Ontario bashes Alberta oil sands to make play for federal cash – by Terence Corcoran (National Post – February 28, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper. Terence Corcoran is the editor and columnist for the Financial Post section of the National Post.

By saying no to Alberta’s oil sands, McGuinty is starting a campaign for Ottawa to bail out Ontario

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, his province in hock up to a looming $400-billion and his political future looking grim, has decided to do what demagogues often do best: take on an extraterritorial foe. If you can’t win at home, maybe you can pretend to destroy some mythical foe thousands of kilometres away. These days, what could be safer for a broke lefty premier who has squandered billions on dead-end green energy projects than to direct attention to Alberta’s oil sands and Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

What Mr. McGuinty is really after here, however, is not the humiliation of Alberta but the transfer of federal cash to Ontario. The oil sands comments are a pretext, another McGuinty McGuffin that is the front for other real motives.

For weeks now, Ms. Redford and key members of her Conservative Cabinet — Energy Minister Ted Morton and Finance Minister Ron Liepert — have been trying to enlist Ontario and other provinces in a campaign to boost the oil sands as part of a Canadian Energy Strategy. Whatever one might think of the merits of a national energy strategy and its implications, ­Alberta politicians should have known that in Ontario they were dealing with the small and narrow political world of a premier who is getting ever more desperate.

It would have cost Mr. McGuinty nothing to say he supports Alberta’s ambitions and the prospect of increased exports of the province’s resources to America or China or anywhere. It creates jobs for Ontario, and that’s good. But Mr. McGuinty wasn’t content with a no-cost gesture to another premier. Instead, he sought to stoop low so as to elevate his own position, even to blame Alberta and the oil sands for his province’s economic troubles.

Mr. McGuinty makes points that are only superficially ­relevant. Here’s what he said:

“The only reason the dollar is high, it’s a petro-dollar, driven by the global demand for oil and gas to be sourced in Western Canada.…

If I had my preferences as to whether we have a rapidly growing oil and gas sector in the West or a lower dollar benefiting Ontario, I stand with the lower dollar.…

I cannot believe that any success that we might enjoy here in Ontario [from the oil sands] is greater than the detriment that we are experiencing as a result of the high dollar.”

What is Mr. McGuinty implying with this? Should Alberta not export oil and gas at high market prices so as to keep the Canadian dollar down on world markets for the benefit of Ontario? No. Even for Mr. McGuinty, that is too dumb. He has other motives.

What Mr. McGuinty is really taking on here is a theme he’s been on before: Ottawa subsidizes Alberta oil but not Ontario’s energy projects. A year ago, Mr. McGuinty said Ontarians “will not stand by” while Ottawa funds electricity development in Newfoundland but not in Ontario. “Ontarians expect the same level of support” from Ottawa.

For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/02/27/terence-corcoran-ontario-makes-play-for-federal-cash/

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