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Quebec's Premier Jean Charest looks down during a news conference after a joint cabinet meeting at the National Assembly in Quebec City, June 16, 2010.

MATHIEU BELANGER/Mathieu Belanger/Reuters

I see that Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute is disappointed by Jean Charest's new-found affection for Alberta's oil sands. A love affair, according to Le Soleil's Gilbert Lavoie (for whom I have a high regard after working with him in the PMO), that flows from Mr. Charest's interest in maintaining harmonious relations with Alberta.

That's partly true: Mr. Charest was roundly lambasted in Alberta - both by the provincial government and by the media - for stabbing Canada in the back in Copenhagen. Speaking of which, I can't wait for him to explain how Canada can still meet its Kyoto targets (still Quebec's official position though not its own record), while developing the oil sands. I'm also eagerly awaiting the reaction of Quebec environmentalists - who awarded Mr. Charest while fossilizing Canada in Copenhagen - to this new position.

But here's the more important reason for the shift in Mr. Charest's position that has disappointed Mr. Bramley:

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A few days ago, the French-based oil company, Total, purchased Calgary's UTS Energy for nearly $1.5-billion - $830-million over its last offer in a pursuit extending over nineteen months. With the acquisition comes a 20-per-cent interest in the Fort Hills project, a huge oil-sands property that will cost $8-billion to $10-billion to develop.

On the board of Total sits Paul Desmarais, Jr.

The family's Power Corporation - in partnership with Belgian investor Albert Frère - owns 4 per cent of Total through Groupe Bruxelles-Lambert.

Mr. Lavoie - who writes for a Desmarais-owned newspaper - would not be quick to point this out. But that's the kind of power that can make Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and now the Premier of Quebec go all gooey on Alberta's oil sands. That, Mr. Bramley, is the way it works.

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