Alberta Politics
Amnesty Supporters express the view health care is a human right (Photo: Amnesty International Canada).

Jason Kenney’s fuming response to Amnesty International was not the adversaries’ first go-round

Posted on September 17, 2019, 1:48 am
7 mins

Returned to power after four years, Alberta’s Conservative party is governing pretty much as you’d expect from a government that, as Talleyrand supposedly said of the restored House of Bourbon, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

Consider the matter of the controversial letter from the head of Amnesty International Canada to Jason Kenney.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

No, not the one Alex Neve mailed to Premier Kenney last week. I’m speaking of the one Mr. Neve encouraged Canadians to mail to immigration and citizenship minister Kenney back in June 2013 condemning the Harper Government’s decision to deny basic health care to refugees.

“Access to health care for all is a fundamental right, enshrined in international human rights treaties that Canada had agreed to respect,” said an Amnesty International leaflet mailed to supporters, urging them to write Mr. Kenney asking him to “please reverse the cuts to refugee health care.”

Amnesty International Canada General Secretary Alex Neve (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It wasn’t long after that happened that prime minister Stephen Harper’s campaign team had the brainiac idea of the “barbaric cultural practices tip line.”

Now Mr. Kenney, who has apparently forgotten how that worked out, has come up with the notion of establishing what might be called a “barbaric environmental practices tip line” as part of an “inquiry” run by a reliable Calgary business type into “foreign funded” environmental opponents of the United Conservative Party’s petro-pipedreams.

When Mr. Neve wrote a critical open letter about the human rights implications of Mr. Kenney’s latest scheme last week, Alberta’s premier most certainly remembered the sting of his previous contretemps with Amnesty International. And as we should now understand, Premier Kenney is not the sort of fellow who is likely to let go of a grudge, even after half a dozen years.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This may illuminate some of the intensity and bitterness of Mr. Kenney’s remarkable screed last week, the rambling reply he or some superannuated Postmedia scribe on his staff penned sarcastically attacking Mr. Neve and Amnesty for daring to criticize the UCP’s fossil fuel advocacy plans in terms suggesting human-rights defenders have no business speaking ill of abuses if they aren’t as bad as the ones in Saudi Arabia.

Alert readers noted that none of the premier’s 2,330 words actually responded to Mr. Neve’s point that a climate crisis is by definition a human rights crisis, so we need to do something about rising global temperatures too.

Progress Alberta Executive Director Duncan Kinney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Kenney’s actual response to that point, which was not referenced in his letter, is to eliminate the Alberta Government offices for climate change policy and scientific environmental monitoring, which a government official claimed in an email obtained by the Canadian Press would “bring many of the department’s brightest scientific minds under one division and eliminate some of the administrative overlap that can prevent them from doing their best work.”

The email from Alberta Environment and Parks Deputy Minister Bev Yee also said “the primary drivers and intended outcomes of this reorganization include enhanced business integration, the achievement of efficiencies, and providing better support to achieve government priorities.” I leave it to readers to speculate on what that might mean.

Alberta Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson (Photo: Office of the Election Commissioner).

Meanwhile, if you want to know why the UCP wanted a trustworthy business guy to handle its foreign funding inquiry and snitch line, which have been widely derided as the House Un-Albertan Activities Committee, you need look no further than the dismissal of a UCP complaint against a progressive third-party advertiser by the Office of the Election Commissioner.

Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson, who is not a UCP appointee, recently informed Progress Alberta in a letter that “there are insufficient grounds to warrant an investigation” into the group’s advertising in 2019 and therefore he was dismissing the complaint by Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper.

Alberta Deputy Minister of Environment and Parks Bev Yee (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Mr. Cooper, who is now Speaker of the Legislature, alleged last December that Progress Alberta had used small donations from the U.S.-based Tides Foundation in 2016 and 2017 to pay for political advertising in 2019.

This is really the first instance of the UCP trying to use the power of the state to intimidate and bully and silence members of the civil society that disagree with them,” Progress Alberta Executive Director Duncan Kinney told the Edmonton Journal.

Mr. Kinney need not worry, though. It won’t be the last.

The so-called “public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns” headed by Commissioner Steve Allan is just getting to work. Mr. Allan’s foreign-funding fink line, alas, is not likely to be very interested in reports about foreign cash flowing to market-fundamentalist think tanks, fossil fuel industry lobby groups, or training for right-wing activists.

15 Comments to: Jason Kenney’s fuming response to Amnesty International was not the adversaries’ first go-round

  1. Dave

    September 17th, 2019

    I suspect the Tallyrand qoute is quite right and Mr. Kenney has neither forgotten or learned from past grievances. I don’t know much about French history, but gather things did not go so well for that restored monarchy as France is now a republic and has been for a long time. To add a more contemporary North American quote to compliment your sentiment – the sequel is seldom as good as the original.

