Part of the crowd during yesterday’s Climate Action Strike at the Alberta Legislature (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I don’t know if the thousands of young Climate Action Strike protesters who gathered on the frigid doorstep of the Alberta Legislature yesterday frighten Premier Jason Kenney and his angry fossil fuel warriors, but they ought to.

Yes, the fired-up but well-behaved crowd of truants and their supporters in Alberta’s capital, estimated by its organizers from Climate Justice Edmonton at 4,000 people and probably considerably bigger, was dwarfed by the multitudes of climate-change protesters elsewhere in Canada — 20,000 in Victoria, more than 100,000 in Vancouver, and well over 300,000 in Montreal.

Some of the faces in the crowd during the protest at the Legislature (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

And, yes, none of this is particularly good news for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his ridiculous “war room” strategy and belligerent defence of doing things the way we’ve always done them in Alberta, which is to say, without much consideration for the planet.

But it seems probable that in the long term the concerns of these soon-to-be voters have the potential to be the worst news for Mr. Kenney and his party, if not an impediment to his immediate plans.

MLA Lori Sigurdson, then a member of Rachel Notley’s cabinet, listens respectfully to opponents of the NDP’s farm-safety legislation on Nov. 30, 2016 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Certainly one would have thought the UCP would take note, regardless of the party’s undeniable success in last April’s provincial election, and treat the concerns of such a large group with a little respect.

Nevertheless, UCP ministers and MLAs seem to have all taken a powder yesterday, trailing impolite tweets from their online rage machine.

The boys in short pants, the party’s sophomoric political staffers and paid social media trolls, plastered I-[HEART]-[MAPLE LEAF]-Oil+Gas placards in the windows of their bottom-floor offices in the stately and historic Legislature Building. Remember, these are supposed to be the grownups with jobs.

Contrast this with the previous government’s reaction to the glowering crowd of 1,000 or so angry and sometimes threatening farmers protesting the NDP’s farm-safety legislation at the same address in November 2015. NDP ministers went outside and worked the crowd, respectfully listening and arguing their case.

UCP MLAs and political staffers may have truck-nuts on their pickups, but when it comes to going out in the cold and talking to folks who disagree with them, there’s not much sign of the real thing.

Seeing George Clark in (climate) action

It was interesting if not particularly instructive to hear George Clark, best known in Alberta as the #Kudatah Guy who back in 2016 promised to magically remove the NDP government without an election, in a “debate” with energy journalist Markham Hislop attended by about 40 people in Edmonton Thursday.

George Clark, best remembered in Alberta for his #Kudatah claims in 2016 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Hislop took what might be called the Notley position: More pipelines are needed now, but we also need counterbalancing action to reduce carbon emissions and a plan for the day folks won’t want to buy our fossil fuels. He relied on arguments and statistics mostly gleaned from interviews with academics and fossil fuel industry executives.

Mr. Clark took a modified Kenney position that I would characterize as, drill, baby, drill; the world will always want our oil. He seemed to rely mainly on anecdotes about what real Albertans think and outlandish claims like the notion large oil and gas companies favouring carbon taxes are run by “environmental socialists.”

Energy journalist Markham Hislop (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I’m simplifying, but you can watch it yourself if you have the fortitude. However, you’ll have to look it up since I’ve long been banned from Mr. Clark’s Facebook page. Mr. Clark remains welcome to comment on this blog, as he does from time to time.

There was nobody there to make the argument made by 4,000 or more protesters at the Legislature yesterday, that we’d better have climate action right now or we soon won’t have a planet to live on.

That said, it’s my considered opinion Mr. Hislop mopped the floor with Mr. Clark, as far as it went.

Additional entertainment was provided from the floor of an east Edmonton private school gymnasium by the well informed and always argumentative Joe Anglin, former Green Party Leader and Wildrose Party MLA turned dissident.

A note on crowd sizes

Crowd sizes are always hard to estimate. Mainstream media are notorious for seriously underestimating them.

Global News airborne shot of the gathering crowd at the Legislature yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of Global News video).

The CBC put the size of yesterday’s Climate Action Strike protest at about 2,000 people, ludicrously low. The event’s organizers said about 4,000 people attended, which is clearly more accurate just by eyeballing photos of the crowd. This estimate seems to have been accepted by most reporters.

However, given the number of people coming and going and the huge area in which the crowd was gathered, I would estimate it as much higher, with participation probably closer to 8,000 people throughout the four-hour event.

I’ve been going to these things and taking photos for more than 20 years. I was certainly not alone yesterday in thinking this was the largest crowd in front of the Legislature I’ve ever seen.

Moreover, it was also the only really large crowd that didn’t have participants bused in by deep-pocketed organizers from other parts of Alberta. No, this was made up mostly of high school and university students who walked or took public transit to the protest.

So this represents real commitment by a large community of like-minded people, and hard work by talented young organizers. If I were a UCP strategist, I’d give that a more respectful and serious response than a few snotty, misspelled tweets and sticking signs in some windows.

