A Canada In Disarray

My country is becoming an ever-growing disappointment for me of late. I say now, of late. But I can’t even really put my finger on when this divisiveness really started becoming stark.

Certainly, after Justin Trudeau was elected. Among some I know, suddenly the main problem was no longer Obama setting up FEMA camps in Headingly, Manitoba. FEMA, not a Canadian thing? I know. The regurgitators of this information fail to grasp such nuances.
There must have been a bit of a lull in the crazy because nothing sticks out overtly. Then Potus #45 comes storming into the worldwide political scene. For the previously mentioned crazy, the man may as well have been the second coming of Jesus. Though they are blatantly homophobic in typical prairie fashion, they would likely give the Donald a hummer if presented with the opportunity. And I ain’t talking about the GM gas guzzler, either.

In this country (or at least on the prairies), Trudeau didn’t have to do anything to earn the ire of the prairie provinces. Even before SNC Lavalin, the simple act of being born was all it took for many of these people. A generation that grew up with parents that hated Pierre, therefore, fuck JT.
Many of these people (when asked why they hate Trudeau so much) could invariably only spit out Facebook memes.
He’s letting in too many immigrants. The carbon tax. Veterans. All the typical talking points one expects to find in a foreign created toxic meme meant for our ageing Boomer populace. People ill-equipped to deal with the misinformation cesspool that is the internet.
Another sign of the times . . . I have never heard so many people casually call for the assassination of a political leader before. I never heard it for Chretien (though I was quite young). Not For Harper. Only Justin Trudeau seems worthy of this horrifying badge of honour on the part of whiny ageing conservatives.
And amusingly enough . . . the SAME people that casually drop this shit (even openly in public) also complain about censorship. You can’t say anything anymore without SOMEONE getting offended.

Uh . . . the power of privilege to shove heads up keesters.

Getting back to the state of the nation overall, however, we come to Canada’s petulant child. Alberta.I don’t recall when this province first started losing it’s fucking shit, but now, the dung is flying in all directions.

Alberta want pipeline, Alberta better get pipeline or else EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HOW DARE YOU TAKE OUR HARD EARNED EQUALIZATION PAYMENTS YOU SMARMY UNGRATEFUL DEADBEATS!!!!!!! CANADA IS NOTHING WITHOUT OUR LANDLOCKED OILLY GOO!!!!

Whilst not everyone from the province is driving a coal roller or Jason Kenny, it’s hard to speak to even a smart Albertan who hasn’t had this mental disease warp their faculties. If Alberta isn’t the center of the Canadian universe now (and forevermore!), then there is no getting around getting the oil flowing. To Asia, to the east coast, to the US (but not optimally, even though they have the infrastructure to cook the bitumen). We just need to build the pipeline and they will come.

I suppose much of this lies from the accidental election of an NDP government for one term. Another case of a leader being damned no matter what she did.

Either way, no matter what, we now find ourselves in quite a situation. A growing contingent of the prairie provinces wants to separate from Canada. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC want to go migtow. I’m not sure about the territories since the pictures of future Canada #2 often don’t make that explicit. I’m not sure if it’s an oversight (some guy in St. Petersberg forgot Canada had 3 territories?), but it seems a mighty important detail to work out. Then there is the matter of Indian reservations and North American treaty rights.

Still wanna Brexit Canada?

But enough ranting. Time to deliver the bitter truth.

Alberta is an economic powerhouse in era with high oil prices and insatiable demands. Even as short a time ago as 5 years ago, this would seem to guarantee Alberta (and the Western Canadian Select class of petroleum in general) a bright future. But times are changing. And so too are economic trends.

https://mbman.wordpress.com/2019/08/09/the-future-of-the-alberta-tarsands-industry-and-the-future-of-work/

I sunk my teeth into this topic before, so I encourage all to take a gander. Since I have already done the work before ^^^, ill make it fairly brief.

