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The Awed Couple: Can Ottawa Force Alberta To Stay In Its Lane?


8 minute read

Fact: Alberta and Saskatchewan were to enter Confederation in 1905 as a province named Buffalo. But Sir Wilfrid Laurier feared a landmass that big would threaten the domination of Quebec and Ontario in Canada. And so Buffalo was split into the two provinces we know today.

Of all the riddles that make up Canada’s current prime minister one of the most intriguing is how the grandson of a man, Charles-Émile Trudeau, who made his fortune in Montreal gas stations is now hellbent on destroying the same industry.

In this obsession to end fossil fuels, Trudeau does have the company of many other heirs to fortunes created by oil and its products. The ranks of Green NGOs and political movements are thick with names like Rockefeller, Getty, Morgan, Flagler and more, heirs with a guilty conscience about perceived climate-change destruction.

But while most of these families have chosen discreet roles in their quest, Trudeau’s climate infatuation has propelled him to prime minister of Canada since 2015. In that time “Sunny Ways” Justin has obsessively pursued his goal of transitioning Canada from the fossil-fuel giant to an imagined Shangri-la of gentle breezes and warm sunshine.

Nothing can shake him of his messianic role as saviour of the Frozen North. Likewise, no public disgrace or controversy can shake his loyal supporters who supported his father in the same manner. Buttressed by the lapdog NDP caucus he spouts buckets of enviro-nonsense to a docile media (which he has bribed to stay quiet).

Because subtlety is not a strong suit he even named a former Greenpeace zealot and convicted felon as his Environment minister. Which has naturally put him directly at odds with that portion of the country that exploits fossil fuels and (don’t tell anybody) floats the boat of federal budgets.

So when Justin proposed a  Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act to turn energy workers into code writers and social workers by 2035 there was a degree of pushback amongst those who would lose their livelihoods. That plan was revealed last week by EnerCan (who makes up this dreck?) minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

Promising to convert Calgary’s public transit to all-electric, Wilkinson (former leader of the New Democratic Party‘s youth wing in Saskatchewan) proposed the ‘Sustainable Jobs Act’ advisory council that will provide the federal government with recommendations on how to support the Canadian workforce during transition to a ‘net-zero economy.” You can guess who’ll be on the advisory council, but don’t count on any Ford F-150 drivers.

Enter Danielle Smith, newly re-elected premier of Alberta. Smith and her advisors have declared as unworkable the federal government’s unilateral prescription for a carbon-neutral society by 2050. While they recognize the need for transition the Alberta solution is predictably less draconian than Trudeau’s Pol Pot prescription for moving the population back to a more bucolic lifestyle.

Specifically, Alberta wants “to achieve a carbon-neutral energy economy by 2050, primarily through investment in emissions-reduction technologies and the increased export of Alberta LNG to replace higher-emitting fuels internationally.” (Presumably Alberta will be joined by Saskatchewan in this pushback.)

Then came the hammer. “As the development of Alberta’s natural resources and the regulation of our energy sector workforce are constitutional rights and the responsibility of Alberta, any recommendations provided by this new federal advisory council must align with Alberta’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan.”

Translation: Federal legislation has to be in synch with provincial plans, not the other way around. In short, try to impose some Michael Mann fantasy on the province and it’s a no-go. Don’t like it? See you in court. In Alberta. Not Ottawa.

Will this constitutional gambit work? While Smith’s mandate from the recent election is hardly rock-solid, she does have the benefit of time in her four-year term. Trudeau has no such luxury, and launching a court case in Alberta would likely stretch past his mandate ending next year. Yes, the impertinence of Alberta would play well with his base in the 514/613/416. But let’s be honest, they are voting Trudeau even if he (in the words of Donald Trump) grabs them by the privates.

One thing you can be assured of when it comes to the PM. He will not be forcing any  Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act on the Ontario auto industry to aid its transition to EV vehicles. There will be no helpful suggestions on the death of the automobile for the new mutlti-billion dollar VW battery plants cashing federal cheques in Windsor. He knows his voting base won’t buy it. But those Alberta saps?

