By Conway, J. F.
CCPA Monitor , Vol. 14, No. 10
Alberta's royal mace and crown have now officially passed from King Ralph to Emperor Ed as a result of the March election. Tory Premier Ed Stelmach won 72 of 83 seats, with 53% of the popular vote, cutting the Liberals from 16 to 9 seats (26.5%) and the NDP from 4 to 2 (8.5%). The Greens and the right-wing Wild Rose Alliance were left in the dust with about 6% each and no seats.
But the real story is not the continuation of the Tory dynasty which first won power in 1971. Despite a few bumps in the campaign-expressions of doubt and anger; a lot of complaining about the overheated economy and the collapsing infrastructure; polls revealing a yearning for change, worries about those left behind, and the rape of the environment-the Tory victory was never in doubt.
The real story of the Alberta election is the voter turnout, now, at 41.3%, the worst in Canada. In fact, the Alberta election was a landslide victory of 58.7% for "none of the above." This is the second consecutive landslide for the "none of the above" party, having crushed King Ralph's Tories in 2004 with 55.3%. The fact is that Emperor Ed, despite his victory, has no clothes, having won the support of a paltry 21.9% of Alberta's eligible voters. The crown will not rest easily on his head, haunted by the fact that 78.1% of Alberta's eligible voters did not support him.
There is no doubt that disillusionment with the Stelmach government will begin growing quickly. Aware of cracks in Tory support when he took over from Klein, Stelmach made some promises he won't keep. He provoked a phony war with the oil companies over a proposal to increase oil royalties by $1.4 billion a year, starting in 2009. This helped cover up the revelation that the province had failed to collect millions in royalties due under the existing royalty regime, and painted Stelmach as a man who could stand up for Alberta against the oil big shots. He has already promised the oil industry a review of his promise to increase royalties.
Stelmach, sniffing the polls, expressed worries about the terrible pollution and water over-use caused by tar sands development (Alberta is Canada's worst greenhouse gas emitter, thanks to the tar sands), but in the same breath quietly exempted tar sands developments from the recommendation for more oversight and control made by Alberta's Royalty Review Panel.
The tar sands environmental policy Stelmach promised during the election, under the telling slogan "Change That Works for Albertans," is to do nothing for the next 12 years and then to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a meagre 14% by 2050. The destruction of Alberta's environment will continue out of control, and the air we all breathe will continue to be fouled by the tar sands, and the water we all need will continue to be sucked up at an accelerating rate in order to increase tar sands oil production.
The oil industry still runs Alberta. The Stelmach government is the oil industry's government: he and his party are owned by the industry. The oil industry also owns our Prime Minister from Calgary, with all those Alberta Tory seats propping up his minority government in Ottawa. The stakes are huge. The oil industry will take $23 billion in profits just out of tar sands oil production in 2008. And, as production continues to boom, thanks to $100-a-barrel oil, these profits will increase astronomically over the immediate future.
The big oil companies will fight tooth and nail any effort to impose either environmental or taxation policies in the clear public interest, demanding, as they always have, to be left alone with the unfettered right to suck Alberta dry of oil and natural gas as fast as they can. Conventional oil production peaked in Alberta at 1.8 million barrels per day in 2002 and will fall to 1.2 million barrels per day by 2012. Production from the tar sands will not only make up for that loss in conventional oil, but will dramatically increase the net amount of oil pumped out of Alberta to the hungry U. …