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Friday the 13th Fears

Well folks, here I sit on Friday the 13th of August, a beautiful sunny day and I am busy typing away on this here summertime bi-weekly blog and searching for something that is both pithy enough to entertain you, my loyal readerships, yet brief enough that I can go outside and enjoy what could very well be the last nice weekend of the summer. Because you never know.

 

And that is something to be fearful of. And there is a lot of fear going around these days. Fear of the pandemic, fear of missing out, fear of climate change, fear mongering (and a fair amount of fish mongering too!), economic fears… you get the gist.

 

So, with all that fear built up inside of us, and myself as well and that whole Friday the 13th superstition, my thought here is to lazily relay to you 10 (or more) things I am currently afraid of, if only to show you that a) you are not alone in your fears and b) I can be every bit as irrational and, to be honest, nutty, when it comes to fearfulness.

 

Note that I said things I am currently afraid of. While I do for sure have a full range of bizarre, permanent fears, I also do find myself on occasion being frightened by what is going on in the world around me – what I like to call “serious stuff”. So I should probably do those first and then get into the more quirky and endearing terrors I harbour, to lighten the mood.

 

And let’s face it, it’s been a rough run, most current events should be enough to make anyone run into their lair hiding! So here you go, in no particular order, some serious fears and some … not so serious.

 

I am afraid of an unopposed Liberal majority

 

This one is a little complex so bear with me. We all know that an election writ is about to drop. It is the worst kept secret in all of Canada. If you’re unaware of this, it’s probably because you either live in the United States or spend too much time watching Toronto Maple Leaf playoff reruns on TSN Classic.

 

So, our besocked hair man in chief is about to call an election, and why wouldn’t he? The opposition is in complete disarray, the vaccine rollout (at least from a Federal distribution perspective) has been uniformly good to above average and as the pandemic finally seems to be in its last legs (cruel fourth wave notwithstanding) what better time to call a snap election to give yourself another five years to enact your agenda?

 

Never mind that the Liberals seem to be able to do what they want in a minority position, we all know that the Liberal Party (the Natural Governing Party) craves nothing more than absolute power, so when the opportunity presents itself, they go for it. As an impartial observer, you have to admire their ruthlessness.

 

My prediction is a Liberal blowout. And that makes me fearful. Any government that takes the wood to the opposition as I expect will happen should give everyone pause, even their most partisan supporters since we all know what happens with absolute power.

 

I blame a weak opposition for this expected development by the way, not an exceptionally strong Liberal party, because they are vulnerable on so many fronts – the economy, the deficit, pandemic response (good or bad, it’s theirs), likeability of their leader, you name it. But against this you have an NDP party that can’t decide how far left it wants to charge and a Conservative party that appears quite frankly to be lost, with a low charisma leader saddled with too much Harper and Scheer history, a true believer cohort that wants to drag the party back to the 1800’s and a bunch of self-aggrandizing wannabe leaders that are quite obviously only in it for themselves. Add in the baggage from underperforming or unpopular conservative’ish provincial leaders (ahem, Kenney/Ford/Palister/Moe/Legault) and you have a recipe for a wipe-out.

 

I don’t care where you sit on the political partisan continuum, but this is a frightening prospect for Canada.

 

I am afraid that Climate Change has irreversibly crossed into New Religion Territory

 

This isn’t new. We have actually been there for a while. The disciples of climate fear and fear-mongering all long ago realized that they needed an army of true believers to push forward the more radical levels of change. Before we go down that road – yes, climate change is real. Yes, it is readily identifiable as man-made.

 

But the rhetoric, the sweeping generalizations, the endless hyping of disaster scenarios, all of this is an investment in a diminishing return and leads to inevitable backtracking and skepticism when scenarios don’t pan out as precisely predicted (snow in Texas – global warming isn’t real!) or hypocritical policy stances are put forward (no KXL, we are electrifying everything, stopping drilling in Texas and, oh, by the way, OPEC we need more oil so Jimmy in Arkansas isn’t paying as much at the pump).

 

As the lines harden and the New Church of Her Lady of Climate Inevitability gathers more devotees and adherents, I worry that the polarization we see in seemingly every other aspect of life will continue to harden in climate land, especially as the costs of energy and climate salvation (not transition anymore) become more obvious to the income inequal proletariat.

 

The more strident the warnings, the bigger the doomsday scenarios, the more skeptical the fence sitters become. There is a reason the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” is so relevant at this moment.

 

The energy transition is a massively complex, multi-generational endeavour that will cost trillions of dollars, upend the traditional economic order and benefit/displace billions of people. Having the high priests of Global catastrophe preaching relentlessly to us regular folk from the comfort of their private jets about imminent disaster and chaos isn’t going to cut it. Look, we get it. Calm down. Back off. There is no such thing as Fiat Climate Rescue.

 

I am afraid that this next/last oil and gas boom may pass us by

 

This seems like a weird one to say for an industry participant. But ironically, it stems partly from the first two fears above. We are actually in the midst of a significant upturn in the Canadian energy sector, driven by the building out of actual infrastructure to move product, the knock-on effects of the Saudi/Russia swarming the US shale sector, the pandemic induced collapse in demand and investment and subsequent sharp recovery across most consuming sectors and our unique position as a massive supplier of oil and gas.

 

All the pieces are lined up for a big run.

