More wasted time in Edmonton

This week's editorial looks at the NDP government's lawsuit against utility companies.

This past week more demoralizing news came out of the Alberta legislature. Critics of the NDP provincial government’s lawsuit against utility companies opting out of money-losing contracts have been hoping Premier Rachel Notley would see the light and realize decisions like introducing a carbon tax will have more consequences than getting thumbs up from David Suzuki. It’s possible the carbon tax might have serious negative consequences.

Global Edmonton displayed the following on its website earlier this month: “Alberta government open to talks with power providers over electricity dispute.”

Most if not all Albertans are aware of the flap over the NDP carbon tax resulting in utility companies handling back their contracts to the provincial government. The contracts included a reasonable clause that allowed the companies to do opt out if new, unannounced, unapproved, ill-conceived or downright dumb legislation caused their contracts to become unprofitable.

Some NDP apologists claim the carbon tax actually had no effect on the utility companies and their hand-back decision. These apologists claim lower prices in the market caused the hand-back, and the utility companies simply used the clause as an excuse to bail. The entire statement is bunk, as the utility companies are experienced with price fluctuations and know how to handle them when they occur. A rather weak attempt to protect a government that doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing.

Apparently, Notley and her NDP government not only didn’t see this coming, they didn’t even know the clause existed. Notley’s solution? Sue the power companies in court while claiming the clause was illegal (it isn’t) and that Notley knew about the clause all along (she didn’t). The lawsuit threat was also wrapped in the usual NDP dogma comments harvested from Ira Einhorn literature, “the corporations don’t care about Alberta, all the corporations care about is money, everything is the corporations’ fault” etc.

Virtually everyone who knows anything about this mess shakes their head in frustration. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi probably put it best earlier this summer when he blasted the lawsuit, claiming the Alberta government was, in effect, suing itself.

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman now says the province is open to sitting down with the utility companies and discussing the issue, as price hikes in the $2 billion range loom. Real leaders, when they realized there was a problem with the utility companies, would have quickly invited their business partners to the table to find out what the NDP government could do to prevent the contract issues. Oh yeah, they also would’ve admitted right away that they, themselves, made mistakes.

The most regrettable thing about the weeks and months and millions of dollars that will likely be wasted on this lawsuit, finger-pointing and buck-passing is that Alberta currently has serious problems to deal with.

Real problems based in reality, not imaginary problems in Rachel Notley’s imagination. It may come as a big surprise to the premier, there’s actually a recession happening right now. Tens of thousands of jobs lost, depressed economy, unbelievable strain on Alberta families that depended on the oil patch for a living, plus the crime spike that’s affecting Alberta and much more.

But apparently teaching the utility companies a lesson is much more important any other problems.

 

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