The crowd at the Jan. 9 Fair Deal Panel town hall in Fort Saskatchewan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta’s so-called Fair Deal Panel, which might have seemed like a good idea when Premier Jason Kenney announced it last fall, presents something of a political problem for a government that has more often than not let Ottawa do the heavy lifting throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier Kenney pitched the rhetorical roadshow as a way to help ruggedly individualistic Albertans cast off the dead weight of Ottawa’s collectivist mentality and, in the words of the notorious Firewall Manifesto, “take greater charge of our own future.”

Fair Deal Panel Chair Oryssia Lennie (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Most of the ideas the nine-member panel was instructed to explore came straight out of the risible independantiste screed penned in 2001 by Stephen Harper, three of his market-fundamentalist college teachers, and a couple of hangers on.

But faced with an actual crisis caused by the coronavirus, Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government mostly bowed to federal decisions, did its best to upload the costs onto the feds, and concentrated on yelling at the likes of Norway and China. The former was attacked for its lack of enthusiasm for getting back to the carbon economy as quickly as possible; the latter, inspired by U.S. President Donald Trump, presumably to deflect the blame for any shortfalls in the province’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

This makes it pretty obvious to Albertans who are paying attention, say what they will about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, what level of government you need to go to in a real crisis.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government is doing the heavy lifting on COVID-19 (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Flickr).

To put this metaphorically, it’s all very well to say that an Englishman’s home is his castle, but when fire breaks out in the castle kitchen, your imagined Englishman will still likely ring the fire brigade!

Which means that most of the “Fair Deal” Panel’s presumably predetermined recommendations — replacing the RCMP with a provincial force, no longer cooperating with Ottawa to collect taxes, finding ways to wiggle out of the Canada Health Act, appointing a provincial chief firearms officer dedicated to not enforcing the gun-control provisions of the federal Criminal Code, and dumping the Canada Pension Plan and replacing it with a provincial version — either have lost some of the cachet they appeared to have a few months ago or have already proved to be unpopular with voters.

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

More provincial autonomy as a general theme has certainly lost lustre now that Albertans have seen how little our provincial government is willing to do about anything, no matter how important, that isn’t among the bees in Premier Kenney’s bonnet.

The idea of grabbing CPP funds contributed by Albertans so that the UCP can dip into our retirement security to prop up Mr. Kenney’s beloved oil industry just about moved participants to tears of fury at some of the panel’s 10 small “town halls” across the province.

Despite the panel’s baked-in assumption Alberta gets a raw deal from the rest of Confederation and its apparent effort to lead witnesses to the conclusions the government wanted, plenty of people got up on their hind legs at the town hall I attended Jan. 9 in Fort Saskatchewan to proclaim their love of Canada and advise panel members they thought this province needs to start working with our fellow citizens instead of just yelling at them.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper (Photo: Remy Steinegger, Creative Commons).

Soon after came the coronavirus, making their case for them.

Given all this, it should come as no surprise that the panel, which was supposed to report at the end of March and received an extension until mid-April, waited until May to hand in its homework to the government, according to the CBC. The government, in turn, didn’t say anything until Saturday, when it revealed to the public the report was in its hands. The report can now sit on the shelf until a more promising moment to implement Harper’s bad ideas, which even Ralph Klein had the good sense to spike back in 2001.

“I look forward to giving this report and its recommendations the proper attention it deserves once we have safely started to implement our relaunch strategy,” Mr. Kenney said in the government’s news release Saturday. The Saturday of a long weekend, of course, is an unusual time to publish information of this sort, even less likely to be noticed than on Friday night, the traditional time for publishing information governments would like voters to forget about as quickly as possible.

Fair Deal Panel Member Donna Kennedy-Glans (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If you want to know what the panel recommended, you’ll just have to wait till a time of Mr. Kenney’s choosing.

“Government will announce a date for the public release of the report once the urgency of the COVID-19 response has subsided,” the government’s press release explained, a judgment, of course, that is entirely in the government’s hands.

The panel, chaired by former senior mandarin Oryssia Lennie, included Preston Manning, the godfather of the Canadian right; Stephen Lougheed, president of Alberta Innovates and son of the late premier Peter Lougheed; Donna Kennedy-Glans, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister now a blogger whose blog sometimes advocates some sort of sovereignty-association; law professor Moin Yahya; and backbench UCP MLAs Drew Barnes, Miranda Rosin, and Tony Yao. The ninth member of the panel, former Assembly of First Nations regional chief Jason Goodstriker, died suddenly on Jan. 16.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the report was handed in to the government on Friday. However, although the government’s news release on Saturday left the impression the report was handed in last week, the actual timeline is not yet clear.

