Alberta Politics
Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Premier Jason Kenney in Friday’s video (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta video).

Urgent need to squelch political fallout best explains Jason Kenney’s oddly timed nuclear announcement

Posted on August 09, 2020, 1:40 am
5 mins

A Friday in August sure seemed like a peculiar time for government like Jason Kenney’s to announce it had signed onto a multi-province effort to sell natural resources and encourage the development and sale of a new generation of Canadian technology.

But there was the Alberta premier on Friday, accompanied by Energy Minister Sonya Savage, touting the benefits of building international markets for Alberta’s ethical uranium and developing safe new “small modular reactors” to generate “small scale nuclear power.”

Old Man Yells at Cloud: Curriculum Advisory Panel Chair Angus McBeath at Thursday’s curriculum news conference (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Despite the inevitable controversy that will result from any project involving development of nuclear power, and the fact that the three-province memorandum of understanding the Kenney Government plans to sign is a long-term, rather speculative, project, you’d think this would be the kind of deal the United Conservative Party would normally want to shout from the rooftops.

So why now?

The political calculation behind the timing of Friday’s video announcement is easier to explain than the murky economics of small modular reactors, which we’ll look at in a future post.

The explanation, almost certainly, was the political embarrassment wrought by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s disastrous curriculum-review news conference the day before, which started to melt down the instant Curriculum Advisory Panel Chair Angus McBeath stepped up to the microphone and opened his mouth.

Within hours of Ms. LaGrange’s Thursday morning gong show, fallout from Mr. McBeath’s crotchety and at times incoherent ramblings was drifting around the globe like errant radioactive isotopes on the digital winds of social media.

Thanks in part to the way the former Edmonton Public Schools superintendent reminded viewers of Abe Simpson, the cartoon geezer in so many Old-Man-Yells-at-Cloud memes, Mr. McBeath’s soliloquy on how Alberta schools could one day produce the world’s most honest used-car salesmen is sure to become an Internet classic with a half life approaching eternity!

Obviously, the premier must have concluded, something had to be done to stop the meltdown before it turned into a political Chernobyl.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange during the curriculum news conference (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Conveniently, the Collaboration Memorandum of Agreement signed last year by New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe was readily at hand and provided an opportunity to change the channel.

Given the previous day’s debacle, Mr. Kenney must have concluded that if this was going to be done right, he’d better do it himself.

After all, Ms. LaGrange’s newser had itself likely been a failed attempt to distract citizens from the fatal potential of her ministry’s half-baked plan to reopen Alberta’s schools in September without adequate measures in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Well, third time’s a charm! At any rate, Mr. Kenney’s announcement was a better choice for distraction. The creation or sale of any actual SMRs is far in the future, and so the resulting controversy will have to be dealt with by some future government.

What’s more, the people most likely to get riled up right now, environmentalists and the like, are easy to portray as enemies of Alberta. Maybe Commissioner Steve Allan can even be persuaded to include a chapter on the topic in the report of his Alberta Inquiry into supposed foreign funding of opponents of more oilsands development.

As a bonus, the dream of a safe little nuclear reactor that can power the carbon intensive extraction of bitumen from the tarry oilsands of Athabasca is bound to appeal to the UCP’s base, if no one else.

Problem solved, at least for now.

30 Comments to: Urgent need to squelch political fallout best explains Jason Kenney’s oddly timed nuclear announcement

  1. Just Me

    August 9th, 2020

    It nice to see that the UCP’s ambitions have been reduced to building a tinny, tiny reactor that will only threaten Ft. McMurray if something should go wrong.

    No doubt if this announcement had been made a year ago, with his head all swollen from his electoral win, Kenney would have announced that Alberta was initiating its own ‘Manhattan Project’, building a sprawling Los Alamos-like facility, and pursing a ‘Trinity Project’ that would result in Alberta joining the exclusive club of nations (and other weird places) with their own nuclear weapons.

    Because we all know a man’s ambition is measured by the size of his…warhead.

    Reply
  2. Dave

    August 9th, 2020

    I am beginning to wonder if our Premier and perhaps his UCP government has attention deficit disorder or something similar. They do seem not very good at focusing on anything for any length of time. One day they are bashing the feds, going on about a fair deal and referendums, the next on to the war on the truth room, after that the war on doctors, then education changes and now nuclear reactors. No task seems completed or at least well completed before they are on to mess up something else.

