Tuesday, February 06, 2007


If anyone was thinking that something original would be forthcoming from Premier Eddie, they better think again.

Yesterday, in another weaselish display, the Premier pounced on statements made by an Ontario MP about the orderly development of the oilsands, and the issue of greenhouse gases. The MP in question was the youthful and exuberant Mark Holland MP for Ajax-Pickering, who is turning out to be a useful antidote to the piranha-like attacks by the Tory hatchet-man and born-again environmentalist, John Baird.

Holland's benign comments to a great extent parroted what Peter Lougheed former Alberta Premier and Statesman (unlike Eddie) had said about oilsands development a couple of weeks ago. The venerable Lougheed, who makes the current and previous Alberta Premiers look like a couple of bush-leaguers, had said that Alberta should take a go-slower approach to development of the oilsands. He opined that development should be orderly and planned, so that Albertans be better assured that they would receive maximum benefits, including a healthy environment.

However, to the usual question as to whether the Federal Grits would 'nationalize' the oilsands, if Alberta did not go along with such a program, Holland replied that the Feds would try to work 'collaboratively' with Alberta, but if Alberta refused 'there will be consequences.' Granted, the response could have been gentler. With the first media reports of Holland's statments, the rumblings and grumblings began.

No doubt criticized for the intemperate choice of phrasing by Grits more loftily placed within the Party apparatus, Holland quickly and quite rightly, on Friday stated: "The Liberal Party will continue to support the development and expansion of the oilsands in a reasonable and sustainable manner," and that "Any other characterization of our position is nothing more than an attempt to fear-monger."

But did Eddie act like a statesman in the process? No. Even though Holland had already explained what he really meant, before one had time to say the word 'Kyoto,' Eddie - on amber alert mode - jumped on the tried and tired bandwagon of western alienation. He warned of 'dire economic consequences' if Alberta was ever forced to slow oilsands development to curb global warming emissions. He said that Holland's remarks were 'reprehensible' and that the Grits were threatening to grab control of the oilsands. Ho, hum.

Holland, a young man in his early thirties and a neophyte politician later lamented that he could not understand why the Premier and others (such as columnists and talk-show hosts of the far-right) "were twisting" his comments. He added that "Perhaps by creating fear and distorting not only what I said, but the position of our party, that they think they can extract some political gain from it." Bingo. He got the message. Poor Mark recognized that he was a pawn in classic Alberta politics. Alberta Tory politicians, at the least opportunity, will always bring out their favorite bete noires - welfare or AISHE recipients or the Feds - for a few points in the polls. And this time, Mark was their boy.

So, don't expect Notsofast Eddie to do anything different from the old playbook of his predecessor. As they might say down at the Municipal Offices of his home county of Lamont, "An original thinker, he ain't."

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