Monday, January 21, 2019

Histories we need, histories we get

Leduc #1, 1947
The other day I found myself having more than a little agreement with Toronto journalist David Olive's argument that Alberta is largely to blame for its current economic troubles and pipeline obstacles:
Failure to diversify has been a surrender of Alberta’s economic sovereignty and cause for repeated punishing hardship.
The lack of forward planning in Calgary, head office of the Canadian oilpatch, is inexplicable. Over the past decade, Alberta ramped up its heavy oil production on the assumption, ludicrous in hindsight, that matching additional pipeline capacity would materialize as if by magic to get that additional landlocked oil to world markets.
It's Olive's argument that Alberta economic policy making for about seventy years has relied on little more than pumping and shipping crude oil, to the neglect of sound fiscal planning, environmental challenges, and First Nations rights, while the province has simultaneously neglected development of specialty petrochemicals, agriculture, technology, and other promising sectors that would have diversified the provincial economic base in preparation for the inevitable price busts and the inevitable depletion of the resource and the markets for it.

It's a case with force. But it's also a historical argument. And I wished, not for the first time, that we had a big readable, reliable history of Alberta's oil and what it has done to the province and the country all these years. I know of some good small studies, but nothing on the order of what we need and deserve, in order to think about these questions wisely and historically.

If I'm missing the vital work, let me know!

On the other hand, sometimes we do get what we need. Witness this excerpt from law professor Kent Roach's new book Canadian Justice, Indigenous Injustice: The Gerald Stanley and Colten Boushie Case. Powerful scholarship, clear and vigorous writing, sound and sympathetic judgements ... it looks like a very valuable work on an urgent public policy issue. It's newly out from McGill-Queen's.
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