    Perhaps this is a variation of Trumps approach, create a new distraction to distract from the last mess and if that becomes a mess too, then create another distraction. Perhaps Trump could learn something about speaking and presentation from our career politician Premier, who manages to sound smooth even when what he is saying total BS, but I think our Premier could learn something from Trump in the art of the distraction. Trump is at his distracting best when he says something controversial and that takes attention away from something he has done that has turned into a total mess. Thus, the second mess is mostly just a verbal one, not so much practical one.

    The Health Minister Mr. Shandro seems to follow the Trump approach a bit more faithfully, saying incendiary things to take attention away from actions he has taken earlier that have created a mess. On second thought, I’m not sure even our Premier would want to copy our Health Ministers approach to issues management, which seems to be along the line of dig a bigger hole and keep digging. In any event it was a strange Friday, with some announcement on temporary foreign workers apparently bumped, so the Premier could go nuclear. I suppose it is too much to ask for this government to just focus on something for a while and try not to make a mess of it for a change. I doubt that will happen. However, maybe they should change their name to A D D from UCP, because that seems to be what they have become.

    Reply
    • John T

      August 9th, 2020

      Sounds an awful like the Shock Doctrine to me.

      Reply
    • Mike in Edmonton

      August 9th, 2020

      Kenney is definitely following the Republican playbook, with variations from the Orange Orangutang thrown in for (chaotic) effect. But don’t underestimate him. Kenney is not as smart as he thinks, but he’s certainly smart enough to break a LOT of public institutions during his tenure.

      Your point about Shandro is well taken, though I suspect Kenney has a second motive to keep him around. Shandro’s bullheaded stubbornness and temper tantrums distract from Kenney’s systematic destruction of public facilities. Want another example? Who was that Calgary MP who, in the House of Commons, 1) accused somebody of “murdering” Jack Layton with cancer, and 2) fell asleep during a debate?

      The only reason to keep guys like them around is to make an otherwise-disastrous leader look good.

      Reply
      • Just Me

        August 10th, 2020

        As to your question…

        There are two answers…

        Jason Kenney fell asleep in the H of C during a lengthy overnight debate when he was a Reform MP. The photo of him snoozing was widely published. He was made him the subject of ridicule because he was wearing an inflatable neck-pillow at the time.

        However, for most prolific snoozing and rumour mongering was Rob Anders, Kenney’s younger Incel brethren. Anders is notorious for not only falling into a deep sleep during various meetings, including at a travelling committee event, which he was chairing. Anders also started a stunning number of bizarre rumours where he claimed Jack Layton was “murdered” by Thomas Mulcair; he declared that veterans standing as witnesses at a committee he chaired were no better than Al Qaeda for their opposition to the Harper government’s veterans policies; and he also maintained that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist and he vocally opposed and heckled Mandela during his address to the House of Commons.

        Given Anders’ penchant for crazy, and that he hasn’t really had a gig since he lost his nomination prior to the 2015 election, he’s well positioned for a seat on the next blue ribbon panel.

        Reply
  3. Kang

    August 9th, 2020

    OMG! Its back to the 1970s! Beehive hair and techno-optimism. I suspect if we ever use electricity to cook tar, it will come from BC’s Hydro’s site C dam on the Peace not vapour-ware little nukes.

    However, aside from diverting attention from old people and religious fundamentalists shouting at clouds, the UCP may be onto something. With the US withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaties, it looks like another nuclear arms race is in the cards. Part of the uranium for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs was mined at Port Radium and barged across Great Bear lake, ultimately killing many of the workers, most of whom were first nations hunters and fishers.
    http://www.ccnr.org/uranium_events.html

    How glorious to once again have the opportunity to participate in crimes against humanity while setting our educational system to “stupid.” Can the rapture be far behind?

    Reply
  4. Abs

    August 9th, 2020

    Abe Simpson is to Angus McBeath as Homer Simpson is to Jason Kenney. We couldn’t have one without the other. The full nuclear story: Abe came first, followed by Homer, who works in a nuclear plant. Now it all makes perfect sense!

    Maybe we can expect a glitzy TV commercial to praise the glories of uranium mining in the pristine northern wilderness. I suggest a pilfered soundtrack with the lyrics, “Me and You and the Caribou”.

