Martyn Brown: Rachel Notley’s days of whine and poses

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      Well, that was amusing. I mean, watching Alberta NDP premier Rachel Notley do her best impression of Progressive Conservative premier-in-waiting Jason Kenney.

      Except that she smiled all through her performance.

      Sadly, she didn’t quite capture his flare for pomposity or righteous indignation, in doing his own best impression of a spoiled brat bent on starting a full-fledged trade war with his province’s top trading partner.

      “Wimp!” I can almost hear him saying, as Notley “only” announced her government’s intention to halt the import of B.C. wine to Alberta. And perhaps direct-to-consumer sales as well.

      Oh, and also maybe B.C. craft beer, if we folks out here in Lotusland don’t smarten up.

      The object of Notley’s attack?

      Why, none other than her former NDP coworker and now B.C. premier, John Horgan. Who, it must be said, deserves a national medal of honour.

      Not only for his patience in humouring his former colleague, understanding as he is of her impossible political predicament, having championed the national carbon tax as the key to winning “social licence” for the Kinder Morgan project that never materialized.

      But also for his efforts to protect British Columbia’s environment and Canada’s Pacific coast from that ill-conceived, life-threatening, climate-polluting, penny-wise-pound-foolish, and generally dumb-as-all-get-out proposal to turn Metro Vancouver into a major super port for exporting unrefined heavy oil.

      The nerve of Horgan, announcing a consultation process aimed at developing a regulatory framework to better protect B.C.’s environment with better safeguards for oil spill prevention, response, cleanup and remediation!

      “It’s the end of Canada if he doesn’t stop it, I tells ya,” Notley as much as said. “We’re not playin’ wit ya, B.C.! It’s go-time.”

      What a rogue he is, pledging to establish an independent scientific advisory panel that will make recommendations “on if and how heavy oils can be safely transported and cleaned up, if spilled”!

      Illegal. Criminal almost. A traitor to Canada, that Horgan. And Trudeau better back Alberta up in showing him and his NDP horde what’s what. That is, if he knows what’s good for him.

      What a dirty, rotten, Alberta-back-stabbing, constitution-violating, agent provocateur our premier is for planning to develop "restrictions on the increase of diluted bitumen transportation until the behaviour of spilled bitumen can be better understood and there is certainty regarding the ability to adequately mitigate spills".

      Oh, that bastard! Damn socialist!

      Apart from that, Notley and he are the best of friends. They are both dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and “sustainable development”, even if only one of them believes that the best way to do that is to grow the dirtiest business on the planet.

      It’s just that they see that goal through different rose-coloured glasses.

      I’m thinking, Horgan’s might be full of a nice B.C. Pinot noir. After Notley’s press conference, he might well want to raise a toast to all she is doing to help him make his case.

      Just when you thought that no one could top Justin Trudeau’s contributions in that regard, along comes Noxious Notley to help stiffen B.C.’s resolve.

      To help further get British Columbians’ backs up. To help escalate the growth of that cancerous tumour that Kinder Morgan hopes to place on Canada’s westernmost backside, that Alberta has inflamed into a constitutional crisis-in-the-making.

      A direct result as well, at its root cause, of our prime minister’s duplicity, deceit, and disingenuous “plan” to have his political cake and eat it too.

      Notley and Trudeau. Dumb and Dumber.

      Dumb and Dumber: Remember, Trudeau is the guy with dark hair.

      Two peas in different pods that know not where they are headed and who haven’t a clue how this all might end, tumbling blindly into boiling waters heated by their own hand.

      Meanwhile, half of Alberta is saying, really? Did you have to start with that? With wine, and maybe beer? W.T.F.!

      Couldn’t you have picked on something else, like maybe sending back all those B.C. N-dippers that Notley hired to help her plan and execute her “social licence” strategy?

      I mean, that would hurt, right? There’s so many of those folks stealing Albertan jobs, the least she could do is send them packing.


      No more wine for you, says Notley! Just like Seinfeld’s “soup Nazi”. And if B.C. won’t behave, you won’t get its beer either.