Alberta is indeed an economic powerhouse currently. However, Alberta is also essentially operating a single-industry economy. All the eggs are in the same volatile basket. And if that basket tips over, there go all the eggs.
Not too long ago, OPEC tipped the basket over. American shale production is also giving it a good kick. And even if the price does come back up, you still have the matter of increasingly usable and long-range alternatives to fossil fuel-driven transportation.
You won’t see the elimination of all 50 to 60% of the share of oil consumption that makes up the transportation sector (including lubricants). However, even the retirement of a quarter to half of the current fossil fuel-driven fleet will make a huge difference in the overall price of oil. Which is bad for bitumen and WCS because of its heavy nature. If Canadian’s want to sell finished gasoline or diesel fuel, then we’re paying to crack it out of the bitumen. Or we sell it for dirt cheap and let someone else eat the growing cost.

It’s an unforgiving and vicious cycle that we are NOT going to win. The only solution is to follow the likes of such other oil economies as Norway and the UAE. Diversify and find a new solution.

I explored some of the long term ramifications in the paper I linked earlier. In there, I also took a stab at understanding what the future of work was going to look like. If memory serves, I was mostly thinking in a post work context. As it turns out, the post-oil sands era makes for a great time to experiment with how to deal with the post-employment era.

But, here we are. Living in 2019, after the federal government has just bailed out Canada’s fledgling energy industry to the tune of 1.6 Billion dollars. Another interesting quote from the global news article above:

The package is rolling out as pressure mounts on Canada to fulfill its promise to end all subsidies to fossil-fuel producers, and as European banks flee the sector altogether.

Sweden’s central bank said Wednesday it had sold its Alberta-government issued bonds because it will no longer invest in assets held by governments or companies with large climate footprints. A day later, the European Investment Bank, the non-profit lending institution of the European Union, announced it will not invest in fossil-fuel projects after 2021.

Both decisions followed a warning from Norway’s central bank on Nov. 5 that climate risk must be considered in all assessments before investments are made.

These are not the words of some hippy-dippy environmentalists (to quote an Albertan I know). These are the biggest financiers of industry in the world.

Consider this as well:

Canada’s energy industry is reeling from the departure of massive amounts of capital, with $30 billion divested in the last three years, even as global demand for oil is forecast to grow. The International Energy Agency said this week that global demand will grow by about one million barrels a day over the next five years, but plateau by 2030 as the use of more efficient vehicles and electric cars begins to take hold.

Both the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Alberta government said this week investors need to know that Canadian oil and gas are produced more sustainably and with tougher environmental standards than similar products almost anywhere else in the world, and remain a good investment.

2030 is a hair from less than a decade from now. How is more oilsands investment a GOOD investment?!

Play the “We have better social and ecological standards” card all you want. From a pragmatic standpoint, Oilsands is done. The Betamax of the energy world.

Are there political and humanitarian problems when it comes to the mining of rare earth minerals like Cobalt and Lithium?
Yes. Recent news out of Bolivia is a great example of what can happen when a small sovereign geography wins the resource lottery. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I do consider these things. But one should also consider that anyone that makes use of any technology of today (from a smartphone or laptop, to the infotainment system in any post-2010’s era vehicle) also has blood on their hands.
Thus if you are criticizing my stance on electrics based on a faux-humanitarian stance on twitter, you are full of shit.

One more quote:

What might be most concerning to Canada’s energy workers and the economy as a whole is that natural gas is also on the Europeans’ chopping block. Liquefied natural gas, which produces fewer emissions than coal when burned for electricity, has been held up as an alternative fuel and Canada is responsible for more than one-third of new global gas projects now in development.What might be most concerning to Canada’s energy workers and the economy as a whole is that natural gas is also on the Europeans’ chopping block. Liquefied natural gas, which produces fewer emissions than coal when burned for electricity, has been held up as an alternative fuel and Canada is responsible for more than one-third of new global gas projects now in development.

Europe does not even want natural gas anymore. As for Asia (the market that Alberta wants to reach with its second pipeline to the west coast), consider the case of China. The nation has been battling to (and slowly making progress toward) reining in air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/2166542/air-pollution-killing-1-million-people-and-costing-chinese

And now, the ante has just been raised significantly. This air pollution is not just bad for health and economy in the sense we already understand, it’s also undermining new energy solar investments.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/china-air-pollution-blocks-solar-panels-green-energy/

I now ask every Albertan to consider, where in this picture does heavy crude stand?

