The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.
Gillian Steward is a Calgary writer and journalist, and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald. Her column appears every other week.
For once the outcome of an Alberta election was completely unpredictable. Right up until the end the two leading contenders — Alison Redford’s PCs and Danielle Smith’s Wildrose party — were locked in a bitter battle for control of government. But one outcome was entirely predictable.
No matter which party won there would be no sudden changes when it came to oil sands development and all the risks and rewards that go with it, not just for Alberta but for the rest of Canada. The oil sands and energy policy in general were simply not on the election agenda.
Party leaders barely mentioned the oil sands; it wasn’t a big issue in the news media; at the public forums I attended not one person questioned candidates about oil sands policy. Official oil industry voices were noticeably silent for the entire campaign.
The oil sands didn’t even come up during the only televised leaders’ debate. It was as if the whole province went into denial about its addiction and no one cared enough to organize an intervention.This may seem strange to other Canadians. After all, hardly anyone talks about Alberta these days without mentioning the oil sands.
But in Alberta all the political parties, with the exception of the New Democrats, are reluctant to take on the petroleum industry during an election campaign. For starters, the oil and gas corporations are the most reliable of sugar daddies when it comes to raising money for election campaigns.
Both the PCs and the Wildrose received substantial donations from industry players in 2011. And since Alberta’s election financing laws allow for up to $30,000 single donations during an election year, a lot more money was likely poured into party coffers in the last few weeks.
That was no doubt on Redford’s mind when she told 600 senior oil and gas industry leaders gathered in Calgary a week before she called the election that she would “stand up for your interests” and “not let you down.”
And since so many Albertans work directly for the oil and gas sector, or are in some way dependent on its success, no political leader wants to make those people skittish about their jobs or the future of the oil patch lest they lose their votes.
Former premier Ed Stelmach learned that the hard way. When he raised oil royalties a few years ago, the industry’s outrage fuelled the explosive growth of Wildrose, which until then had been a minor political player.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1166669–oil-industry-the-big-winner-in-alberta-election