      And don’t give me any of that “but our beer and wine sucks!” lip. I won’t have it!

      I don’t need to, actually, because I’ve got more bottles of the premium B.C. stuff stashed away than I can count.

      No overreaction there.

      Just your everyday, cowboy-linkage to other products that have nothing to do with Alberta’s heavy oil. Looks more to me like she accidentally stepped in something that she shouldn’t have.

      Just Notley being nutly, in support of noxious oil. Just her, momentarily minus her white hat, putting the boots to B.C.’s wine industry. Just for starters.

      Just her pretending to lead, in registering her displeasure at British Columbia’s attempts to act responsibly in the face of the federal government’s abdication of responsibility on a project that only got as far as it has because of a corrupt NEB approval process.

      Which Trudeau pledged to fix and promptly failed to do, in embracing the very process he denigrated in making his dumb decision.

      Attorney General David Eby was a strong advocate for craft brewers before the 2017 election—we'll have to wait to see how he might respond should Alberta boycott B.C. beer.

      Oh, we warned, all right. There would be days of whine and poses.

      Well, it seems they have arrived. Because that’s what Notley’s theatre of the absurd yesterday was all about.

      I, for one, view Notley’s politically motivated trade war as a mixed blessing. Like drinking a whole bottle of any award-winning B.C. wine and not stopping there, because it’s too good of a stimulant for welcome discussion to be too bad for whatever follows in the morning.

      Oh, well. Alberta’s loss is my gain. All the more B.C. wine for me, and I promise, I will make a point of only drinking it—and lots more of it—until this spat is over.

      Matter of fact, I have a suggestion to offset some of the $70 million intended impact Alberta hopes to inflict on B.C. through it’s punitive measure.

      The Horgan administration could perhaps cut 100 percent of its retail markup on all B.C. wine, for as long as Notley’s nasty boycott continues.

      That indefinite “time limited” offer would sure stimulate B.C. wine sales. I’ll bet it would prompt a veritable wine rush that would make many, many of our residents want to hug both Horgan and Notley for making it happen!

      Even without it, B.C. Green party leader Andrew Weaver is doing his personal best to help the cause.

      Premier Horgan wisely said in his news conference today that he had no plans to take any immediate retaliatory trade actions. His focus is on his “affordability agenda”. 

      What better move could he make to help B.C. wine lovers’ piggy banks than by answering Notley’s nonsense with a major, if temporary, price cut? Indeed, all Québécois and all Canadians who share our fight against more unwanted, unneeded Alberta oilsands pipelines could help send Notley that message by choosing more B.C. wine.

      And also, by telling her to end her incessant Twitter campaign that is inappropriately inundating that forum with snippets of emails to her office that she would have all Canadians believe only support her stupidity.

      B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver bought three bottles of B.C. wine in response to Alberta's boycott.

      I suspect that most Albertans know that this booze boycott is really only a cynical ploy on Notley’s part that is hardly the wisest move she could have made.

      In part it is aimed at influencing the upcoming by-election in Kelowna West, or at least at purporting to leverage its likely outcome as “evidence” of public anger at her NDP kissing cousins in B.C.

      She’ll show that Kelowna West NDP candidate, Shelley Cooke, by gum!

      OK, so history suggests that she doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning that seat from the Liberals, which has never before be won by the NDP.

      No matter. That’s the ticket. A Liberal victory to “prove” how upset all those displaced and disaffected former Albertans are with their too-green B.C. government.

      Never mind that they fled their province to buy property in the Okanagan, in no small measure, because of its wines, vineyards, lakes, and beauty. And also because Alberta’s economy borders on a basket case, in the Dumpster partly because of how its successive premiers failed in getting their most precious product to market.

      Northern Gateway, Keystone XL, Energy East. One by one they tumbled, at least until Alberta’s saviour for one of those projects came along, in the person of Donald Trump.

      Interesting. I don’t remember Notley, Prentice, Redford, or their predecessors threatening, let alone initiating, trade boycotts on unrelated products from those jurisdictions.

