars both the Tides Foundation and Tides Canada have spent keeping Canadian oil in the ground might have trouble tracking which seven or eight figure donation came from which organization. But the suggestion that its inclusion is unjust is ludicrous, as Krause makes plain in her call for Tides Canada to be investigated, published back in 2011:

Since 2000, Tides Canada has gone through $200 million. That's a lot of cash and it raises a fair question: Where did all that money come from, and what has Tides Canada accomplished with it? .... U.S. tax returns and on-line records show that since 2000, Tides Canada has been paid nearly $60 Million by American foundations.

Perhaps its not so shocking that they've ended up in "Jason Kenney's crosshairs."

The truth is, organizations like Tides Canada prefer it when regular people have never heard of them. It allows them to operate with minimal scrutiny, make powerful contacts without triggering anyone's spidey sense, and serve as a launchpad into politics for activists, as when Tides Canada VP Sarah Goodman was tapped as Justin Trudeau's climate policy director. The inquiry makes it harder to do those things, hence the rebranding.

Here's hoping that, if they keep doing what they've been doing, Krause and Kenney can make "MakeWay" just as toxic.

Jason Kenney's Diplomatic Response to Biden

Last week I wrote about the ridiculous pledge from Joe Biden's campaign to kill the Keystone XL pipeline project should Joe succeed in his bid to become the 46th President of these United States. Well, the following day Biden came out of his Delaware basement, saw his shadow, and magnanimously allowed reporters to ask him a few questions. One of those questions was about his Keystone pledge, and here is what the former veep had to say:

“I’ve been against Keystone from the beginning. It is tarsands that we don’t need — that in fact is very, very high pollutant,” Biden said in an interview with CNBC. Biden said he wouldn’t want to stop all oil projects immediately, but vowed to transition the U.S. “gradually… to a clean economy.” He said Keystone “does not economically, nor, in my view, environmentally, make any sense.”

In my post I mentioned how bizarre it is that Biden would endanger all the jobs that Keystone XL has and will continue to provide in two countries, while also antagonizing Canada, a key ally and major (and increasingly important) trading partner. Well, in his reply to Biden's comments Alberta Premier Jason Kenney hit a lot of the same notes, while having the diplomatic sense to suggest that the issue might not be Biden's stupidity as much as that he has been poorly served by his advisors:

The comments made by [former U.S.] vice-president Biden suggest that he hasn’t been well or accurately briefed on the dependence of the American economy on Canadian energy exports,” Kenney said. “It’s a hugely important strategic development for the United States that North America is now energy independent — no longer dependent on imports from OPEC dictatorships like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.... The Keystone pipeline... delivers about 600,000 barrels a day of heavy Alberta crude to refineries primarily in the Midwest in Illinois. So, a whole lot of jobs and the economy in the American Midwest are dependent on that supply of energy through the Keystone pipeline.

We would hope to have a chance to ensure Mr. Biden was aware of these facts and also aware that the building trades union, the construction unions, the steelworkers unions — which are traditional supporters of Mr. Biden’s party — are strongly in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, which has already crossed the border, which is creating thousands of jobs on both sides of the border and which will ensure that the United States is no longer dependent on OPEC crude,” Kenney said.

The premier went on to point out that Biden's claim that the claim that the project is not economically viable doesn't stand up to scrutiny since Keystone "has been operating for 10 years, profitably and successfully, both for the refineries, American consumers and Canadian producers," and that his claim that it is environmentally unsound doesn't make a lot of sense since the alternative to the pipeline is oil being transported by rail which itself leads to greater carbon emissions. It isn't like people are going to stop using energy. much as the Luddite Left might wish otherwise.

Kenney would have been in his rights to drop the mic after this thorough dismantling of the former vice president, and maybe put videos of it up on all of his social media accounts, followed by a sufficiently antagonistic gif, like so:

or

But interfering in the politics of another country -- especially an ally -- is bad form, and of course it's possible that Kenney will have to work with (God help us) President Biden one of these days. Should that day arrive, perhaps Biden should take some diplomacy lessons from Alberta's premier.