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  1. For those who may have missed it, Kenney has also decided to turtle and try to hide his “public” inquiry into enviro’s he alleges have run an anti-Alberta energy campaign… based on a conspiracy of ‘foreigners!!!’ rationale on the level of Trump’s Kenya-birtherism about Obama.

    Kenney UCP did not release the interim report of the public inquiry commissioner (UCP crony) completed back in January as Kenney promised. No information is publicly available on who the inquiry has interviewed or any findings.

    Soviet-style smear campaigns seems to be the UCP mode.

    Kenney got lucky that the COVID shut down of the court system means his public inquiry won’t be roasted for the anti-democratic autocratic mandate and terms of reference he authorized.

    Kenney UCP is just so plainly Orwellian in many of its communications, it’s much like Trump.

    1. For the record, Ecojustice Canada has filed an “application for judicial review” against Kenney’s government, alleging the “Anti-Alberta” review was 1) nothing more than an attempt to shut up critics of the UCP’s oil-at-any-cost-to-everyone-else policy and 2) a gross over-reach into federal jurisdiction anyway. It’s gonna take years to get through the courts, but maybe we’ll be lucky and the case will get started early in 2023….

  2. Alberta’s glory days are gone, there is not much of the gravy train and the pig trough left for Kenney and his crew. Yet Kenney’s UCP is polling very well.
    Alberta’s is at the mercy of entrenched Hillbillies, and incompetent leadership. Our hourglass is perilously close to being empty. W
    Albertans had one opportunity with Notley to take a road to redemption. They were conned. We have let pirates back to loot what remains. Welcome to ther road to Perdition. Now the yellow vesters, militia, and Wexiters will fight over Alberta’s entrails. The post COVID world will be vastly different. There is no future here. It is a new world of Fox News and idiots in office. TRUMP I will launch my Mayflower but

  3. Interesting news on the report being shelved. I suppose kenney is bright enough to not bite the federal hand that feeds him until the hand goes empty or the virus retreats, whichever comes first. And the mention of your attending a town hall on Jan 9 where some people were highly upset at the thought that their pensions might be purloined to flush down the toilet of tarsands dreams, makes me wonder whether their feelings were taken into account in the report. I’d bet not, but until the report is released, one can only speculate.

    I had no idea that kenney had criticized Norway. If he had read real newspapers these last five years, he’d be aware that Norway had been using its sovereign wealth fund to highly subsidize the purchase of Electric Vehicles for its citizens. In 2017, in Norway it was as cheap to buy the expensive Tesla Model S (the subsequent more downmarket Model 3 was not then available) as an upmarket VW Golf. In Canadian terms, it was like getting a $100K EV for $35K. Tesla sales were number one for some months then – competitors have since arisen. The fact they worked fine in Norway’s climate was a policy move attention-grabber to convince citizens there that EVs were the future. Norway per capita has led the European EV market ever since, unsurprisingly, and although subsidies have decreased they are still substantial, and no new fossil fuel cars can be purchased from 2025, hybrid or regular.

    Norway has substantial hydro power resources of course, and doesn’t mind flogging its share of North Sea oil to the rest of the world, a sort of “I’m all right, Jack, too bad about you” outlook. Nor are Norwegian fish farming companies very well-regarded environmentally on the West Coast, both Washington State or BC. So they’re not angels by any means. However, the one thing that distinguishes them from the past Alberta free-for-all is that they have always had VERY high taxation, both on income and on consumer goods. Wrap your brain around that, Jason and big ole meanie Stephen the Brain. Don’t think many Norwegians are starving or going wanting for consumer goods.

    So Jason wanting Norway to get more carbon intensive “again” would have been a complete non-starter some years ago, let alone now. If the Norwegians listen at all, they must laugh their heads off at the demented Canadian political right, and the jumped up little autocrat running Alberta into the ground, while shaking their heads at the federal government buying and building a pipeline to try to sell more of the most pollutingly-produced ersatz oil in the world. That’s why Norwegian pension fund investment in the tarsands is over. There’s no cure for stupid Canadian politicians of several stripes, and the canny Norwegians, probably not all that bothered environmentally because they flog oil themselves, simply cannot see a return on investment. The party’s completely over, UCP. And there’s no backup plan other than to wheedle for more funds from the rest of Canada to keep the place semi-afloat. Had the UCP nee PC and Con ideologues any real brains, they would have sought to diversify Alberta’s economy decades ago. Now it’s too late. Time to abandon ship, thinking Albertans of today. Join our country instead of helping to sabotage it from the inside by electing complete dopes who promised the skies and delivered ruin in the end because they literally had no imagination, and even inflicted one of their own on the rest of us for a decade of unparalleled nonsense and nastiness.

