Alberta’s Election & Keystone XL

For those of you who are unaware, Alberta has been governed by the Progressive Conservative party for 40 years. So same government, since before I was born.

The hard truth is that if you want to have an impact on who is elected premier in Alberta, you have to become a member of the party and vote for their leader. The first ballot was last Saturday, and I signed up and voted for Alison Redford, the most progressive of the bunch. She is the only one that says anything about sustainability, and she is the only one that agrees that we need to get more teachers back in schools (with my son’s kindergarten class at 27 kids, I agree).

In party leadership elections, if one candidate does not get over 50% of the vote in the first ballot, then the top three contenders move to a second ballot. So Alison Redford came in second, and we vote again this Saturday, October 1st.

So who came in first? Gary Mar. He is the least progressive of the bunch, but the name that most people recognize, as he has been in government for a long time.  I heard comments he made on the radio about the Keystone XL project and Alberta’s oil sands, so I decided to write him a letter:

Dear Gary Mar,

I heard your recent comments on CBC radio about the protests over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. These particular protesters (as there are many) are Albertans who feel that we should not be shipping our raw bitumen to Texas for refining, that we should be refining it here in Alberta instead, to create jobs for Albertans. Your comment was that it was not an “either/or” scenario; that we can ship the raw bitumen to Texas and refine it here in Alberta as long as we continue to increase the development of the oil sands.

I believe that this situation is an “either/or” scenario (or better, a “neither/nor” scenario), for the following reasons:

  1. The pace of development of the oil sands has already happened too quickly. Habitats are being destroyed. Certain animal populations, such as Woodland Caribou, have been put into endangered status due habitat loss directly attributable to oil sands development. We think that Alberta’s wilderness is vast and resilient. The fact is, it is not.

  2. The pace of development has happened too quickly. Fort McMurray cannot keep up with the required growth in homes, roads and schools. Communities there are fragmented with transient workers who never intend to put down roots, urban work camps are everywhere, 20% of the residents have no fixed address, and alcohol and drug addictions remain high. Will this community pay the price?

  3. The pace of development has happened too quickly. Proper water monitoring procedures and programs have not been put into place. Dr. Schindler of the University of Alberta conducted the most extensive study ever conducted in the area, and his results revealed that the current program is hugely lacking. Even former federal Environment Minister Prentice agreed that a better system is required to properly monitor the water pollution in the area.

  4. The pace of development has happened too quickly. Forests are being peeled back, faster than they can be reclaimed. Habitats are being lost forever. An ecosystem is very delicate, once you destroy it; it is unlikely to return with the same vigor. The amount of reclaimed land is a tiny percentage of the total land used by the project.

  5. The pace of development has happened too quickly. The water and air pollution are directly impacting the health of people who live downstream from the oil sands. The residents of Fort Chipewyan have abnormally high rates of cancer, cancers that are specifically linked to petrochemical exposure. Why has development charged ahead without full consideration to the lives of these people?

  6. The pace of development has happened too quickly. Tailings ponds are growing larger and larger. New technology to replace the 30 year old technology of tailings ponds is not being widely used. Tailings ponds are leaking into the river and water systems, as evidenced by Dr. Schindler’s important study. What if tailings ponds broke their containment, unleashing rivers of pollution? What is the plan for that?

  7. The pace of development has happened too quickly. The oil sands are already emitting more carbon emissions than the entire country of Switzerland. Why are we rushing to emit more? In a world where the countries of this planet are looking for cleaner and greener ways of producing energy, why is Alberta banking their future on being the supplier of the world’s dirtiest oil? What if we wake up one day and the world has moved on? Why would we put all our eggs in one dirty basket?

  8. The pace of development has happened too quickly. There are already 392 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the sky. Climate scientists agree that we need to reduce this to 350 parts per million to keep the warming at only 2 degrees. If we don’t change course, we are headed for a planetary warming of 6 degrees, which would be catastrophic for life on Earth. 97% of scientists agree that carbon must be reduced to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change. If we pump all that oil out of Alberta’s sand, and put it up into the sky, we will most certainly warm the planet past 2 degrees. We most certainly will put future generations in a dangerous position. Imagine, years from now, the world putting partial blame on Alberta, for its reckless plundering of oil sand. What will our children’s children think of us, when they inherit a hot planet?

Further, Alberta does not need more jobs. Even as the economies of the world are crumbling down around us, Alberta has jobs. We have more jobs than people. So much so that you are campaigning to change foreign worker laws to enable the oil companies to grow larger, faster. You have missed the key point. The economy is there to serve the people of Alberta, not the other way around. If we are charging ahead with growth in the oil sands, reckless in the face of the wildlife, human, community, water, ecosystem and carbon emission damage that it is causing, most surely we would not do it over and above Alberta’s need for jobs. Where is the common sense? Do you have the best interest of the people or the oil companies, at heart?

There are a growing number of Albertans, who no longer agree with being the peddler of dirty oil. There are many Albertans who want to be part of the solution to climate change, not the cause of it. There are many Albertans, regular hardworking people, who disagree that Alberta’s future must be in oil sand to be successful.

If you are elected Premier, I hope you will look into the eyes of your children, and do what is best for their future. We must think long term, for their sake. We need to invest in a better world, a cleaner and greener world, where the threat of climate change remains a threat and not a reality.

For the sake of my two young children and children everywhere, I hope you choose life and sustainability over climate change. Oil revenues are just not worth it.