Why would a market that is already dealing with horrific air quality want to import more low-end fuel which will only add to it?

And if Canadian’s do pull off a miracle of finance and secure the funding for a high volume heavy crude refinery somewhere in Canada (remember that as of TODAY, it’s profitability lifespan is maybe 10 years), what of it?
China is a Paris agreement signee. Sure, it’s easy to look the other way when the emissions are dumped into the air in Canada (as opposed to mainland China). But either way, the footprint is the same.

I didn’t intend on writing about this topic, AGAIN. And after this, I am likely done. I took the time to stick my head out of the bubble to take stock of the situation, and if people stuck in the bubble can’t be bothered . . . suit yourself. The future will be filled with much less hardship if you confront it head-on (as opposed to putting one’s head up one’s ass), but suit yourself.

It looks like 2030 is a fairly key timeframe here. But whilst it seems to represent the plateau of future growth in oil and gas production, I sense that the Canadian energy sector has already crossed this threshold. In an era of dropping prices for easier to obtain streams (such as WTI), heavy streams will lose all viability much sooner.

Though there seems to be infrastructure for such fuels on the west coast, getting it there is a problem. No matter why Quebec is taking the stance that it is, I doubt it will change anytime soon. Particularly if residents and politicians are reading from the same economic tea leaves as me and the rest of the world.
As for trans-mountain . . . I think it is only a matter of time before that is greenlighted. I was not happy with the federal government wasting that amount of money on a future stranded asset, but it is what it is. I’m just hoping the fucker doesn’t burst somewhere ecologically sensitive before the world renders it obsolete.

Ah, yes. Ecological damage. That is all that Canada is going to be left with after this orgy of tarsands driven capitalism inevitably folds under the weight of its own arrogance.

Forgot the carbon time bomb that is represented by the extraction of all the tar sands oil that is available. Consider the giant scar that is represented by the now-abandoned open-pit mines. Consider all of the infrastructure that will be left to rot. The millions of litres of toxic fluids left to fester in ponds which are perilously close to waterways. Waterways which feed and water countless creatures and indigenous peoples.

Consider this carefully, Wexit’ers. Make a break for it, and this is what you are left within the not so distant future. As for Canadian’s in general, this is what WE are stuck with if this continues. When these companies start to go belly up, they are not on the hook for their toxic legacies.
Consider THAT price tag the next time you hear Jason Kenny (or anyone else on the pro-delusion bandwagon) griping about Alberta energy keeping Canada afloat with its equalization payments. If the bill that follows is less than what has been paid out, i’ll be shocked.

In Conclusion

Speaking for myself (I have made my argument heard already), I will first address one obvious potential critique of this piece. In an era of division, throwing gasoline on the flames (as I just have) is likely not to be seen as helpful. Particularly when it plays into the whole delusional dynamic that is the problem.

Alberta is in trouble, and the rest of Canada just does not GET it.

I understand the sentiment. I also understand that many people may well have been too inflamed by my earlier unfiltered rantings to bother reading this far. It is unfortunate, but frankly . . . tough shit.

1.) Whilst I took the time to back most of my statements with outside sources, this was still an exercise in venting. I’ve been hearing the so-called unheard populace spewing this garbage for years, now. If I was a bottle of cola in a paint shaker, this is the result of the bottle finally losing the battle with the forces therein.

2.) We are all adults. This is politics, and frankly, this is how the world works.

As the so-called myth of human progress continues to move forward, there are always people left behind in its wake. Whether this result is unnecessary (such as outsourcing based on corporate greed) or inevitable (new technologies replacing previous breakthroughs), the result is the same.

People end up without a job. More pertinently though, they lose their sense of purpose. This inevitably leads to increases in all manner of self-destructive attempts to fill this gap.

