Alberta Politics
Jason Kenney and Jason Nixon with a big stack of paper yesterday (Photo: Facebook).

Alberta political roundup: The paper-pile premier, furious doctors, rebel ’Roser rumours, Total disaster, and more …

Posted on July 30, 2020, 2:35 am
10 mins

Having rammed through two controversial bills Tuesday night, one opening the door to more health care privatization and the other eliminating workplace fairness and declaring war on unions, the Alberta Legislature wrapped up its business just after 8 o’clock yesterday morning.

United Conservative Party social media spent the afternoon bragging about how much legislation the government has passed so far this year. “Alberta introduced and passed more laws in 2020 than any other province in Canada,” boasted one oft-repeated meme.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

A smiling Jason Kenney, apparently now the paper-stack premier, soon appeared in a photo clutching a thick pile of paper, representing the volume if not the quality of the UCP’s legislative effort this year, and looking like a wee little man beside UCP House Leader Jason Nixon.

How odd that Alberta’s supposedly red-tape-hating Conservatives, steeped in the anti-government rhetoric of the old Wildrose Party, should be bragging about smothering the province in legislation! As one wit remarked on social media, there’s enough new paper in this province now to bury the Red Tape Reduction Minister.

Let’s dispose of those rumours about rebel ’Rosers, shall we?

Speaking of the Wildrose Party of yore, let’s dispose of those rumours circulating on social media that a cabal of rebel ’Rosers in the UCP Caucus, worried about keeping rural doctors and displeased with Premier Kenney’s iron-fisted control of what they get to say, is about to tear a page from recent history and cross the floor to sit as Independents.

The name most often heard in connection with this yarn is that of Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, who, it is true, is a bit of a loose cannon on deck.

Lovely thought. Don’t count on it happening, though.

Yes, many rural MLAs are deeply unhappy with Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s War on Doctors. They’re hearing about it daily from frightened constituents. But as bad as things may be on the home front, it’s just too early in the life of the government for them to let themselves be cast into Utter Darkness and deprived of all influence.

Maybe, someday, the rebellion will catch fire. Just not yet.

Doctors vote no confidence in Health Minister Tyler Shandro

Speaking of the doctors, the Alberta Medical Association’s rhetorical vote of confidence in Mr. Shandro saw 98 per cent of the physicians, residents and medical students who voted say they have no confidence in the health minister.

Alberta Medical Association President Christine Molnar (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The results released yesterday morning weren’t a surprise, but they sent a powerful message just the same. Of the 13,405 physicians who were eligible to take part in the AMA survey, 8,470 indicated they have no confidence in Mr. Shandro, 137 or 1.5 per cent said they did, and 57, fewer than 1 per cent, abstained.

UCP issues managers and their ilk were soon spinning this as a meaningless vote of a special interest group, but seeing as the group in question includes most of the doctors in the province, and two-thirds of them cast a ballot, it should worry the government just the same.

AMA President Christine Molnar immediately demanded a meeting with Premier Kenney to discuss what he’s going to do about it.

The smart move would be to schedule a meeting, make conciliatory noises, and shuffle the intemperate Mr. Shandro off to another portfolio where he can do less damage. That doesn’t mean, of course, that’s what the government will do.

Is a cabinet shuffle imminent? Might be a plan!

Which brings us to another rumour circulating in Alberta political circles, to wit, that a cabinet shuffle is imminent.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Well, the time is certainly right. A busy legislative session with an ambitious agenda of radical and controversial legislation is over, and conventional wisdom would suggest the moment is right to spruce up the cabinet, demote weak players and reward good performers from the backbenches.

Given that, this talk likely has more foundation that the rumoured ’Rosie Rebellion.

Candidates to be moved — if the premier’s political instincts are as good as they once were — would include Mr. Shandro, a clear disaster in the health portfolio, and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, whose underwhelming performance reassures no one about the government’s determination to send students back to their packed classrooms in September, COVID-19 pandemic or no pandemic.

