Progress Alberta Report #241 November 10, 2020

Your weekly update on Alberta politics for November 10, 2020
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Six months ago president-elect Joe Biden said “I’ve been against Keystone from the beginning. It is tarsands that we don’t need — that in fact is very, very high pollutant.” 

Joe Biden has been clear: he’s going to kill this project. He was always going to kill this project. Yet even when it was brutally obvious that Biden would be America’s next president, Premier Kenney kept betting the farm on Keystone XL.

And while Kenney and Trudeau are telling reporters that they’ll do their very best to change Biden’s mind insiders are very pessimistic on Keystone XL.

Robert Johnson is a managing director at Eurasia Group,  a high-priced consulting firm with offices in DC and in financial centres around the world. This guy is paid a lot of money by huge, powerful companies to give them the straight goods on politics. And on the latest Arc Energy Research Institute podcast he gets into the most likely scenario with Keystone XL.

“The Democrat caucus within Congress and the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, all of the information suggests that they’re going to hold Biden to his promise to revoke the Keystone permit very early within his administration,” says Johnson. 

“Given the constraints Biden will have with a Republican Senate on so many areas of climate policy Keystone is one area where Biden can act unilaterally and deliver a win, quote unquote, to one of his most important political constituencies.”

While there are some potential policy tradeoffs and Kenney has trumpeted the fact that labour unions in the US have signed agreements with TC Energy to build the project all of this seems unlikely to sway Biden

“From what we’re hearing there is going to be a push from Alberta and Ottawa to offer some net-zero and [carbon capture and storage] and whatnot to support Keystone but I think the Biden camp, from what we’re hearing, is pretty set this decision has already been taken,” says Johnson. 

“The blue collar labour unions that support Keystone, at the leadership level they’re still Democrat but at the rank and file level a lot of them are Republican Trump voters. Look at Ohio. Look at Indiana. Look at a lot of the states in the midwest… those working class white voters, especially males overwhelmingly support Trump. Not that Biden is indifferent to that considering his history in Washington but [the labour unions] are extremely marginal within the Democratic Party now compared to other interest groups.”

The writing on the wall about Keystone has been clear for months but Kenney still went ahead with sinking at least $1.5 billion of public money directly into the project (and that estimate was short at least $100 million, according to the Auditor General’s scathing report last week.) He even promised another $6 billion in loan guarantees.

But who’s going to be left holding the bag if Joe Biden cancels this pipeline? Not Jason Kenney. He hasn’t been playing with his money – he’s been playing with ours.


The investigative news outfit W5 for CTV has an incredible piece on how the oil and gas industry killed the town of Calmar. A heartbreaking story and a microcosm of what’s to come if we don’t figure out how to hold industry accountable for orphan wells.

Some of Alberta’s doctors are increasingly concerned about COVID-19 overwhelming our hospitals and are calling for a sharp two-week circuit breaker lockdown. Given that some projections have us reaching Intensive Care Unit capacity in 10-14 days this might be what’s needed to avoid catastrophe. Dr. Hinshaw reported Monday that 5 Albertans are dying from COVID-19 per day, the worst rate since the pandemic began and those rates are going up, not down.

We’re getting word that a handful of environmental organizations in B.C. have received letters from the Allan Inquiry asking them to participate. Still no letter to us though. 

Exciting news about a possible COVID-19 vaccine but temper your expectations. A lot has to happen before there’s a widespread rollout of a functional vaccine

A group of men abused as children by a priest are seeking justice. Now the Catholic church and the government of Alberta want to deny them any semblance of reparations or support as they enter their 50s. This is an important story and an important case.

That’s all for this week. Please share our newsletter with any friends or family who better information about what’s going on in Alberta that what you’ll usually get.   

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Jim Storrie