Crude Observations

Definitely NOT normal…

Another week gone by and another hot mess of scandals, crises, economic malaise and assorted bad news. Unless you are Bryce Harper signing with Philadelphia for $330 million over 13 years, you likely have had a pretty challenging week. But even that isn’t good enough for the sports punditry. He should have taken a shorter deal for more money per year! Why Philadelphia! What a moron! I’m not really sure what measure of moronity the guy calling in to a sports loudmouth show at 11:35 pm on a random Tuesday is using, but he might consider looking in the mirror, because I’m sure he isn’t getting more than a quarter of a billion dollars to play a game.


But enough about me and my addiction to sports talk radio!


I don’t even know where to start this week, but I’m going to take a cut at it. And who am I kidding, I need to go back to this whole sordid SNC Lavalin affair one last time because I find it so offensive on so many levels that it bears repeating. And if we don’t repeat it, then the Federal Liberals will succeed in their very obvious strategy of sweeping it under the rug. Nothing to see here anymore, move along!


So forthwith, I promise, my last rant about SNC Lavalin and the selling out of Canada’s system of laws. OK, a bit dramatic, but if it’[s the last time I write about it, I need hyperbole.


Andrew Coyne, a columnist for the National Post, earlier this week summed up the three possible avenues for the Liberals to take in the face of these allegations – you know what, I’m not even going to call them allegations. I’m going to call them “actions” because no one is really denying them, they are just spinning them.


At any rate, the three avenues are pretty simple – Deny, Apologize, Normalize.


As he points out, options 2 and 3 cannot co-exist.


Starting four weeks ago the strategy was to deny anything untoward took place and discredit and back the bus over Jody Wilson Raybould at the same time. When that strategy completely backfired as expected (side note – how did they not see that? Are they so arrogant as to assume everyone in Canada would bow to their superiority?), the Liberals had to take either option 2 or 3. And since this is not a government given to apologize for anything aside from historic mistakes made by past governments who clearly aren’t the current virtuously woke incarnation of the natural governing party of Canada, so they really only had one option available to them.


So, if you aren’t going to apologize and the scorched earth strategy is not working, the only option is to convince the public at large to get bored of the whole thing, forget about it and move on while demonstrating that this is just how government works old chum. Oh, and if you can continue to cast aspersion on your accuser in a sidelong way through innuendo and the use of dog whistle language along the way? All the better.


How are they normalizing it?


Jobs! Jobs jobs jobs!


The number one way that the liberals are trying to justify the unconscionable political interference in a judicial matter is by raising the spectre of all the jobs that SNC Lavalin is going to lose if they are found guilty – 9000! That this number was likely planted by SNC Lavalin itself and there is no record, study or support to it is irrelevant – it’s 9000 good paying middle class jobs – look at me caring and that crazy woman in Justice doesn’t care about Canadians, she’s hard to work with, not a team player! Never mind that if you actually cared about “jobs” you would reverse your own policy actions that will clearly eliminate jobs (hello Bills C48 and C69).


No, if you are a Liberal normalizer, you invoke jobs and wrap yourself in both a Canadian and Quebec flag and hope no one looks under the jobs argument hood, because you know there’s nothing there. Don’t believe me? Let’s unpack it.


The whole premise of job losses is a shell game. The effort to wrap this up in a job loss blanket is a complete fallacy.


If SNC Lavalin is found guilty and can’t bid on a federal contract for 10 years there are plenty of eminently qualified Canadian firms that can. While there may be some job losses at SNC specifically there are no net job losses to the Canadian economy. There are many companies with thousands of employees in Canada that could do any of that work – Stantec, WSP, wood group, CH2M Hill/Jacobs, AECOM. The only difference is that the SNC is in Quebec.


Never mind the fact that SNC Lavalin is a major contractor to provincial governments and around the world. None of these contracts will be affected by federal prosecution. Need convincing? Just yesterday, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. said it has won the contract for a $660-million light-rail extension project in Ottawa.


Will that continue? Well, maybe, likely, but then again maybe not. You see unfortunately SNC Lavalin has a well-established track record of questionable business practices including, of course, the millions in payoffs (bribes) to win contracts in Libya at the expense of other bidders – some of whom may have been Canadian as well. Even the world bank says they are bad actors. And it’s not just that one bid. There are plenty of domestic examples.


