Coyne flips

Peter Jackson
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In Andrew Coyne’s world, prime ministers talk, but premiers “squawk.”

Coyne is the epitome of centralist smug. As a political pundit for Maclean’s magazine — and a CBC-TV panellist — he exudes contempt for the petty, insular demands of provincial leaders.

Like his cousin, Deborah, and her ex-boyfriend Pierre Trudeau, he believes strong provincial powers to be backward and destructive; a nuisance, a hindrance to the almighty Canadian Republic, which aspires to loftier sophistication amid whitewashed conformity.

Moreover, Coyne dearly worships free-market principles, untethered by the parochial desires of unwashed livyers who dare to covet more say in and benefit from their own resources.

On CBC’s “At Issue” panel last week, Coyne furiously railed against the all-party campaign in Sask-atchewan to prevent the province’s potash industry from falling into foreign hands. His indignance was palpable; he could barely force a smile as the other panellists bantered back and forth. Chantal Hébert and Allan Gregg — both insightful minds themselves — did not seem impressed with Coyne’s tirade.

Saskatchewan, Coyne sneered, is asking Ottawa to do its dirty work by blocking a takeover bid.

Because it’s federal legislation, Gregg tried to interject.

And so it continued, with Coyne stubbornly blind to any suggestion that Saskatchewan’s plight was unique.

Such condescension, of course, is not new.

In August 2007, after Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams signed a deal for the development of the Hebron oilfield, Coyne unleashed a vicious piece of mockery in the National Post.

To say his column, “Danny Williams, you’re the Man!” was dripping in sarcasm would be like saying a tsunami is dripping with water. It was a childish attempt to save face after having slammed the premier’s tough stance on oil companies the year before.

“You sure showed them, all those big oil companies and their white-shoe lawyers, those homegrown naysayers and the pundits in the national media,” Coyne wrote, referring to Williams.

Then he offered a cursory interpretation of the Hebron royalty regime, no doubt taking his cues from those same “homegrown naysayers” he refers to. Some of his numbers were wrong, and what wasn’t wrong posited only the worst possible combination of factors.

He also took aim at the province’s 4.9 per cent equity stake.

“I know: it’s to give the province ‘a window’ on the industry. But at 4.9 per cent, the province would have precious little say in the operation. … Indeed, there’s something bizarre about the government paying for the right to participate in the extraction of a resource it already owns.”

First, the province doesn’t own the resource; it jointly manages it and reaps the lion’s share of benefits. And in any case, what is “bizarre” about a government taking a piece of a resource development project? Hundreds of countries all over the world do it, and rarely at the expense of scaring off private investment.

The equity stake provides a seat at the table, to look at the books and at the operations, as well as to enjoy a share in profits.

In Coyne’s world, provinces should stand back, let the developers have their way, take their royalties and shut their gobs. The benevolent forces of free-market competition will make sure everything turns out hunky-dory.

(God bless those kind-hearted multinational corporations. If you’re good to them, they may even obey cleanup orders when they’re done.)

Coyne’s corporatist zealotry is disturbing. But it’s his patronizing attitude towards provinces that takes the cake. His description last week of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall “raising a squawk” really drove home where he’s coming from.

In that pantheon of belittling national media personalities — those rife with prejudice and misconceptions, who snicker about the narrow-minded antics of premiers — Coyne is one of the worst offenders.

It’s comforting — but only in a misery-loves-company sort of way — to see him pummel another province for a change. It emphasizes that he doesn’t save his dogmatic dressings down for Newfoundland alone.

Atta boy, Andy! You sure showed those uppity premiers a thing or two.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor. He can be contacted by email at

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Canadian Republic, Newfoundland Hebron Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Pam Hefford
    November 05, 2010 - 20:43

    It had to be said............Way to go Peter, I wish you could get yourself a spot on the National News to say it just like it is....Truth in words.

  • Dave
    November 05, 2010 - 08:05

    Speak lovingly of him and ye shall be loved.

  • A. Noseworthy
    November 03, 2010 - 09:33

    I certainly can understand why our Premier reacts the way he does, he wants what is best for his province, but it is always too elusive, nobody else seems to want a good economy with our natural resource base working for our province. You would think the other Political Parties would be toeing the line for what he wants for our province, because what he wants is the best, but political partisanship gets in the way. If they toe the line, eventually their time will surely come and then they will be in power with economic conditions which make governance for them much easier. I will add here that Partisanship Politics is destructive. I might add that it isn't present in Saskatchewan, everyone there is toeing the party line for their Premier on its Potash Resource and they are working very hard against the Federal Government in its quest to allow that wonderful resource to be sold to BHP Billington. I hope Saskatchewan wins there. Given the facts that all of our natural resources have been exported out of here for the benefit of other areas of Canada, mostly for Central Canada and then to have someone like Coyne forever toeing the line for Ottawa over our province's right to its resource base to create a bouyant economy is so unfair.

  • Willi Makit
    November 03, 2010 - 08:27

    ''Such condescension, of course, is not new''. No, it definitely isn't new, nor is it confined to Ottawa. To complain when those in the media espouse this type of view yet turn a blind eye when our own premier reflects the same sentiment is beyond hypocritical.

  • A. Noseworthy
    November 02, 2010 - 10:42

    Wow! Peter please keep up the great work and Thanks a Billion for saying what you have said in this wonderful article. I have been waiting for The Telegram to print such an article with such thought provoking information for far too long.

  • W McLean
    November 02, 2010 - 10:28

    Andrew Coyne a republican?

  • Curious Reader
    November 02, 2010 - 10:21

    Peter, do you work for the 8th floor?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 02, 2010 - 08:44

    Well done, Mr. Jackson. One fine piece of work. Enjoyed your article very much. Maurice E. Adams, Paradise

    • Ed. A.
      November 02, 2010 - 10:53

      well spoken Mr. Jackson, you have said it for all TRUE CANADIANS. As a Newfoundlander i am proud of you.