    Reply
    • Abs

      August 9th, 2020

      *Kenney as Homer inspired by that photo of Jason Kenney in his shorts, wrinkled T-shirt and backwards baseball cap in a dining area at the Banff Springs Hotel.

      Reply
    • Mike in Edmonton

      August 9th, 2020

      Ooo, cool song reference! But by the time SMR’s are commercial, the only caribou in Oilberduh will be the stuffed one in the Alberta Museum…..

      Reply
  5. Simon Renouf

    August 9th, 2020

    DC, you are absolutely right, this is not news, and the attempt to change the channel to SMRs is just a distraction. Good article from the Regina Leader-Post, July 3, 2020: Opinion: Small modular nuclear reactors distract from real climate solutions: https://leaderpost.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-small-modular-nuclear-reactors-distract-from-real-climate-solutions
    “Our province has among the best solar and wind resources in the world and those power supplies can be deployed at less cost, lower risk and much more quickly [than SMRs], write Darrin Qualman and Glenn Wright.”

    Reply
  6. Political Ranger

    August 9th, 2020

    A half-baked plan is more than twice the planning these incompetent morons display.

    Reply
    • Simon Renouf

      August 10th, 2020

      To paraphrase F.R. Scott, they never do half-baked when quarter-baked would do.

      Reply
    • Simon Renouf

      August 10th, 2020

      I had forgotten how elegantly F.R. Scott put it in his poem about Mackenzie King:

      Let us raise up a temple
      To the cult of mediocrity,
      Do nothing by halves
      Which can be done by quarters.

      Reply
    • Bret larson

      August 9th, 2020

      Much like every tool mankind has ever picked up, peace time usage was considered for nukes. I believe the Soviet u ion actually tried it out. I guess it’s a good thing we’re not socialists huh?

      Reply
  7. margaret beresford

    August 9th, 2020

    Oh, its simple, ignore the obvious—I’m referring to the 265 billion pollution bill o/s—with a slick-Willy sales job by NOT adhering to agreements or contracts covering the ‘reclamation of all polluted land’ ie., mega tailing ponds, now dividing the landscape and polluting (forever) the rivers and lakes surrounding them….

    Too bad there isn’t a ‘contempt of Legislature’ — akin to the ‘Contempt of Parliament’ brought down on Kenny’s supreme-empty-perceptive-minion—Harper……(how much did he really net ?

    Reply
  8. Murphy

    August 9th, 2020

    As far as kids go, there is no set of adequate measures to deal with the Covid pandemic because it is more evident every single day in Alberta that there is no pandemic, only a panic. Because the people who should know better have abandoned any form of rational analysis of the phenomenon, you folks surrendered the field without a shot being fired.
    None of you will ever be able to get around the fact that the entire response in Alberta was predicated on the notion of a disease that could infect at minimum 800 000 people in eight weeks, even with the pseudoscientific rituals and socio-economic restrictions in place after March 15.
    And because you refused to face the reality of the threat, which was in no way a medical issue, save for the very sick, very elderly who were essentially slaughtered as an outcome of accepting the panic, the plutocrats can walk away with the class war spoils.
    There is not a scintilla of scientific evidenence to support any of these kooky rituals, which ignore all available scientific data on the mechanisms by which repspiratory viruses spread, and yet instead of addressing the question of why these rituals are being enacted, the only response has been an explosion of clucking in rage at the failure to comprehensively implement the quack protocols.
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/webber-academy-back-to-school-denise-dutchuk-smith-1.5679251

    Here are some examples of analysis of the actual phenomenon of transmission of respiratory virus, as opposed to the utter nonsense being pedalled by the illustrious Dr. Hinshaw every day:
    “Despres, V. R. et al. (2012) “Primary biological aerosol particles in the atmosphere: a review”,
    Tellus B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology, 64:1, 15598, DOI: 10.3402/tellusb.v64i0.15598”
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/tellusb.v64i0.15598
    Dowell, S. F. (2001) “Seasonal variation in host susceptibility and cycles of certain infectious
    diseases”, Emerg Infect Dis. 2001;7(3):369–374. doi:10.3201/eid0703.010301
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2631809/
    Hammond, G. W. et al. (1989) “Impact of Atmospheric Dispersion and Transport of Viral
    Aerosols on the Epidemiology of Influenza”, Reviews of Infectious Diseases, Volume 11, Issue 3,
    May 1989, Pages 494–497, https://doi.org/10.1093/clinids/11.3.494
    Lai, A. C. K. et al. (2012) “Effectiveness of facemasks to reduce exposure hazards for airborne
    infections among general populations”, J. R. Soc. Interface. 9938–948
    http://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2011.0537
    Leung, N.H.L. et al. (2020) “Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face
    masks”, Nature Medicine (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0843-2
    Lowen, A. C. et al. (2007) “Influenza Virus Transmission Is Dependent on Relative Humidity and
    Temperature”, PLoS Pathog 3(10): e151. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.0030151

