It’s Christmas Eve. What should Santa Claus leave tonight for a government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing?
The aphorism is Oscar Wilde’s, but the great wit of the 19th Century certainly could have been describing the United Conservative Party Government of Alberta in the early 21st – not so surprising, I suppose, since Premier Jason Kenney appears to be on a mission to restore the ethos of the 1800s to the way our province does business in the 2020s.
Consider the sale 10 days ago of a 15-year lease for 1,853 hectares of southeastern Alberta’s pristine Eastern Slopes of the Rockies so that a couple of Australian coal mining corporations can rip the top off a mountain and haul away coal for making steel.
This environmental catastrophe in the making fetched the province the princely sum of $66,562.62, which works out to a little less than $36 a hectare. That’s about the cost of one new pickup truck, fully loaded, not unlike the one Premier Kenney used to drive around when he was applying for the job he has now.
Never mind the damage to the watershed that provides drinking water to two million people, the ruination of trout streams and grazing land, and the creation of an irreparable hellscape in the part of the foothills the Blackfoot used to call the Backbone of the World.
Screw it all! There’s a buck to be made … for someone. Not necessarily us Albertans, since 66 grand won’t go far to eliminate our $24-billion deficit, let alone the $100-billion provincial debt the UCP claims to worry about so much.
Don’t expect a big payout on coal royalties, either. Alberta royalties are about a seventh of what these companies would have to pay back home in Australia, and that’s not much.
So we’re ready to sell our birthright for the proverbial mess of pottage — a biblical reference that the you’d think UCP, of all parties, would get.
As for those of you who belong to the Church of the Long Grass, the Parish of the Porcupine Hills, well, Mr. Kenney & Co. don’t subscribe to your beliefs either, obviously.
They worship another god, the one called Capital whose sign is the $. And that means that if a few of the Porcupine Hills or a nearby mountaintop or two must go so someone can make a buck, then go they will. Even the little Christmas trees on top are doomed to be torn away.
That’s why I’m suggesting to Santa that, tonight, he leaves this government some pieces of Australian coal — about $36 worth divided among the 63 members of the UCP in the Legislature.
Have safe and a happy holiday, dear readers. Stay home, wear a mask if you must go out, and expect a better New Year than we had in the Old Year. It’s too late to stop COVID-19 from coming our way, but we can still stop an environmental catastrophe on the Backbone of the World.
That is all. For a couple of days, anyway.