Don’t be too hard on Deborah Drever, the 26-year-old MLA suspended from Alberta’s NDP caucus over her social media shenanigans.
Neither Drever nor the NDP really thought she would win. Last election, the NDP got just 4% of the vote in her riding of Calgary Bow. Drever wasn’t even nominated until ten days after the writ was dropped. She was doing them a favour. She never expected a full Google audit.
There are a dozen other accidental MLAs with looming scandals, like the MLA who organized Israel Apartheid Week and a boycott of Israel, campaigns condemned by Thomas Mulcair as anti-Semitic. And then there’s the MLA who, on Facebook, called Alberta “this damn province” and said the election campaign was giving him “suicidal thoughts”.
Like Drever, those are backbenchers who were not vetted by the NDP, the media or voters. But what about the NDP’s more serious MLAs? What about the people Premier Rachel Notley appointed to her cabinet?
Like the new Finance Minister, Joe Ceci. Ceci’s not a rowdy millennial, he’s 57. He served five terms as a Calgary alderman. He was one of Notley’s star candidates. Perhaps more than anyone it’s his job to reassure Calgary investment bankers – and stock markets in Toronto and New York – that they should still pour a projected $25 billion into Alberta’s oil patch this year. The provincial economy depends on it.
But Ceci isn’t so sure that they should. When he was on city council, Ceci said, “we should be able to say to Calgarians that we’re investing in things that are contributing to a positive world. If environmental factors on some of the companies out there are less than sustainable, then we should not be investing in those areas.”
That’s ambiguous. But Ceci’s new cabinet colleague, Education Minister David Eggen, is much clearer. “Doing the right thing means we have no new approval for tarsands projects,” he once told a rally outside the Legislature, leading a chant of “no new approvals!” again and again. Not a lot of grey area there. Eggen called for “people of conscience united to end this catastrophe”, saying that the oilsands were “poisoning the land, poisoning the water, killing the people”. Unlike Ceci, he was already an NDP MLA when he said this.
And then there’s the new Environment Minister, Shannon Phillips. She ran for the NDP in the last election, and has since worked for the Alberta Federation of Labour as a policy advisor. Her views on the oilsands are clear: wring the neck of the golden goose. Two years ago, she told a union convention “we do not collect an appropriate royalty for either our oilsands bitumen or our conventional oil and gas reserves.” She proposed hiking taxes on everything from income to banks.
In 2013, Phillips went to B.C. to work on the NDP election campaign there -- a campaign whose central message was to oppose both the Northern Gateway and Transmountain oilsands pipelines, pipelines critical for Alberta’s economic growth. The B.C. NDP didn’t want to tax Alberta oil. They wanted to stop Alberta oil.
Phillips is also Alberta’s new Minister for the Status of Women. In 2013, she told a feminist conference that the oilsands hurt women. “You rip it out, ship it out in its rawest form, extracting as little value as you can… as quickly as possible because time is running out politically and ecologically… For every job gained in the petroleum sector we have 30 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector.”
In fact, Alberta’s oil patch is a major source of manufacturing jobs in Canada. And the oilsands have one of the highest participation rates of women in the world. Unlike Persian Gulf oil dictatorships like Qatar, where women have fewer rights than men. Curiously, that didn’t stop Phillips the feminist from working for Qatar’s state-owned broadcaster, Al Jazeera, famous for its shrill attacks on the oilsands. How hostile to Alberta do you have to be, to agree to do an exposé on Canada’s oilsands, for a TV station owned by an OPEC competitor?
Alberta’s new Energy Minister, Marg McCuaig-Boyd, has no connection to the industry at all. She’s a teacher from Fairview, almost 800 km by car from either Calgary or Ft. McMurray. She only knows one thing: the NDP platform calls, six times, for a review of oil royalty rates, and she intends to do it. Even though the industry is already in recession from low oil prices.
With such a new and inexperienced crop of politicians, much of the real power will reside with political staff. Like Brian Topp, the NDP mercenary brought in from Ontario by Notley as her chief of staff. Topp ran for federal NDP leader in 2012 on what can only be described as an anti-oil platform. He called the oilsands “shocking”, the Keystone XL pipeline “madness” and said Canada should “produce a great deal less hydrocarbon energy.” He even called for “getting fossil fuelled cars out of our cities.”
And Notley herself? A career NDP politician; daughter of a career NDP politician; wife of a CUPE union organizer. She has a lengthy paper trail of anti-oilsands, anti-fracking and anti-pipeline speeches. There was no group too extreme for her to meet – including the “Occupy The Climate” anti-oilsands rally at the Legislature, at which she spoke.
Deborah Drever was suspended for misconduct.
But really, what’s more dangerous: a backbencher with a coarse Facebook page, or a cabinet stuffed with activists who say they want to shut down Alberta’s most important industry?
READ Ezra Levant's bestselling books debunking environmentalist propaganda against the energy industry:
Groundswell: The Case for Fracking
Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands
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