Home Regular Contributors Brock Harrison Hold the Beer. We’ll Take a Pipeline Instead.

Hold the Beer. We’ll Take a Pipeline Instead.

Brock Harrison

Premier Rachel Notley has embarked on cross-country speaking tour to deliver what she calls a “pro-pipeline message,” and it’s tempting to applaud her on the basis that it’s never too late to do the right thing.

But that adage is more appropriately applied to moral predicaments. There’s no room for it in the unforgiving arena of pipeline politics.

Notley will speak to business audiences in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton between Nov. 20 and Dec. 7, hoping to sway momentum towards construction and completion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

“There is not a school, hospital, road or bike lane anywhere in the country that doesn’t owe something to oil and gas,” Notley said in a statement. “Pipelines are just as critical for jobs and economies across the country as they are for Alberta, and to stifle the oil and gas industry would be economically negligent.”

A strong and unequivocal statement of support for Alberta energy and pipelines, to be sure, but where was it two years ago? Where was it when Energy East was savaged by eastern politicians and bled dry by regulatory dysfunction and overreach? Where was it when Trans Mountain faced a hostile BC government, illegally withheld construction permits, and court challenges from virtually every municipality along the route? Where was Notley’s charm offensive when we really needed it?

Energy East is dead and Trans Mountain may well be next, despite Notley’s speaking tour. She’s doing the right thing. However, it’s probably already too late.

Compare Notley’s lack of urgency on pipelines to her government’s zealous, borderline obsessive support for Alberta’s craft beer brewers.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci has pulled just about every lever of the state at his disposal trying to bolster the province’s fledgling brewing industry. From allowing craft beer into farmer’s markets, to easing happy hour regulations, to overtaxing out-of-province competitors, the Alberta government has left no hop unbrewed in its relentless pursuit of craft beer dominance.

Culture Minister Ricardo Miranda called a full-blown press conference last month in Calgary to announce a $60,000 brand marketing platform for craft brewers. The province spends more in a month on paper clips and sticky notes.

Notwithstanding the sector’s growth, the stubborn single-mindedness with which the NDP has built up the craft beer industry would be undeniably more effectual if deployed on the pipeline file.

The NDP obviously sees craft beer as a vanguard in their murky economic diversification strategy. Still, it’s impossible to envision Alberta’s economy wondrously and miraculously diversified on the unstoppable surge of craft beer, but evaluating the NDP’s dogmatic beer agenda, one is tempted to conclude such an outcome is expected.

The NDP’s misplaced faith in beer as an economic driver is all the more frustrating when judged against their last-minute support for pipelines because we know they’re capable of effective economic advocacy. The number of craft breweries in Alberta has shot up from 20 in 2015 to 65 today, with more in the offing.

If only Notley and her government could channel some of their affection for home-brewed Alberta beer to our other natural resource, we might be popping champagne corks over new pipeline routes instead of drowning our sorrows.