The telling impact of this jurisdictional fight will be where Trudeau’s rival, Pierre Poilievre, comes down on the transition issue. With his election depending on the swaths of voters in the GTA shoulder ridings— where Trudeau’s mooting about crybaby Alberta will get a full airing— does he lend his support to Smith’s pushback?

Put simply, is backing Alberta sovereignty in the oil patch a vote-loser for a party still looking past “Hate Trudeau” as an election platform? You could see Poilievre rationalizing that he’ll get the seats in the West no matter what, so why not leave Trudeau to wrassle the Alberta bear alone?

Risky for sure. But if he gets the PMO seat in 2024 Poilievre can always play kiss-and-make-up later with Smith and her government. Can’t wait.

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Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via


BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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New surveillance teams led by the Alberta Sheriffs working with local police in rural communities

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More boots on the ground to fight rural crime

Rural crime continues to be a top concern among residents and businesses in rural Alberta, which is why Alberta’s government remains committed to addressing it through enhanced surveillance and other crime reduction initiatives. Alberta’s government invested $4.3 million for the Alberta Sheriffs to put more boots on the ground. This investment supported the establishment of two plainclothes teams – one in northern Alberta and one in southern Alberta – to support police in carrying out surveillance on criminal targets in rural areas.

Both teams are now fully staffed and operational, ready to fight crime in rural areas across Alberta. These rural surveillance teams will work to prevent crime, monitor agricultural theft and work in collaboration with local law enforcement to share intelligence and resources to keep Albertans and their property safe and secure.

“Criminals and organized crime are not welcome in Alberta. Full stop. The addition of two new surveillance teams will further support our law enforcement partners in stamping out criminal activity in Alberta’s rural areas. This is about supporting local investigations to address local crime in our smaller communities. Together, both teams will form another key component of Alberta’s efforts to combat crime and ensure Albertans feel safe at home and in their communities, regardless of where they live.”

Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services

The Alberta Sheriffs have an existing surveillance unit that is part of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) and focused mainly on serious and organized crime investigations. The new surveillance teams will fill a gap by helping rural RCMP detachments with local investigations.

“Through their specialized knowledge, training and experience, Alberta’s new surveillance teams are providing another important mechanism in the fight against crime in Alberta’s rural communities. Working in close collaboration with the RCMP and other policing agencies, their efforts will play a key role in gathering evidence and information that will help disrupt crime throughout the province.”

Mike Letourneau, superintendent, Alberta Sheriffs

“This announcement by the Alberta government and Minister Ellis is a positive step forward for the residents of Alberta, especially in rural areas. Targeting known criminals is a very effective way to reduce the level of crime taking place and will greatly assist the RCMP who have a vast area to police.”

Lance Colby, mayor, Town of Carstairs

“We are happy to hear about increased resources being allocated to assist our communities. Addressing rural crime is one of the top priorities of the Alberta RCMP, and our partners at the Alberta Sheriffs already play a vital role in keeping Albertans safe. The creation of these new surveillance teams will help augment our ongoing crime reduction strategies in Alberta communities, and we look forward to working with them going forward.”

Trevor Daroux, assistant commissioner, criminal operations officer, Alberta RCMP

The new surveillance teams are part of a suite of measures to expand the role of the Alberta Sheriffs and make Alberta communities safer. Other actions include the expansion of the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit – which uses legal sanctions and court orders to target problem properties where illegal activities are taking place – and the expansion of the RAPID Response initiative with funding for the Sheriff Highway Patrol to train and equip members to assist the RCMP with emergencies and high-priority calls.

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Start-up of Trans Mountain expansion ‘going very well’ as global buyers ink deals for Canadian crude

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A worker at Trans Mountain’s Burnaby Terminal. Photo courtesy Trans Mountain Corporation

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Deborah Jaremko

Chinese refiner pays about US$10 more for oil off TMX compared to sales value in Alberta

Canada’s oil sands producers are “back in the limelight” for investors following completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, according to a report by Enervus Intelligence Research.