    In the news, Tesla has announced this past week the imminent production of new battery cells, to be made by a Chinese company, with research and chemistry provided by a team at Dalhousie University in Halifax NS over the past four years, and funded to some extent by the EV company. Probably not front page news in Post Media Alberta.

    In addition, you may have heard this past 24 hours that Dalhousie University is to be the first place in Canada to begin testing a new Chinese Covid-19 vaccine. If not, turn off the C&W station and listen to CBC.

    I, in my probable ignorance, rather assume that major Alberta universities spend time writing right wing economic screeds, heartily funded by the oil industry. I just wanted to point out that there is, even in the rest of Canada in a province with a 55% per capita income compared to Alberta’s past, people who haven’t been sitting on their hands ideologically attacking China just because, but getting on with things. Our ocean bio-science presence is world class as well.

    1. Bill: My feelings about the content of the report are exactly the same as yours. To wit, of course the views of the many folks saying “keep yer paws of my CPP” were not considered. The report — at least the one the government got last week — will recommend setting up an Alberta Pension Plan because that’s what Mr. Kenney and his puppetmaster, who sits on another one of these bogus panels, want. DJC

    2. Well said, well reasoned and much appreciated in our sea of Post Media crap. And of course a bow to David for this platform.

  4. When the Fair Deal Panel was struck, Mr. Kenney also promised that a vote would be held before any major change was made.* I think the prospect of such a vote on, say, a pension change, would also make Mr. Kenney very nervous, as it would no doubt be seen by many as a referendum on his leadership. How would Mr. Kenney look if the population voted, say, 70% against a proposal he was pushing?

    The logistics of such a vote are also interesting. When Shorty made his promise, I expect he was thinking it would be piggy-backed onto the ballot of the municipal election a year and a half from now, just as he has promised another senate election would be held. Since Covid has postponed Kenney’s planned service cuts, poor Jason could be polling pretty low at that point. At the same time, if the government delays the report’s release long enough, they can argue there isn’t enough time to put the proposal on the municipal ballot.

    Mr. Kenney should also be thinking about Election Day 101: Get Out The Vote. Threatened with the possibility of having their CPP commandeered by a proposed Alberta Seniors Solvency fund, the ‘No’ vote will be highly motivated to get out and vote, while the separatists, who seem to be dwindling in number, won’t feel the same motivation. Given that municipal elections often have a low turnout, and harvest could be going on at the time, Kenney’s ASS could get really embarrassed.

    *Since Kenney did not hold a press conference and sign a big chloroplast sign promising a vote, it would appear he may keep that promise.

  5. When it comes to conservatives polishing turds — this Fair Deal Panel report will likely require extra buffing and a big shovel.

    No doubt, the feckless UCP brain trust will unleash their typical torrent of unbridled bullsh*t in a valiant attempt to sell a pig in poke to its unsuspecting, low-information supporters when they finally get around to releasing this tendentious piece of taxpayer-funded political drivel. Discerning voters will actually see this report for what it really is — a huge pile of bombastic horse manure.

  6. This panel has accomplished exactly what it was meant to accomplish: play to the hardcore conservatives in the province and, more importantly, bleed more money from the public weal. This proliferation of panels and war rooms and what have you functions merely to distract public discourse and drain the public purse. I fear that this pandemic has created fertile ground for a Shock Doctrine type response by populist fascists like our Pillsbury Dungboy.

  7. “Ken Boessenkool, one of the authors of the Firewall Letter, believes that the benefits shouldn’t be measured in costs despite the high price tag to achieve the fair deal proposals.”

    It is either the politics of the severely mentally confused, ‘fiscal conservative’ manure spreader, or an extremely cynical politics that is focused on retaining the loyalty of the hypnotized, partisan, tribal followers. Perhaps, a bit of both; whereas,

    “It’s going to cost more for the government to deliver an Alberta Pension Plan, it’s going to cost the government of Alberta more to have a provincial police force, it’s going to cost the government of Alberta more to have its own income tax, but the benefits of this flow to the population of Alberta,” Boessenkool said.”

    But, “If the benefits outweigh the costs, then let’s go for it. One potential benefit that Boessenkool sees from moving forward on the fair deal proposals is suppressing the separatist sentiment stewing in Alberta since the 2019 federal election.”