Bad reviews for UCP’s back-to-school plan

No one seems to have been reassured after Ms. LaGrange’s awful performance on a Facebook Live session Tuesday answering a few questions about the government’s school-reopening plan, which has parents and teachers growing increasingly restive.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Chris Shwarz, Government of Alberta).

It’s said here Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw also wasn’t doing anything to encourage public confidence in her judgment, which was very strong during the first weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, by backing the government’s plan to reopen schools without reducing class sizes, hiring more cleaning staff, or requiring students to wear masks.

It would be interesting to see the results of any polling about public confidence in the back-to-school plan. There sure are a lot of parents on social media talking about keeping their kids home in September, although they’re bound to be dismissed by the UCP Noise Machine as NDP agents.

The government would do itself a favour by paying attention to this file too. If they think the doctors are hard to deal with, just wait until the soccer moms get riled up!

Total disaster! French energy giant pulls plug on Alberta’s oilsands

Also yesterday, on the heels of another European bank announcing it’ll put no more money into Alberta’s oilsands, French energy giant Total SA wrote off its huge investment in the Alberta’s bitumen mining industry to the tune of $9 billion US.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Total also quit the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, saying the powerful Calgary-based industry lobby is out of sync with the corporation’s environmental goals.

Paris-based Total — with annual revenue of about $200-billion US — said it now considers oil reserves with high production costs that will have to be worked more than 20 years (you know, like the oilsands) to be “stranded assets.”

As for CAPP, which for all intents and purposes openly campaigned for the UCP and the Conservative Party of Canada in the most recent provincial and federal elections, Total diplomatically said its goals are “misaligned” with the company’s climate ambition statement.

No one who is praying for God to give Alberta another oil boom so that we can piss it all away again should be reassured by this development.

With a characteristic UCP touch, Energy Minister Sonya Savage bitterly called Total “ill informed,” “short sighted,” and “highly hypocritical,” assailing it for citing climate ambition as its rationale for pulling the plug on its oilsands investment.

Total should be aware “our province and industry are bound by the rule of law” (except when it comes to labour relations, perhaps), Canada has a “stable and ethical democracy,” and Alberta’s industry is doing its part to reduce emissions, she complained in a news release.

Sadly, this is a sentiment unlikely to have much more impact tomorrow in Paris than it did on Monday in Frankfurt.

14 Comments to: Alberta political roundup: The paper-pile premier, furious doctors, rebel ’Roser rumours, Total disaster, and more …

  1. Dave

    July 30th, 2020

    Oh where to start with this UCP gang? The bad news seems never ending on all fronts at the moment. Well, I suppose perhaps the first thing is to address the quantity over quality issue. I would rather a government of whatever stripe pass one good law than ten bad ones, as probably would most voters. Along with their haste and zeal, I suspect the UCP’s lack of conpetence will go a long way to doing them in, so our cross to bear now may be more of a blessing later.

    I wasn’t surprised by the result of the AMA vote, but slighly surprised by how resounding it was. I suppose it is a very effective reply to the somewhat ham handed attempts by the UCP to divide and conquer it. I have to wonder about Kenney’s response, up until now people were content to mostly blame the bumbling health minister, but if the Premier refuses to fix things soon, he is going to own this mess. Surely he must realize that.

    I too don’t think the rural rooters of the UCP caucus are ready to rebel or mutiny yet. If this were a more conventional government this would probably be the time to start shuffling the deck chairs soon, but Captain Kenney seems to give the impression of full speed ahead without any change of course. If so, I don’t think things will end well with this strategy. Perhaps there will be a stealthy summer long weekend cabinet shuffle or something like that, to try minimize the attention paid to the embarassing climb down.

