Thursday, June 15, 2006

Déjà vu all over again

Ontario never learns.

Back in the days when Alberta was a struggling province, people there tried their best to get Bay Street to get interested in developing the province’s oil potential.

They couldn’t get a sniff.

In a combination of desperation and frustration, they turned south.

As a result, Alberta found American investors looking to become even more rich and found them in the United States. Leduc #1 was a gusher and Alberta and their American friends never looked back.

A big loser was Ontario which lost its opportunity to get rich along with their fellow Canadians.

But the biggest loser was Canada itself. Alberta has never gotten over the resentment of being left in the financial cold by eastern bankers and investors, which is why they would have been very happy to let “those eastern bastards freeze in the dark” when Pierre Trudeau embarked on the ill-fated National Energy Program voyage in the 1980s.

Fast forward to 2006, in the face of a changing energy landscape, and we fear history is repeating itself.

This week, Ontario announced that is heading back into the nuclear age and will invest in expensive and potentially dangerous nuclear power instead of buying hydro from Manitoba and Quebec.

The decision defies all political logic and may be the last act that will turn Dalton McGuinty into a one-term premier.

He seems not to recognize a good deal when he sees one, an opportunity to light up the homes and businesses of his province without poisoning his citizens with coal dust or putting them at risk with nukes.

To the Manitoba government’s credit, it is willing to keep trying to penetrate the thick cranium of the man who brought health premiums back to Ontario.

Premier Gary Doer has been beating the nation building-drum on the East West power grid because he knows energy, in this case clean energy, is the commodity that can unite this country and divide it.

By heading down the perilous nuclear road, McGuinty may be forcing Manitoba to look south for customers. When nukes prove to be too expensive, too controversial and too dangerous and Ontario looks to Manitoba again, it may be too late.

Ontario needs Manitoba more than Manitoba needs Ontario, but McGuinty just doesn’t get it.

How can Manitoba help a politician who won't help himself?