So there’s that. I guess if everyone decides they don’t want to deal with SNC Lavalin because they have a systemic issue with skirting the boundaries of ethical business practice then SNC will lose jobs. Most certainly at the executive level, but less certainly at the line level. Those guys just get picked up elsewhere. I can’t imagine a scenario where a highly educated and skilled engineer at SNC Lavalin who just wants to build bridges isn’t updating her resume as I write. And she’ll leave in a heartbeat, because she is in high demand. SNC’s loss is someone else’s gain.



The effort and lengths the PMO and PCO have gone to protect this one company (and spin their repeated actions to do so) and the jobs that may or may not be lost if they are found guilty is mind boggling. And that is what tells me it is 100% political. They just don’t want to go to trial. Are these the actions of an aggrieved, benign company? I mean, the trial HASN’T EVEN HAPPENED YET!!!! Don’t they think they have a case? All this effort – all it does is tell me that the company and the powers that be in the PMO, PCO, SNC alphabet soup have pretty much admitted guilt. In which case… In which case… In which case…. AAARRRGGHHHH!!!!!!! My head is about to explode at the hypocrisy.


You have to wonder if the federal liberals would put one-tenth the effort into giving Alberta-based Stantec a pass if they were caught paying bribes. I guess we will never know because that has never happened. Hmm, actually, let’s think about that for a second. They just might. Because Stantec bought SNC’s largest Quebec rival, Dessau in 2015 and they and SNC are ironically located a mere block away from each other in downtown Montreal.


Speaking of Montreal and geography (we weren’t but humour me), remember how Trudeau reportedly invoked his need to protect jobs at SNC because he is the MP of the Papineau riding and jobs? You know what’s not in the Papineau riding? The SNC Lavalin Head Office or other offices. You know what is?


The Papineau riding is an ethnically diverse, primarily French language speaking riding in the City of Montreal. It is the second smallest Canadian riding after Toronto Centre. Median income is less than $35,000. What it is not is a hot bed of good paying, middle class engineering types – the folks you find working at, say, SNC Lavalin. Less than 10% of the workforce in the latest census report working in a science or engineering related field.


So spare me the sanctimonious BS. It’s not about jobs in your riding, it never was. The proptecting jobs angle normalizes nothing.


Other countries have these agreements! They are totally normal!


Yes they do! And how good are they? Are they successful? Because it seems to me that they are nothing more than a get out of jail card. A small slap on the wrist, boys will be boys, nothing to see here corporate white wash that allows the bad actors to continue to be bad actors.

To me, remediation agreements are as offensive as unwritten “too big to fail” rules for big banks. They give corporations a free pass to do bad things because all you get is a fine or a bailout or, if you’re Bombardier, a bailout to help pay your fines. You need to punish the company for the bad acts as well as the actors otherwise nothing ever changes. “We’re better now” just doesn’t cut it.


And what is the evidence? Well apparently where these agreements exist, there are companies that make use of them repeatedly! Great right? Um, no.  If you use it more than once, it means you have transgressed more than once. So you are a serial briber? Well done. Here’s a slap on the wrist, don’t let me catch you again (nod nod wink wink). Or, imagine the opposite scenario. Hey corporation – you got caught doing bad things, so here’s a sanction. Do it again, a corporate death sentence and jail time for the executive. Which company is going to have a culture of skirting the rules under these two scenarios? Three guesses, no bribes and the first two don’t count. Put another way, which way seems like a “normal” rule of law way of doing things. Thought so.


Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right. Keep in mind that the only reason we have this law is because SNC Lavalin lobbied repeatedly to have it implemented. Because they knew they needed it. Is that normal? And the liberals were only too happy to let them have it. I guess that’s normal.


It’s Scott Brison’s Fault! We had to do a Normal cabinet reshuffle


If only he hadn’t stepped down as Treaustry Board President, none of this would have happened. Come on. How stupid do you think we are? Scott Brison is gone because of the next scandal barrelling your way. The Mark Norman cabinet leak fakery that could make the SNC show look like a puppet show next to King Lear. Boo. If the whole point of the Cabinet reshuffle that saw Jody Wilson Raybould demoted was really just to plug someone into Treasury, why the subterfuge? Is there no one else in caucus capable of filling that role?


It’s all Just a Normal Misunderstanding!