    A separatist sentiment that was the creation of past intellectually starved, conservative dimwits seeking to appease their tribal followers and currently, vigorously fomented by the UCP and its leader; therefore, it is simply a costly ‘solution’ for a manufactured UCP ‘problem’ directed at their chosen audience, because as we were taught long ago, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”

    1. The ‘Fair Deal Panel’, or how to first create and fuel populist anger and then proceed to exploit that same anger.

      1. “Former Progressive Conservative MLA Doug Griffiths was on the 2003, Ralph Klein created ‘Committee on strengthening Alberta’s role in confederation’ and said none of the ideas hold up to scrutiny.”

      “Pretty much all of it was non-starters, I realized that a lot of the rhetoric that comes with it comes from anger,” he said. “That is the first time that I learned that your anger is a liar.” Close study showed all of the ideas are flawed.

      2. “An Alberta pension plan, for example, would struggle to match the 10 per cent rate of return the CAPP plan has seen Griffiths said. He said an Alberta plan would also be pushed to invest in provincial industries instead of creating a more diversified portfolio.”

      But, Aimco and the main provincial industry that is starving for private equity investment would benefit greatly from the influx of new investment capital.

      “Of course, AIMCo would be the ones potentially managing an Alberta pension, so it would be in their interest to suggest they could do it better. On the other hand, AIMCO is a serious investment agency and it would not be in their interest to fudge this important debate. Kenney has said that pulling out of the CPP would also mean that Alberta would get $40 billion in investment funds from the CPP Investment Board moved to AIMCo.”

  8. The panel included landlord Drew Barnes, who showed up in Medicine Hat to run his property investment business personally. No doctors’ driveways were involved. How’s that Halo air ambulance issue going? The UCP isn’t listening to the people of Medicine Hat.

    Speaking of things slipping past us during the Covid fiasco of reopening/not reopening and excitement about out-of town haircuts and restaurant meals, Travis Toews has used this Covid-long weekend cover as an opportunity to install a Kenney crony on the board of ATB Financial, Jim Davidson. Ring any bells?

    Never fear! If Jason Kenney can’t get his hands on our CPP right away, there’s always the fire sale of provincial parks and crown corporations for pennies on the dollar, reinvesting in oil companies for dollars on the penny. These things don’t need a referendum, and in three more years, who will remember? More importantly, no one can stop them? They have a majority, so anything goes. Jason and the Golden Fleece. We will be shorn, one way or another, or as the Red Tape minister so crudely proclaimed, the UCP is giving Alberta an enema. Guess who’s holding the hose?

  9. I just received a response from Donna on her blog stating that David C got some of the facts concerning wrong but I will leave that the author of this blog to respond if he chooses. When it comes to this post I agree with the absurdity of wanting more provincial control during a pandemic. Donna used to be my MLA and while I never voted for her, I thought she was a pretty intelligent person but when I reach the posts in her blog I am beginning to doubt that.

    1. David: I don’t believe Ms. Kennedy-Glans has responded on her blog, although she did post a comment on Twitter saying my blog was in error — which it was on one rather insubstantial point, the timing of when the report was submitted to the government of Alberta. Ms. Kennedy-Glans’s tweet is found here. On that point, the article has been amended and a correction posted, as is my standard operating procedure.

      However, if Ms. Kennedy-Glans’s assertion that the report was submitted “weeks ago” is correct, then clearly the government’s news release Saturday was written with the intention to deceive. To this I can only say, “fool me once, shame on you; do it again, shame on me.” So far, Ms. Kennedy-Glans has not responded to my request that she tell me on what date the report was then submitted to the government. I will assess her assertion that I only need to ask to get a straight answer on whether she gets back to me now that I have asked. The CBC reports that the report was submitted in May, although not on what day. Obviously, if the CBC report is correct, the “homework” was handed in late. All that is at issue is how late.

      The primary purpose of this blog is to comment on and analyze news that, of necessity, is usually reported by others. Nothing Ms. Kennedy-Glans has said suggests any fundamental flaw with the arguments made in this post, although she is certainly welcome to disagree. The facts on which the key points rest are backed up with links to the sources.


      1. It must be heart warming to realize, Mr. Blogger, that the mighty rulers of Alberta pay close attention to your articles. Since you provide information that can assist them in providing better government for the people of Alberta, influential legislators like Ms. Kennedy-Glans should return the favour by submitting a generous contribution to

  10. “I look forward to giving this report and its recommendations the proper attention it deserves” … Maybe Mr Kenney is just stashing it on a shelf in his mother’s basement as a just-in-case replacement for a different paper product that has been in short supply since the pandemic shutdown began …

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