Is it possible the United Conservative Party has a conscience?

I know, I know, this seems highly unlikely.

Even if it were true, like the Grinch’s heart, it’s bound to be a shriveled organ, at least two sizes too small.

Canadian Energy Centre Ltd. Managing Director Tom Olsen (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Still, if not a conscience exactly, the temporary winding down of the embarrassment of the Alberta Energy War Room earlier today suggests the UCP can feel shame, or at least that some members of the party’s strategic brain trust can read a public opinion poll or gauge the tenor of the phone calls doubtless pouring into MLAs’ constituency offices over the past few hours.

On the weekend, the government announced it was withdrawing its two-week-old promise to fund school boards until the end of this term, with or without students in the schools, a decision that will send 26,000 teachers and school support workers onto federal Employment Insurance.

Showing a level of contempt for working people, parents, and voters that would have shocked even Conservative Premiers like Ralph Klein or Alison Redford, no shrinking violets themselves when it came to breathtaking entitlement, the government of Premier Jason Kenney did it with a tweet on a Saturday afternoon after giving the impacted school boards 15 minutes’ notice.

Voters of all stripes, including not a few who voted Conservative, were quick to point out that the so-called Canadian Energy Centre Ltd., the War Room’s legal name under its unsavoury corporate structure designed to keep prying Freedom of Information requests at bay, was costing $82,000 a day to operate.

For that, Albertans weren’t getting much. In the month of March, which ends tomorrow, the War Room has published five stories on its website, which if they amount to the entire production of the operation works about to a cost of half a million dollars each!

The Grinch, whose heart, like that of the United Conservative Party, was too small (Image: Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel, Wikipedia).

By comparison, in the same time frame, this blog has published 31 stories., of course, costs the taxpayers of Alberta nothing at all and is, if your blogger may say so himself, considerably more entertaining.

At any rate, with even conservatively minded economists advising the Kenney Government to shut the embarrassment down, Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced today that because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the War Room has reduced “its current spending to subsistence operations at this time.”

That amounts to a cut that if applied on an annual basis would amount to 90 per cent in its operating budget to $2.84 million from $30 million — enough to keep Managing Director Tom Olsen and the other eight members of the War Room’s staff from having to suffer the indignity of applying to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal federal government for Employment Insurance.

The news release tried to make it sound as if this were a decision of the CECL, not the government. “Canadian Energy Centre reduces budget in response to COVID-19,” the headline on the news release said. This is nonsense, of course.

“The CEC plans to maintain a reduced budget for a period of three months or until regular operations can recommence,” the news release continued. “This includes taking steps to end all paid advertising campaigns, pausing work with outside contractors and ensuring it is well-positioned to resume operations when the time is right.”

As for those who hoped common sense might prevail and the War Room would be put out of its misery, and ours, Ms. Savage, who is also one of the “company’s” three corporate directors, vowed that would not be so. “While some would like to capitalize on this unprecedented crisis to permanently shut down Canadian oil and gas, we do not believe we should surrender the global energy market to these opponents,” she said in the news release. “The CEC will continue to be required to promote and defend Canadian energy.”

The mothballing operation will last for three months, or until the government decides it can get away with starting the War Room up again.

Unlike the the savings from the 26,000 school board layoffs, there was no suggestion in the news release War Room funds would be redirected to fight the coronavirus. It’s not at all clear that the rather vague accounting described in the news release won’t still allow considerable amounts of public money to flow through the CECL to projects of interest to the UCP Government.

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  1. Looks like that UCP slush-fund/unemployables project called “The War Room” is getting a time-out for three months. After all the self-inflicted nonsense of the last two weeks, not to mention the complete silence from the War Room, one wonders how much further Kenney is going to try to appease the opics?

    April 1st will result is massive cuts, likely to health care, during this Covid-19 Pandemic. But considering that a petulant Peter MacKay during a TV interview doubt there was even a real pandemic going on, just reveals the extent of the CON’s dementia. (And I guess that ever rising death count means that the dead will rise back to life by the summer.)

    As for Ken-Doh! he’s at it again, believing that beating the living crap out of Alberta will make its people love him that much more. (I have a suspicion if Kenney was married, he would be beating his wife 24/7 because he thinks it’s foreplay.) As Postmedia has already pointed out, crippling the Alberta economy will not win Kenney any fans. If anything, it may lead to a palace revolt. Alison Redford endured such a revolt and then suddenly gave up the premiership. Though the notion of a Premier Jason Nixon has no appeal to me, at the very least hanging Kenney out on his own petard could serve as an indication of the angry mob that’s waiting to take out the UCP.

