Alberta Politics
The upper reaches of Deutsche Bank AG headquarters in Frankfurt (Photo: Thomas Wolf,, Creative Commons.

Whatever happened to the UCP’s belligerent response to inconvenient European bankers and environmental litigators?

Posted on July 29, 2020, 2:31 am
8 mins

Once upon a time in Alberta if some foreign bank had dared to announce it wasn’t about to put money into any more Alberta oilsands projects there would have been a furious roar from Jason Kenney.

There would have been threats to unleash a War Room on the bankers as well as fearsome denunciations of Rachel Notley’s NDP — proof, Mr. Kenney and his supporters would have screeched, that seeking social license for oilsands mining was a pathetic failure and Alberta needed a more muscular response to foreign lovers of dictator oil.

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

And if some environmental law organization had launched an embarrassing court action, the reaction of Mr. Kenney and his United Conservative Party would have been bitter and fierce. They would have threatened to haul them before an inquiry into foreign-financed enemies of Alberta, or worse.

But that was when the UCP was the opposition and Ms. Notley’s NDP was the government of Alberta — or before that even, when the conservative party was just a twinkle in Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean’s ambitious eye and before Mr. Kenney had come up with a scheme to snatch it for himself.

Already this week both those things have happened and yet the reactions of the UCP and Mr. Kenney have been remarkably passive.

On Monday, Deutsche Bank AG, as the CBC put it, “is joining a lengthening list of European lenders and insurance companies that say they won’t back new oilsands projects.”

Mr. Kenney grumbled a bit for local reporters, calling the chilling news from Frankfurt the result of “a misinformed campaign from European financial institutions which have wrongly judged the Canadian oilsands as being the environmental equivalent of thermal coal.”

He also complained “they’re lumping in the Canadian oilsands because they’ve seen that on a brochure from a series of green pressure groups in Europe.” This is probably not how a multinational bank with more than 62 billion euros in equity does its due diligence. The premier told a reporter he would hold Deutsche Bank to account.

But there was no sign of the wall-to-wall outrage we would have seen and heard when the NDP was in power. The UCP Online Rage Machine had gone strangely quiet, perhaps not wishing to call too much attention to a debacle that is sure to get worse and about which the premier can do little.

Ecojustice Canada Society Director Devon Page (Photo: Ecojustice Canada Society).

As for the War Room, nowadays known as Canadian Energy Centre Ltd., it has a new logo and a new website theme but not a word about the latest news from Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, the same day, the Ecojustice Canada Society was back in court seeking an injunction to suspend the Kenney Government’s public inquiry into so-called “anti-Alberta” environmental campaigns until the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench makes a ruling in the environmental legal charity’s challenge of the inquiry’s legality.

Calling the inquiry “an illegitimate, biased, and unfair political stunt,” Ecojustice Executive Director Devon Page said “organizations and individuals — particularly those working at the grassroots level — should not be expected to redirect resources away from the critical work they’re doing to prevent the climate catastrophe and take part in a process that is stacked against them.”

The injunction would force Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan to halt the public inquiry until a court can rule on whether the process is legal in the first place, the environmental law organization explained.

Ecojustice launched its court challenge last fall. The crux of Ecojustice’s case for an injunction is that since its scheduled court hearing was cancelled because of COVID-19, and the government has postponed the deadline for the inquiry to submit its final report to Oct. 30, updated its terms of reference, and given it another $1 million, the inquiry should not proceed until the courts have determined whether or not it is legal.

Former Alberta premier, now Opposition Leader, Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“Irreparable reputational harm may be inflicted on the Applicant and other organizations by the release of unproven evidence with no procedural protections in place,” the application for the injunction states. “The potential harm to the Applicant and other organizations far outweighs whatever public interest there may be in concluding the Inquiry by an arbitrary date.”

Mr. Allen, all but missing in action for months, had nothing at all to say about this.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage’s press secretary seems to have sent media outfits a one-liner saying “the Government of Alberta is committed to protecting Canada’s largest economic sub-sector from attack by foreign opposition, and we will see this inquiry through to its completion.”

But other than a few screeches from a UCP supporters who apparently didn’t get the issues-management memo and tried to spin the application as an unlikely cover-up conspiracy theory, there was very little reaction from the government itself.

Alberta Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allen (Photo: Lieutenant Governor of Alberta).

Probably UCP spin-doctors are trying to figure out how they can make the inquiry look like smart move if it fails to find any evidence for the government’s pre-election conspiracy theories, even with four extra months and an infusion of additional cash.   

It just goes to show that it’s easy to be a hero from the Opposition benches. Not so easy when you’re the government and you’ve realized — even if you’re not about to admit it aloud — that the only thing that might work now to save the oilsands industry’s bacon is more social license, Rachel Notley style.

Meanwhile, as University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe pointed out in a CBC op-ed yesterday, this year “for the first time in 55 years, Alberta will be a net receiver in the federation.”

That is to say, Dr. Tombe explained, because of the COVID-19 crisis, low world oil prices and the worldwide recession, 2020 will be the first year since 1965 Ottawa will be spending more cash in this province than it collects in taxes.

Don’t expect Alberta to stop complaining about the state of Confederation’s finances any time soon, however.

9 Comments to: Whatever happened to the UCP’s belligerent response to inconvenient European bankers and environmental litigators?

  1. Dave

    July 29th, 2020

    Just wondering if it is too late to get a refund of at least some of that money spent on the war room? It was supposed to turn world opinion back in favour of Alberta oil, but ever since it started, it seems to have become the subject of wide spead riducule and faced one set back after another.

