Could Alberta Turn into ‘Montana North’

Brian Giesbrecht, Commentary, Government

The Wall Street Journal has weighed into the growing impasse between Alberta and Canada’s federal government over the hostility of the federal government towards Alberta’s vital oil and gas industry. In a recent column by Holman W. Jenkins Jr., the potential prospect of Alberta independence is raised.

Jenkin’s notes that land-locked Alberta is engaged in a political battle with British Columbia (over differing views of climate change) and Quebec (which calls Alberta’s oil “dirty” while pocketing gigantic equalization payments that Alberta’s oil and gas make possible). He opines: “(Alberta’s) future promises to be one of barely-contained civil war with its fellow Canadians.”

And, where does the federal government stand? According to Jenkins, between “green” supporters and a desire to keep Alberta’s oil money flowing to Ottawa. For Mr. Jenkins, Alberta independence could actually happen.

Alberta’s discounted oil brings well short of what it should because of the absence of pipelines to get the oil to overseas markets. That goal has been thwarted by the federal government and the “duty to consult and accommodate” Indigenous communities. Environmental controls are incredibly strict and the courts eager to intervene. The attitude of the current federal government is the biggest obstacle to Alberta’s progress.

While Trudeau believes the oil and gas industry should gradually die, the industry is a vital industry for Canada. Alberta’s oil and gas wealth pay for expensive social programs across Canada, through the federal equalization program. So the question is, why is the federal government risking “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs?”

Because the Trudeau Liberal government has a quasi-religious view that any fuel that releases carbon dioxide into the air is pollution and must be eliminated over time. The Prime Minister and his entourage spout a radical ideology, with a “let’s get rid of oil and gas and see what happens” approach. Whatever they are thinking, they play a reckless game. If they succeed Canada will be a much poorer place. The cost would be huge, with any benefit to the atmosphere negligible.

Countries like Kazakhstan have huge reserves of oil and gas, and are developing their industries with support — not interference — from government. Canada’s federal government, driven by its anti-fossil fuel ideology, seems determined to continue to do away with fossil fuels no matter how clean those fuels are made and transported. The fact that there exists no realistic replacement for fossil fuels has not deterred them.

Alberta will not stand for being put out of business. Albertans see the federal government working directly against their interests and despair of a future if such a federal government remains in power. Alberta’s most important industry is in serious trouble. Overreaching courts, aggressive Indigenous duty to consult cases, ever-rising taxes, and a hostile federal government has made profitable resource development impossible. Accordingly, many Albertans are fed up, and some are looking South.

Montana believes fossil fuels will be around for a long time, and that developing the cleanest fuels in the most efficient manner is the way to go. Montana also has no equivalent to Canada’s “duty to care and accommodate” doctrine. It also has neither overreaching courts nor unfair “equalization payments.”

If The Wall Street Journal is right, expect to hear more about Montana North.