Alberta Politics
The last time Alberta had a provincial police force, it looked like these guys, engaged in union busting with machine guns in Drumheller in 1919. By the sound of it, Jason Kenney would like to see pretty much the same thing again (Photo: Alberta Culture).

If you want to know how an Alberta Provincial Police force would behave, read between the lines of yesterday’s announcement

Posted on October 08, 2020, 12:25 am
12 mins

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police may be no paragon of liberalism and progressive enforcement, but they’re apparently too liberal and progressive for the members of the so-called Fair Deal Panel that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney appointed to trot out his quasi-separatist hobbyhorses.

Mr. Kenney’s supposedly cash-poor government announced yesterday it has another $2 million to spend on hiring the Canadian arm of U.K.-based business consultant Pricewaterhouse Coopers to cook up an “independent assessment” of the premier’s scheme to replace the RCMP with his own police force.

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

The price tag is likely so low because the answers have been predetermined. It’s certainly modest compared with the estimated additional $150 million per year, plus transition costs, that would be needed to run a provincial police force instead of contracting RCMP services.

More evidence that the decision is a done deal comes in the form of the posting last month for an executive manager in the provincial Justice Department to run a new Alberta Provincial Police Services Transition Secretariat.

Anyone worried about what this might portend can learn a lot by reading between the lines of the government’s press release, which emphasizes “frustrations with the RCMP” supposedly expressed by the Albertans who turned up for the panel’s road show or responded to its leading online questionnaire.

The release complains RCMP members are “overly bureaucratic” and “unable and unwilling to confront activists,” a pairing that suggests in the eyes of the UCP the Mounties are too focused for their taste on due process and fundamental rights and not willing enough just to wade in and bust the heads of citizens who oppose UCP policies.

The release also complains about “heavy handed enforcement of gun laws,” by which the government pretty clearly means any enforcement of gun laws at all. In other words, the UCP wants to move Alberta, and Canada, toward U.S.-style gun climate that emphasizes the right to gun ownership and ignores responsibility and public safety.

We all understand the dystopia that can result from that. How could we not? The evidence is right next door.

The release also preposterously claims, “RCMP members have a limited connection to the province.”

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This is a scarlet herring, as it were. It’s been many years since the RCMP abandoned its former policy of moving members frequently to ensure impartial enforcement of the law in the communities where they were stationed. But the dog-whistle message to the UCP’s core supporters is that the RCMP pays too much attention to things like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the values it represents.

So, if you want to know what Premier Kenney and his eminence grise, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have in mind for Alberta, and the rest of Canada too if they can pull it off here, this news release provides some scary hints.

“Alberta’s government has an obligation to listen to those concerns and explore how a police force designed in Alberta – not Ottawa – would improve the safety and security of Albertans and their property,” the release quotes Justice Minister Kaycee Madu saying. It sure sounds like the premier speaking, though.

“This report will bring us one step closer to the panel’s recommendation,” Mr. Madu added. That statement, at least, is undoubtedly true, and all the more worrisome for that.

Fire Tyler Shandro, says the Edmonton Journal; UCP summons Damage Control

Kenney Government damage control parties rushed into the breach yesterday morning to put out a fire caused by, of all things, a Postmedia newspaper editorial.

One imagines it’s not just the United Conservative Party that was unhappy about the Edmonton Journal’s editorial calling for Alberta’s belligerent health minister to be fired with cause. Presumably Postmedia head office in Toronto (or perhaps New York City, depending on whom you really think is in charge) will not be very happy about that either.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Premier of Alberta/Flickr).

“So chaotic is the track record of Tyler Shandro … that controversy has become the rule rather than the exception,” the editorial began.

The Journal’s Editorial Board highlighted Alberta Health Services statistics obtained through a freedom of information request by the NDP Opposition that showed 163 Alberta physicians were considered to be at high risk of leaving the province and 205 in 17 communities are “eyeing the exit or considering cuts to services” as a result of Mr. Shandro’s mid-pandemic War on Doctors.

“Albertans deserve stable, sober stewardship of their health care, especially in a pandemic,” the editorial concluded. “It’s time Premier Jason Kenney found a new health minister who can offer that steady hand without the drama.”

Good luck with that. Gene Zwozdesky is no longer available for the job. Anyway, it seems unlikely the premier will want to do anything about Mr. Shandro’s dismal performance because it’s presumably exactly what the man was hired to do — draw fire away from Mr. Kenney while implementing the radical privatization of public health care the corporate right has long dreamed about.

The damage control parties immediately pumped out a cheerful press release proclaiming that all is well aboard the good ship UCP.