    As one commenator noted, even the bank that had no qualms lending to Trump, seems to now have developed reservations about Alberta’s supposedly ethical oil. That’s how bad it is. As I recall, didn’t our Premier take a trip to Europe a while ago, well to London at least, supposedly to sell Alberta or something? Well I suppose over there they are just as immune to our Premier’s attempts at charm as almost everyone else outside of Alberta is.

    The UCP like the dinosaurs once did must be now wondering what hit them. Everything seemed to be going so well for them, at least for a few months after they won the last election, and they started fantasizing about becoming a political dynasty like Social Credit or something. As things get worse, some of it self created, it is possible instead they will become what is known in music circles as a one hit wonder.

  2. Abs

    July 29th, 2020

    Well done, Regressive Conservatives! It’s 1965, and “Pied Piper” Bobby Gimby will soon tune up his trumpet, put pen to paper and write that famous Canada song of his. This is after he took to the road with Mart Kenney and His Western Gentlemen.

    We are travelling back in time so quickly that it will be well before the 100th anniversary of Confederation in the blink of an eye. No need to Wexit, because no Canada. Brilliant! I didn’t see that coming.

  3. Magda

    July 29th, 2020

    Of course Kenney doesn’t believe a major international bank got information off a brochure, but his acolytes certainly do. And confirming their worldview is something that the UCP does very well. It’s only intelligent people who can see through this but what does Kenney care about them? They’ll never be a majority in this province.

    My son is off to BC next week and while he hates politics with a white-hot intensity, he said something interesting last night. He said it’s like UCP voters really want a reality television show where everyone is oil-boom rich and good-looking, and animals never get killed in the year-round Calgary Stampede that is the new Alberta. UCP voters are angry at anyone who wants to disrupt that nice image, and Kenney knows this and will always give them their illusion no matter what. Reality sucks; let’s try fantasy.

    He’s a smart kid; takes after his mom!

  4. Guest99

    July 29th, 2020

    ….this year “for the first time in 55 years, Alberta will be a net receiver in the federation.”

    This can’t be an accident – a ten year old could have prevented this from happening so quickly – this must be by design. To use a crippled and broken Alberta to strain the financial stability of the Trudeau Government to soften them up in time for the next Federal election? Long game politics?

  5. Sam Gunsch

    July 29th, 2020

    Here is the key critique of the inquiry’s operating practices, supposedly a ‘public’ inquiry, taken from EcoJustice’s application:

    EXCERPT: ‘ From the commencement of the Inquiry to the current date, the Inquiry has not published any rules of procedure, has not created a public record of submissions to or evidence before the Inquiry, and has not made public any list of who the Commissioner has spoken with in respect to the matters that are the subject of the Inquiry. At no time has the Inquiry set forth a process for advising organizations of the evidence before the Inquiry or the process for testing or responding to any allegations raised in such evidence. ‘


    Kenney Conservatives have since their inception, even before election were openly committed to this sort of authoritarian use of state power. It’s essentially a Trumpian-style of using state power to demonize and attack any critics and motivate their angriest base.

    And of course Harper would have been advising Kenney to to pursue these tactics since he was the first to use state power to attack the environmental groups by giving CRA $14M budget boost to audit them and try to end them.

    Gil McGowan described the inquiry and Energy War Room as ‘pipeline McCarthyism’.

    History will no doubt record this Kenney Conservatives era as just as undemocratic & authoritarian in tactics as that RW conspiracy-based political witchhunt for communism infiltration of US politics that McCarthy came to represent.

    Sam Gunsch

  6. Murphy

    July 29th, 2020

    Deutsche Bank is an entirely corrupt institution. As we live through this flux period while the five-hundred-year-old west-European banking and seafaring empire loses it’s grip on the world, demagogues like Tailgunner Jay and Drumpf are going to be, like the proverbial broken clocks, occasionally correct. Due dilligence is not a hallmark of any of these banking monstrosities.
    “Espionage, money laundering and interest rate scams. Germany’s biggest lender has a global reputation for scandal – and has paid hefty fines and expensive settlements to make up for its wrongdoings.”

    These guys don’t like the tarsands either:

    Any politician, of any stripe, at any time, can claim that the people are under attack by vile multi-national financial entities, and be more or less correct, regardless of how precisely accurate the allegations are.

  7. Athabasca

    July 29th, 2020

    Yeah, one more thing to celebrate in Alberta. What a great day when Alberta becomes the parasite on the back of Canada. This must make kenney and his gang very proud.

    With a little more work kenney can aspire to transform Alberta into a 3rd-world basket case. C’mon, kenney we know you can do it, besides you have another 3 years left. We don’t need fat-cat doctors, nurses, and teachers. Just privatize, by selling all the public assets to your friends. I’m sure that will work -NOT!

    If COVID doesn’t get you, then kenney will. He’s a bigger threat to Albertans than the pandemic..

  8. Just Me

    July 29th, 2020

    Looks like Kenney has put his war against the UN, the Rockefellers, George Soros, the globalists, the Bilderbergers, Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, B.C., Quebec, Canada, and the global anti-carbon lobby on hold so he can wage war against Alberta’s doctors, teachers, workers, children, families, adults, students, nurses, seniors, and anyone else who Kenney wants to beat up when he wakes in the morning.

    Gee, so much anger to go around and so little time. Kenney leads such a hard life.


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