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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.