  2. It is not so much a conscience, as Mr. Kenney is a career politician, who despite being rigid and an ideologue can still read polls. The War Room was the gift that kept on giving, not to the UCP or the energy industry as intended, but for the opposition. I am not surprised this came out at a time most of the world is preoccupied by other things.

    I suppose the bigger question is what will happen after three months? Will they complete the climbdown as gracefully as possible and somehow kill it off completely, or try to get more competent staff and rebrand or relaunch it?

    After the dust starts to settle from all that is happening now, there will have to be another provincial budget that takes into account what has happened to energy prices. One that is not totally divorced from reality. I suppose, it might provide the opportunity to kill the war room. I think the budget will probably not say anything at all about funding for the war room because, there will be none.

    At this point, you can’t put more lipstick on this war pig to try make it prettier and I think even the UCP realizes it has become more trouble than it is worth. Does that mean they have developed a conscience? I doubt that.

  3. Turns out they just needed a little more change. One billion going there according to news this morning. Always lots of money for the oil field.

  4. “By comparison, in the same time frame, this blog has published 31 stories., of course, costs the taxpayers of Alberta nothing at all and is, if your blogger may say so himself, considerably more entertaining.”

    If there is one good thing about the Kenney gong show, it has certainly given you lots to write about, David, and I for one definitely appreciate your efforts, although I do hope you don’t tire of your hobby.

    Entertaining? Not the first word that comes to my mind. If I were to describe your blog I would go with ‘informing’ or ‘thought provoking’ myself. That said, comparing yourself to the CEC is setting a pretty low bar. You surpass it simply by not insulting my intelligence.

    What would David Climenhaga’s blog look like if he had $30 million a year?

    1. What makes you even think there would be a blog if David Climenhaga had $30 million a year? DJC

      1. It sounds like your retirement plan might be Lotto____. In all seriousness I hope that you continue to write this blog forever as it is often (perhaps always) the best source of information available.

        If the War Room reduces its production by 90% then their production will drop to 0.5 articles per month. Perhaps it is time to hire that room full of monkeys and typewriters as the monkeys would likely be more productive.

        We always need more Alberta Politics.

  5. They have a new one:

    It says : “Figures 2a and 2b derived from Statistics Canada Table 33-10-0006-01.” That’s easy to find, but it seems to be the wrong table:

    It says “Sources: Fiscal Reference Tables, 2019; Finance Canada, 2020; Parliamentary Budget Office 2020”. C’mon folks, can’t you be a bit more specific?

  6. …and, right on schedule, Kenney has just gifted TC Energy $7.5 billion to build the TMX pipeline. Right in the middle of gutting 20,000 jobs, reducing doctors pay, and laying off medical staff in a pandemic because the government apparently didn’t have the money. Ladies and gentleman of Alberta: your Premier, his government, and their priorities.

  7. More lows for Kenney. Now we hear he will invest $1.5 Billion of our money into a dying tarsands project.

    When will it stop? Perhaps, if there is worldwide plague…Oh, wait…

  8. Uriah Heep may not believe that there is a real pandemic going on, but as with all things political, the devil is in the details of language. The death count is ever-rising for now, but it is unlikely to retain that quality. There is no getting around the fact that this started as a psy-op. The WHO sounded the arrival of the apocalypse when there were 150 cases of Covid outside China, and this after a solid month of western media shrieking about the sinister yellow men failing to address the plague in China.
    The air quality in Wuhan is so bad that people were protesting about it in the fall. Likewise nortern Italy. Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and they have four times the rate of elderly people living with younger generations that Germany does. Italian ICU’s were at something like 80% capacity before the Covid monster erupted.
    In Calgary the old folks’ homes seem to provide the ideal conditions for increased mortality. The media is doing everything it can to convey the notion that this is an equal-opportunity pathogen, but they just can’t quite float the boat. In England they had to walk back a story about a 21-yaer-old being felled in the prime of life when it turned out she had never been tested for the bug and likely committed suicide. A 21-year-old soccer coach turned out to have had undiagnosed leukemia at the time he got the Satan Bug, etc.

    As to the idea that the Used Car Party has a heart, big or small, I find the idea ludicrous. These are people driven by the amygdala, period. They remind me of the Genna brothers of prohibition-era Chicago.

    1. You might want to take a look at the “characteristics” graph from Ab Health here:

      It shows that the majority of infections are in the 25 to 64 year age groups. Tomorrow they will be publishing the demographic characteristics of the dead. Of course many will be old, but not all, and not all will have comorbidities.

      It is a new infection that will just add extra cases into the medical system. Is it being used by opportunistic sociopaths? Of course it is. Are Albertans sensible enough to put a stop to them? It does not look like it. Besides, we have a Westminster type of system so there is only democracy once every four or five years. In Alberta that may be much too often.