    Power is a fickle thing and right now Mr. Kenney is enjoying his honeymoon, perhaps with some hubris and seemingly doing what he wants with impunity. However, the choices and actions that he takes now will have ramifications for his political future. We and he should remember that Kenney’s mentor who was considered such a good political strategist by many went down to a crashing defeat in 2015, in part because he let his party get carried away with partisan nastiness and petty behaviour.

    Mr. Kenney may have some considerable political skills and talents too, but one way to exhaust political good will quickly is to engage in petty and non productive political feuds. Albertans want and need a Premier who puts their interests first and not his own ego.

  2. Bill Malcolm

    September 17th, 2019

    Alberta, your local friendly dystopia and dilbit emporium. Come on down!

    • Murphy

      September 18th, 2019

      That’s wrong, Edna!

  3. Political Ranger

    September 17th, 2019

    My gawd!
    What a vile, vile cast of characters. Who will step up to play Steve West?

  4. September 17th, 2019

    I absolutely love how it is deemed that we are just ripping up the ground to spew violent and endless amounts of toxic emissions and GHGs into the atmosphere without a care in the world, especially health and environment.

    CNRL reports that since 2012, emissions per barrel of crude are down 27% for carbon emissions and 75% on CH4 emissions.

    CNRL also has established a project to eliminate tailings ponds which have long been controversial.

    Even 10 years ago the regulations were so tight that as a service operator in the Alberta oil patch, one could not even spit sunflower seeds on the ground.

    Advancements in technology are made weekly and more and more there are electrostatic precipitators and various other emission control measures being installed in existing and newly built facilities.

    The environment is just as important to the labourer and CEO of any Oilsands company, as it is to any “climate alarmist”. Our children need a future in an environment that is stable, clean, and fresh. Do these environmental lobbyists and anti-oilsand charities truly believe that we don’t care about our children as greatly as they care about theirs?

    A Healthy Environment isnt cheap, it is a Billion Dollar ongoing project that needs to acquire funding from somewhere. Taxation on oil producers, combined with donations is/was the food bank of wealth for a sustainable environment. Over and above the financials of the Environment, the top oil producers in Alberta also Reclaim land to a more environmentally positive state, Support communities/indigenous communities, are part of extensive tree planting operations, and offer the most advance technologies to balance environment with production.

    Believe in Technology! Technology has always given humans what they have desired. We now desire an emissions free atmosphere, and thus far, technology has been able to provide that in insurmountable Heights when compared to fossil fuel reduction.

    The world’s fossil fuel usage is on a steady rise, and if it wasn’t for technology the emissions output would continually take leaps forward without any noticeable backstepping.

    MIT states that “technology moves at an exponential rate” . With heavy investment into these technologies the outcome will provide quicker advances at a continuous drop in cost. All the lobbying against fossil fuel production is money spent that has a minor effect on the change of emissions.

    Thank you,

    Timothy Meisner,
    Owner, MeiVission Agriculture
    [email protected]

    • John A

      September 17th, 2019

      Technology ALWAYS has unseen circumstances. And as complexity increases so do the solutions. There is nowhere else to go except with solar, geothermal and wind etc. These all have carbon costs as well and will eventually be obsolete as our resources dwindle. The tailing ponds cleanup costs hover around a quarter of a trillion dollars….who is paying for that?

    • Sam Gunsch

      September 17th, 2019

      Check out Pembina Institutes summaries of environmental liabilities and damages at the oilsands… then get back to us.

      Tailings ponds: The worst is yet to comeOilsands at 50 Series – The Real Cost of Development, Part 2
      Blog – Oct. 10, 2017 – By Jodi McNeill

      Unlike tailings produced from conventional hard rock mining, the solids in oilsands tailings will take centuries to settle to the bottom of the ponds. As a result, it is impossible to dewater the waste for timely reclamation without significant intervention. This problem was recognized as early as 1973 by the Government of Alberta, which identified oilsands tailings as untreatable with existing technologies. The government recognized that the “continuous accumulation of liquid tailings” was not acceptable and that the ponds must be “restricted in their size, location and duration of use.”

      Unfortunately, that is not what happened. For the next five decades, industry pushed its tailings problem into the future with promises that forthcoming technologies would emerge to deal with them. As the years passed and tailings continued to grow, both industry and government assured Albertans that a silver-bullet technology was just one lab discovery away. In 2010 Suncor’s CEO Rick George announced “massive change” on the tailings front, which would soon reduce Suncor’s ponds from eight to one. In 2013, Premier Alison Redford declared that tailings ponds would “disappear from Alberta’s landscape in the very near future.”

      These promises were never met, however, and today the tailings problem is worse than ever. According to new plans currently under review by the Alberta Energy Regulator, industry is proposing to let tailings continue to accumulate until 2037 when there will be over 1.5 trillion litres. That will equate to seven decades — from 1967 to 2037 — of industry seeking a technological solution and failing to meaningfully address this massive environmental problem.