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  1. What astounds me is that the conservative “entrepreneurs” don’t see the business opportunity in appealing to these masses….

  2. Any of the severely normal Albertans who didn’t vote for the UCP in April came to realize ages ago that the party of morally bankrupt conservative climate change deniers was never going to act on climate change in any meaningful way to curtail anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

    Therefore, it should not come as a shock or surprise to those enlightened voters that the longer the party of environmental miscreants are kept in office and left to peddle their market-fundamentalist ideological dogma, the longer the planet will worsen and continue to experience monumental environmental degradation. Let’s hope our new climate change warriors who rallied yesterday and others like young Swedish environmental trailblazer Greta Thunberg (who spoke in Montreal yesterday) stay true to the cause — and vote accordingly.

    Excellent article on Greta Thunberg in the Guardian (see link below):

  3. This messaging by environmentalists that we have twelve years to prevent human extinction is certainly overwrought. As a farmer who has experienced early snowfall 2 out of the last 3 years and it looks like it will snow early again this weekend my experience has been that weather is trending colder not warmer. Most of my neighbors have set up natural gas powered grain dryers in the last few years to dry their grain because of the cold wet falls. The disconnect between urban and rural voters certainly continues to widen.

    As for the debate of the necessity of a carbon tax I found this article on the Sierra Club website about B.C.’s GHG emissions and how they have continued to increase while having the highest carbon tax in Canada.

    Also as a farmer I hear nothing from the political parties on how they envision the future of farming and food production in their theoretical world with net zero emissions and restricted fossil fuel consumption! Enjoy your day.

    1. Climate change results in the climate…..changing. this means not just warmer and drier but also wetter and colder depending on where you live. This is also apt to change as time ticks by. I would encourage you to educate yourself on the basis priciples of AGW as you do like to post here fairly often.

    2. I totally agree that our climate is trending colder. I work out doors and experience the weather first hand. The city dwellers are trending towards decisions that do not account for their own needs. I don’t see many gardens or livestock in the cities so how will they survive. Who is doing the math because I cannot see the connection in regards to this carbon issue. Someone came up with Canada producing 1.6% of the world’carbon production yet we have the highest per capita tree count which takes care of 2.7% of the carbon produced worldwide. Now a figure of 38% of Canada’s carbon production is being thrown around that the oil sands alone produces yet they are spending more money and research on carbon reduction and carbon capture technology. Canada has refuneries accross the nation and no figures given for their contributions.
      A reality check would be to have all the demonstrators not use any item produced from oil or natural gas by products and see how that goes.

    3. Farmer Brian: This, in fact is why we now call it “climate change” and not “global warming” — a more unpredictable climate with greater extremes of weather phenomena, combined with an increasing GLOBAL AVERAGE temperature. We also expect to see changes in the distribution of drought areas as well as of flooding … northward migration of formerly tropical pest species and tropical disease insect vectors … and many other effects that directly, and negatively, impact agriculture.

      As for me, I’m going over to see my grandchildren this morning, so I do expect to enjoy my day … I hope you enjoy yours too.

    4. You’ve just said you’ve experienced climate change what with cold falls, early snow. Not everywhere is going to get warmer all at once. In the Maritimes, we’ve had later and later springs but with rain not snow, hot summers, tropical humidity and early frosts. The effects will vary from place to place just as day-to-day weather does.

      Apparently you need there to be some definitive on-off switch thrown in your own backyard before you and your native intelligence can believe it. Not for you to believe specialists, you’re way smarter than those folk. Too bad you can’t believe your fellow citizens who’ve been flooded out, or watched permafrost melting their housing into Hudson’s Bay. No, in your few hundred acres of perceptual reality, whose effects are somehow multiplied to be the same worldwide, like 46C in Paris did not happen dude, there’s no problem whatsoever.

      NOAA and NASA have documented the rise of world temperature each year. You, meanwhile, some utter nonentity out in the sticks, have decided you know better than that.

      You’re wrong, but intellectually incapable of realizing it. Simple as that.

    5. Farmer Brian: Since the early 1990s, it has been getting warmer in North America, not colder. There has been several record hot summers. There has been many years where very bad drought has happened. Alberta has North America’s first ever carbon tax, because Ed Stelmach put it there. Jason Kenney did not get rid of Alberta’s carbon tax. It’s still here.

      1. Yes you are quite correct that Alberta still has a carbon tax on industrial emissions. I am curious why no one is willing to address the fact C02 emissions are going up in both B.C. and Alberta even though both provinces have had a carbon tax for over a decade?!

        Bill I am fortunate enough that my family has farmed some of the same land for 113 years. We have certainly seen weather all over the map in that time period so I do enjoy the condescending responses attacking my intelligence in regards to climate change, funny how you all prefer to insult me rather than explain why existing carbon taxes are not lowering emissions! I do realize it is much easier to attack then it is to have a rational debate. Enjoy you day one and all!