Of course it would be even better if he learned a thing or two about major sectors of our economy before he decides to destroy them.

Alberta's Petrochemicals Protecting Canada

The collapse in oil prices combined with the virus and the lockdowns are hitting the Canadian province of Alberta extremely hard. Some are even predicting the worst economic contraction in its history. But I was glad to read in the Financial Post about one bright spot in the province's economy at the moment, its petrochemical sector which produces a variety of plastic products that are in high demand at the moment:

In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would move to ban single-use plastics such as shopping bags, cutlery and straws to curb the proliferation of plastic waste in landfills and oceans. Now, in the middle of a public health crisis, the demand for plastic packaging has exploded. In Alberta’s oilpatch, ethane crackers used to make polyethylene film are among the only facilities that are busier today than before the pandemic knocked out global oil demand and led to hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being shut in.

“The demand for plastic packaging has never been higher than it is right now,” said Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, noting that the evidence of the huge demand for the industry’s products is plain at any grocery store in the country. Some grocery stores that had previously banned or started charging for plastic bags have eased those policies as workers are concerned about handling re-usable grocery bags. Acrylic plastic shields have been installed at tills to separate cashiers from shoppers, both of whom are wearing plastic gloves and masks in increasing numbers.... Masterson said the current crisis has led to “an absolute boom in the demand for packaging,” as grocery stores and consumers are wrapping food in plastic to prevent surface contamination of foods from the coronavirus.

Plastics, of course, aren't the only timely products produced by petrochemicals. Another is isopropyl alcohol:

I think it has shown some vulnerabilities in Canada’s supply chain,” Masterson said, noting that Shell Canada Ltd.’s Sarnia plant is the only producer of isopropyl alcohol in Canada, used to make alcohol-based cleaning products such as hand sanitizers. Shell president and CEO Michael Crothers said in a March 31 release the company would donate 125,000 litres of isopropyl alcohol, which is “approximately enough to create nearly one million 12-oz bottles of hand sanitizer for use in hospitals and medical facilities....

In Alberta, successive governments have implemented incentives designed to attract more petrochemical investment in an effort to diversify the province’s economy and build out the supply chain for hydrocarbon production. An incentive program introduced by former NDP premier Rachel Notley resulted in both Inter Pipeline Corp. and Pembina Pipeline Corp. spending $8.5 billion combined on under-construction polypropylene facilities, which will turn the province’s abundance of propane into plastic pellets used in a range of consumer goods.

The article notes that there is some question as to whether the industry will continue to boom once the pandemic and the lockdowns are over, and that is a real concern should the Greens return to form. The environmentalists are working hard to keep the "climate emergency" front and center, and even to link the two. But from where I sit, this pandemic definitively demonstrates the necessity of this industry, and the people talking about managing its decline are nuts.

Special Report: Environmentalist Credentials of Trudeau's Ministers & Staff

"Personnel is policy" goes the old saying (sometimes attributed to Reagan White House staffer Scott Faulkner), and there are few more valuable lessons for students of politics and government to learn.

In my feature last week about the Trudeau Government's reprehensible aid package for Canada's oil and gas industry, I made reference to the "borderline enviro-activists" currently serving in the prime minister's cabinet. Well, our crack team of researchers here at The Pipeline have actually been working away on a project documenting exactly how deeply embedded the environmentalist movement is in the Trudeau government, with a specific eye towards the work that government staffers have done before assuming their present positions.

Work like this might seem like extreme inside baseball, and in a sense it is. But you should not discount its importance. It is, in a word, invaluable. Knowing who is behind a politician is arguably more important than knowing the politician. Staffers are the gatekeepers; they control who their bosses are meeting, where they're going, what they're reading. They brief office holders on contentious issues, advise them on how particular votes will be interpreted in the press, and explain their decisions to the media afterwards.

Which is to say, knowing who they are and what they care about is essential, because their experience and interests directly effect policy.

That being the case, we at The Pipeline invite you to read through our new report: Environmentalist Credentials of Ministers and their Staff.

