Sunday, January 26, 2014

Every minister is an 'oilsands minister'

The response to Brian Jean's resignation and request for the oilsands to slow down has been dismissed by the Alberta and Federal "environment" ministers. Not sure how this one slipped past me, but it did.

Environment ministers dismiss talk of slowing oilsands expansion
Provincial and federal environment ministers agreed Thursday there are no plans to slow down expansion of the oilsands, even as a former Fort McMurray MP says explosive growth needs to cool off to allow the area’s infrastructure to catch up.

Former Conservative MP Brian Jean, who resigned his Fort McMurray-Athabasca seat last week, said in interviews this week the pace of oilsands expansion has negatively affected the region’s quality of life as companies try to get “every bit” of oil out of the ground immediately.

Alberta Environment Minister Robin Campbell said the Progressive Conservative government isn’t rethinking the rapid growth of the oilsands, with companies expected to ramp up production to 3.2 million barrels per day by 2020 from 1.8 million barrels in 2012.

“Mr. Jean is entitled to his opinion. It’s unfortunate that he would step down and then make those comments,” Campbell said after a federal-provincial announcement in Calgary.

“I never heard those comments from him when he was the MP.”
Ha, "environment ministers". More like the "oilsands ministry on the environment". Seems like every minister is just an oilsands minister who will rationalize and dismiss all concerns regarding their supposed department.

I'm sure if comments such as those were ever seriously considered by the party line and not dismissed as they have been time and time again he probably wouldn't have felt the need to step down from Harper's pro-oilsands tightly controlled party-line before saying them. What does that say of our "parliamentary democracy" that an MP actually feels the need to resign before he can represent his constituents?

But here really is the crux of how far down the rabbit hole we really are. This is a Conservative MP, one of Harper's boys, who is saying his constituents - the residents of the capital of oilsands-ville Fort McMurray - are complaining about a "suffering quality of life" and the government basically says: "so what"?

Don't you see Canadians, especially Albertans? You have been bamboozled! The biggest pro-oilsands argument of them all "improving quality of life" is a big fat fucking lie!
Campbell acknowledged there are infrastructure challenges in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, but said the province is committed to working with the community, aboriginal groups and others to deal with the issues.

He said the oilsands create jobs and wealth that help finance needed government programs and drive the national economy.

“It’s not as simple as just saying, ‘We’re going to slow down production.’ I mean, a lot of people across Canada depend on the oilsands to make their living and we accept that responsibility,” added the MLA for West Yellowhead.

Asked about Jean’s comments, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said “everyone is entitled to their opinion,” but stressed Ottawa is simply dealing with the demand from industry.

“We go forward based on the applications that are made through the regimes that are in place for Canada,” she told reporters.
Yea, just like the government was working in the past on infrastructure challenges right? 50 years of oilsands development, the big supposed cash cow, and what does Alberta have to show for it? After 50 years of what's billed as an industry that "creates jobs and wealth that help finance needed government programs" I would think there would be a whole lot more wealth, don't you? I definitely would think that the sustainability fund would have billions upon billions of stored revenue. I definitely would think that a couple billion dollars for infrastructure upgrades would be pocket change for a wealthy oil producer like Alberta. So where is it?

If the oilsands are providing all this wealth for "needed government programs" why is Canada and Alberta slashing "needed government programs" left, right, and center? If they're financing "needed government programs" why are public sector workers told again and again that they need to take pay-hike freezes and "tighten their belts"?

Alberta literally has 30 years worth of "development" to catch up with and literally no cash left to do it with, convenient isn't it that these infrastructure upgrades funded on taxes and debt are coming after the government blew it's wad on what we can now see is literally nothing. Yet, despite how incredibly obvious the lie of oilsands prosperity is, they would have you believe that you're not going to be paying the way for the needed infrastructure to catch up, and then even beyond that the needed infrastructure to keep up with their expansion plans.

