Trying to come up with a list of the most important Alberta political news stories of 2018 is more challenging than one might imagine, since the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion brouhaha sucked all the oxygen out of this place for most of the year.
A court challenge was inevitable. So it was probably a bad bet by the Alberta NDP and the overconfident Liberals in Ottawa to put their money on construction of the TMX starting when they needed it. Just like Conservative PM Stephen Harper before them, the Liberals miscalculated the willingness of Canada's independent and impartial judiciary to pay attention to the niceties of the rule of law even when it was inconvenient for their re-election strategy.
This is true notwithstanding the lunatic conspiracy theories about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanting secretly to destroy the multi-billion-dollar pipeline project he had just bought for us that are being propounded by Alberta Conservatives, who presumably understand perfectly well this is nonsense but fervently hope their supporters don't. (It seems to be working.)
Never mind that Ottawa's now-meaningful consultations with First Nations along the route, as required by the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling last summer, are proceeding apace and the pipeline will certainly be completed as the Trudeau Government intends. To hear the Conservatives tell it, you'd think Mars was invading Alberta and Trudeau was collaborating with a Martian plan to burn all the oil wells.
Alas, having put all their eggs in that basket, the resulting delay in the TMX Project to accommodate the rule of law may prove fatal to the NDP's re-election chances in 2019. After all, by the sound of it, common sense and reason have pretty well left the province. Unlike chickadees and longer days, they’re unlikely to be back by spring.
So this election outcome seems foreordained unless the Opposition United Conservative Party is willing to meet the NDP halfway -- which with a scandal a day between now and the expected spring election is always possible.
Now that we've finally gotten around to cobbling together this hardy perennial year-end list, most stories that suggest themselves are in fact aspects of the pipeline flap.
These include Alberta's illegal and thankfully short-lived boycott of B.C. wine, the screeching calls for a boycott of Quebec goods by some Conservative politicians, the crazy claims B.C. officials were violating the rule of law by going to court, the endless argument about the reasons for that annoying Bitumen Bubble (it’s the sand, stupid!), and the province's near-pathological case of Trudeau Derangement Syndrome.
What's more, almost everything else that should have been a big story fell into the underreported category owing to all the attention focused on that damnable pipe.
For what it's worth, here's your blogger's top 10 list of Alberta's most significant political news stories in 2018. These are my choices, of course, and they reflect my priorities. In other words, they're not necessarily the stories that got the most ink.
Top ten Alberta political news stories of 2018
10. Private school funding. The education scrap between the UCP and the NDP was mainly about gay-straight alliances and "parents' rights," but it finally got the issue of private school funding onto the agenda where it belongs.
9. Craft beer. The UCP Opposition doesn't like NDP policies that created a craft beer boom in Alberta, but you'll notice they're drinking the stuff, not the watery corporate fizz from Saskatchewan they're fighting for.
8. Legal cannabis. Not a provincial policy, but one with plenty of provincial fallout. The NDP, foolishly, chose to channel Doug Ford in advance, and tossed the baggie to the private sector. We will have to pay later for this.
7. The Gulf of NDP. After a year of disagreements about pipelines, Rachel Notley is from Mars, Jagmeet Singh is from Venus, and Avi Lewis is from Mercury, or maybe Pluto. The battleground may turn out to be right here on earth, though, in Edmonton-Strathcona.
6. Labour law. This is a big deal and not a big deal -- the NDP only brought Alberta's labour laws into the mid 20th Century. The UCP vows to return them to the mid 19th.
4. Taxes. The carbon tax became an aspect of the TMX story, but it's bigger than that. Turns out carbon taxes are impossible to sell, even as oil revenue evaporates. We need a sales tax just to keep the lights on. Think this won't come back to haunt us in 2019 and beyond?
3. The opioid crisis. Nobody has a solution. Nobody wants to come to terms with the reasons. Mostly, the victims have no voice, the policy makers of the left lack conviction, and those on the right lack decency. Not a good combination.
2. Orphan wells. Speaking of Martian invasions, the potential $260-billion-plus cost of cleaning up Alberta's oilpatch revealed in 2018 surely means orphan wells could turn out to be bigger than Orson Wells! Green New Deal, anyone? Don't hold your breath.
1. The pipeline. Natch!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Image: Jeff Wallace/Flickr
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