(November27, 2020) On the same day this week that Alberta’s finance minister provided a fiscal update that portended a worrisome economic future, the Canadian Energy Regulator released a report that underscored just how serious a fiscal challenge the province faces.

If nothing else, the regulator made one thing abundantly clear: the pipeline era is over.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and the federal Conservative party can now stop whining about how Bill C-69 is an existential threat to pipeline development in Canada. They can also ease up on the incendiary rhetoric about how the federal government’s ban on tanker traffic off the northern coast of British Columbia is another pipeline killer. That ship has sailed.

In fact, it may well turn out that the federal Liberals’ decision to build the $12-billion Trans Mountain expansion was blindingly short-sighted, one that could end up costing taxpayers a bundle if other pipeline projects such as Enbridge’s Line 5 and the Keystone XL end up being completed. In that scenario, according to the regulator, Trans Mountain would be adding unnecessary pipeline capacity given the direction in which the world’s oil consumption is going – which is to say, definitely not up.

The regulator modelled its projections on two scenarios: one in which Canada and the world halt their pursuit of climate-change initiatives, and another in which they continue to march toward a net-zero universe by 2050. There are few betting on the first projection, especially with a Democrat about to take over in the White House.

Mind you, none of this is surprising news. There isn’t a day that goes by now that doesn’t include more bad news for the future of an industry upon which the Alberta economy is built, and from which the province – and country – has benefitted greatly. But the skies have been darkening around the fossil-fuel sector for some time now. It’s just that Mr. Kenney and others have continued to insist there is light beyond the darkness.

 

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