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Trudeau's Oil Sands 'Relief' a Bust

Back in 2017, Justin Trudeau was speaking at a town hall event in Peterborough, Ont., and was asked about his government's decision to approve an extension to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which seemed in tension with his environmentalist commitments. He replied:

We can’t shut down the oil sands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels but it’s going to take time and in the meantime we have to manage that transition.

This was widely considered to be a gaffe of the Kinsley variety, which is to say the type in which a politician "accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head." Trudeau was acknowledging that somewhere in that woolly brain of his is the desire to shut down Canada's oil sands, the backbone of Canada's western economy, and a key sector of the national economy as well.

The representatives of affected Canadians were compelled to respond. Rachel Notley, whose socialist New Democratic Party was enjoying a rare period in power in Alberta, said, “[Our] oil and gas industry and the people who work in it are the best in the world and we’re not going anywhere, any time soon.” Jason Kenney, who would replace Notley as premier two years later, asked whether Trudeau's "phase-out" meant "he wants to hand-over all global oil production to Saudi [Arabia], Iran, Qatar, et al?" Then-opposition leader Brian Jean replied, "If Mr. Trudeau wants to shut down Alberta's oil sands... he'll have to go through me and four million Albertans first." The pushback was such that eventually -- that is, more than a week later -- Trudeau walked back the comment, saying that he "misspoke," and that he had “said something the way I shouldn’t have said it.”

Fast forward to our present calamity, which has seen Canada's oil and gas industry pounded by a perfect storm consisting of the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant lockdowns on the one hand, and the Saudi/Russian production war on the other. Back in the middle of March, as the nature of these twin crises was becoming clear, news began to surface about Ottawa's proposed response.

The federal government is preparing a multibillion-dollar bailout package for Canada’s oil and gas sector that is expected to be unveiled early next week, sources say.... [G]overnment insiders are saying little about the details... but the oil and gas sector can expect to get more access to credit, especially for struggling small and medium-sized operations, and significant funding to create jobs for laid-off workers to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells.

One senior Alberta source said the province is expecting Ottawa to provide $15-billion in relief to an industry that has been hammered by the COVID-19 crisis and the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that has cratered oil prices and energy-company stocks.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau assured the nation on March 25th that the government understood that "the energy sector is in a particularly challenging situation," and that the rumored bailout was imminent, not "weeks [but] hours, potentially days" away.

Well, not hours or days, but nearly a month later details of the relief package were made public, and they were underwhelming to say the least. Reports of a $15 billion package were off by almost an order of magnitude, as the actual package came to $1.7 billion, largely geared towards environmentalist priorities. Whereas oil and gas representatives had been asking mainly for new lines of credit and an easing of regulations, the actual package earmarked the vast majority of dollars for the remediation of abandoned oil wells and methane-gas emission reduction.

As Grant Fagerheim of Whitecap Resources put it, “This is not going to do anything... If this is as good as it gets, it will do very little or nothing to assist with operations for companies.”

What changed? Well, for one thing, the environmentalists got involved. Around the time of Morneau's pledge, a coalition of environmentalist groups wrote an open letter to Trudeau arguing against such a package, saying

"Giving billions of dollars to failing oil and gas companies will not help workers and only prolongs our reliance on fossil fuels."

They seem to have had an influence. As one oil executive observed to the National Post:

[T]he announcement appeared to adhere closely to Ottawa’s tendencies around environmental messaging, rather than addressing immediate concerns on private sector balance sheets. “I think they made the calculation that it would be politically unpalatable in Ontario and Quebec to provide direct supports to oil and gas."

Of course, Canada's environmentalist groups were elated and were quick to offer praise:

Josha McNabb of the clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute said well cleanups and methane reductions are good steps toward reorienting Canada’s economy toward a low-carbon future. “Those are types of things that are going to lead to an oil and gas sector that is more competitive because it’s cleaner, and also (develop) the kind of expertise that is going to be in demand,” she said.