According to the headline on the presser, “for the first time in Alberta’s history, more than 11,000 doctors have registered to practice in Alberta. This represents a net gain of 246 doctors over 2019 – an increase of 2.3 per cent.” Yay! Go Team Kenney!

Never mind that this calls into question AHS’s own sober analysis — not NDP propaganda, as the government would like you to believe.

Later in the day, Mr. Shandro’s department tried to distract again, that time with another cheery statement about a $60-million contract to make medical masks in Alberta.

The minister’s transparent cheerleading — misleading because it’s still early days in the War on Docs — may be partly aimed at the UCP’s increasingly nervous backbenchers, who have been reading recent polls and wondering if they could actually find themselves singing the same sad song as the Progressive Conservative MLAs who unwillingly departed in 2015.

As some PC wits once put it to the tune Barrett’s Privateers, with apologies to the late Stan Rogers, not long after the 2015 election: “We were told we’d rule the roost till we all got old. We’d never lose to the NDP. … Now I’m a lonely man with no devotees, the last of Lougheed’s proud PCs.”

Settle down, Caucus, the issues managers seem to be saying: You may not like it, but There Is No Alternative!

Nick Taylor, Alberta Liberal leader from 1974 to 1988, dies at 92

Nick Taylor, the man who led the Alberta Liberals the last time they were lost in the wilderness, died on Sunday at 92.

Widely respected for his influence if not his power, not to mention his quick wit and quotability, Mr. Taylor led the party from 1974 to 1988.

Nick Taylor, Alberta Liberal leader in the 1970s and 1980s (Photo: Provenance uncertain).

“He speaks like a socialist, quotes St. Augustine and John Stuart Mill and, like a latter day Moses with slightly tougher odds, expects to lead his party (and some 3,000 card-carrying Liberals) to opposition status in the Alberta Legislature — despite the fact that he has no seat himself and must watch legislative debates from the visitors’ gallery,” MacLean’s Magazine said in a 1980 profile.

It worked. A geologist and oilman, Mr. Taylor took the helm when the party was at a low ebb, thanks to the unpopularity of the federal Liberals’ National Energy Program. He finally won a Legislature seat in 1986, in the Westlock-Sturgeon Riding north of St. Albert. He was re-elected in 1989, and won a third term in the then-new Redwater Riding in 1993.

He was widely credited with setting the stage for the party’s brush with power in the 1993 general election, when under Laurence Decore it captured 32 seats and 40 per cent of the vote to 51 seats and 44.5 per cent for Ralph Klein’s PCs.

Alas, that was the Alberta Liberal Party’s high tide. Its fortunes have receded since then, and former PC Raj Sherman may have written the party’s epitaph after 2011, when he led Alberta’s Liberals back into the wilderness, whence they have never re-emerged.

In 1996, Mr. Taylor was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chretien, ending his career in the Legislature. He served in the Senate until his retirement at 75 in 2002.

Members of his family were with him when he died at the Peter Loughheed Centre in Calgary.

23 Comments to: If you want to know how an Alberta Provincial Police force would behave, read between the lines of yesterday’s announcement

  1. Anonymous

    October 8th, 2020

    Is this no surprise? Read between the lines, and look at a coincidence. The premier of Alberta is under investigation by the RCMP for election related shenanigans. Is it any wonder why the UCP wants the RCMP replaced with an Alberta provincial police force? This move is also a precursor to the separation movement that some people in Alberta are pushing for. It will not be cheap setting up an Alberta Provincial Police force. Training and hiring new police officers has to happen. This will not be cheap. Where will the existing RCMP officers go to? They have families and homes here.
    Tyler Shandro definitely is way out of his depth, as are the UCP. The UCP wants to wage war on the medical practitioners in Alberta, and get privatization of health care set up. Carrying on where Ralph Klein left off. The UCP also is acting like Ralph Klein did. Critics will face the wrath, including the media. For the life of me, I don’t know what people were thinking, when they supported the UCP.
    As for the Alberta Liberals, they are being demonized when they get lumped in with the Liberals in Ottawa. Laurence Decore would have been a good premier, but the drawback was he said that cuts had to come. Nick Taylor opened things back up for the Alberta Liberals, but the I have to support the Conservatives in Alberta, helped fuel the one party state in Alberta. May he rest in peace. Hopefully, the UCP will be shown the door in 2023. The way they keep going on, offers no benefits to Albertans.

  2. Dave

    October 8th, 2020

    The UCP is playing political bingo here and this falls under the D for distraction.

