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Notley appointment of Brian Topp sends wrong message

May 12, 2015 | By More

Brian Topp behind BC NDP opposition to Kinder Morgan pipeline, 2013 election defeat

If Rachel Notley wanted to send a message to Albertans, appointing Quebec-born, Toronto-based federal NDP hack Brian Topp as her chief of staff did the trick quite nicely.

Brian Topp

Brian Topp, chief of staff to Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley. Photo: Brian Topp/LinkedIn.

How do we know Premier-elect Notley knew Topp’s appointment would be controversial? Today’s press release announcing the appointment says, “Mr. Topp served as deputy chief of staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow, and has served in many roles in the New Democratic Party across Canada at the provincial and federal levels.”

If Notley thought playing up Topp’s relationship with moderate NDP premier Romanow would distract reporters’ attention from her new lieutenant’s long party pedigree, well, fat chance.

Some of that pedigree is directly relevant to his new job.

Topp managed the 2013 BC NDP election campaign that ended with leader Adrian Dix blowing a big early lead and ultimately losing to Christie Clark and the Liberals. The

Brian Topp

Former BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix. Photo: Facebook.

turning point in the campaign was Dix’s flip flop on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which is proposed to carry 525,000 bbls/day of Alberta oil sands dilbit to the West Coast, where it will be shipped by tanker to Asian markets at a much higher price than producers can get from American customers. Dix maintained before and early in the campaign that it would be inappropriate to comment on the project before the Texas-based pipeline giant applied to the National Energy Board. But intense pressure from environmentalists, NDP MLAs, and Topp’s desire to head off the Green Party – which was critical of the oil sands and pipelines – led to the switcheroo. Clark couldn’t believe her good luck. She immediately went on the attack, accusing the NDP of being anti-business and jobs, and rose that dark horse to victory several weeks later.

Brian Topp

NDP Premier Rachel Notley on the campaign trail

What does it say about Notley that she chose an anti-pipeline politico to be her chief of staff in a government that regulates the largest Canadian oil and gas industry, which also contributes billions to the public treasury each year?

As if the BC debacle isn’t bad enough, the rest of Topp’s resume – “the many roles in the New Democratic Party” – is hardly reassuring for Albertans.

He ran to be federal NDP leader in 2012 and pushed Thomas Mulcair to a fourth ballot before losing. Topp assumed a number of roles for the federal NDP, including co-

Brian Topp

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

ordinating the war room – the same job he held during the Alberta NDP campaign – during the 1997 and 2004 elections, national campaign director in 2006 and 2008, and a senior advisor to leader Jack Layton in 2011. And let’s not forget the years as Romanow’s deputy chief of staff from 1993 to 2000, which is almost spitting distance to Alberta compared to most of Topp’s career.

Why does Topp matter? Because during the week since election day, some segments of Alberta have been publicly losing their mind at the prospect of an NDP government, most notably claiming that the socialist hordes would tax and regulate the energy industry until it fled for greener pastures, probably to Saskatchewan, where voters had tired of Topp’s former employers and thrown aside the NDP for the right of centre Saskatchewan Party.

Notley downplayed those fears, saying she planned to telephone oil industry executives and assure them everything was “going to be A-Ok in Alberta.” It’s fair to say that voters wanted change, but not radical change, and Notley seemed to be tacking toward a moderate centre-left government.

The appointment of Brian Topping suggests everything is not going to be A-OK in Alberta. More appointments like Topp will send a very bad message about the sort of government Notley tends to run.

Albertans didn’t throw out one party of incompetent, nepotistic crooks just to elect another. They expect better from future appointments.

Category: Markham

About the Author ()

Markham Hislop is the publisher of Beacon News and Beacon Energy News. He also reports and writes about Alberta and British Columbia energy issues.

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