Even more to the point was the statement put out by Tzeporah Berman of Stand.Earth, which read,

Today, Prime Minister Trudeau made clear that Canada’s bailout package will prioritize addressing the climate crisis and building the cleaner, safer economy we need. This is the kind of leadership the world needs .… This bailout announcement is a major turning point for oil and gas politics in Canada.... [W]inding down the oil and gas industry [is] a hard, but necessary part of achieving [Canada's Paris Agreement climate] targets.

Of course, Trudeau's cabinet is itself brimming with borderline enviro-activists, including Catherine McKenna, Navdeep Bains, and Steven Guilbeault (the latter a full blown activist, who spent ten years with Greenpeace before running for office). None of them needs much pressure -- public or private -- to leave the resource sector out in the cold. No doubt when Morneau said that relief was "hours, possibly days" away, that was based on his perception of the negotiations as they stood at the time. Perhaps he was even trying to hurry his fellow ministers along. But he appears to have gotten ahead of his skis, and in the end the greenies won out.

Furthermore, despite requests from industry representatives, the Trudeau government insisted on going ahead with its plan to double the Federal Carbon tax and merely delayed the implementation of their Clean Fuel Standard by a few months.

“Just because we are in one crisis doesn’t mean we can forget about the other crisis, the climate crisis, that we’re facing as a world and as a country,” said Trudeau.

It must be mentioned that one request from the resource industry was included in the relief package, namely expanding credit availability for small and medium sized energy companies, and there has been talk of further assistance aimed at ensuring that the industry maintains liquidity. There's a good argument for such interventions -- since government ordered lockdowns are a major contributor to the industry's plight, it makes sense that the government would help shoulder the burden while oil and gas companies work their way through this. And it's worth noting that, as the energy sector has contributed more to the Canadian economy over the past 20 years than any other, a lot of that money comes from oil and gas to begin with.

Even so, the core of this package makes plain the Prime Minister's priorities. Weighted as heavily as it is toward capping off old wells, it serves mainly as an instruction to an ailing industry that it had better restructure itself with an eye towards closing up shop for good. Rahm Emmanuel famously advised Barack Obama in 2008 to never let a good crisis go to waste, and Trudeau and his ministers appear to have taken that to heart. Never mind that the resource sector makes up roughly 10 percent of the Canadian economy; that, as this pandemic has reminded us, it contributes the material to make personal protective equipment and ventilators; or that the Green Energy Industry on which they have pinned their hopes has been shown to be a sham. This is their moment. They will not let it pass.

Tory Insider to Western Canada: Drop Dead

Hey, here's a ridiculous article, by Tory insider Ken Boessenkool, writing for the parish newsletter of Canada's bi-partisan elite, Maclean's:

If Conservatives want to win another national government they are going to have to find ways to win critical seats in the suburban belt around Toronto⁠—the 905, encompassing cities like Ajax, Brampton and Burlington. Harper swept the 905 for his majority in 2011 and the party has been on the outs ever since.

Can Conservatives win again in the 905? They cannot count on an assist from the NDP whose vote has dropped from 25 per cent in 2011 to around 10 per cent in each subsequent election. To win, Conservatives will have to increase their vote by attracting new cohorts of voters. In the last election, Conservatives centred their campaign around cutting taxes (eliminating the carbon tax), while the Liberals centred their campaign around climate change and cutting greenhouse gasses (sticking with their recently introduced carbon tax)....

Vote for us, the Conservatives said, and we’ll cut your taxes.

Vote for us, the Liberals said, and we will address climate change.

This worked wonders across western Canada, in rural Ontario, around Quebec City, and in a smattering of ridings in Atlantic Canada. But new polling for Clean Prosperity conducted by Conservative pollster Andrew Enns from Leger suggests climate change was a key reason why the Conservatives failed to gain ground in the 905.

So, in order to win back the Toronto suburbs, which Boessenkool readily admits the Conservatives won in 2011 because the socialist NDP split the vote with the Liberals (something they have failed to do since the death of their charismatic leader Jack Layton), the Tories will have to betray their voters out west (remember how they won 47 of the 48 seats between Saskatchewan and Alberta?).