    I can’t imagine rural Albertans are very happy knowing they will probably be the biggest casualies of Kenney and Shandro’s war on doctors. They will also not be very happy that their property taxes may sky rocket due to provincially legislated shortfalls from energy companies. When rural voters are unhappy, their UCP MLA’s are nervous and worried.

    The UCP needs to come up with something to take rural Albertan’s attention and minds away from these issues, so hey its time to demonize the RCMP! Of course, this probably wont work, because both health care and property taxes are real issues that affect rural Albertans lives and these issues are not magically going away regardless.

    Interesting the Journal has gotten around to recommending what many sensible Albertans have been saying for a while – get rid of Shandro. Maybe he is just channeling the worst inclinations of his boss, but clearly Shandro has become more a part of the problem than the solution and has been for a while. Maybe there is no one pleasant or talented enough in the UCP caucus to completely smooth things over, but a change is needed to improve things.

    As much as Kenney seems to never want to admitt he is wrong, his rural caucus would probably be happier if he got rid of Shandro before the RCMP. It would also be a less costly and faster solution to increasing rural discontent with the UCP.

    • Caron

      October 9th, 2020

      It will get worse here for farmers and ranchers just as it has already in the US where spy cameras are placed on private farm and ranch land by government officials without probable cause. Speaking of which that sounds like the ability of police here to seize your vehicle and make you provide a breath sample, again without probable cause. Rule of law is mostly BS, we have the Rule by law. The whole Con/UCP game plan is to totally discredit the legitimacy of the state and democratic controls and traditions. So far they have been pretty successful.

  3. Bob Raynard

    October 8th, 2020

    David, I think you linked to the job posting instead of the press release.

  4. Jim Petrie

    October 8th, 2020

    Very good article on Provincial Police David. I wonder if they considered uniform colors yet ? Brown perhaps.!!!
    All tyrants understand they must have their own goon squad before they can make the moves they really want to make.

  5. Jimmy

    October 8th, 2020

    If the provincial Justice Department intends to oversee an Albert Provincial Police Services Transition Secretariat a done deal seems evident.

    The increasing Orwellian use of the word justice is troubling. It incorrectly suggests that legal decisions, rulings and sentences are by definition just. The Red Deer courthouse is currently being enlarged and its name will be changed to the Red Deer Justice Centre. Any assumptions that legal systems represent justice will harm democracy.

  6. Abs

    October 8th, 2020

    RIP Nick Taylor, a man who knew what it means to be a public servant.

    The masks getting UCP backing seem to have a new feature. An ad that was posted yesterday showed the folds pointing up We all know by now that the folds should point down. Is this some revolutionary new technology? Still, we should thank our lucky stars that the UCP has a plan, any plan, for economic recovery. This will create up to 100 jobs. Competing against mask factories in China and Mexico won’t be easy. Are the new jobs in China and Mexico? One thing’s for sure. Working in a mask-making production line does not require much post-secondary education. Angus Yells-at-Clouds McBeath should be pleased. These jobs will be almost as aspirational as selling used cars at one of the UCP PAC donor companies.

    As usual, the daily barrage of UCP shock doctrine announcements continues. Provincial police, etc., etc. No flies will land on Jason Kenney.

  7. Bruce Turton

    October 8th, 2020

    Another “programme” to get some UCP sycophants pointless work for a while at taxpayers expense. I do sympathize with rural Albertans and their lack of adequate policing because the nearest RCMP base is a half hour away and thus too far and long for satisfactory results; and the added expense would also be burdensome. (I have personally known this inadequacy when I called about rifle fire near our rural residence; was told it was my problem in not knowing what gun fire really sounded like; and then found the shell casings on the ground the next day not 100 metres from our house!). I do not have the answers, but recognize some of the problems and frustrations of small towns, villages, and farms.

  8. Bret Larson

    October 8th, 2020

    If the RCMP is so great, why doesnt Edmonton start using them?

    After all, Edmonton is a paragon of progressive proclivities.

    • Anonymous

      October 10th, 2020

      Bret Larson: Why doesn’t Calgary have the R.C.M.P? Why don’t all other major cities in Canada have the R.C.M.P?

  9. Scotty on Denman

    October 8th, 2020

    Alberta Provincial Police? Got a certain ring too it? Well, if discerning the minute distinctions of frightful, frightening and fright is too much info, there’s an APP for that.