        1. The reason why BC emissions have crept up is due to their increasing population. When that is accounted for CO2 emissions have dropped by 2% overall. Their per capita emissions have gone down in other words. BTW…don’t mistake puzzlement for condescension. The basic facts about AGW have been around for a while and as a farmer it is puzzling you would not know that.

    6. Farmer Brian, I see you are still stuck under the dome (dome syndrome). Maybe you and George Clark can do a KUDATAH against the Liberal Government and then weather and climate will be all okay.

    7. As a farmer’s daughter, I remember when I was a kid, 40 years ago, my mom telling me to not plant a garden before May long weekend as we were guaranteed a killing frost any time up until then, and even sometimes after. Also, said garden had to be finished by September long weekend as we would have a killing frost any time after that. I notice that hasn’t been happening. Killing frosts aren’t happening in my area (Lethbridge) until close to October, and we generally don’t have any in May any more, even April is pushing it. This is not science of course, just observation. I also remember winters being much colder and with more snow. My dad went out with the tractor to “unstuck” the school bus more than once.

      We are, in general, having more mild and shorter winters, in my observation. I’m sure there’s data out there as well to support (or deny) my observations.

      We have had thunderstorms in November. NOVEMBER! We have had rain in December! That NEVER happened when I was a kid. After September, if there was any precipitation, it was snow, not rain.

  4. All of these young people need to vote when the opportunity arises. They can change take power from those with no plan.

  5. “I (heart) Canadian oil and gas.”

    I love Canadian oil & gas too. I love it so much I think we should keep it all to ourselves — deep underground where no one can get at it.

    Because I (heart) planet Earth and your grandchildren even more.

  6. No one can accuse the UCP of being attuned to the times. And they are not the real government in Alberta anyway. That resides in board rooms in Calgary and in the US.

  7. As a Gen Xer who came of age in an Alberta where protesting for the common good was frowned upon, this warms my heart.

  8. This is a sign of how the future looks and I don’t think it seems very bright for Mr. Kenney and his reactionary gang, some of whom were hunkered down in the basement of the Legislature. Yes, people who cling to the past can gain power sort of as a last gasp reaction by those who want to bring back a mythical nostalgic past or to hold back the march of history. Eventually the dam bursts, usually suddenly and sometimes unexpectedly, and things move forward. We had a moment like that in Alberta in 2015 and arguably also in 1971. Other provinces have had this sort of thing too, such as Quebec in the 1960’s.

    I believe Mr. Kenney was in another part of Edmonton at a function, so he may have had an excuse to miss this big protest, but I am sure he is well aware of it. He is a smooth operator and I am sure will do his best to appear unruffled or unconcerned, but it is one of the largest in front of the Legislature for a long time. I am sure he must realize that for such a protest of this size to occur in Alberta also does not portend well for his planned disinformation campaign particularly elsewhere, where similar protests were considerably larger. At least Mr. Kenney did not flee the city to avoid the protests, as did his Federal leader Mr. Scheer. That in particular will not be a good look moment for Scheer, who up until now has mainly just been avoiding Pride Parades, but left Montreal just in advance of the largest protest and went to the other side of the country.

    I think one of the natural hazards of being a reactionary conservative is you can’t avoid eventual progress and it is hard to fight it, as I am sure Mr. Kenney has already found out in his own long mostly losing battle against gay rights. The Federal Conservatives seem to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the Harper years. Their fight in this election against the carbon tax almost seems to be a repeat of Harper’s 2008 campaign. However, Mr. Trudeau for his flaws is a better politician and campaigner than Stephan Dion, the Liberal who initially advocated a carbon tax in 2008, and in the years since then concerns about climate change and the environment have increased considerably, not decreased.

    If the Conservative anti carbon tax message does not sell well Federally in this upcoming Federal election, I wonder if after the election it will be a time for self reflection for them. If so, it could also be very bad news for Mr. Kenney’s barely disguised ambition to take over the Federal leadership. Of course his colleagues will still want someone with solid conservative views to lead them, but perhaps not someone with such reactionary views anymore. The times are changing.

  9. And right in the aftermath of these protests, Andrew Sheer announces that a CPC government will build an energy corridor across the country. No doubt his base love the idea, but I do wonder what new voters he was targeting with such a poorly timed announcement.

  10. Nice to see, of course, but the more useful and realistic strategy would be for progressive, environment-minded Albertans to do the math, read the history, and move to BC and SK. The four-year Notley blip only served to obscure and delay the obvious constructive pathway.

    An influx of, say, 100,000 new residents, correctly distributed, would do wonders to revive the SK NDP and solidify the party’s hold on the BC Legislature. Of course, the party’s energy and environment policies certainly need work in both provinces – under Horgan, the Brown faction in the NDP has been in charge – but one step at a time.

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