Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Strange Times in Alberta...

Nation, I had the strangest experience this morning, and I feel compelled to share it with you all.

I woke up, rolling over and hitting my “snooze” button for the third time, when I saw a strange emanation coming from the window to E.S.’s super-secret lair. Upon walking to the window, I pulled back the shade to see a large ball, made up mostly of hydrogen (or so I’m guessing) and hovering just above the horizon.

Shocked as I was by this sight, I ran to the front door and grabbed the newspaper. There it was, large as life: “Wednesday, October 31, 2007. Calgary, Alberta, Canada.”

Nation... the sun rose this morning. In Alberta. Just as it has every day for the past week, and possibly further back even than that.

I know... I was shocked, too.

After hearing from the “Chicken Little” naysayers from the oilpatch, we can all be forgiven for thinking that the world might in fact be ending. After all, they told us that everything short of a plague of locusts might be coming to this province if the Premier dared to follow the recommendations of the “Our Fair Share” report. It would be a catastrophe – a cataclysm of epic proportions. Overnight, roads would crumble, basic social infrastructure would begin to break down, dogs and cats living together... basically, all the worst parts of the Bible.

And even after all of these warnings – warnings which, of course, were issued purely out of these companies’ concern for the people of Alberta – Ed went ahead and followed SOME of the recommendations.

Remembering the films from my youth, I ducked and covered under the nearest desk.


Still waiting...

What’s that?

Oh. I see.

Nation, Ed has gone on the record pleading for this not to be called a “compromise”. Sorry as I am to have to disobey my fearless leader, that’s just what this is... it’s a compromise.

It’s a compromise, because he *could* have taken his pound of flesh, and then some. He could have, but he didn’t. It would have helped his popularity, but it would have hurt his province, and he knew that - he put the province first, and rightly so. It is, after all, his JOB. The Premier didn’t compromise with Big Oil, he compromised between the 2 extremes of “doing nothing” (a somewhat popular tactic on this file in the past), and “crushing Big Oil under the boots of the people’s revolution” (which will have to wait until I, the Enlightened Savage, become Premier in about 16 years). Both of those extremes would have hurt our province, so he chose neither, though one was easy, and the other would have made him very popular, for the next few years at least.

So, what about the deal itself? How’s it going over?

Well, with the people who find, extract, and develop the resources, it’s going over like a fart in church: It’s not the most popular thing they’ve ever seen, but they can deal with it as long as they keep their focus toward the front of the room and on the prophets (profits?).

With the people who OWN the resources, the move has proven quite popular. It is funny watching Big Media try to spin their survey results to suggest that people are up in arms about this announcement. One survey asked if the Premier “got it right”. The results read:

  • 46% - “He got it right”.
  • 33% - “He should have taken more” and “he took too much” (2 extremes that boil down to “he didn’t get it right”, but for very different reasons)
  • 20% - Refused to respond/No answer

So, of course, the papers report “53% of Albertans don’t think the Premier got it right!”. Let’s ignore the complete and utter buffoonery that was involved in forming the “response options” for the poll, and crunch the numbers.

20% of those polled didn’t express an opinion. Therefore, of those polled who DID express an opinion, 58% said “he got it right”.

Fudging numbers? Maybe. After all, a much wiser man than myself once stated famously “there are three types of lies: Lies; DAMNED lies; and statistics.” But consider this: If 53% of Albertans, according to this poll, don’t think that Premier Stelmach “got it right”, then those same papers should report that “Dave Bronconnier was rejected by 80% of eligible voters in October’s municipal election”.

After all, the mayoral election broke down like this:

  • 20% - Dave Bronconnier
  • 13% - someone else
  • 67% - Refused to vote

I don’t want to quibble over polling numbers here, Nation. I think that Ed’s options were laid out beautifully by my friend Ken Chapman on his blog, and Ed seems to have chosen option “3” on Ken’s list. He’s not crushing Big Oil, but he’s making sure we get our fair share. Of COURSE Big Oil isn’t happy about it – had he raised our take by a penny, they’d be upset. The past 30 years have conditioned them to believe that money is OWED to them: They’re entitled to it, because they do the work to get the bloody stuff out of the ground.

But believing that you’re entitled to something because you haven’t been credibly challenged for a while is a dangerous philosophical place in which to be, whether you’re in business or in politics. Ed knows it. Hopefully, the rest of the Alberta PC’s got the message.

So what did our namby-pamby, dithering, sissy, not-a-leader, wimp, "compromising” Premier do shortly after telling Big Oil that the free ride was over, and we wanted our fair share? He went to the Tony Blair luncheon, less than 24 hours later, and gave “greetings from the province” in a room full of angry Big Oil execs who likely wanted to meet him by the bike racks during recess. Given the way that some of the media try to portray the man, you’d think he would have been hiding in the Stelmach family bunker somewhere near Andrew.

Agree with the decision, like 58% of poll respondants do. Disagree with the decision. But don’t tell me the man can’t make decisions, or take the heat of being in the big chair. Because even when Big Oil took out full-page ads, and billboards, and blanketed the media with veiled threats and predictions of doom and gloom, even when they trotted out their bought-and-paid-for economists who predicted economic collapse, even when they printed signs of protest for distribution at the VERY impromptu demonstrations by rig workers (wearing spotless and colour-coordinated hardhats, no less) – he stood firm, and made the decision based not on who could donate the most to his party, but on who owned the resources. He made the decision as the steward of Martha and Henry’s resources and tax dollars, and he’s vowed to stick to it.

Alberta teachers, take note... and adjust your CBA negotiating strategy accordingly. Threatening a province-wide work stoppage and waiting for “Cool Hand Ed” to blink just became a very bad option.

Just ask Big Oil.

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