A sobering message

If this isn't a political slap up the side of the head I don't know what is.

But will Ed Stelmach and the Alberta Tories get the message?

Calgary pollster Bruce Cameron released his latest survey this week. Complete with a headline that screamed "Stelmach stumbles in big cities."

He talked about how the premier's disapproval rating in Edmonton and Calgary has jumped from 15% to 29% since the Steady Eddy days in January when Stelmach was still enjoying his political honeymoon.

After the Cowtown figures are broken out, the picture goes from bad to worse. Cameron noted a "significant and growing discontent" in Alberta's second city where the premier's disapproval rating now stands at 39%.

In Redmonton - where Stelmach's Ukrainian roots were supposed to win back the PC's popularity - the thumbs-down factor doubled from 13% to 29%.

And when Albertans were asked if the Stelmach government was "leading Alberta in the wrong direction," 30% agreed. The same question was put to them in January and only 10% answered "wrong."

In Calgary, 41% said Ed is leading us down the garden path.

This is troubling for the Tories for sure - especially now that the byelection in Ralph Klein's old Calgary Elbow riding appears to be turning into an Ed-a-rendum.

This is not the end of the Tories as we know them. When Cameron asked the crucial "if an election were held tomorrow" question, the PCs still got 47% support province-wide, but were down nine points in Edmonton and a disturbing 19 points in Calgary.

Sadly, Cameron doesn't put a finger on what's bugging Albertans.

But you can bet the Stelmach PCs' growth management blunders rank right up there.

And there was more where that came from yesterday after Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel filed his provocative plan to build the Alberta Clipper big inch oil pipeline from Hardisty to the U.S. Midwest.

This project could hit 800,000 barrels a day if proposed future expansions are built.

Daniel called the application "timely," mainly because of the "growing supplies of crude oil from Alberta's oilsands."

Which sounds like more bitumen and jobs down the pipeline to the States.

It's the thing Ed Stelmach compared to stripping the "topsoil" from a farm when he was on his game during the PC leadership race. But since winning the job, he's done diddly squat about it.

On Monday, crucial hearings begin before the National Energy Board on another job-stealing raw bitumen line to the U.S.

The Alberta Federation of Labour has already branded TransCanada's Keystone pipeline a "devil's bargain."

"Why, we ask," AFL president Gil McGowan blasted in his submission, "should Canadians settle for 17 jobs when they could have 18,000?

"Labour's interest is in keeping industry and good jobs in Canada," McGowan boomed.

Shouldn't that be the government's job, too?

And what applies to Keystone clearly applies to the Alberta Clipper, too.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Tories plan on sending one lowly market analyst to monitor the Keystone hearings.

Another Stelmach government boondoggle blew up right on schedule yesterday when the Fraser Institute released its "business case" for the carbon dioxide "backbone" pipeline from the tarsands to a bunch of old Alberta oilfields like Pembina and Swan Hills/Judy Creek.

This is the magic wand technology first dreamed up by Ottawa Liberal Leader Stephane Dion - but later endorsed by the Stelmach government - to pump oil-sands plant emissions down oilwells to hopefully enhance recovery, and solve global warming, all at the same time.

The price tag going in is $1.5 billion with none of the engineering actually done. So you can bet your mortgage that it will be at least triple that amount.

The right-wing think-tank determined that "current demand is very small."

And no wonder, considering these target oilfields are up to 50 years old, and there will be more than enough COC generated from Edmonton-area upgraders to satisfy that market.

Which led study authors Gerry Angevine and Dara Hrytzak-Lieffers to conclude that building the pipeline "does not make sense from a business perspective," and "cannot be justified on the basis of the economics." But more to the point: "public support for a backbone project does not appear to be justified."

Except that's clearly the direction the Stelmach government appears to be headed and in all likelihood the Backbone Pipeline will end up joining the wrecks from the bad old Peter Lougheed/Don Getty days like NovAtel and the Canadian Commercial Bank.

Which is what the Cameron Strategy poll seems to be already signalling.

Edmonton Sun, Fri June 1 2007, Page 54
Byline: Neil Waugh

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