    Reply
  2. Bob Raynard

    July 30th, 2020

    The doctors’ no confidence vote is an interesting pickle. It seems ludicrous for Jason Kenney to leave Tyler Shandro in the ministry after such an overwhelming no confidence vote, and if the pandemic should take a turn for the worse historians will surely bring up the vote when they asses Alberta’s response to the pandemic, much like historians mention the iceberg warnings when they discuss the sinking of the Titanic.

    At the same time, Jason Kenney simply cannot remove Shandro from his post, or it will look like he is caving to a union, and it will just be a matter of time before the ATA organizes a similar vote with regards to our education minister. Furthermore, since Tyler Shandro (and his odious policies) is likely just a puppet for Jason Kenney, it is very likely that Shandro’s replacement will be just as unsatisfactory to the AMA.

    Reply
  3. Athabascan

    July 30th, 2020

    Ok, so now we are to believe kenney’s UCP is the only group that believes the tarsands are financially and environmentally viable?

    What is it now 3-4 major oil companies pulling out, and just as many major banks? Yet, bible school drop out (aka kenney) knows better than all the oil experts and global financiers?

    How is it possible for the UCP to be right when all the other experts are wrong? Oh, I know, all the major world banks and some of the largest oil companies are NDP sympathizers? Yeah, right!

    Reply
  4. Abs

    July 30th, 2020

    Stable and ethical democracy? Bwahahahaha! Alberta most certainly fails on that. Stable and ethical democracies do not throw their doctors under the bus during a pandemic. Stable and ethical democracies do not take away workers’ rights and protections during the middle of the night, or effectively eliminate health care for their citizens during the middle of the night, during a pandemic. Stable and ethical democracies do not have energy war rooms, which give the impression that they are looking for war. And they do not hide $30M a year in unaccountable public funds.

    This is not a democracy, anything but. And it is anything but stable, given the way its leader and senior members behave. This is more like what one would expect in the lead-up to WWII. If you think it’s bad now, just wait until el jefe clubs us over the head with some of his reckoning. It’ll be worse than staring at Adriana’s grim, Stalinesque visage as she controls the narrative on a friendly Facebook fireside chat.

    No wonder foreign-owned business interests want to dissociate from this gang. Hangin’ with these thugs won’t just tarnish your halo, it’ll dissolve it in corrosive acid. They know it. The question is, do we know it yet?

    Never underestimate the power of moms. Poking mama bear with a stick is a mug’s game.

    Reply
  5. Just Me

    July 30th, 2020

    I believe that this session came be best summed up with the image of Shandro trying to yell while his gob is filled with peanut M&Ms.

    Yes, this is what it has come to.

    Now that the session is over, I suspect that a number of UCP MLAs and their partisan toadies will be off to ‘Murica. Why? To help the foundering GOP restore their congressional super-majority, of course. And there’s the matter of helping the Trump/Pence 2020 ticket as much as possible. There are pipelines to be saved, Covid-19 Pandemic and Russian interference not withstanding. And all of it on Alberta’s public dime. (Doug Ford’s Tories started something in last year’s federal election, I guess.)

    Michelle Rempel-Garner, who has been sheltering in Oklahoma since the new year, is without a doubt working hard for her Republican cousins, as well as plotting permanently dropping roots in her adopted home. (What? Another one? Winnipeg wasn’t good enough?) Of course, visions of taking a seat in the Oklahoma statehouse is on her mind, as well. With all these UCP/CPC Buffalo enthusiasts flooding into the GOP ranks, one would think that Canada’s CONs are thinking of applying for refugee status in ‘Murica.

    Their loss is surely Canada’s gain.

