Crude Observations

Whoops, This is Really Late

Apologies for the late blog everyone. I really have no excuse for my tardiness except that I have been a complete slacker lately. I suppose I could blame the Conservative Party and say I was waiting on the results of their leadership race, that isn’t actually entirely accurate. Well I guess it’s accurate enough for why the blog is out this morning rather than last night, but in all the reality, the CPC race wasn’t really a “stop the presses” type of event, more of a slowly developing car wreck.


So how has everyone’s August been? Aside from almost over, mine has been great and likely consistent with many of you out there – remarkably unfocused and lazy. Which explains both the tardiness and, well, subject matter of this week’s blog. As a family, we travelled to a government approved non-quarantining destination to spend some WE time with the family (which of course meant no US travel). We rented a boat, drove a boat. Towed the kids around on a tube at a safe’ish speed. I even did a zip line across a forested ravine (mental note, old heavy guy on a zip line is not a pretty sight!). Had lots of time to spend on Twitter (maybe too much time to be honest). I even did a mail-it-in mini blog last week.


But now I think it is almost time to get back at it. Kids are going back to school the week after next. Sports are in full gear, except, sadly, the CFL. Universities are welcoming students back and then sending them home because of frat party induced COVID outbreaks – I mean who couldn’t see that coming? Does no one what Animal House anymore?


Aside from the aforementioned CPC leadership race, another fun thing happening this August is that quadrennial event. No, not the Olympics. I’m talking about the political conventions for the Democratic and Republican parties that is going to kick off what promises to be the wildest 70 days of electioneering that I think anyone has ever seen.


While the GOP convention starts today, it is safe to say that after this totally bizarre online Democratic one that the bar has been set. Not low, not high. There’s just a bar. What you choose to do with it is your business.


So where am I going with this? Super interesting that Stu went to a place in BC, but what does that have to do with the energy industry or M&A and deal making? Is anything actually happening that mattered to anyone?


Well as luck would have it, in addition to any actual physical trips, over the last few weeks I have been able to engage in some pretty cool virtual/fantasy travel. And all without the use of recreational cannabis.


And one of the cool things about fantasy (hallucination?) travel is that you can go anywhere and do anything. There are no quarantine requirements and travel is instant so you can get to a lot of destinations in a relatively short period of time.


So indulge me for a few minutes folks while I reveal my most epic journey and travelogue from a few weeks spent lazily seeing and thinking about what is going on here, there and everywhere.


First stop – somewhere near Kamloops.


Ok, I don’t know exactly where this is because I fell asleep while travelling but I’m pretty sure it’s near Kamloops because I recognize the geography and there were a lot of construction vehicles and pipeliners around. All busily working on the Transmountain Expansion. At any rate, while there I thought it might be fun to visit one of the true curiosities of the modern world, the man in the tree.


That’s right folks, right here in Canada we have one of those bizarre natural anomalies – an actual man suspended from a tree. It was truly a sight to behold. On a par with the giant Easter egg of Vegreville or the giant beaver of Beaverlodge.


At any rate, I wanted to know what it was all about so I thought I would see what he was all about.


“Man,” I said, “what are you all about?”


“Protesting the pipeline my friend”


“Why the tree?”


“To draw attention to myself!”


“Hmm, you know the pipe runs underground right? The spread can just build under you.”


At that point I left for my next destination but as I left I could hear this poor soul crying out in agony – why didn’t I think of that?!?!?!


Second stop – Vienna


Vienna is one of my favourite cities and I always look forward to getting there whether virtually or in person. Vienna in the summer is what you think any sophisticated metropolis should be like in the summer. Pretty flowers, great architecture, fabulous food and culture… come to think of it, Vienna at any time of year is what a great metropolis should be


That aside, I was here for one reason as one reason only. That’s right, to visit OPEC and see how they are doing with their output cuts and what their plan is. As someone waiting for an energy recovery, the OPEC meetings are pretty important and getting the straight goods is pretty important. At any rate while in Vienna I figured why not? Turns out there is very little need for me to worry. The mid month report for OPEC ++++ shows great compliance with all the quotas, unanimity amongst the players that they need to keep it up.


Seeing as how I was already in Europe, the next few destinations will for sure have a nice Euro-flavour to them.


Just a short hop from Vienna, I found myself on a yacht in Monaco. What a life, right? Anyway, this particulalr yacht is owned by none other than Murray Edwards, the brains behind CNRL. We spent some time chatting about his acquisition of Painted Pony (pennies I tell you!) and his plans to eventually own the entirety of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (yet ironically no midstream or downstream processing capacity). We nejoed some canapes and cocktails, but unfortunately I found myself soon walking the plank when I asked him if the 10% increase in my ski pass price was funding his yacht. Some people can be so thin-skinned. Oh well, at least he gets an arena.


A quick flight from Monaco dropped me in Oslo, Norway and the offices of Equinor, the state oil company. Often compared to Alberta, Norway is a significant oil producer that has way more money stashed away than we do. They also apparently rarely let an opportunity to poke the oilsands and Alberta in the eye pass by, and wouldn’t you know it, this time was no different. I watched in disbelief as the senior executives called up their national government and asked for and received a tax break on new exploration and development. Then they had the nerve to turn around and announce publicly their intentions to increase their capex for the year to just a few dollarsa more than will be spent in Canada, because, well, because. I kid you not!