  9. Now that Kenney has extended over $1 B to TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline project, and secured for the company over an additional $6B in loan guarantees, one wonders how much more nonsense he is willing to ply to Alberta.

    Seems a guy who has a blind faith in the free-market is ready to cough up pension and public monies for a private company’s pipeline. And to make things even worse, as the guarantor of TC’s debt, Alberta will be on the hook for this project long term. It will take two years to build this pipeline, but the rest of the world has already moved on. When this project was dreamed up, the world price for oil was over $100/bbl and the US was not yet the world’s single largest oil producer. Times have changed. The refinery capacity on the Gulf of Mexico avoided the upgrades that would allow for the refinement of bitumen, preferring the easier to refine US oil condensate. I guess Alberta will have to finance those upgrades as well in two years if they are not done by then.

    Meanwhile, Alberta’s own institutions of health care and public education will be trashed.

    And if the global price of oil continues to fall, and Alberta becomes too expensive to draw from the ground, what then Ken-Doh?

    Alberta has allowed Kenney to gamble with their society and their lives. I expect an expansive exodus from Alberta over the next few years.

    Kenney was boasting that Alberta had the youngest average population in Canada. It should be noted that even in Calgary it’s getting harder to find the 24 to 31 age group, as they have all left for Ontario and better lives.

  10. Now, of course, $1.5 Billions of our $$$$’s goes into another pipeline for $4/barrel stuff some refer to as ‘oil’. How much of that money comes from pension funds absconded by the UCP goons? Or maybe from the ‘foregone’ salaries of the 26,000 real people who now have to rely on those damned Feds? There is obviously a lot of press (online, on paper, and through the airwaves) on the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, but so little on the other reality of tar and oil prices – on an industry with so little to offer any longer. The “return” on pipelines will probably never recover the ‘investment’ of Alberta pension funds or other taxpayer ‘contributions’. The offerings of ideologically blinkered politicians and their tar, oil, and gas masters will not serve anyone into the future of my kids and grandkidlettes. As Terry Lynn Karl has stated, “petro-states have relied on an unsustainable development trajectory fueled by an exhaustible resource – and the very revenue produced by the resource has created implacable barriers to change”. Some very real imagination is needed now more than ever, and many folks are actually forging new ways of living beyond mere “survival of the fittest” that is still fostered by the neoliberals of whatever political stripe. Seeking out those persons and their contributions are far more important than all the vapid extrapolations of past glory from any so-called ‘leadership’.

  11. The important thing here is that another pipeline will be built with all that money cut from education. Thank you educational assistants, bus drivers, janitors and substitute teachers for falling in this sword, even though you had no choice, and even though grocery money and rent might be tight this month. Did you know you can claim EI? Good luck, now go away.

  12. And, when the market cannot, will not,or does not respond (meaning that the market has already spoken), the bank of Special K remains the free market bank of last resort in order for the chosen few to remain solvent by balancing private equity balance sheets.

    But, a fundamental question remains, when Special K looks in the mirror, does he notice that he is still two faced? That is,

    1. [And in the latest major twist in its long journey, the Alberta government is set to take an equity stake and provide a loan guarantee to the project during a period of turmoil in global energy markets, with a total financial commitment of just over $7 billion.

    “Without this investment, we are certain that Keystone XL would not be built,” Kenney said in an interview.
    “In part because of the chaos in global energy markets, private sector capital is not available to finance the project.”]

    2. Yet, just a short time ago,

    [“If elected, a United Conservative government will do everything within our power to cancel the NDP’s reckless $4-billion expenditure of borrowed tax dollars to interfere in the market,” said Kenney.

    Kenney also said Alberta can’t afford the deal right now, given its multibillion-dollar deficits and a debt projected to reach $96 billion by 2024.]

    Not to worry, Special K to the rescue, because, to paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, “When I use language,’ Special K said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ .

    Rex Tillerson’s observation regarding Donald Trump (moron) appears to be both apropos and transferable to Alberta’s current ‘leader’, because every circus needs a clown, even if, or maybe because, that clown happens to be a two faced, self professed free market conservative, moron. Thanks for the laughs.

  13. Everything about the War Room is top secret. Ms. Savage is one of its overlords. I see no reason to believe anything she says about its operations without full disclosure of its budget and inner workings.

    Thus, I am inclined to believe that online trolling of all things Albertan are within the War Room’s domain. War is not fought on one battlefront, but many. I suspect War Room staff or contracted troll farms are responsible for campaigns like this one, although it does resemble an issue in need of management.

    Because tormenting an epidemiologist in the middle of an epidemic, like a dog on a leg, is just the kind of thing this wolf pack does. It’s as if they have rabies.

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