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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Did Alberta Try to Get Quebec to Change Policy on Kyoto by Offering "Billions of Industry" Money?

I have bought but not yet read William Marsden’s book “Stupid to the Last Drop” about the Alberta oil sands. I don’t expect to get to it until after Christmas but I may have to fast track my plans.

This CanWest news piece suggesting Guy Boutilier, when he was Alberta’s Minister of the Environment, may be enough to convince me to get into the book sooner. Apparently Mr. Boutiller tried in 2005 to influence the Quebec government to change its support for the Kyoto Accord in exchange for “billions of Alberta industry” dollars to help finance the Montreal Stock Exchange.

This is an interesting allegation given that Mr. Boutilier admits to writing the note and circumstances of the event. He berates Mr. Marsden for “sensationalizing something that is totally imaginative.” What was so imaginative about this ploy? Trying to buy Quebec loyalty and failing to do so is hardly imaginative.

Many past federal Liberal governments were masters at it and Chrétien was perhaps the biggest failure at it. Just look at Adscam for proof of that statement. Even the current Con government under Mr. Harper is playing the lets buy Quebec's loyalty card. He is into the “Quebec Nation” notion and has done some pretty serious federal spending in Quebec with the strategic advice of former Prime Minister Mulroney. Remember it was Mr. Mulroney who managed to get an impressive string of majority governments out of his application of this “imaginative” lets buy the Quebec loyalty tactic.

This is hardly an imaginative approach to nation building or cooperative federalism. It is nothing even close to the effective tag teaming Lougheed and Lévesque used to employ against Ottawa from time to time. Those events were marked by Alberta and Quebec sharing a mutual respect for the division of powers in the Canadian Constitution at a time when Ottawa was buying influence from all other provinces.

Hard to judge from what we know for sure about this event as to what Mr. Boutilier was really up to in offering billions of Alberta industry money to Quebec. On what basis Mr. Boutilier thinks he can offer billions of private industry money to Quebec in the first place is confusing enough. What was he thinking?
Claiming it was about being "imaginative" is not likely to pass any sniff test as to what his motivations really were.