Godwin’s Law of Alberta Politics

Peter Lougheed angrily shakes his glass of champagne towards Pierre Trudeau after being forced under torture to sign the NEP

If you’re reading this post, you likely spend a good amount of time online, so I’m assuming you’re familiar with Godwin’s Law:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

This is true enough. However, I’d like to propose an Alberta political variant, as follows:

“As an Alberta political discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the NEP approaches 1.”

For those not familiar with the NEP, it was a dastardly scheme dreamed up by Pierre Trudeau, designed to steal Alberta’s wealth, and was single-handedly responsible for the collapse of the world price of oil and rising interest rates in the 80s. (At least that’s how it’s described in Alberta’s Grade 3 education curriculum.)

Without fail, when Alberta politicians grow desperate, they lob the NEP grenade, comparing whatever it is their opponents are proposing to a new National Energy Program (“Full day kindergarten? That would be just like the NEP.”). It’s impossible to talk to an Albertan for more than an hour without the NEP coming up – hell, it even has a starring role in a new Edmonton Eskimos documentary.

So it should not be at all surprising that Alison Redford’s musings of a “National Energy Strategy” have degenerated into a round of NEP name calling. This week, Redford brought up the NEP during her feud with Christy Clark, while Danielle Smith likened Redford’s NES to the NEP.

Both comparisons were farcical, which is why I feel it’s time we also adopted the corollary to Godwin’s law – namely, the first person to bring up Hitler the NEP automatically loses the debate. So Redford can still criticize Clark, and Smith can still criticize Redford, but they’ll have to base their arguments on something other than a 30-year old program that has been mythologized beyond recognition.

While I think these two laws would promote a far more reasoned and rational debate about the future of Canada’s energy grid, I know what you’re all probably thinking right about now – “A Toronto Liberal imposing new laws on Albertans? You know what that reminds me of…

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at www.calgarygrit.ca and online at the National Post.

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11 Responses to Godwin’s Law of Alberta Politics

  1. Paul O

    Where did you stand on Dion’s carbon tax plan – a plan which was designed to transfer Alberta oil wealth to Quebec through specialized taxes?

    • CalgaryGrit

      Even if it isn’t good politics, I like the idea of carbon taxes, since it puts a price on a negative externality. If Alberta is going to benefit from its oil wealth, it should also have to pay for its polution.

      And I may be mistaken, but I think Dion’s plan was structured so that every cent that came out of Alberta would be spent in Alberta on environmental programs.

  2. The Zaphos Institute

    Reformatory bullsh*t

    Dion’s plan was that every dollar taken out was guaranteed to be put back into Alberta for their green initiatives. The Auditor General was to issue annual reports to ensure this happened.

    The Carbon tax was not a money grab, rather an incentive to get dirty industries to clean up (they are currently allowed to pollute for free), and also give the provinces money to help them do that.

    Also remember that there was a personal income tax decrease component of this, so the plan was revenue neutral overall. The point was to start collecting taxes on bad things (pollution) and lessen collection on good things (your income).

    By the way, the Green shift was not a Liberal idea, it was a watered down version of the Green Party’s carbon tax policy. The Green’s plan is for much heavier carbon taxation, with a 10% across-the-board decrease in everyone’s income tax. The policy came largely from ex-leader Jim Harris, a Conservative-converted Green.

  3. Paul O

    So nice to see some try to re-write history, first claiming that every dollar collected from Alberta under Dion’s plan would be returned to Alberta, then admitting that the money collected would be redistributed nationwide to reduce income taxes. Still forgotten, apparently, were the other specific incentives chosen which just happened to align with Quebec’s interests.

  4. hazzard

    Thanks, Paul O for pretty much confirming the point of the article.
    Boogety Boogety! Look out Alberta. We’re all out to get you! Sheesh.

  5. David Roberts

    When a federal government sets an economic policy forcing a few provinces to sell their resources at a lower than market price those few provinces have every right to be ticked and hold a grudge.

  6. Matt Mitschke

    I have to agree with David Roberts, that is why the National Oil Policy was so opposed by Ontario.

    • CalgaryGrit

      Thereby unleasing years of “Ontario alienation”…

  7. Jazzhed

    Dan, thanks for contributing to the discourse. I don’t even particularly mind the cheeky caption on the picture up top. But since you have indicated your concern about the NEP being “mythologized”, here’s another myth you could address. The belief that Premier Lougheed and Alberta “signed on to the NEP” appears fairly rampant among bloggers and letters to the editor when the NEP is mentioned (and, though you all but said it, just to be crystal clear, the NEP was IMPOSED by the federal government in October 1980). So may I point out that the picture above relates to what Alberta *did* sign – the September 1981 Canada-Alberta Energy Agreement. *Quite* a different situation. You can look it up.

  8. The Invisible Hand

    For those not familiar with the NEP, it was a dastardly scheme dreamed up by Pierre Trudeau, designed to steal Alberta’s wealth, and was single-handedly responsible for the collapse of the world price of oil and rising interest rates in the 80s. (At least that’s how it’s described in Alberta’s Grade 3 education curriculum.)

    The collapse in the Alberta economy began immediately after the NEP was introduced… and multiple years before the collapse of world oil prices.

  9. Darren

    I suppose if you’re going to apply Godwin’s Law to Alberta/NEP then you would probably do well to expand it to ROC/Oilsands. Just as Alberta politicians use the NEP to galvanize support, eastern politicians use Alberta’s oil resources to do the same (McGuinty’s petrodollars, Mulcair’s dutch disease,…) Everyone has a political boogeyman, it’s part of the game.

    Also, not wanting to tangent the discussion but Dion’s Green Plan was a politically expedient cash grab. You want to actually address the issue of greenhouse gases, you go after the largest sources of greenhouse gases – domestic/commercial vehicles. Apply a “green” tax onto fuel and return those revenues to the communities that generated them for projects/programs to reduce GHG production (public transit, bike paths, walkable neighbourhoods, etc).
    Now, the more cynical among us might point something out – which provinces have the largest number of people who would be financially impacted by an additional tax on fuel? It’s not Alberta.

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