This op-ed piece is taking a short departure from our mandate of shedding light on facts and avoiding opinion. After the election, we had discussions thoughtful, educated people referring to the NDP as “crazy lefties”, “nutty greenies” and “anti-pipeline activists” all of which we think is inaccurate.
Keep in mind that we are concerning ourselves with the Alberta NDP Party and not individuals. We believe there are two primary reasons the Alberta NDP Party is not “crazy left”, “nutty green” or all “anti-pipeline activists”:
1 – Alberta NDP Ministerial Incompetence
Incompetency is a provocative word that we use without its nasty tone. We simply mean that the NDP were not competent managers. This does not mean they were bad people or malicious, just not capable of getting things done.
The 2015 NDP election swept the sedentary and nearly corrupt Progressive Conservative party from a 40 year dynasty in the Province. Their big tent had become too large for a single mantra from which to govern from. They needed, and got both:
- radical surgery that separate both the far left and far right from the party from it’s central right core. The extreme left went to the NDP (think Sandra Jansen and friends) and Alberta Party (think Mandel) while the extreme right went into the political wilderness of upstart parties (think Fildebrant’s Freedom Conservatives and the Alberta Independence Party).
- a break from governing. The Alberta PC party needed the ‘swift kick in the butt‘ they received to reduce their arrogance sadly there is still much arrogance remaining in the UCP, but it is currently much improved. We will see how long it takes before the self proclaimed ‘natural ruling party’ returns to it’s old ways.
The NDP on the other hand was comprised of a few old political hands, like Rachel Notley and Joe Cici and a whole lot of newbies. The NDP elites were left to select powerful Ministers from a group of 49 politically inexperienced newbie barista’s, yoga instructors and social workers. That is not to say they were ‘bad people’, just inexperienced.
Those Ministers were unskilled at managing bureaucracies and it was not long before experienced long term government workers were running the show. By the spring of 2016, nearly a year after the election and six months after the NDP started governing (remember they delayed opening the Alberta Legislature for months to get their policies worked out) we had several off-the-record conversations with those in Alberta’s power echelons about how:
- the bureaucrats are in charge
- the NDP elites are thankful for that because NDP Ministers would blow things up and kill the party if left unsupervised
2 – The Figured It Out… Just Too Late:
- creating questionable workers rights (think the farm bill),
- so called ‘social license’ for… well… everything,
- putting avowed anti-oil/gas activists on oil/gas communities
- spending more on programs that need to be cut
all initially contributed to the NDP’s reputation as soft, left wingers that can’t manage a government.
For those in the right side of Alberta spectrum this was all too much to take.
However at some point between their second budget and third budgets, the NDP seemed to figured out that the oil and gas sector was not just in a cyclical downturn, but a permanent global restructuring of the industry. For the first time ever, drops in oil industry fortunes were NOT based on a reduction in demand but instead based on an enduring over supply of oil. New technologies has washed the globe in cheap oil forever more (75-200 years). This meant the industry was not in a slump, it needed structural reform to survive. In Alberta that reform was to figure out how to reduce the cost of getting oil and gas products to markets.
Put bluntly Alberta is no-where and has no natural markets for its resources or products. All of it’s sales are driven by high efficiency production processes that keep costs low enough to justify high transportation costs. When oil went from scarce to plentiful, those transport costs put choke hold on the industry. Alberta needed new, cost efficient, ways of moving oil and gas. LNG terminals were proposed, so called “bitumen balls” to transport heavy oil in solid bricks were invented and forever delayed pipelines came under sharply increased demands for development from both the industry and voters.
We can argue specific numbers but no-one will argue that Alberta employment is heavily dependent on oil and gas jobs. From line workers at world scale companies like Eaton manufacturing electric components, to transportation services moving packages and people, to the IT jobs that my friends and I work in, oil/gas is the common thread to nearly all of us.
The NDP figured out in their last 18 months that if you are a ‘green’ who is concerned about the environment, you want as much oil and gas produced in first world places like Alberta, Norway and the US. Oil is a global COMMODITY and when one barrel does not get produced in an environmentally caring location like Alberta, it gets replaced with a very dirty barrel from an environmental train wreck location like Nigeria, Russia or Venezuela.
Watch this surprising video we edited down from 25 minutes to 5 minutes to get you to the point. This had similar messaging to what then Premier Notley had provided a dozen times over the previous year.
We reject the idea, made by many, that this type of speech was electioneering as it is a complete departure from the national NDP position and alienates much of the Notley hard-core base inside Alberta. We believe she is sincere in her assertions… and it does not hurt that what she says is also correct.
The Wrap on The Alberta NDP:
If the oil and gas industry exits Alberta we will have little left but excellent farming communities with a tiny tax base to pay for the needed services like roads and hospitals.
By 2016 it was apparent that the NDP (leadership at least) had figured out that money does not grow on trees in Alberta, it is pumped from the ground so if you want social programs and a healthy population you need oil and gas.
In the last 3 months, I had two UCP friends tell me something like “… they just figured it out too late. If Notley had started the way she finished she might still be Premier.”
What do you think? Please make your comments below.