Suncor’s Edmonton refinery in Strathcona Country, just east of the city (Photo: Suncor Energy Inc.).

Interesting timing.

Mid-morning yesterday — Sunday, that is — the press secretary to Environment Minister Jason Nixon published a 79-word press release, 111 words if you count the headline and the sub-head required by the format of the Alberta government’s website.

Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It was about as uninformative as a press release can be and still qualify for the title. Just the same, it contained some information that was quite interesting, to wit, that the province “has laid seven charges against Suncor Energy Inc. related to an incident that took place at the company’s refinery located in Strathcona County in 2018.”

Combined with the release of this tidbit on the Sabbath, one might be tempted to come to the conclusion someone at the Environment Ministry would have been just as happy if media had paid no attention at all.

The remainder of Press Secretary Jess Sinclair’s statement, in its entirety, read as follows:

“The company faces five charges for contravening a term or condition of an approval. The company is also charged with releasing a substance into the environment that may cause an adverse effect and failing to report the release in a timely manner. All of the charges are contraventions under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The incident is alleged to have occurred in July 2018. Suncor Energy Inc. has a court date scheduled for July 29 in Sherwood Park.”

No information was to be found there about why it took the department two years to lay charges.

Sending us a discreet message that there’s nothing to see here, just move along please, is a bit of a change for Ms. Sinclair, who like a lot of United Conservative Party press secretaries has been spending a certain amount of time and energy calling the government’s critics liars and the like on social media.

In the case of the environment portfolio, this is because Opposition MLAs have described Mr. Nixon’s decision announced in March to close all or part of 20 provincial parks and hand another 164 over to private-sector managers as a plan to sell off or lease parks for purposes that may include industrial development, such as oil and gas development.

The United Conservative Party claim is that it’s not a plan to sell or lease parks — because they won’t be parks any more when any decision is made to sell or lease regular old Crown land that just happened to be a park once upon a time.

Readers can decide for themselves who is closer to the truth and who is hiding behind a nice legal distinction.

In Ms. Sinclair’s defence, at least her sharply worded tweets have been directed at members of the Opposition, who are paid to take it as well as to dish it out. Other UCP press secretaries seem to have no restraint when it comes to insulting citizens who dare to criticize their ministers.

As the Canadian Press reported Friday, Mr. Nixon and his communications advisors overruled senior Environment Department staffers when they recommended closing no parks without extensive public consultations. The CP story explained: “a document labelled advice to cabinet states: ‘As recommended by (the minister’s office) and communications, recommended option is to not do consultation.’”

The CP story pointed out that this is a bit of a change from the days where the UCP screamed bloody murder about an NDP plan to create a park because, you know, there wasn’t nearly enough consultation.

Getting back to Sunday’s statement, whatever the intention was, mainstream media did pick up on the announcement with short rewrites of the release from the CBC and CP. Someone at Global News even bothered to dig into the files.

Two full years ago in July 2018, Global said, there was a release of hydrogen sulphide gas at Suncor’s Edmonton refinery. Several people were sent to hospital for assessment.

Well, we may know more on Wednesday, if anyone makes it to the courthouse in Sherwood Park.

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  1. You see if they were on the ball over at the Ministry of Environment they would have made this front page news instead of trying to sneak the announcements thru on a Sunday afternoon.

    Better yet the UPC’s need to take a page out of the Saudi playbook and stage public beheadings complete with screaming mobs. There’s no shortage of them these days.

    All designed to show investors, who are fleeing the province in droves, that the Ab gov’t is serious about clean energy. More to the point these big investors need to show their shareholders they are parking their money in green jurisdictions.

  2. If the Wexit boys and girls get their wish and Alberta separates from the rest of us, Jason and his friends will be in their glory. National treasures like Banff, Jasper and Waterton Lakes could be shuttered and, as the blogger states, no longer be classified as parks. Tourists may duck between oil derricks and nodding donkeys while enjoying flea markets and fine dining at fast food chains. Ahh, Alberta of the future.

  3. One of the saddest, most disappointing things is when a government increasingly has to resort to the late Friday or weekend press releases or announcements.

    The UCP may try to portray this as being politically clever, but this is becoming an addiction and the rationalization for it. Like many others, this addiction probably does not end well, if not acknowledged. It is a sign of a govenment with a surplus of bad news, eager to bury or hide it and too tired or even unable to explain itself well to the public any more.

    Maybe some of Mr. Kenney’s communications people should consider availing themselves of one of the UCP’s new recovery treatement programs. Continuing to lash out at all those pointing out the problems is not a good sign. Get help soon you guys. You need it more than you realize.

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