As adults living in this evolving world, you have a choice. You can continue to be triggered when the cold hard truth is spelled out for you clear as day. The transportation sector is changing, and Alberta bitumen is OUT.
Or alternatively, you can continue playing the current hand. Crying and moaning about your needs not being understood whilst simultaneously thumbing your noses in the face of provinces that benefit from the fruits of your labour.

Considering how receptive this populace has proven to be to all but emotional manipulation attempts, I admit that I don’t have much hope for them waking up anytime soon. I suspect that we will have to learn the hard way. After which the rest of us provinces will be there to help ease the burden. Such is the guarantee of Canadian Federation status.

For me, living in the prairies, this backwards mentality has always bothered me. I live in a city which always votes Conservative, no matter how little of value that the party (or it’s candidate) brings to our community. It’s what you get when baby boomers still make up the vast majority of the voters. Familiarly bland pablum.

I work for an organization that suffers from similar issues. Founded by, catering too, and primarily controlled by baby boomers at all it’s hierarchical levels, I fear that it will also fall victim to its leader’s vast blindspots.
A household name based on the Canadian prairies, it is a brand that everyone between Winnipeg and the Rockies will know and recognize. And it is a brand that will likely invoke a highly positive reaction amongst pretty much all prairie residents. Companies pay marketing firms millions of dollars to attempt to garner the type of reputation that my employer has in its market.

This was one of the reason’s I tried to get on there in the first place. Unlike every other corporate cog that I have ever found myself employed in, I thought it was more than just a job. In the first few months, people I worked with treating it as a typical workplace baffled the mind.
Of course, time goes on and novaltie wears off. Work becomes work, and boredom sets in. Then comes management changes, with all the issues that come with that. But such is par for the course of any place.

What bugs me though, is not the small picture. My little cog in the machine is indeed misfiring on account to COMPLETLY OBVIOUS NON-SENSE (if only those at the top bothered to look), but again, par for the course.
Where my concern comes in, is looking to the future. Looking down the road 10,15,20 years. When it comes to this outlook, I don’t have high hopes for the companies long term longevity.

The brass in the offices in Saskatoon do. At their brand self-promotion seminar that every employee was forced to attend last year (featuring a brilliant speaker that was WASTED on them, frankly), they ended the pageantry by celebrating 100 years of the company and looking forward to 100 more years of the company.

And here we come back AGAIN to the cancer of western Canadian business, oil. This company has millions of dollars invested in both petroleum reserves and petroleum infrastructure. Such is the number that the price of oil directly affects the end of year gross, and all other holdings don’t even come close.
It’s a place that is known as a good place to work. It’s a place that does indeed try to make this happen by way of good employee pension and benefit plans. If you stick around for the long haul, you will be set for retirement, they say. And considering how many 20, 30, 40-year retirings I’ve seen, it’s not hard to understand why they say that. They do live up to the promise.

But, for how long?

Up until maybe 4 or 5 years ago, the profitability and continued feasibility of fossil fuels of all kinds was not even an afterthought. It just was. But those days are gone.

When I look at my employer and what it stands for, I see big dreams. But what I also see is a petrochemical company equivalent to Leeman brothers. Outside of the anchor that is it’s oil holdings, I also see no cohesive future planning strategies. All I see coming from the top is more doubling down on what has always worked, and careful following of the industry wherein changes have become standard. Though the organization has the power to set standards using its substantial western Canadian base of operations, it chooses to be a follower.

This organization has been the best employer out of all that I have ever worked at so far. They do indeed have excellent benefits and retirement packages (compared to many others). However, what good does that do a young worker if substantial downsizing AT A MINIMUM becomes an inevitability in as little as a decade or 2?

My employer is an interesting marker since it’s current existence mirrors the bigger issues at play here in Western Canada. Its existence is so entangled with that of Western Canada that it can’t help but be a mirror to the big picture. It could potentially even serve as a canary in the proverbial coal mine.

I could play nice and talk about rainbows and pipedreams (pipelines!) that will solve every problem and make this Neverland once more (though hopefully not MJ’s interpretation). But I prefer to stick to reality and, forgive the cliche, swallow the red pill.

The time for childish antics is over. Let’s see some fucking action.

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