For the first time in the better part of a decade, there is now breathing room on the system to ship all of the oil producers are able to sell off the coast of B.C.

Up until this May, Trans Mountain was regularly overbooked. Not anymore.

The crude carrier Dubai Angel picked up the first shipment from the long-awaited expansion on May 22, setting sail for China and a customer of oil sands producer Suncor Energy.

Analysts estimate Trans Mountain loaded 20 vessels in June, compared to a pre-expansion average of five per month.

“You’re seeing multiple buyers. It’s going very well,” said Phil Skolnick, managing director of research with New York-based Eight Capital.

“You’re seeing the exact buyers that we always thought were going to show up, the U.S. west coast refineries and as well as the Asian refineries, and there was a shipment that went to India as well.”

The “Golden Weld” in April 2024 marked the mechanical completion and end of construction for the Trans Mountain expansion project. Photo courtesy Trans Mountain Corporation

Canadian crude in demand on the global market

Asian markets – particularly China, where refineries can process “substantial quantities” of extra heavy crude and bitumen – are now “opened in earnest” to Canadian oil, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its June Oil 2024 report.

“There’s demand for this crude and people are going to make deals,” said Kevin Birn, chief analyst of Canadian oil markets with S&P Global.

The IEA said Canadian crude will increasingly compete with heavy oil from other countries, particularly those in Latin America and the Middle East.

June’s loading of 20 vessels is slightly lower than the 22 vessels Trans Mountain had targeted, but Skolnick said a few bumps in the project’s ramp-up are to be expected.

“About three months ago, the shippers were telling investors on their calls, don’t expect it to be a smooth ramp up, it’s going to be a bit bumpy, but I think they’re expecting by Q4 you should start seeing everyone at peak rates,” Skolnick said.

Delivering higher prices

Trans Mountain’s expanded Westridge Terminal at Burnaby, B.C. now has capacity to load 34 so-called “Aframax” vessels each month.

One of the first deals, with Chinese refiner Rongsheng Petrochemical, indicates the Trans Mountain expansion is delivering on one of its expected benefits – higher prices for Canadian oil.

Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office has said that an increase of US$5 per barrel for Canadian heavy oil over one year would add $6 billion to Canada’s economy.

The June deal between Rongsheng and an unnamed oil sands shipper saw a shipment of Access Western Blend (AWB) purchased for approximately US$6 per barrel below the Brent global oil benchmark. That implies an AWB selling price of approximately US$75 per barrel, or about US$10 more than the price received for AWB in Alberta.

Expanded export capacity at the Trans Mountain Westridge Terminal. Photo courtesy Trans Mountain Corporation

More pipeline capacity needed

Oil sands production – currently about 3.4 million barrels per day – is projected to rise to 3.8 million barrels per day by the end of the decade before declining slightly to about 3.6 million barrels per day in 2035, according to the latest outlook by S&P Global.

“Despite the recent completion of the Trans Mountain Expansion project, additional capacity will still be needed, likely via expansion or optimization of the existing pipeline system,” wrote Birn and S&P senior research analyst Celina Hwang in May.

“By 2026, we forecast the need for further export capacity to ensure that the system remains balanced on pipeline economics.”

Uncertainty over the federal government’s proposed oil and gas emissions cap “adds hesitation” to companies considering large-scale production growth, wrote Birn and Hwang.

Global oil demand rising

World oil demand, which according to the IEA reached a record 103 million barrels per day in 2023, is projected to continue rising despite increased investment in renewable and alternative energy.

June outlook by the International Energy Forum (IEF) pegs 2030 oil demand at nearly 110 million barrels per day.

“More investment in new oil and gas supply is needed to meet growing demand and maintain energy market stability, which is the foundation of global economic and social well-being,” said IEF secretary Joseph McMonigle.

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