UCP Amigos Devin Dreeshen, Jason Kenney and Prasad Panda in their nice clean Reliance Industries coveralls and helmets (Photo: Facebook).

Jason Kenney’s mid-September sojourn to India with a couple of his United Conservative Party sidekicks was pure political theatre, likely aimed as much at the Alberta Opposition leader’s real main enemy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as at Alberta’s NDP premier, Rachel Notley.

Still, lots of Albertans were wondering last week how three Opposition stooges from a Canadian provincial government could manage to snag all those official-sounding invitations in India.

Alberta NDP Caucus Chair Heather Sweet (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Perhaps there was a partial explanation in the news yesterday afternoon that UCP Energy Critic Prasad Panda, one of the trio of travellers, owns shares in one of the companies the Alberta Amigos visited and, according to a statement on the Calgary engineer’s Twitter account, helped to build the corporation’s oil refinery in Jamnagar, which is said to be the world’s largest.

The question remains: How could they be so dumb? Or maybe a better way to frame it would be: How can Alberta Conservatives still feel so entitled?

By the sound of it, at any rate, unexpectedly losing the provincial election in 2015 to Ms. Notley’s NDP has done nothing to instil a sense of caution and propriety in the latest iteration of the party that sees itself as Alberta’s natural government.

At any rate, the NDP Caucus apparently concluded Mr. Panda was using his government office to engage in an activity that could very well benefit his stock portfolio and was therefore a violation of Alberta’s ethics policy for MLAs.

Alberta Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler (Photo: Office of the Ethics Commissioner).

Caucus Chair Heather Sweet filed a complaint with Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler yesterday seeking a determination on whether the trip was “a real or perceived conflict of interest,” seeing as Mr. Panda owns shares and Mr. Kenney’s been on the radio lately touting the profitability of Mumbai-based Reliance Industries Ltd.

The Government Caucus put out a news release quoting Ms. Sweet saying “this appears to be the same old tired backroom politics the PCs used to practice,” and reminding readers that UCP MLA Ric McIver was found in breach of the Conflicts of Interest Act last year and fined $500 by Commissioner Trussler.

I imagine there’s plenty of hair afire over at UCP Headquarters, where apparently nobody recalled the sage advice of Lord Chief Justice Viscount Hewart, that “not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.

Instead, talking to reporters, Mr. Kenney huffed about how the NDP’s question is ridiculous, mere “amateur tactics,” and insisted the trip had been cleared in advance by the Ethics Commissioner.

Crusading Alberta Publisher J.P. O’Callaghan (Photo: Unattributed).

It’s true there was a day when Alberta governments didn’t stoop to even mentioning that there was an Opposition. But that was back in the era when, in some years, there actually barely was one – unless you counted crusading publisher J.P. O’Callaghan and the staff of the Edmonton Journal.

When Peter Lougheed’s Conservatives won all but five seats in 1979, Mr. O’Callaghan declared the Journal to be Alberta’s “unofficial opposition,” and acted on his declaration. Well, Mr. O’Callaghan is dead, the Journal is hanging by a thread, operating nowadays with the rest of Postmedia’s Alberta papers as an echo chamber and cheering section for Mr. Kenney and the UCP.

And since the NDP, while it is the governing party, is not at this moment the frontrunner in the race to win the next provincial election, expected next spring, it’s hardly a surprise it would remind voters of the very sort of thing that got the Conservatives in trouble in the first place.

Lord Chief Justice Viscount Hewart (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

We’ll see after a spell what Ms. Trussler has to say about this. But one conclusion can be drawn from the adventures of the three not-so-wise men from the West: Political trips to India seldom seem to pan out as advertised for Canadian politicians. Federal Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer is scheduled to see if the third time’s the charm in India next month.

The third member of the UCP party was Devin Dreeshen, the recently elected MLA who once campaigned enthusiastically south of the Medicine Line for Republican President Donald Trump. For that effort, he was awarded the post of Trade Critic by Mr. Kenney.

According to Mr. Dreeshen’s Facebook account he was in Washington D.C. at the same time as the author of this blog, both of them catching up on U.S.-Canada trade issues. I can’t speak for Mr. Dreeshen, but your blogger paid for his own travel and accommodations.