This is how government works – a collegiate gathering of high and like-minded individuals acting for the betterment of the country as a whole, so butt out. Besides, this arrangement is the law of the land now, we should let it work and have esteemed legal scholars (maybe even retired supreme court justices!) sort it out and help rubes like the former Attorney General of Canada, understand its complexities.


Nah, sorry.


The rules for prosecution or remediation are clear and not subject to interpretation. SNC did not qualify for the treatment they lobbied to have put in place. This decision was made by an independent prosecutor who also employs a staff of lawyers and was upheld by the attorney general who by her own rights has a significant legal track record.


There is no grey area. There is no “new law subject to interpretation”. It is what it is. Suck it up and let the trial happen.


And now apparently the federal government is contemplating changing its own rules on how many years a guilty company spends in the penalty box to get around the decision they didn’t like! That seems normal.


Look, I’m no innocent babe in the woods. I work in the oilpatch. I have seen my share of dirty tricks, hours padded, quads traded, revenue kickbacks paid. This stuff happens all over the place, probably in every industry. But the bad guys generally are at the margin. They are pushing boundaries and asking for the handouts in the dark when no one is looking. They don’t get the Prime Minister of Canada to carry their bag for them. This is about as bad a look for Canada to the outside world as Bill C69.


The perception is that Canada doesn’t have a level playing field.


We are either closed for inbound business investment or supporting a company that cheats to be a world leader.


Neither of these would make me want to do business with Canada. Full stop. Is this normal? Is the even remotely acceptable to Canadians?


The Liberal government has failed. Normalizing what should never be normal is a losing strategy. I don’t want my government providing well-heeled companies access to the halls of power and thinking that the rules of expediency trump the rule of law. There is nothing normal about that.


Enough already.


Next week – energy!


I promise.


Prices as at March 8, 2019 (March 1, 2019)

  • The price of oil was tweet free this week but was caught between supply tightening and China weakening.
    • Storage posted an increase
    • Production was up
    • The rig count in the US was down marginally
  • Withdrawals from storage were much higher than anticipated for natural gas. The market was unmoved
  • WTI Crude: $55.96 ($55.74)
  • Western Canada Select: $45.05 ($43.99)
  • AECO Spot *: $3.40 ($3.42)
  • NYMEX Gas: $2.858 ($2.838)
  • US/Canadian Dollar: $0.7434 ($0.7594)



  • As at March 1, 2019, US crude oil supplies were at 453.0 million barrels, an increase of 7.1 million barrels from the previous week and 27.0 million barrels above last year.
    • The number of days oil supply in storage is 28.6 compared to 26.7 last year at this time.
    • Production was flat for the week at 12.100 million barrels per day. Production last year at the same time was 10.369 million barrels per day.
    • Imports rose from 5.917 million barrels from 7.001 million barrels per day compared to 8.003 million barrels per day last year.
    • Exports from the US fell to 2.803 million barrels per day from 3.359 million barrels per day last week compared to 1.405 million barrels per day a year ago
    • Canadian exports to the US were 3.553 million barrels a day, up from 3.047
    • Refinery inputs rose during the during the week to 15.990 million barrels per day
  • As at March 6, 2019, US natural gas in storage was 1.390 billion cubic feet (Bcf), which is about 25% lower than the 5-year average and about 15% less than last year’s level, following an implied net withdrawal of 149 Bcf during the report week
    • Overall U.S. natural gas consumption rose 32% during the report week
    • Production for the week was flat. Imports from Canada increased 17% from the week before. Exports to Mexico decreased 1%
    • LNG exports totaled 28.8 Bcf
  • As of March 1, 2019, the Canadian rig count was down 22 at 189 (AB – 137; BC – 17; SK – 33; MB – 2; Other – 0. Rig count for the same period last year was 273.
  • US Onshore Oil rig count at March 8, 2019 is at 834, down 9 from the week prior.
    • Peak rig count was October 10, 2014 at 1,609
  • Natural gas rigs drilling in the United States were down 2 at 193.
    • Peak rig count before the downturn was November 11, 2014 at 356 (note the actual peak gas rig count was 1,606 on August 29, 2008)
  • Offshore rig count was unchanged at 22.
    • Offshore peak rig count at January 1, 2015 was 55

US split of Oil vs Gas rigs is 80%/20%, in Canada the split is 68%/32%

Trump Watch: All things considered a very quiet Trump week. Something is brewing for sure.

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