This seems like questionable advice. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, goes the proverb, but Mr. Boessenkool begs to differ, based on some polling done by the carbon tax activist group Canadians for Clean Prosperity, which found that, 1) Canadians *love* the Carbon Tax, and 2) the only thing keeping them from voting Conservative is that party's support for Canadian oil and gas.

Amazing! That's exactly what the CBC have been saying all along! Canada is the one place in the world right now where there's no divide between elite and popular opinion! Who knew that Rosemary Barton had such a finger on the pulse of the persuadable voter?

This, in all seriousness, is garbage. The Tories have a lot of serious work to do if they want to build a winning coalition in the near future. Too much to go into in a blog post. But the idea that the secret to Tory domination is to join every other party in spitting on western Canada, which just made them the largest single party in the country, is insane. Mr. Boessenkool and Canadians for Clean Prosperity might find it appealing to try and save the Conservatives from their own voters, but that isn't going to win them any elections.

Luckily for western Canadians, Alberta premier Jason Kenney has thus far flouted elite opinion (including that of his deputy minister of Policy Coordination, Mark Cameron, formerly head of, er, Canadians for Clean Prosperity) and continued the fight against Trudeau's carbon tax. This past Monday saw him strike a major blow in that fight, when the Alberta Court of Appeal, in a 4-1 decision, found against the Federal Government and declared the carbon tax unconstitutional.

In the 269-page decision, Justices Catherine Fraser, Jack Watson and Elizabeth Hughes said, in part: "The division of powers remains key to our federal state. It is part of the fabric of Canada itself. The federal and provincial governments are co-equals, each level of government being supreme within its sphere. The federal government is not the parent; and the provincial governments are not its children." They go on to call the act "a constitutional Trojan horse," as it would set a precedent, allowing the federal government to impose almost any law it wished on Canadians.

The Appeals Courts of Ontario and Saskatchewan have previously sided with the Trudeau government's argument that the carbon tax isn't a tax at all, and falls within the federal government's regulatory authority.

So -- onward to the Supreme Court and good luck to Alberta!

Jason Kenney's Future -- and Alberta's

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is an ambitious man. Not that that should surprise anyone -- he is a very successful politician, and you don't get as far up what Benjamin Disraeli famously called "the greasy pole" as he has without quite a lot of gumption. But the question we must ask about any politician is whether his personal ambition is leading him to stray from the good of his constituents. I find myself wondering whether this is the case with Kenney.

I say this after hearing his comments delivered at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. last Friday concerning the necessity of a "gradual shift from hydrocarbon-based energy to other forms of energy” in Canada and throughout the world. He continued,

“It is preferable that the last barrel [of oil] in that transition period comes from a stable, reliable liberal democracy with among the highest environmental, human-rights, and labor standards on earth.”

This is a major rhetorical shift for Kenney, who has spent the past several years cultivating his brand as Mr. Alberta, the great defender of Canada's oil sands and the jobs they provide. To hear the Premier of Alberta -- the Texas of Canada -- sketching out an obituary for oil and natural gas ("It died surrounded by people with exceptional labor standards") is nothing short of amazing.

Was it a mistake? Will this be walked back, the way that Kenney's fellow former Tory cabinet minister Peter MacKay's statement in October that social conservatism “hung around [then-Tory Leader] Andrew Scheer’s neck like a stinking albatross" eventually was? (Interestingly, those remarks were also delivered at the Wilson Center in D.C. What is it about Canadian politicians saying things in the States that they wouldn't say in Canada?)

As you likely know, Kenney parlayed his nearly two decades as a high profile Federal MP and Cabinet Minister in Ottawa into the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party back in Alberta. He ran on a platform of merging the party with the rather-more-conservative Wildrose Party, in the hope that the two would stop splitting the vote and return right-of-center governance to Alberta after its brief dalliance with Rachel Notley's socialist NDP. And that's exactly what happened -- the two parties merged, the NDP was kicked to the curb, and Kenney was hailed as a liberator.

