It is with more than a small amount of frustration that I review the latest edition of The Taber Times and the front page prominence given to the recent declaration by the NDP government that they are now going to contest a clause in the power contracts that have been in place for approximately 15 years.
There can be no doubt that electrical deregulation was a mistake. It is no mystery that 15 odd years ago — much to the dismay of my conservative friends — I was a loud opponent of it. I personally believe that electricity, like water supply, natural gas, education of our youth, policing and firefighting are all essential services to be provided for the benefit of the citizens and not for profit.
As such, I am far from a strident conservative and quite “progressive” by many standards. That having been said, as a someone who deals everyday with the legal system, I can also state that I believe emphatically in the requirement of individuals and governments to abide by the contracts they enter into. For a government to, retroactively, decide that a contract that was entered into approximately 15 years ago is no longer to their liking and to seek a unilateral change of the terms, smacks of a “banana republic” like Venezuela.
When one considers all of the tens of thousands of contracts that have been entered into by the provincial government with third parties over the last 15 years, one can be assured that there were “winners and losers” over that entire time. In some contracts the provincial government came out ahead and in other contracts they did not. That is the nature of contracts and the basis of our society. Is the NDP suggesting that it is open to the government to cancel all contracts that prove 15 years later to be unprofitable for them – if so, good luck on entering another contract. That is exactly what they did in Venezuela. What happened there is self evident.
What is most disturbing, is that if you simply utilize the exact same logic the NDP government is now using when considering the “Enron Clause” in the power contracts – that being that if a major issue that has large financial consequences is not fully and publically vetted it must be deemed void – it can be rationally and strongly argued that the entirety of the NDP government is illegitimate and based on a fraud.
During the last, very recent provincial election, the NDP never mentioned that they were intending to implement the largest tax grab in the history of the province – the carbon tax. In fact, they clearly indicated that they would never do such a thing. In addition, they never indicated that they were intending the radical step of accelerating elimination of coal fired plants and capping oil sand production. The reason these were never mentioned during the election campaign is because the NDP knew full well that had they done so they would never have been elected. As such, they directly lied to the people of Alberta by omission. A lie by omission is just as insidious as a direct lie. The NDP intentionally held back their “hidden agenda” knowing that had they disclosed the key elements of it, they simply wouldn’t be the government. It is certainly difficult to envision a clearer case of obtaining a benefit by false pretences.
As such, it is extremely frustrating and more than a little hypocritical for this government to attempt to “wear the white hat” (which of course they would have on backwards in any event) in this self manufactured dispute. The strange statement that the NDP did not become aware of the clause until March of 2016 is either incapable of being believed, or merely a testament to their incompetence. The clause was not “hidden” in any way and was part of the public record and easily obtained by anyone by a free search of the Alberta Gazette. Also, a fact which is not mentioned by the Taber Times article is that it is in reality the implementation of the aforementioned totally illegitimate “carbon tax” that set all of this in motion.
DOUGLAS P. CARLE B.A. (Hons.) J.D.