    David has kindly made reference to a South Korean study cited as evidence by the New York times that we are all in terrible danger from the children. In honour of that diamond-hard drive to get at the truth, I thought I would make reference to one of the more sciencey emissions from the NYT. I know I’d buy a used car from those folks in a heartbeat.

    “NO RADIOACTIVITY IN HIROSHIMA RUIN; WHAT OUR SUPERFORTRESSES DID TO A JAPANESE PLANE PRODUCTION CENTER
    By W.h. Lawrence By Wireless To the New York Times.
    Sept. 13, 1945”
    https://www.nytimes.com/1945/09/13/archives/no-radioactivity-in-hiroshima-ruin-what-our-superfortresses-did-to.html

    You can take that to the bank! If it’s open. And you wear a mask.

    Reply
  9. Bret Larson

    August 9th, 2020

    If you believe Greta, it’s everybody’s concern to drop co2 release to atmosphere. Using nuclear power has proven to be one of the better ways. As for why would they do this. I thought diversification was a good thing! This sort of thing is what it looks like.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      August 11th, 2020

      Bret Larson: Nuclear power isn’t a better option, no matter how you look at it. In no way is it foolproof. Also, there is no guarantees that a catastrophe won’t happen. Fukushima is one such example of many. The radiation went into the Pacific ocean. Albertans flat out rejected the idea of nuclear power before, and they will do so again.

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        August 11th, 2020

        I will have more to say about this shortly, probably tonight. DJC

        Reply
      • Bret Larson

        August 11th, 2020

        There is “fallout” from every activity that allows billions of people to continue enjoying a good lifestyle. Though I noticing wincing about the drawbacks while enjoying the benefits is the meat and potatoes of the “progressive” tribe. No answers all hypocrisy”, should be their slogan.

        Reply
        • Murphy

          August 12th, 2020

          No question that hypocrisy reigns among the progressives. But that’s because “progressiveness” replaced a rational analysis from the left. It sure wasn’t socialists who gave the Chinese the world economy since 1993. The problem for “conservatives” who are not actual plutocrats is that they decided that their concept of a “good lifestyle”, which was concocted and pumped into their brains by the super-rich, represents some kind of Aristotelian nature. Which makes Kons as silly as progressives.

          Reply
          • Bret Larson

            August 13th, 2020

            I agree, Im pretty sure progressives and conservatives and whatever pigeon holes people use to group people up are poor representations of individuals. Its a telling indictment that in groups they can start asserting feelings like they had one nervous system.

            The pull of conformity is stronger the further away from the various poles they are.

  10. mike in Edmonton

    August 9th, 2020

    If we MUST use nuclear fission–a point very much open for debate–wouldn’t it be more sensible and less controversial to make steam to drive electricity generators, rather than boiling bitumen out of the ground?

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    August 10th, 2020

    The UCP is continually going in the backwards direction. Adrianna LaGrange couldn’t even cite any examples of what was flawed with the Alberta school curriculum. She claimed to have proof from parents, but where is it? Nuclear reactors are not foolproof, and are not safe, no matter how anyone wants to spin it. If a catastrophe happens, who will be held accountable? Let’s hope this is the UCP’s only term. They are going off the deep end, with their wacky policies and proposals, and are rapidly racking up billions and billions of dollars in debt.

    Reply
  12. Jimmy

    August 10th, 2020

    Nuclear waste? Regulated containment would require accurate monitoring and reporting. The dreaded red tape. A simple fix would be to dump it in the tailings ponds.
    This has been a temporary and simplistic distraction.

    Reply
  13. pogo

    August 10th, 2020

    Now I know for a fact, that there are some in my family who will reach for the nursing call button when they view this. I can only say, none of it or the ongoing senseless dysfunction is my fault! https://youtu.be/0hjgIF71lio

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)