Political Juijitsu

By Greg Ellis

“The envious man thinks that if his neighbour breaks a leg, he will be able to walk better himself.”

-Helmut Schoeck

As the energy industry soars and as the price of gasoline touches home at that psychological barrier of $1.00 per litre, it struck me that the oil industry must be enjoying the panic and speculation driving the price of oil to record highs and the revenue credits on the income statement to unimaginable proportions. In addition to the realization that oil is running out, what of a perfect climate to have the energy bookies doing Las Vegas calculus when the day of reckoning occurs. Couple that with the insatiable appetite for consumption from China and India and it is an industry that in 2004 had its best year yet. Exxon Mobil reported the largest corporate profit in world history, oil stock options quadrupled in value and it’s not easy to forget Alberta sits comfortably on the kingdom of tar sands.

Looking back 25 years, it may have been long enough for the riches to ripen and the prey to become vulnerable. Who could stay on their toes for 25 years and guard our province’s source of wealth against another National Energy Program? It was 25 years ago, under the auspices of sharing and promoting ownership for all of Canada that the NEP sunk its sticky fingers into Alberta’s oil industry’s cookie jar. The feverish rhetoric has only begun to heat up, but the East’s bad case of oil envy is sure to spawn a new incarnation of the NEP and begin the absorption of Alberta’s crown jewel once again.

The timing could not be more perfect and if the circumstances don’t trouble you, then the ludicrous profits and unlimited expense accounts must indicate no better time than now to swoop in and execute the encore of the swindle. Only with our own vigilance can we guard against the thieves in suits who, in the last year have shown us they are adept at cooking the books, exchanging recipes with the executives of Enron and Worldcom. After a Liberal Party scrimmage, the play could come under a different name and a different strategy, but envy cannot hide behind even the most clever acronyms.

The loot is attractive and the current Liberal cabinet is more accustomed to dealing in cash stuffed envelopes and no bid contracts, knowing nothing else but the shell game acting as the net at the end of the oil profit wind tunnel. The script of the 1995 movie Casino provides some guidance: “Now, notice how in the count room nobody ever seems to see anything. Somehow, somebody’s always lookin’ the other way. Now, look at these guys, they look busy, right? They’re countin’ money. Who wants to bother them? I mean, God forbid they should make a mistake and forget to steal. Meanwhile, you’re in and you’re out.”

The script reads like the books that told the true nature of the NEP. However extravagant the euphemism, equalization payments sound like nothing more than government nomenclature for skimming Alberta’s casino.

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