Since then he has, by and large, been an able spokesman for Alberta and Western Canada generally, fighting against the implementation of the Trudeau government's carbon tax in court, opening a public inquiry into the campaigns against Albertan oil and gas, and fighting for the construction of pipelines to get Canadian crude oil to refineries or to tankers for export.

All of which makes the Premier's words in Washington that much more puzzling. Why would Jason Kenney, the great defender of Alberta against the domineering Liberal government in Ottawa, suggest that an industry which is universally associated with Alberta is not long for this world? There are, it seems to me, a few possibilities.

First, it's possible that Kenney is conceding an argument for the sake of a short-term gain. The gain would likely be the Teck Frontier oilsands mine, or some other project which Kenney feels to be important. As Don Braid put it in the Calgary Herald on Monday:

It is almost impossible to imagine those [undecided] Liberal ministers approving Teck without some assurance that, over time, UCP Alberta is comfortable with transition, even in Kenney’s long-term scenario.

The argument being conceded, however, is the Liberal's, namely that Canadian oil and gas needs to be phased out within a few years. In fact, back in 2017 Justin Trudeau took some heat (including from Western Liberals and NDPers) when he said

We can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels but it’s going to take time and in the meantime we have to manage that transition.

Then-Premier Rachel Notley (still holding out hope that she could be reelected) shot back,“Alberta’s oil and gas industry and the people who work in it are the best in the world and we’re not going anywhere, any time soon.” And Kenney himself got in on the act, asking whether Trudeau's "phase-out" meant "he wants to hand-over all global oil production to Saudi [Arabia], Iran, Qatar, et al?" He added "If we end 'dependence on fossil fuels' how will Justin Trudeau fly to private Caribbean islands? Planes & helicopters fueled by pixie dust?"

Strange that present-day Jason Kenney sounds so much like Justin Trudeau.

In any event, conceding this argument to get Teck approved would be a serious miscalculation. To do so would be to undermine an entire industry for the sake of one part of that industry. It would be entirely nonsensical.

The next possibility is that he has really come to believe that Canada needs to transition away from its oil and gas industry. There was some real consternation shortly after Kenney took office over his decision to appoint Mark Cameron, formerly head of the carbon tax activist group Canadians for Clean Prosperity, as Deputy Minister of the Policy Coordination Office. Is it possible that Cameron, or someone else who has Kenney's ear, has convinced him that the most conservative thing he could do would be to manage the decline of the existing energy industry?

One final possibility is that this rhetorical shift isn't about Alberta or Albertans at all. The federal Tory Party has recently lost an election, despite the various scandals rocking Justin Trudeau and his party. The Tories actually gained seats and won a greater percentage of votes, but this only solidified their dominance in Western Canada. In Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes they barely moved the needle.

All of which has precipitated a massive debate within the party about how to win over the rest of Canada. And as usually happens when conservative parties lose, the growing consensus among the consultant class is that if they want to win, they must simply embrace liberalism.

Now, while he's staying involved, trying out the role of kingmaker, Kenney is unlikely to jump into the ongoing Tory leadership race. He hasn't even been Premier of Alberta for a year, so he can't very well head to Ottawa now. But it is likely that Kenney is calculating that adopting a slightly modified version of the Green movement's messaging will sound reasonable to voters in Ontario and perhaps help shape their view of him, laying a foundation for his ascent to the top of that greasy poll in a few years time. Maybe he figures that he, Mr. Alberta, has locked down the support of Western Canada, and now he is looking eastward. And once the opportunity presents itself, he can save the Tory Party just as he has saved Alberta.

Except, one wonders, if he trades the oil and gas industry for theoretical support in Ontario somewhere down the line, will he really still have Alberta locked up? This seems by no means certain. It seems more likely that the men and women of Alberta who depend on oil and gas for their livelihoods, when they hear his pitch, 'Kenney the hero who took down the NDP, Kenney the fighter,' will remember more than anything else the moment when he surrendered.