Andrew Scheer’s plan for Canada’s energy independence echoes the promise of the National Energy Program and Petro Canada, launched by Pierre Trudeau’s government in response to Richard Nixon’s 10% tariff levied in 1970 on all goods entering the U.S.
Petro Canada became the fourth- largest corporation in Canada providing more than 7,000 skilled jobs and owned a nation-wide chain of retail gasoline stations.
The beginning of the end came with Brian Mulroney’s 1984 majority conservative coalition of western free trading continentalists and Quebec nationalists. It took 10 years to finally sell off all the assets leaving the government a tidy profit.
Hindsight does reveal one uncomfortable truth about the demise of Petro Canada; at the time western conservatives showed more loyalty to Houston than to Ottawa.
Nonetheless, today many Canadians do wonder what Canada would look like 50 years on, if back in 1984 Mulroney and the western conservatives left Petro Canada to continue its mercurial rise.
Today, Petro Canada would probably be Canada’s largest crown corporation providing not only a steady revenue stream, (think Norway’s sovereign wealth fund), but also providing generations of thousands of high-paying skilled jobs, while growing a deep pool of exportable Canadian resource management and technological expertise. A mega-sized Petro Canada crown corporation would give every elected government the legislative tools to maximize Canada’s strategic natural resource to the benefit of ordinary Canadians first.
After a long private career sitting on U.S. corporate boards, Mulroney had no fear of the Americans. To keep his 1984 conservative coalition together, Petro Canada was the sacrificial lamb needed to pacify western conservatives who despised the NEP, which halted subsidies to non-Canadian exploration companies and resented Petro Canada’s encroachment in the oil market and the energy-nationalism it represented.
Fifty years too late, Andrew Scheer longs for the kind of energy independence Petro Canada was destined to bring; if narrow- minded western provincialism had not killed it to please American corporate overlords.