      But I digress. Back to the Kelowna West byelection.

      As Notley proved this week, shit happens. And that shit doesn’t always stick to the targets of the people who fling it.

      Wouldn’t it be a kicker if, by some miracle, Notley’s war on B.C. caused a backlash in Kelowna that actually elected the NDP candidate.

      Wouldn’t that be one giant F.U.! to Alberta, to Big Oil, and to Trudeau, for trying to bully B.C. into turtling on Kinder Morgan?

      Fat chance, I know. But a guy can dream, can’t he?

      Especially when he’s quaffing a stellar 2013 Mission Hill Oculus.

      Try it, you’ll love it, I promise, Alberta.

      You won’t give a rat’s ass about Kinder Morgan. You’ll just want more. And happily, you might even be able to order it or something comparable direct from B.C. via the Internet.

      Actually, if I didn’t know better, I’d guess that Notley hatched her boycott “strategy” after sampling more than a little of B.C.’s best.

      Wine, that is. Not “bud”. Push us too far and you won’t be getting any of that, either.

      Anyway, you would have to be intoxicated to think that it is in anyone’s interests, least of all Alberta’s, to engage in a trade fight that can’t be won and that can only hurt those who have nothing to do with the real subject of dispute.

      Fine wine does tend to impair one’s judgment. Have enough of it and suddenly everything is tipped on its head. The world spins. All logic starts to reel.

      Alberta, don’t worry. We still love you. Even you, Ms. Notley. We know that you know not what you do. This, too, shall pass.

      But know this: her grandstanding is bound to get British Columbians’ backs up, resistant as they are to being bullied and browbeaten.

      Notley of all people should know that.

      She must know that her former BFF—also known out here as Hulk Horgan—is not now going to just lay down, roll over, and assume the fetal position that Trudeau has retreated to, in wishing away his Kinder Morgan nightmare.

      His astoundingly pathetic response on the crisis he has so unwittingly engineered was like that classic shot of John & Yoko in Rolling Stone magazine from so many decades ago. 

      Yes, that would be the same music mag that not so long ago gushed about his leadership as an example to America, including for his “bold actions” on climate change. Now Trudeau’s immersed all Canadians in his own Double Fantasy, as it were. 

      This image graced the cover of John & Yoko's Double Fantasy, which is not to be mistaken with Trudeau's Double Fantasy.

      Sorry to disappoint, Alberta. Your premier has only stiffened our resolve to stand our ground.

      We are more determined than ever to protect B.C.’s environment and economy from this asinine scheme that would risk both.

      It is a project that would pump up to 890,000 barrels a day of your diluted sludge across our province, and out into the Salish Sea, precariously loaded onto the backs of supertankers.

      If you really want to understand why that project is so vehemently opposed by so many in B.C., I invite you to read the Related Stories below.

      Believe us, you don’t want to go where Notley is pushing Canada to go.

      An all-out trade war isn’t just stupid, it’s insane.

      And if you think Alberta is hurting now, it is nothing compared to what your premier is wishing upon your province.

      If she keeps it up, you are going to want—nay, need—our B.C. wine. That is, unless you want to settle for rot-gut rye or some other cheap swill to drown your sorrows. Grain alcohol, maybe?

      Just chill, I say.

      This is a dispute about all provinces’ constitutional authority to adequately regulate and protect their own environment and local economy, in their provincial interest.

      It is a project that British Columbians, by and large, don’t want.

      A project that many Aboriginal and other Canadians will resist. With a legal, moral, political, economic, and if necessary, physical resolve—such as Canada has never seen.

      You don’t want that. At least, I can’t imagine you do. And neither do we. No one should.

      Nor do I want to have to forgo my AAA Alberta beef.

      So stop it, OK? For that’s something I need like the fine B.C. wine I pair it with, just as I always have—even when you couldn’t sell your most premium bull south of the border because of that “mad cow” thing.

      And FYI, that Niagara wine is good, if worst comes to worst, but seriously, it doesn’t get any better than B.C.'s.


      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at