[Ted Byfield] Ottawa may be about to learn the real blessing of pipelines

Opinion
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and also to discover the exceeding danger of Alberta's resolute new
premier.

If I were to be asked right now, whom do I regard as the most dangerous man in Canada, I would say without hesitation that it is Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta. If I were asked whom do I regard as the best possible man to confront and solve Alberta’s ever more dangerous economic situation, I would say, also without hesitation, that it too is Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta.

VIDEO: [Global News] Throne speech outlines Alberta’s United Conservative government’s plan for spring session [May 22, 2019]


I hasten to add, however, that the Canada that should regard Kenney as dangerous is not the Canada that we of the “hinterland” believe firmly in, but the one that regards itself as “the Real Canada” or “the Relevant Canada,” or the “CBC Canada,” or the “Three-City Canada” — which consists of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and the Backwoods. Some might call it the “Environmentalists’ Canada” in which the Three Cities have taken on the solemn duty of preserving the hinterland as perpetually pristine, quaint, untrammeled by civilization and broke, broke enough anyway to never challenge the fiscal ascendancy of the Big Three. Alberta in this regard has been misbehaving very badly in recent years by becoming unseemingly rich. However, it looks like the Big Three and the Environmentalists are about to fix this.

Which brings us back to Kenney. I’ve known the man since the Nineties when I was guest speaker at his first nomination meeting to become a Tory parliamentary candidate in Calgary. Though he’s never lost an election, I don’t think I’ve ever known a politician who has been more widely misread, particularly by the Left and therefore (naturally) by most of the media and most of Edmonton. He is invariably depicted as a smooth-talking, crafty, ruthlessly ambitious and ultimately unprincipled office seeker who will say anything, promise anything and do anything to achieve his personal goals.

In my experience of him this is the precise reverse of what he actually is. The dominant factor in his life– again in what I’ve known of him– is his faith. He is a convert to Catholic Christianity and he takes this very seriously. He believes, that is, in the Seven Virtues– Fortitude, Justice, Prudence, Temperance, Faith, Hope and Charity — (“Charity” these days is often translated as “Love.” But after the Sixties experience broadened “love” so widely as to deprive it of any meaning at all, some of us radical conservative Christians have gone back to the old term Charity.” though it too is misleading.

Am I saying that I think Jason Kenney unfailingly practices all the seven virtues? No, I am certainly not. This is one of the paradoxes of Christianity. A person — any person, Kenney or anyone else– does not become Christian because they discover themselves to be good. In fact, it’s the reverse. It happens because they discover themselves to be bad, unremittingly bad, even on occasion evil, and so evil that despite their best efforts, they remain essentially the same. Their confessions — whether to God, to a pastor or to a priest –. are repetitive, week after week, year after year. Or often, they may break one bad habit, but then discover it has led them into an even worse one. That’s why in the church I belong to, the Orthodox, the same prayer is repeated again and again, “Lord, have mercy.” In other words, we are not very optimistic about the inborn goodness of an unaided human nature.

Neither, presumably, is Kenney. People accuse him and Christian politicians of pretty well all denominations and political parties, of not standing firmly enough for Christian principles in what they legislate. The suggestion is that, even though it may end their political career, they must stand up for principle. In short, it’s better to do nothing and remain doing nothing because you’re out of office, than it is to compromise when you’re in it. This may sometimes be true, but it is more probably “imprudent.” And Prudence (see above) is one of the seven virtues.

In short, I trust the man, and so do others, and that’s what makes him exceedingly dangerous to Three-City Canada. He has a reputation for doing what he says he’s going to do, and that means he will make the building of pipelines something the people in Real Canada will begin thinking very hard about, because the economic and political fate of the whole country could become involved in it. If that seems excessive, consider the following:

One of the economic initiatives that has helped hold Canada together, is the federal equalization program. Under the program, the so-called “have” provinces pour money into a fund that is then redistributed to the “have not” provinces. Alberta’s oil and gas industry has been a major contributor to this fund, sharing billions upon billions of its resource revenues with other provinces. Now when it needs their acquiescence in getting its oil to shipping points on the coast, this is denied them because of the environmental “dangers” caused by pipelines. Yet pipelines, we’re told, are undeniably the safest way of shipping these fuel products anywhere.

Ah yes, say the Environmentalists, but the day is near at hand when cars and trucks will run on “solar” heat. Germany, which leads the world in experiments with alternative fuels, regards such talk as preposterous. But nobody has told any of this to those children who parade “NO PIPELINES” placards beside the highways. The signs might better read “NO PIPELINES, NO CARS, NO TRUCKS, NO AIRPLANES and NO HIGHWAYS.” because that’s what we’re in the course of bringing about.

So who’s listening? Not Ottawa, for sure. And what can Premier Kenney do about this? He can do two things, the first of which he seems ready to trigger. He wants an Alberta referendum on an Alberta withdrawal from the equalization program. And why not? No pipelines means no equalization payments to the other provinces, so all those billions will remain in Alberta. Would such a measure gain electoral support? Who knows? I suspect about 80 percent would vote yes. What could Ottawa do about this? Pass some federal statute compelling Alberta to pay? Gun-at-the-head negotiations?

So what will Kenney do then? One option would be to begin drawing up plans for separation, following the federal program that was designed for Quebec, not Alberta. Judging by recent polls it could easily pass, and that would be enough to set in motion the disintegration of the whole Canadian federation. That might even be enough to command the attention of the Big Three cities.

What about the intervention of the courts? Could five unelected judges in a court at Ottawa stop a movement in Alberta, backed by something like four-fifths of the population? And anyway, how did that court get such power? That will be my subject in next week’s column. In the meantime, Three-City Canada is about to discover why Jason Kenney — from their point of view — is a very dangerous man.

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