An Olive Branch to Alberta?

It was last April when Babel-on-the-Bay commented on the Toronto Star’s Quisling-like coverage of the Alberta tar sands quandary by Star business writer David Olive. We were pleased to note the other day that Olive has seen the light. In a recent opinion piece, he suggests that Albertans should get serious about the province’s future.

Olive picks up on the Alberta tendency to ride the rollercoaster of oil-industry feasts and famines. He even points out that most of the oil money profits (when they happen) go to out-of-province investors rather than to the citizens of the province. What he considers as inexplicable is the province’s lack of forward planning.

Olive is old enough to remember the heyday of Burns Foods and Gainers when Alberta was processing world-class beef products for Eastern Canada and world markets. The province also seems to have turned its collective backs on the high-tech potential out of the University of Alberta and a strong dairy sector.

While Olive still panders to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) desire to call bitumen ‘heavy crude,’ he admits that he is astonished that Calgarians, particularly, seem to have no concept of how long it takes to get a pipeline approved and built in Canada. (And if Jason Kenney thinks it is because we believe in democracy; tough beans.)

Olive says he is surprised by Albertans who seem to think everyone other than themselves is to blame when the price of crude oil drops. He is surprised that Albertans still do not understand why Peter Lougheed urged economic diversification. They would much rather damn a Trudeau for their pipedreams.

What surprises me about Olive’s article was his thinking that all bitumen mining in Alberta is open pit. That is the impression that CAPP seems to encourage by using the old news clips and pictures from Suncor. People in the east seem unaware that most bitumen is now flushed up from deep underground by forcing hot water down to the bitumen seams. Those wildlife-killing settling ponds that are taking over the northern Alberta landscape are the residue from bitumen extraction.

And Olive does not think premier Rachel Notley helped inter-provincial relations by saying in a Toronto speech recently that Canadians who are not lucky enough to live in her province were holding Alberta up for ransom. No doubt she could also improve relations by stopping those false-news commercials that say doubling the Trans Mountain pipeline is good for all Canadians.

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