Poverty-producing petroleum

Brian
Brian Jones
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It’s tough to have oil these days. When you’ve got money, everybody wants a bit of it.

Tory politicians in Alberta have apparently opted for the same strategy as Tory politicians in Newfoundland (and Labrador): “Money? What money?”

The Dunderdale administration, of course, has been wandering the halls of the Confederation Building and swinging the cutback axe like some crazed character in a B-grade slasher flick. Even innocents such as Education and Justice aren’t safe.

Out West, the Tories in the petroleum-plagued Prairie province are cutting funding for services to people with disabilities.

According to a Calgary Herald report last week, a cabinet minister held a public meeting in Edmonton to explain the cuts. No, not cuts. Changes.

About 500 people attended. One man allegedly made threats against the minister’s person. Police were called — a tactical unit, no less. The man was arrested.

Readers of Alberta newspapers who are not residents of that fine and fruitful province would understandably be confused.

It has, after all, long been the richest realm in the confederacy.

 

Duelling boomtowns

But there is a good reason why oil-rich Tory jurisdictions make cuts: oil is the new coal. If you have it, you are destined for poverty. It is only a matter of time.

Think of Alberta as West Virginia.

Think of Newfoundland (and Labrador) as Kentucky.

Politicians with petroleum habitually regale their citizenry with dire warnings about the oil running out. Soon. Destitution looms. You better learn how to hunt squirrels.

Except that … the evidence in the real world says otherwise. Sure, the stuff is finite. But “finite” is a relative term. Our lives are finite. Does that mean we should consider them over?

Someday, the sun will shine and St. John’s will envy Calgary no more. In fact, the two boomtowns already share a few characteristics — most notably, subdivisions that are going up almost as fast as Tory popularity is going down.

The Calgary Real Estate Board reported last week that the average house in that city sells for $399,000. St. John’s isn’t far behind at about $350,000. How rich is Calgary?

According to Statistics Canada, a family of four with a household income of less than $42,000 is deemed to be living in poverty.

Running dry

Despite having offshore oil, Newfoundland (and Labrador) is so poor the government can’t even afford to run adult basic education programs in public colleges.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale and her ministers seldom pass up an opportunity to point out to the peasants that the petroleum is running out.

Except that … it’s not.

This week, Husky Energy received approval to develop the South White Rose Extension, and eventually pump another 33 million barrels of oil.

Last week, as reported by The Telegram, the Canada Hibernia Holding Corp. announced the Hibernia field will operate an extra five years, pumping oil until 2050 rather than 2045.

In April, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Petroleum Board declared that the Terra Nova field will produce oil until at least 2027, rather than the previous

estimate of 2020. Terra Nova’s oil reserves are put at 506 million barrels, rather than the previously calculated 419 million barrels.

Good news gushes, and directly contradicts prognostications of doom by the Dunderdale crowd.

There will likely be more. Look at Alberta’s experience.

That province’s oil industry started with a discovery in Turner Valley in 1914. Its modern boom began with a major discovery at Leduc in 1947. Alberta has been putting out petroleum for almost a century.

Why, then, do Tories here and there slash spending on services to the public? Because that is what Tories do. Don’t blame oil.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Confederation Building, Calgary Herald, The Telegram Calgary Real Estate Board Statistics Canada Husky Energy Canada Hibernia Holding Hibernia Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Petroleum Board

Geographic location: Alberta, Newfoundland, Edmonton Calgary Virginia Terra Nova Turner Valley

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Recent comments

  • Wanda White
    June 11, 2013 - 21:33

    A BUSINESS MAN - June 9, 2013 at 10:53:39 And you sir, may gloat all you like but there's two sides to every coin and someday your coin WILL MAKE A SUDDEN DOWNTURN! And when it does, I, along with the rest of this great province will be there as YOU SQUIRM. The party that lifted your greedy backside to prosperity will soon be getting the shaft along with its' Corporate cronies! Have a nice day now!

  • Cyril Rogers
    June 07, 2013 - 14:04

    Cuts may be needed but there are, as usual, being made in the trenches and all the wrong places, like Gander, Grand Falls and Corner Brook, as they lose their school boards, for example. The oil will continue to flow for a long period of time but the problem is that this spendthrift government is spending our future away on shoring up their own popularity.....although that is obviously throwing good money after bad at the moment. It is disgusting that we have such inept people in charge of a fiscal situation that has never been better....only to see it all frittered away.

  • Corporate Psycho
    June 07, 2013 - 10:45

    Dunerdaleand company have mismanaged us back to "have not".

    • a business man
      June 09, 2013 - 09:23

      Honestly, I am okay with the government making us a "have not" province again because my wealth increased in the process. I am not interested in the best interests of the pepole in the province, I am interested in my best interests. I am not interested in voting for the best government for the province, I am interested in voting in the best government for me. No matter what happens with MF, I have made lots of extra money under this governmnet, so I therefore will support this government no matter what the it does.

  • Christopher Chafe
    June 07, 2013 - 09:24

    Yet under the leadership of Ralph Klein Alberta became the richest province in Canada who by the way was a Tory!

    • Chantal
      June 07, 2013 - 10:42

      ...and the oil had nothing to do with it...

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    June 07, 2013 - 08:51

    It is hard to sympathize with Alberta, they have no provincial sales tax and the lowest provincial income tax rates in Canada. Just imagine having to actually bite the bullet and pay sales tax like the rest of the country!

  • Full Time Nan Wanted
    June 07, 2013 - 08:39

    Well said. Hard times are tory times, and this is the proof. Looking at how Muskrat falls is going, if I was a tory I wouldn't want to believe it either. Once they get in there they certainly don't represent the people who put them there. The funniest thing I see is that people who support Premier Dunderdale and not harper are the biggest hypocrites and do more damage to NL than good.