    I well recall—rather, I and many others will never forget—the expropriation of thousands of acres in Ontario County in the late 60s, a wide swath of farmland and rural hamlets north of the world’s then-biggest nuclear power plant on the lakeshore at Pickering, ostensibly for a new Toronto International Airport that was never built and is only now, 52 years on, being bulldozed for urban expansion of the Hogtown megapolis. The expropriations destroyed communities established in the 1790s and the families of descendants I went to school with, recent development now the last chapter of a tragic story of which books have been written about the heavy hand of tyrannical governments both provincial and federal, deservingly cast as culprits. My little part is germane to the political creation new police forces: tired of being shaken down and roughed up for “suspicious” activities like walking down the country road where my parents lived, I departed for the West. This is what I observed from back then, and from occasional visits, and from the sad drone images of giant earth movers tearing up Number One Agricultural land (75 bu/acre wheat—as compared to about 25 in the Prairies):

    The County areas expropriated were reorganized and the Durham Regional Police created. This rush-job naturally had to scrape the bottom of the recruitment barrel, including reject applicants from other forces like the dreaded York Regional Police (that city now amalgamated into Metro-TO). How bad were they? Let’s just say that within a few years fifteen of my high school mates had moved and found work in Port Alberni, BC— about ten percent of our hometown’s population, an exodus of some measure. Durham Region was too dangerous for young people to live in: the police were overweening, ill-trained louts prone to brutality and ignorance of the law. Fright became flight; many of us never went back.

    More frightful is the UCP’s parenthetical aim to advance gun-ownership “rights”. Plenty of ink has been splattered over this issue, right across the country, too, but the long-gun registry controversy—its most lasting effect in BC, IMO, being the general shift from left~ to right-voting by resource workers—has generally settled down everywhere in the country, except the western prairies where the shooting death of an indigenous man by a store owner and the seizure of unregistered guns by police from an evacuated house during the High River flood have ginned so-called self-defence rationales for a shoot-first-ask-questions-later ethos among rural residents and become stock, locked-and-loaded rhetoric by politically partisan opportunists. Obviously—at least from an object viewpoint—the RCMP disapprove of such US-style right-to-bear-arms acculturation, especially after a number of them were shot to death by a criminal grow-op ruralist defending his illegal crop of pot.

    Canadians can’t or shouldn’t be relieved that civilian gunplay appears so far to be restricted mostly to the Wild West of their own country, or to the rurally remote antics of Weirdo Ludwig from whose family farmhouse the bullet which killed a teenage girl joy-riding with her friends in his front yard was shot: while Ludwig was jailed for another offence (blowing up gas wells), the question of who exactly fired the fatal shot has only been answered like Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of Emit Til”, reminding of similar injustices we’ve seen in second-amendment-crazed America where the police shooting of an innocent black woman sleeping in her bed earned only an indictment of recklessness for the unwarranted policeman whom a jury faulted for endangering neighbours with a number of stray bullets in the twenty-slug homicide. Because her boyfriend fired a defensive shot as the front door was battered down by unannounced strangers in a neighbourhood, a city, a state and a whole country full of armed citizens, the grand jury, as VP Mike Pence lamely quipped in last night’s election debate, “got it right.” During the height of protest over the unwarranted killing of handcuffed black citizen George Floyd, the previous shooting of Bryony was rolled into mass, nationwide protests which of course spilled into violence over unfair treatment of blacks by American police. Albertans should take a lesson from all this.

    American gun culture is older than the Republic itself and proves difficult, putting it mildly, to rectify, spinning off, as it does, into acculturated racism like stray bullets from a burning gun shop in the heat of a race riot. With more guns than people in divided American society, police have long been, like they were in Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, reluctant to risk being shot at, thus prone to opening fire with nervously triggered fingers, to become casual murderers in a gun-sick society they’re supposed to protect, to become like it instead of preventing shooting deaths. Alberta—so long’s it remains a Canadian province subject to federal law—can and should take advantage of the fact we have no constitutional right to own guns but, rather, reasonable restrictions that allow for safe, legitimate use; it should turn back on its path to US-style gun laws, of course, but especially consider that, nipped in the bud, its citizens won’t have to witness and experience cops, some of them inexperienced new recruits, scrambling up the shiny-new ladder of advancement in a brand new police force with plenty of empty offices just waiting to be filled by the quickest keeners. And be very wary of UCP promises to achieve in Alberta what has taken centuries in the permanently war-footed USA: both cops and citizens shooting first and asking—but never answering—questions later.

    Any less is truly frightening.

    Good luck and stay safe, my Albertan friends!

    • Abs

      October 9th, 2020

      To be fair, locals at the time were not all on the side of the teenagers who decided to trespass on the Ludwig property. The sides in that debate were closer the 50/50 by my estimation. Although everyone agreed that an unnecessary and tragic loss of life had occurred, trespassing is not taken lightly in those parts, and the teenagers in question had a bit of a reputation, including a reputation for having guns. All local heresay of course, but interesting if you listen.