Edmonton, Alberta
Wife and mother to 2 young Albertan children


Live in Alberta? Want to vote for Premier on October 1st? Just show up your polling station with $5 and you are good to go.


15 thoughts on “Alberta’s Election & Keystone XL

  1. This was a nice, thoughtful letter; I hope Mar listens if he becomes the premier although, as you note, he is not the best of the bunch. I certainly hear what you are saying about it feeling like the only way one can influence Alberta politics is to buy a PC membership and vote for their leader. Alas, I just can’t bring myself to do it (although I certainly respect your thinking on this).

    • Think of it as infiltration from the INSIDE. 🙂 I see what you are saying though. But if more people like you and me get involved, we can help move that party in a different direction, even if we don’t vote for them. Something has to change. 40 years is way, way too long.

  2. The only thing I’ve heard about Alberta is that it’s the Texas of Canada, which might not be very flattering! I can understand your decision to vote within the dominant party. I’d like to vote Green, but they have zero chance of ending up in office, so I end up voting Democratic on the grounds that I will do just about anything to keep the crazy Republicans out of influential offices. Voting Green takes away votes from the Democratic party, so while it’s nice as a symbolic gesture, I’d actually be helping the Republicans. Bah…

    Great letter. I hope he reads it. Does he have a Twitter or FB page? Post it on those, too! 😉

    • Great idea! I vote Green when I know that my vote won’t make a difference anyway. When it is a close race, I vote for the person I most want to win. Once the person I voted for only won by 426 votes, so every vote counts!

      The other thing about Alberta are the oil sands, which might be supplying America with lots oil if Keystone XL goes through… I hope Obama vetos it but the political pressure to approve it might be too much, with the economy, jobs, etc on the line. Veto!

  3. Great letter, Sherry. And kudos for having the audacity to become a PC member just to influence their leadership! If that’s the only way to effect change, then by all means, keep it up. I’d go nuts living somewhere with no change in government for decades. 😦

    • I know, it is kinda turning to the dark side. But I don’t care, it is the only way to have an impact! Only 50,000 people vote for premier, out of a province of 3 million, so each vote actually has quite a bit of weight!

      How is your provincial election campaign going?

      • To be honest I don’t know how the campaign is going. I don’t care for polls, mainly because they affect people’s choices, and nothing should affect people’s choices other than their values and where the candidates stand in relation to their values. So I’m purposely ignorant of the provincial picture right now. From what I heard, the leaders’ debate (which, once again, excluded the Green Party) was like any other leaders’ debate, predictable and bland, so I was justified in not tuning in! 🙂 I voted last weekend, so all there is to do is wait.

  4. Wow, it is hard to contemplate that one party has been in office for 40 years but then, here in the US, there is often not enough distinction between parties so we likely experience the same net. Good for you for writing the letter and I was fascinated that the Alberta economy is so strong.

    • The only reason the economy strong is because of the oil sands. We live in an oil bubble, insulated from faltering economies all around us.

      The good news is that Mar did not win! The most progressive candidate won, and she is all about putting teachers back in schools and growing renewable energy. But she still supports Keystone. Boo.

      • I wonder if she supports Keystone because she feels she has to (because she is PC). I also wonder if Politicians in Alberta have come to the same conclusion as you have…that if they want to be in power and make any change they have to become a Conservative.

        • Very good points. She does have to support Keystone or she will have major backlash. But she can do other things – like install environmental monitoring and regulations with teeth, or by reducing the rate that new projects are approved. She can also support renewables like wind. Something has to change, I think Albertans are slowly (very slowly mind you) coming around to the idea that people think we are peddling dirty oil. Solution – clean it up! Don’t cover it up, clean it up.

          She is their leader, yet most MLAs don’t support her views or policy. She somehow got in, and hopefully will change that party from the inside out. For the sake of the future, I wish her the best, and am hopeful.

  5. China produces way more green house gas than Alberta does. Why don’t you write the premiere of China about that? If Keystone XL gets cancelled, we’ll just sell it to the Chinese who will pay cash for our oil. Dirty oil? All oil is dirty is it not? Better to buy from middle east countries that support terrorism than Alberta “Dirty oil”

    Climate change is a lie propagated by the guy who invented the internet…Al Gore. The earth has been here for 4.5 billion years and will be around long after the human race has left it.

    • Hi Mike,

      Few things – first climate change is not a lie created by Al Gore. It is a scientific fact, not theory, that is endorsed by every major scientific association in every developed country. 97% of climate scientists agree that the world is warming and that humans are the cause. This has nothing to do with Al Gore. The science of the greenhouse effect was discovered in the 1950s, and I myself learned about it in grade 5. I am not sure why we would want to discredit science when it may be the only chance we have to save ourselves.

      I get it though. Oil companies are powerful, and people really don’t want to change their way of life. It is easier to say it does not exist than to face the cold reality of what adapting to climate change really means.

      As for China, I don’t live there. I live here, in Alberta. I have a stake in all of our world, yes, but where I can have some impact is here.

      As for diry oil, it is dirtier here than most other places because it takes so much energy to get it out of the ground, so it packs a one-two punch with respect to carbon emissions – once when it is pulled out of the sand and then again when it is burned.

      As for buying from middle east countries – my preference would be to get off the stuff all together so we don’t rely on them. Peak oil is coming anyway, why not wean ourselves off oil when we still have an Earth worth saving?

      As for the humans leaving the planet – that is the whole point. The Earth will survive, and humans might not. Let’s bend the sails in our favour, instead of burying our heads in the sand.

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