    Reply
  6. Murphy

    July 30th, 2020

    Was that projection of 800 000 total cases, made after the lock-down, really a manifestation of “strong” judgement? The case fatality rate for age 40-49 will drop to 0 today or tomorrow, and the rate for age 20-29 will go to 0 next week. We’re at 10% of projected daily hospitalization totals, and under that figure for ICU admission. The mortality total for people under 70 has been at fifteen for months. The poor guy in his thirties seems to have been killed by intubating him, so hopefully they have stopped that unprecedented practice, which was yet another aspect of the panic in Italy that we imported. Truly, la dolce vita!
    There is a single Covid issue that is beyond the scope of a seasonal influenza episode in Alberta, and that is the deaths in the LTC homes. Don’t hold your breath until that gets addressed.
    How much more evidence is required to determine that we are being made to respond to a fantasm?
    Total is simply one of a number of international criminal organizations to whom consecutive governments in Alberta made us beholden. I had a chat with a restaurant owner who was so economically devastated by the collapse in the oil biz and the loss of his $800 Tuesday late dinners for Total honchos that he closed shop and retired.
    The province was looted by the oil industry, and now, as we are in an era where consumer demand is being deliberately crushed as one aspect of remaking the global economy while saving the speculators, high-cost oil is the first to go. Welcome to New Oklahoma. If you thought it was bad pre-panic, get ready for school-teachers fighting for jobs at Wal-mart or the Amazon “fulfillment” hive.

    Reply
  7. Political Ranger

    July 30th, 2020

    uh huh … but they still have time to make another tax break of $100’s millions for the petro-corps.
    As the total loser at CAPP sez, “It’s one of those scenarios where everyone needs to sacrifice a little bit.” – except that is, petro-corps.

    Reply
  8. Murphy

    July 30th, 2020

    Strong Judgement of the Day
    “COVID-19 does not appear to transmit as efficiently as influenza. Only those with symptoms seem to be mainly spreading the disease.”
    https://albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page16997.aspx

    And that’s why we had to implement a “curve-flattening” socio-economic program for Covid that was unthinkable for influenza.

    Reply
  9. karl roth

    July 30th, 2020

    yup, under Kenney/UCP management sure does feel like l’il ole Alberta is just an oil company/oil sands fiefdom

    Reply
  10. Jim

    July 30th, 2020

    Ill-informed and shortsighted seems to describe the entire UCP, I’m sure Kenney is eyeing up some public pension money to full the gap. I love the picture of Kenney and Nixon, was Nixon talking moistly? Did Kenney have to clean food out of his hair afterwards? Either way it does capture the tall and short of the problems in Alberta today.
    As for a cabinet shuffle, which is badly needed, there just isn’t much depth in the UCP. As witness the Education minister someone who should be relegated to the back benches. Given her history of religiously following orders and cult like obedience I’m not holding my breath.

    Reply
  11. Keith McClary

    July 30th, 2020

    “It would be interesting to see the results of any polling about public confidence in the back-to-school plan.”
    – Another poll that nobody will fund or report on.

    “Alberta’s industry is doing its part to reduce emissions”
    – According to the apples to oranges comparisons comparisons on the War Room site, based on secret proprietary data and algorithms. I suspect that Total has bought the secret data and done its own calculations.

    (I got a reply from the War Room:

    Thank you for your email. The report from BMO Capital Markets we reference in the article is reserved for paying institutional investor clients and unfortunately not available to the public. We were given the opportunity to highlight some of the high-level information about the report as a service to readers like yourself.

    We hope the information provided in our article gives some insight into what BMO has provided to its investors about the environmental, social and governance performance of Canada’s oil and gas industry.

    Thank you,

    Joanne Birce
    Operations Administrator/
    Executive Assistant to CEO)

    Reply
  12. Bill Malcolm

    July 30th, 2020

    The rogue province of Alberta continues apace to legislate its way into neo-fascism, the melding of corporate power and right wing politicos joining to kick arse. People are expected to buckle down and obey popinJay kenney diktats and no talking back, or he’ll ruin you — all he’s missing is his own police force. Those big global companies not willing to go along with this nonsense on the prairies are pulling out because they don’t want to be tarred as enablers participating in the extract of ever more environmental poison squared.

