February 4, 2018

BC versus Alberta – the existential threat of “dilbit”

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Environment, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh on the warlike preparations taking place in Alberta in advance of the interprovincial war over “dilbit”:

The special concern with dilbit [diluted bitumen — the form in which hydrocarbons from the Alberta oilsands are shipped to refineries as a liquid] is a pseudoscientific contrivance designed to allow Horgan to meet, or at least take a step toward, his loud campaign promises to thwart Trans Mountain. Now, even if you don’t believe that, you can understand that Horgan is threatening to conjure an all-new improvised layer of environmental regulation here. Even if you are convinced that it was spilled dilbit that killed Tasha Yar in “Skin of Evil,” you can see the unfairness of Horgan imagineering an infinite regress of scientific panels — each one surely more scientific than the last! — to injure a neighbour’s economy for his own electoral welfare.

The truth, however, is that B.C.’s New Democratic premier knows the hand-wringing about dilbit is B.S. And so does Alberta’s New Democratic premier. And so does just about everybody in Alberta. Yes, we Albertans have been busy this week preparing for border war: there is so much to do, what with the need to make propaganda posters, train commandos for mountain-pass warfare, dig victory gardens, and re-label all the Nanaimo bars “Liberty squares.”

Sadly, it probably won’t come down to a shooting war, but will remain in the crystal blue elysium of political manoeuvring. If it did come to a fight, Alberta would have a pretty big fifth column operating on its behalf across the legal border. I have a running joke with friends that I have occasionally referred to in print: it’s the idea that there exists a “Greater Alberta” that includes sizable parts of Saskatchewan and, in particular, B.C.

The so-called Peace River block that spans the border is one economic unit, and people at its western end, jealous of having ended up on the wrong side of a discontinuity in taxation, have actually agitated in the past for secession from British Columbia. And, as many have pointed out in the feverish climate of interprovincial hostility, the jagged southeast corner of B.C. has significant transmontane cultural and economic ties, too. It looks, on a flat map, like it ought to “belong” to Alberta. (In real-world topography, on the other hand, the Continental Divide is definitely a thing that it is hard not to notice.)

In short, almost everybody is now making my “Greater Alberta” semi-sorta-kinda-joke. But this is not really a Greater Alberta thing. At almost every point of the compass, that B.C. map is full of resource employees who are watching with distaste as their NDP government acts like an NDP government. This is surely a real moral advantage for Alberta in the grand struggle — but, remember, there are genuine practical gains for Horgan from his theatrical eco-rectitude: right now the motivating passion of his life, from dawn to dusk, is to persuade Green voters to turn orange.

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