    • Dave

      September 17th, 2019

      Wonderful that the emissions per barrel are going down, but if the number of barrels produced goes up, it sort of cancels that out doesn’t it?

      The problem isn’t emissions per barrel, its total emissions. If our technology somehow gets us to a point where total emissions start to go down that would be great, but I don’t think we are there yet.

    • Geoffrey Pounder

      September 17th, 2019

      “The top oil producers in Alberta also Reclaim land to a more environmentally positive state”

      Oilsands “reclamation” is a fraud.
      The land will not be restored to its original condition. Oilsands reclamation will radically modify (simplify) the landscape. Wetlands will be replaced by grassy meadows suitable for cows (or bison), grasshoppers, and tree plantations.
      Caribou will likely be extirpated. Many species of birds are expected to decline.

      As the Pembina Institute predicts, NE Alberta will be permanently transformed from “a rich wetland-dominant, low-lying landscape to hilly forested uplands”.

      A Royal Society panel raised numerous concerns about reclamation.
      “Reclaimed conditions will not be identical to the pre-disturbance state.”
      Many wetlands (vital bird habitat) and groundwater connections will be lost. Wetlands have evolved over thousands of years. Not something you put back together again overnight.

      The oilsands industry will contaminate reclaimed areas.
      Contaminants long sequestered safely underground are now above ground: in the air, water, and soil.
      Harmful to all organisms, including humans.

      “The oil sands industry’s claim—widely seen in industry advertisements—that its mine sites can be restored to their former natural state is not true. Indeed, the claim is at odds with the industry’s own reclamation plans filed with the AB govt. Recently published studies find that intensive disturbances associated with oil sands mining change fundamental biological processes, making it impossible to fully restore the affected wetlands, peatlands, and boreal forest, now or in the future. Conversion of the boreal forest alongside other disturbances from oil sands development has led to the decline of federally threatened species such as bison and woodland caribou and important subsistence food species such as moose. The few attempts to reclaim mined lands have produced landscapes that bear little resemblance to what was there previously and contain only a fraction of the historical biological diversity.”

    • Geoffrey Pounder

      September 17th, 2019

      “A Healthy Environment isnt cheap … Taxation on oil producers, combined with donations is/was the food bank of wealth for a sustainable environment.”

      The “save a village by destroying it” argument.
      You don’t create a healthy environment by polluting it.

      According to NRCan, the energy sector as a whole directly contributed 7.3% to Canada’s GDP in 2017.
      Crude oil accounted for a mere 2.6%. The oilsands sector represents a fraction of that.
      “Energy’s nominal GDP contribution for Canada (NRCan)”

      Subtract externalized environmental, climate change, and health costs and subsidies.
      Taxpayers have already coughed up billions of dollars in subsidies to this destructive industry.
      AB’s oil & gas industry has barely started to fund its massive liabilities: north of $260 billion and rising.

      Wealth that degrades our life-support systems is illusory. The costs of climate change and fossil-fuel pollution are increasingly prohibitive. Hence, the need to shift away from fossil fuels ASAP.

    • Geoffrey Pounder

      September 17th, 2019

      “CNRL reports that since 2012, emissions per barrel of crude are down 27% for carbon emissions and 75% on CH4 emissions.”

      As one study after another attests, oilsands emissions, including CNRL’s, are grossly under-reported.
      In the latest study, published in Nature, CNRL’s Horizon and Jackpine mines averaged 37% higher emissions than reported.
      “Oilsands CO2 emissions may be far higher than companies report, scientists say”

      “Measured Canadian oil sands CO2 emissions are higher than estimates made using internationally recommended methods” (Nature, 23 April 2019)
      “The results indicate that CO2 emission intensities for OS facilities are 13–123% larger than those estimated using publically available data. This leads to 64% higher annual GHG emissions from surface mining operations, and 30% higher overall OS GHG emissions (17 Mt) compared to that reported by industry.”

      Carbon intensity for in situ projects has increased every year since 2014. Total oilsands carbon intensity has increased every year since 2015. Wrong direction.
      Previously, emissions intensity decreased in part because less mined bitumen is being upgraded at home in favor of more raw dilbit exports. This simply transfers emissions to downstream refineries in the U.S. A mere accounting trick.

    • Murphy

      September 18th, 2019

      Great strawman. Certainly the peace and prosperity brought about by the creation of the petroleum culture can be viewed in no way other than having saved us, as the citizens of every destabized petro-state, and their destabilized neighbors can attest.

  5. Just Me

    September 17th, 2019

    I guess where impartial third-party adjudication fails these wannabe despots, Kenney and the UCP will have to look further afield for their next workaround.

    I guess the abbreviation for this query could be “WWPD?” (What Would Putin Do?)



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