      It did not help when the RCMP decided to entrap Mr. Ludwig by writing and posting a threatening letter to a newspaper. They claimed it was Mr. Ludwig’s handiwork. You’d think the locals wanted to hang Mr. Ludwig out to dry for that, but you’d be wrong.

      • Bret Larson

        October 9th, 2020

        “The day after Ludwig died, RCMP officers asked his family if they could open Ludwig’s coffin to take his body’s fingerprints in order to verify his death, but Ludwig’s family refused, calling the request “‘odd,’ ‘invasive’ and ‘a terrible disrespect and interference’ with human remains”. RCMP officers explained that it is common for police to take fingerprints from a recently deceased person if that person has a criminal record, but third-party experts disputed this claim.[15]”

        The good old Canadian police state at its finest.

        Thank goodness we dont have any rights here like in the US.

    • jerrymacgp

      October 10th, 2020

      “…the rurally remote antics of Weirdo [sic] Ludwig from whose family farmhouse the bullet which killed a teenage girl joy-riding with her friends in his front yard was shot…” As a resident of the closest major population centre to the Ludwigs’ Trickle Creek compound, I have a particular perspective on this event: I was working in the ICU when the young fellow wounded in that tragedy was brought out of the OR. Residents in & around the City of Grande Prairie, County of Grande Prairie No. 1, Towns of Wembley & Beaverlodge, and the Village of Hythe, have never truly been satisfied with the investigation into the June 1999 death of 16 year-old Karman Willis.

      Someone on the property at the time knows who the shooter was, but they aren’t telling. The shooter has the right not to self-incriminate, but witnesses have a duty to provide information to police. Why charges of obstruction of justice have never been laid in this case is beyond me. Weibo is long dead, but members of his extended family still walk around free.

    • Death and Gravity

      October 10th, 2020

      Let’s be honest here. The thing underlying the desire for a rural provincial “police” force, overlaps considerable with the rational for rural gun-buggery. They want to shoot Indians and get away with it. I mean, get away with it even more. Now that outright oppression has stopped being part of the RCMP official job description, and with a federal government that at least makes discouraging noises about that sort of thing, the freedom-for-herrenvolk loving Albertans are being forced — forced, I tells ya — to take matters into their own hands.

  10. pogo

    October 8th, 2020

    We are now in the land of give the people what they want as long as the people are dumb enough to want what we tell them to want. If you are dumb enough to debate this premise? I have a song for you!

  11. Jim

    October 8th, 2020

    The part about no connection to the province is a little rich coming from Kenney who’s only previous connection appears to be a nonexistent basement.

  12. Just Me

    October 8th, 2020

    Shandro will stay because he’s a wrecking ball and loves being one.

    As for the founding of the Alberta Provincial Police, I suspect they will also be used as muscle for the UCP.

    But in the day, le grande chef du Quebec, Maurice Duplessis, would use the QPF as hammers to enforce his various draconian laws. Union-busting and kidnapping were two of the many dirty tricks that Duplessis could count on from the QPF to enforce the Grande Noirceur throughout Quebec. I’m sure Kenney is inspired by Duplessis’ example.

  13. tom

    October 10th, 2020

    According to CBC’s Carolyn Dunn, ” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s Executive Director of Issues Management was interviewed this week by the RCMP in relation to its investigation into the 2017 UCP leadership race. Matt Wolf worked on Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign and was in contact…”

    • tom

      October 10th, 2020

      . . . with the campaign of another candidate, Jeff Callaway. It is alleged that Callaway ran a sham campaign with the intent of inflicting damage on now-Premier Jason Kenney’s biggest rival Brian Jean.”

      Sorry, Dave, I only realized it was a thread too late.

  14. Comment

    October 10th, 2020

    Funny how the UCP dutifully listens to those who agree with their agenda, yet completely ignores those who don’t.

    I take that back. Nothing about these clowns is funny.

  15. Sandeep

    February 1st, 2021

    I was about to say something along the lines of “this is an extremely biased piece of journalism” then I realized this is a blog.

    • David Climenhaga

      February 1st, 2021

      Sandeep: Whether or not I’m a journalist is a point that can be argued. Sometimes I give different answers, depending on my mood. I am not alone in this. I certainly spent much of my career working as a journalist, so it’s easy for me to slip into that tone of spurious authority that can easily be mistaken for journalism. Nevertheless, this is an opinion blog, reflecting mainly my own cranky opinions. Astonishingly, a significant number of people seem to either agree with me or enjoy reading stuff they disagree with. DJC


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