    Let’s see, the Swiss, the Germans and now the French have said Alberta is full of sh!t. So the Alberta UCP ideologues double down on dismissing them, their tiny lizard brains working overtime. A couple of million (perhaps) UCP-voting Albertans are smarter than 150 million foreigners, whose investment and security Alberta thinks it’s courting by allowing them to run wild and “free” to exploit the place while paying almost zero taxes.

    Germany has the conservative Merkel as Chancellor, France has the neoliberal Macron busily dismantling the French social contract and privatizing everything in sight. But no doubt kenney thinks the Germans and French are out-and-out commies, never having bothered to crack the pages of a real newspaper or keep up with politics overseas — hell, many Albertans are navel-gazers rather like Americans, interested only in their own entrails and uninterested in the world at large, even of the rest of the country they purportedly inhabit. It’s much easier to deny reality that way if you don’t know bugger all about anywhere or anything else. But even major companies from neoliberal Europe have trouble with supporting Alberta’s descent into environmental “ethical” madness. Got it. Obviously the preening kenney hasn’t. Talk about “leading” lemmings over a cliff.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      July 31st, 2020

      Navel-gazing has been around in Alberta for generations, social creditism and “Firewall”, for examples—and now Wexit-no-matter-how-loony. The difference between Albertan and American navel-gazing is that, once upon a time, America could consume its own, very diverse production: Alberta hasn’t done that since bison migrated through sparse, nomadic tribes on the harsh high prairie. To support more people, Alberta needed to produce way more than its people could possibly consume by themselves, meaning it had to become dependent on outside markets to buy its productIon, meat, grain, forest products and of course, petroleums. Heck, it even exported politicians when the Socredoid-Firewallish West wanted into the outside (BTW, that’s one of the reasons Wexit looks so goofy from the outside).

      Navel-gazing is ironic in an autistic sense: the umbilical scar is a remnant of total dependence, but it can never become proof of total independence—except, of course, in the imagination. One cannot be a brain on a stick, after all: one has to eat, at very least.

      The illusion of economological (phew!) independence used to be relatively easy when the world was verdant and humans few enough to find new frontiers to claim autocthonically (double-phew!). But it hasn’t been like that since, at latest, the beginning of the globalization pandemic some six centuries ago. We’ve simply run out of pristine frontiers in which to exercise autonomy; since then some of us have been entertaining mere notions of independence, and Alberta’s real geophysical remoteness qualifies as illusive in this way, the bottom of an evaporated archaic sea in continental fastness. It’s been treated this way historically; perhaps simmering residual resentments have something to do with the almost vengeful attitude Alberta’s oil patch assumed after Drayton oil was discovered in 1947, its perennial dyspepsia regarding anything Eastern or french-sounding, and perhaps something to do with the peevish impatience the UCP displays with regard last remnants of its lucrative oil boom, a sandy bituminous deposit as vast as it is low-grade, the production of which neither Albertans nor the whole world, for that matter, can safely consume.

      One has to be pretty oilvangelical to presume world-autonomy atop beached petro-sludge. The gospel is one of besetment, of astral redoubt, of holy transformation and eventual, vengeful return to claim what has allegedly been unjustly stolen. Thus the UCP tightens its wagon laager as if its own noose, all dissenters enemies, only True Believers allowed at morning prayers and piecing out of ammo. From the outside, it truly is navel-gazing…

      …but, we note, it does not include all Albertans and, I dare say, now includes many less than supported the UCP last year, all of them now outside this magic chakra. The rest of the whole world is not endangered by any of this: it just watches and wonders.

      Reply
  13. Abs

    July 30th, 2020

    Ontario is spending $309M on school pandemic safety.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-coronavirus-ontario-july-30-back-to-school-1.5668495

    Adriana LaGrange told us the right amount is $0.00. Nothing. At. All. Policy comes from politicians. And UCP politicians in Alberta have decided that children are expendable, not as expendable as those 82-year olds who won’t die, but whatever.

    Is Mrs. LaGrange’s house made of gingerbread? Asking for a friend, who’s fond of the stuff.

    Reply

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