My next European stop was Moscow (yes I consider Moscow part of Europe, it makes Vlad feel more sophisticated). This trip was never intended to last very long as I don’t really trust the Russians, but I wanted to find out what his intentions were for the upcoming US elections. During my dinner with a shirtless Putin, he was very open about election interference, his consolidation of power, a new Trump Tower planned for a town in Siberia and how much he likes Canadian food. While my spidey sensese were already tingling, I became doubly suspicious when he rolled out a delicious-looking plate of poutine but insisted on spinkling his own “special” powder out of a lead vial onto my plate.


My last Euro-stop was in London, to check in with my old pal BoJo about how Brexit was going. Complete and total unmitigated disaster? Deal falling apart? Companies leaving for the EU in droves? Check, check and check. Isn’t it amazing what the ramifications of unchecked, low information, racist populism can be.


Well enough of the other side of the pond, as they say. I had received an urgent email from Canada saying that if I wanted to have that last meal in the parliamentary cafeteria with Billy Morneau, I better get to Ottawa right away.


Turned out it was two for one day because as luck would have it my good friend Christina was there and she said if I could hang out for an extra day she’d for sure buy me lunch and expense it to the taxpayer.


So there I sat on Monday with Finance Minister Billy M and had some crow and humble pie (tastes worse than it sounds) and then the next day I had an Alberta ribeye served with Taber Corn and greenhouse grown tomato/cucumber salad, all washed down with a Troubled Monk Juicy Gossip  IPA with our new finance monster (I mean minister of course, but this was a typo I felt was subliminal and needed to stay). All served of course by CEWS subsidized closet CERB collecting volunteers who looked strangely like Mark and Craig Kielberger. At any rate, they made me buy some weird little bracelets which was odd. I asked Ms Freeland where Justin was and she answered “Who??????” and then burst into hysterical laughter and left the room, laughing all the way, because she had to take a call from Murray Edwards (oh crap, don’t tell him you’re with me, he’s pretty mad at me right now and I need my pass renewed without issues).


Anyway, pretty cool but bizarre visit to our nation’s capital. What a great country, right?


Anyway for Ottawa I proceeded to Wilmington, Delaware to reconnect with my good friend Joe Biden. You didn’t know Joe was my friend? Well then you didn’t pay enough attention to the Democratic primary selection process and convention.  Because if you had you would know by now that there is no nicer man in the entire world than Joe Biden. And that Joe Biden is everyone’s friend. And he’s a human being. With feelings. And he wants to be president and empathizer in chief. Even Obama says so when he isn’t calling out Donald Trump for what he clearly believes is a clown show presidency. Hey – I’m just relaying what I heard while I was there. At any rate, I hung out with grandpa Joe for a while but eventually moved on because, let’s face it, it’s not actually my election.


Notwithstanding that, because I was close and in the interests of balance, I figured I should pop in to Washington DC to see what was up in the centre of it all. I wasn’t able to connect with the Donald unfortunately. Apparently he was busy with a man, a woman and a person showing them how to downlad images from a camera onto a TV. For a minute I thought I was going to score a coffee with Steve Bannon but he got arrested by the Post Office before he could leave New York. I tried to reach Melania, but apparently she was busy digging up the Rose Garden with a backhoe to hide Donald’s tax returns.


Returning to Canada I did the right thing and quarantined for the government mandated 14 minutes and then joined Jason Kenney on a road trip around the province of Alberta visiting the companies and people that make this province the great place that it is. There were some awkward moments because let’s face it, Jason’s a bit nerdy, but we got some great Facebook posts and panoramic photos. I asked him what he thought of Murray Edwards and CNRL buying out the oil patch and he disappeared briefly to make a call to the folks at AIMCo to make sure they were there with some capital, because let’s face it, if someone wants to buy this stuff, shouldn’t we encourage them?


My last stop, as luck would have it, was yesterday, Sunday the 23rd. Back in Ottawa. To visit with the newly minted leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Wait, what? Ballots aren’t counted yet? Shredded envelopes? How could that be? I mean all that was needed was a ballot and a photocopy of an ID to be stuffed into an envelope, which in turn went into another envelope. I mean, what could go wrong with that? At any rate, I had to make a return trip to Ottawa to see Erin O’Toole be named the next sacrificial lamb of the CPC. He will likely get to run in an election sooner than he wants to, as Trudeau appears to be angling for new mandate, but let’s hope for everyone’s sake that he holds off and allows Erin the time to develop a platform that actually appeals to a broad cross-section of Canadians and not just the whackadoodles and far right extremists who make up a significant chunk of the CPC membership (although I can’t see them sending their IDs in the mail, can you?).


Well phew. I travelled quite a lot more than I thought. And now I’m back. Supposedly recharged. Ready to get back to work and to send my kids back to school (let’s face it, they’ll do anything to be out of our house).


Enjoy the last week of summer everyone.

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