Speaking of Mr. Lougheed, Premier Notley was channeling the late Conservative premier at a pipeline conference in Calgary yesterday, warning the federal government to keep its paws off Alberta’s energy sector.

Like many in the Alberta oil industry, she was unhappy with the way Ottawa proposes to manage the way major resource projects like pipelines are reviewed and approved.

She said she will dispatch her energy and justice ministers to Ottawa to argue Alberta’s case against the Trudeau Government’s proposals.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

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  1. The first reading of bill C-69 was back in February. Ever since it was first proposed many in the oil industry and for that matter Jason Kenney have been pointing out the negative aspects of this bill and certainly in my opinion would end the construction of or even the consideration of any new large O&G projects in Canada. Premier Notley is somewhat late to the party, I guess she finally figured out that being in Justin Trudeau’s back pocket isn’t all it is cracked up to be. It is somewhat disconcerting that the only avenue left to fix this extremely bad piece of legislation is the appointees in the senate! Enjoy your day.

  2. Mr. Kenney goes to India is sure more entertaining than Mr. Smith (or is it Mr. Dreeshen?) goes to Washington. While the costumes are conventional – western business attire, not much else about this trip is conventional.

    Perhaps Mr. Kenney was getting bored of hanging out in Alberta all the time and misses his high flying days of exotic events and travel as a Federal cabinet minister. Well, fall seems to have come early here this year, so perhaps a trip to India is just what he needed to warm his spirits before a long winter. In any event, it is rather odd for an opposition leader in Alberta to be making overseas trips. I suspect the Indian government was a bit puzzled or confused when he popped up, not quite sure what he actually was the Minister of, when they addressed him as the Honorable Minister. As the Premier correctly pointed out, he is currently the Minister of nothing, so it seems to follow he conducted no government business on his trip – a trip about nothing, by a Minister of nothing.

    On the brighter side for Mr. Kenney, I suppose it would harder to screw things up when you are a Minister of nothing. However, got to give Kenney credit here, he actually seemed to manage to do that by promoting a refinery in which one of his MLA’s, who was also on the trip, owns an interest in. You might think Mr. Kenney would have learned something from Mr. Trudeau’s problems traveling overseas or perhaps those of former Prime Minister Joe Clark. It is safer to stay home and be thought a fool by some, rather than go abroad and have it confirmed. Hopefully, he did not take a private plane to go to that refinery – apparently that’s a big no no under Federal conflict of interest rules (not sure if Alberta rules are similar here), as Mr. Trudeau sadly found out.

    All in all, not a good sign for the UCP, parties usually don’t start to have problems with the conflict of interest rules until some time after they become the government. I wonder if the UCP has inherited the worst, rather than the best, traits of its predecessors – the extreme views and intolerance of one party, and the entitlement and corruption of the other.

  3. With Notley amping up the anti-Ottawa rhetoric, you half expect her to start campaigning on seperating Alberta from the rest of Canada durng the next election. The People’s Republic of Alberta.

  4. Nice coveralls guys, better than slumming it at the rodeo! So an India based conglomerate that does everything from cord-blood banking to running a refinery that produces 2% of the world’s gasoline is providing construction and operation jobs that stay in India. The value of upgrading and retail sales go to the company shareholders and it is said this includes the UCP’s energy critic.

    I guess the UCP visit is not meant to suggest that we should be doing similar upgrading projects in Alberta. In fact Mr. Kenny’s tweets go on at great length how we should be building more pipelines to provide Alberta oil as a raw feedstock for ventures like this, presumably to make others richer.

    If the new Indian refinery can upgrade tar sands DilBit into something useful that might explain why the serfs in the UCP Twitter Farm are suggesting the Lords (ops! appointed Senate) should gut any legislation that might slow down pipelines out of Alberta.

    You have to admire the irony here. After the British exploiting the Indian sub-continent for almost 200 years for raw materials, the Indians have built multinational companies that are now prepared to colonize Alberta to obtain raw materials.

    Now if Alberta was entirely made up of Brits and their descendants, I would say there is some poetic justice there. But do we really have to kill the last of the orcas? And think of another horror: the UCP may be facing a whole $500 dollar fine for conflict of interest! They must be quaking in their little space booties.

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