The government says it's willing to "accept the responsibility" of people making their living working for the oilsands but they apparently are not willing to take responsibility for their documented lack of planning, or quality of life for those Canadians who find that the "demand from industry" always takes precedence. They are not willing to take responsibility for the incredibly lopsided cost of living where if you're working in Alberta in any industry but the oilsands you'll find life extremely expensive.

When you consider how dismissive they are of the constituents and ex-Conservative MP's concerns regarding development and how it affects quality of life and old Conservative Peter Lougheed then what sort of confidence does that give you regarding the government's relations with First Nations? Ezra and pals would love to have you believe that oilsands benefit the First Nation people but in reality they are not being given much of a choice and there is zero-respect for their culture.

The government and it's oilsands ministers keep pointing to wealth, jobs, and the financing of needed government service to excuse the environmental destruction. They say it's a "social benefit". The wealth is paid to us in devaluing USD which the Federal Reserve is producing in excess at a rate of $75billion per month. They are literally giving us nothing for something and when the USD crashes (as all Fiat currency does) we'll be left holding an empty bag.

The jobs are being replaced with temporary foreign workers, part time workers, or workers who receive very little in the way of benefits, pensions, etc. Yes it pays well, but it is not secure work or career focused. Its about getting in, making as much currency as possible, and getting out. Finally, when it comes to "needed government service" and as we've covered recently it's basically non-existent. Much of the service needed by Alberta wouldn't be needed if the oilsands weren't here in the first place and when the government finally realizes that so many people are dying that it adds further harm to "their image" and finally do decide to fund "needed government service" they borrow to do it and have the population pay private banks interest out of their pockets to afford them while creating bullshit public relations budgets like "capital spending" and "infrastructure spending" to hide their extreme mismanagement.

How can anyone at this point believe the oilsands are "sustainable" when Alberta can't even afford to have a "sustainability fund"? I don't know, but I bet an oilsands minister can redirect me to a non-answer.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for CenturyLink

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.


  1. Richard, to what extent do you see in this maniacal obsession for expansion a desperate effort to bulwark the bitumen mines against winding up as stranded assets? Do they think if they can get the pipelines running and the supertanker sailings this will be Athabasca's salvation?

  2. Not at all, as another trend has begun to emerge which I forecast back on Hellberta. A stagnating China that now has to deal with it's own economic bubbles.

    China Investment Corp. (CIC), the mainland's $575 billion sovereign wealth fund, is shifting its focus away from the energy sector towards investments in infrastructure in both developed and emerging markets, said Chairman and CEO Ding Xuedong.

    Jan 27 (Reuters) - China's southern Guangdong province plans large investments in natural gas and clean energy to cut coal and oil use in a bid to slow rampant growth in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a provincial climate change plan released Monday.

    Guangdong, whose GDP is estimated to have surpassed $1 trillion in 2013, plans to cut coal's and oil's share of its energy mix to 60.6 percent in 2015, from 73 percent in 2010, according to the plan posted on a government website. (

    There was one more indicator I'm using but I don't have the time to track the link down right now (way back in my twitter history by 3 or 4 months) that basically said China is losing money on it's oilsands investments and is reconsidering future investment.

    Alberta, as always, is driven by reaction and not proaction. Their analyists couldn't forecast themselves out of a box.

  3. Okay but if China is becoming an unreliable market for bitumen, what is driving this obsession to get those pipelines to "tidewater" at any cost? That simply makes no sense to me.

  4. Basically old data, and hope. It was like before the Albertan election and their lofty forecasts of $120 barrel oil which were really based on complete fantasy and almost immediately crashed back down to 80 after the election. Alberta's decision making isn't based on data, or reliable forecasts, its based on hope and what "Alberta wants". Well that's not entirely true, it's based on old selectively chosen data, data that fits the desires.

    "Alberta wants" to export it's low quality oil and it will stick it's head in the sand about any data that says otherwise. No different than how they know that the oilsands over the long term are going to cost exponentially more yet they persist with the belief they will somehow pay themselves off one day.

    You can sum it up as "blind faith".