My fellow Albertans,
My counterpart tells us that “spring has come” to Alberta.
Is Rachel Notley speaking literally? Or figuratively? If she’s speaking literally I can’t imagine why she’d include that in a political speech. It’s May. We all know spring has come. If she’s speaking figuratively, Alberta could soon be in more trouble than we previously thought.
Let’s break this metaphor down into formula: we all know that spring follows the winter. Perhaps Notley believes that the NDP is the spring after a long winter. If what we just had in this province was winter, it was one heck of a mild winter, make no mistake about that.
Since the 1990s, Alberta’s economy has grown faster than that of any other province in Canada. Albertans became wealthier, more prosperous, than Canadians anywhere else in the country.
This didn’t happen on its own. It didn’t happen by magic. It happened because Albertans took advantage of the opportunities presented to us, and because generations of Albertans worked hard for it. We welcomed newcomers from ever corner of Canada, from every corner of the world, and they worked every bit as hard as we did. In doing so, each became one of us. Although Alberta is known for its mountains, we didn’t simply land on the summit. We climbed the mountain. It didn’t climb itself.
Not everything was perfect. Alberta is not a utopia. At times, Alberta was challenged by its own success. There were often times when we couldn’t build new homes, new schools, new hospitals fast enough. And certainly the previous government had its flaws. For those flaws, they were replaced and they deserved to be replaced.
But if that was winter, it was a rather warm and temperate winter indeed. For all the things the previous government lost touch with, there was one thing that the previous government, at least most of the time, understood: Alberta has no fate save that which we make. We, as a province, have nothing but what we have built, and we will have nothing but what we build for ourselves.
I do not believe that Rachel Notley is a builder. I don’t believe that her cabinet is made up builders. Looking down the list of these people, you will not be able to find much that they have built. And I don’t believe that Rachel Notley has come to build. I believe she has come only to repurpose what has already been built; to adapt, not to innovate.
The thing about using seasons for political metaphor is that seasons change. They come, then they go. Spring follows winter, on its own, and summer follows spring, on its own. But an economy is not seasonal; nothing happens on its own. Economically speaking, summer only follows the spring if we build it. Autumn follows the summer only if we stop building, and winter comes when the things we have built fall into decline.
A government that repurposes rather than helping Albertans build, convinced that the next season will come all on its own, can only result in a long, cold winter.
We’ve seen it before. We’ve experienced this. During the 1980s, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau looked west from Ottawa and saw Albertans build something that he knew he could not match, but that he felt he could repurpose. So his government, believing that by mere force of will it could reserve Canadian energy deposits, passed legislation that effectively dictated prices and cut off export avenues.
It didn’t work out. Rather than truck western Canadian oil across the prairies, and across the Canadian Shield, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, instead imported their oil. The machine Ernest Manning and Peter Lougheed built ground to a halt.
The ultimate purpose of the National Energy Program was not to build Canada’s energy sector, but to repurpose it. Where it had been built to develop Alberta’s vast energy reserves in order to create jobs, return royalties, and — yes — earn profit for developers, the NEP was designed to re-task the energy sector to Trudeau’s agenda. And as luck would have it, Pierre Trudeau’s agenda was the same as Tommy Douglas’ agenda: collectivism.
It was that same agenda that kneecapped Saskatchewan’s efforts to develop its own energy reserves, and left Saskatchewan lagging behind Alberta by decades. Literally decades. First under Douglas and then under his successors, the NDP denied the people of Saskatchewan and foreign investors alike the opportunity to develop those resources. When the time came that the province’s crown oil company, SaskOil, was sold to consortiums made up of the very people, each of them citizens of Saskatchewan, who had worked those companies for their entire careers, the NDP begrudged them the opportunity to buy and own what they had already built.
Tommy Douglas and the NDP were content to see what Albertans had built repurposed to fit their agenda, even if it meant that the machine would stop. But they couldn’t bear to see what they had built, Saskatchewan’s crown oil corporation, as neglected and under-developed as it was, be repurposed so it could grow and run free.
For decades they have dreamed of having their fingers on the windpipe of Alberta’s energy machine. By God, friends, they have it now. And unless we can find it in ourselves to stand in their way, they will impose their collectivist agenda and the machine will stop. I don’t believe they’d dare do it the same way it was done before, but we can rest assured that they will.
Winter will return. We will learn the hard way what our parents and grandparents already know: just how hard it will be.
Winter will return, it will return because Rachel Notley will be powerless to stop it, as anyone is powerless to control the coming and going of seasons. Winter will return, and Notley will tell us it is summer. Not just in hope of winning elections, but because she herself will not know the difference.
We are not powerless to stop this, but it will not be stopped on its own. By this time Notley has surrounded herself with advisors who, adaptive (not innovative) by nature, have repurposed various fields of study in order to produce propaganda to dissuade her from changing course, no matter how cold it becomes.
We will have to be loud. We will have to be louder than her advisers. We will have to be louder than her base (I don’t anticipate this being a problem). We will have to be so loud that the noise penetrates the walls of the legislature and invades the Premier’s office.
With that noise we must tell her: do not settle for repurposing what already exists. Let Albertans continue building, and do not interfere with it.
It may not work. If it doesn’t, we must not content ourselves to despair. If it doesn’t, we will simply have to do what we can until we can begin again. Then, we will have to begin again.