 

So why am I afraid?

 

An unopposed Liberal majority government besotted by and beholden to the Necromancers of the climate movement and an unapologetically pro-industry (certain arts), stuck in the past provincial government constantly at each others’ throats and unwilling to work together to milk every last iota of rent and profit out of the molecules we are producing suggests that we may never realize our potential because neither side can get out of their own way.

 

In the meantime, we have a low-interest rate, asset bubble, Robin Hood, stonk-trading market environment that is a massive Jenga tower of disaster ready to collapse on itself. I don’t know what the catalyst will be, but inflation seems to be a distinct possibility as a contributor…

 

I’m afraid of interest rates and asset bubbles

 

Who isn’t right? They are so high on credit cards… Wait, no. That’s not what I am talking about. I am afraid of central banks printing money like there is no tomorrow and pouring so much vodka in the punch bowl that we all get alcohol poisoning.

 

Low interest rates are great when you need to resuscitate an economy. But when you have 7% + GDP growth and record low interest rates, all you are doing is artificially inflating the asset bubble. And with central banks promising more to come, is it any wonder that house prices are out of control and inflation is spiking?

 

And that bubble? It’s not filled with anything as benign as warmed-up air – think instead something highly volatile, like hydrogen. Like the Hindenberg. Remember what happened to that one? The spark? I think an unanticipated 50-100 bp reversal in the US Fed funds rate could pull the whole thing down.

 

I’m sure glad I locked in when I did. At 1.5%. Wow. My parents first mortgage was at 18%.

 

I’m afraid we are going to be stuck in pandemic stasis for years

 

Okay, this is a weird one. But bear with me. As a family we are all fully vaccinated – parents, kids, grandparents, cousins, siblings, the whole enchilada. Which is great. It’s our way out. But it seems increasingly clear that not everyone wants a way out. And much like the Harbingers of climate doom, there is a cohort, on either side of any actual reasoned debate about pandemic policies, that profit, thrive and depend on a continuation of the pandemic.

 

This suggests to me that it – the pandemic – is never truly going to leave us. We will be dealing with flare-ups, variants, vax vs anti-vax, lockdowns, panics, mask mandates and random protests for years.

 

So the return to normal that everyone so desperately wants is probably not going to happen for the foreseeable future – it’s going to be hard to go back to the way it was when so many people have a vested interest in keeping the conflict going.

 

For the record I’m not suggesting an abandoning of pandemic protocols, or any reduction in our vigilance, certainly not in the short to medium term, what I’m suggesting is that the pandemic is going to be with us, influencing how we live our lives, travel, interact, work, study and exist for a lot longer than anyone wants or thinks they can mandate from a seat of government.

 

I hate to use the term “live with it” because it has such negative connotations, especially here in Alberta, but… that’s clearly what needs to happen, because it isn’t going anywhere.

 

Fortunately I’m not afraid that all of this crap is all going to come to a head at the same time, because that would make me the most paranoid person around. And of course, there are degrees of fear – some of the preceding items are really more of a passing fear as opposed to a paralyzing terror. That I reserve for the following.

 

I am terrified of wasps.

 

Not, not that kind. The flying insect ones. You can ask my wife. A bee or wasp flies by and I turn not a frantic, arm-waving lunatic. Which of course just triggers the flying hypodermic needle to come back at me with renewed furour, whereupon I will throw anyone I happen to be with to the proverbial wolves and seek shelter until the offending yellow-jacketed evil swine has moved on. It is often suggested that these fears come from some deep-seated repressed memory, but let me assure you that the memory I have that started this fear is crystal clear. It was a bee. I was a kid. It somehow crawled in my pants overnight. I put said pants on in the morning. The rest is paranoid history.

 

I have a pathological fear of mustard and mayonnaise.

 

Yes. It’s true. I sometimes pretend it’s an allergy. It’s not. It’s an embarrassing aversion. And I know it’s weird. Don’t try and convert me. Or hide it. I’ll know. It’s a thing. Sue me.

 

I am afraid of turbulence

 

Not flying. Not taking off and landing. Not helicopters. Not planes. Not heights. Just turbulence. The aeronautic equivalent of a bumpy country road. Yup. Turbulence. Speaking of roads, here’s a recent one.

 

I am afraid of driving with my soon to be 16 year old daughter.

 

As anyone who has taught a kid to drive can attest, this one is real. I suspect it won’t last long because she gets better every time we go out, but it can be a little, how shall I put it, taxing on the old ticker. Then when she gets her license I can be afraid for her driving by herself, which ironically will be a lot less terrifying than the prospect of her being driven by anyone aside from me. I’m told this is a dad thing.

 

I am afraid that my natural gas weighted stock will never return to the price I paid and that it will be stuck in my portfolio for eternity because I have no sell discipline.

 

Go figure. I bought a nattie producer when prices were about $2.50.Mcf. Price today? $3.875. Think I’m riding at least a 50% return in that stock? Think again. Well at least they are perpetually profitable. Go figure.

 

Bonus extra fears:

 

I am afraid the Leafs will win a Stanley Cup before my favourite team does….

 

Who am I kidding? This is absolutely not a fear.

 

I am afraid that within ten years Murray Edwards will own the balance of the Canadian oilpatch he doesn’t already and we will all be working for him.

 

Admit it, aren’t we all a little afraid of this?

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