The author and Santa Claus consulting recently on appropriate gifts for members of the UCP Caucus ... in 2020, actual jolly old elves and bloggers may not appear exactly as illustrated (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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.

The Parish of the Porcupine Hills (Photo: Backcountry Hunters and Anglers).

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. 

Join the Conversation


  1. $65 grand? A pittance. The coal underneath these acres is a common asset of the people of Alberta. I have never understood the government mindset of selling off sovereign wealth for peanuts, and it’s not limited to the UCP. Here in NS, the dopes in the provincial government, at present Liberal, despite decades of professional forester lobbying, still think that clear-cutting is leading edge. It is, if utter despoliation is the goal. Protesters have been arrested after a court injunction; it’s beyond ludicrous, the province is shorn clean as it is. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass if it provides a few jobs, it’s simply not worth it. Runoff, silting, flooding — what a sublime legacy of pure greed.

    In the Alberta case, letting some rapacious Australian mining company treat the place as if it were a piece of desert means they’ll ruin the place and then scarper for Tasmania when it comes to paying for remediation, leaving the people to add that cleanup to the $260 billion worth of ruination arising from small oil and gas producers and the tarsand “project”. And the place will never be the same again.

    Cigars and brandy all around for the fat cats, and the proles so screwed up by kenney’s on again/off again Covid restrictions they get blindsided by capital. As ever, whether they realize it or not.

    Meanwhile, I’d like to offer best wishes of the season and a better new year to you and yours, DJC. Best written, most original blog around in my opinion. Long may it remain so.

  2. What would it take to stop this insane plan? An appeal to the federal government? A declaration by UNESCO of the entire Porcupine Hills as a World Heritage Site? A land claim by those whose ancestors walked this land before the arrival of Europeans?

    Stick that coal up their stockings where it belongs, Santa.

    1. Ho-ho-hold the coal mines!

      The legacy of the UCP might not be the polluted moonscape it leaves, but the record number of lawsuits that spawn in its selenium-tainted rivers, diminished to a trickle by the Aussie coal magnates.

      What will Joe Biden do, when he finds out what Alberta has planned for the waters that flow down to the U.S.? I don’t think he’ll be happy to hand out pipeline permits to reverse Robbin’-the-Hood Jason, aka Digging-a-Deeper-Coal-Hole Kenney.

  3. I’d like to see the feds decline the application for the Grassy Mountain strip mine stopped but that won’t be until June or later in 2021. Until Jan 15th anyone in Canada can sign the petition to the House of Commons to stop Grassy Mountain – it’s the first in line for approval – stop it and we might just stop them all. The petition is here:

    Then if you’re so inclined you can go to the web site for the project review panel and submit a written comment as more than 600 already have here: just scroll down to the section with the link “Submit a comment” and scribble away !

  4. The Premier and a number of his cabinet ministers deserve nothing more than a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings.

    Same goes for a number of those backbenchers who sit back and say nothing in an attempt to gain favour and hope for some recognition or an appointment to this or that board.

    Look at our former MLA, Dave Rodney. A complete zero but he was astute enough to give up his seat for Kenney. In return he was given a plum appointment in Texas. Unfortunately, for many Government backbenchers this is what it is all about.

  5. Let’s celebrate the birth of Jesus which is the reason for Christmas pure and simple. Let us also remember that His message to humans was a social message to love one another and to look after the needs of those among us who are not so able to look after themselves.

    So called Christians who are right wing was Jesus target. The new testament message is intended to stop the wars so often described in the old testament.

    Merry Christmas Dave and family.

  6. This does seem to neatly illustrate the very backward thinking vision of this UCP government, essentially give away land in a beautiful natural area for a coal development by a foreign company. This is 2020, coal seems so 19th century.

    It boggle the mind why they did this, it sure doesn’t seem to be for the money raised for the government here. I think the government’s time and attention spent on this would have been better focused on diversifying our economy away from natural resource dependency, but they seem to like to live in the past and do not have much of a different vision for the future.

    I am trying to find bright thoughts to focus on this Christmas holiday season. We have had a lot taken away this year, maybe it will help us appreciate more what we have, when things hopefully get better. We are not a society well prepared for sacrifice, short term or otherwise, these days. One of the things Churchill did particularly well was to mentally prepare his country to expect to endure difficult times. Many of our current political leaders have not been so good at this part. In any event, I hope 2021 will eventually be a better year.

  7. The coal is for export to China a county that refuses the rule of law , freedom of choice , the freedom of expression, respect for copy rites or intellectual property, is a totalitarian state , repressive to its own people .Alberta looses a water shed , a blight on the mountains , the mess behind , the mess getting to the coast to ship it . After all Alberta gets what ? A few dollars and an ecological mess left behind . Why do we do what we do when we know what we do does so much environmental damage , are we humans that stupid or a few dollars that important? Low brow mentality governs Alberta

  8. I must thank you for another great blog. It is true that the UCP are going backwards. Steel can be made without using coal. The environmental damage from this coal mine can’t be undone with money. Coal is so polluting and that’s why Jim Prentice, the former CPC colleague of the premier of Alberta, wanted to get rid of coal fired power plants in Canada by the year 2020. Clean coal does not exist. It’s also interesting to not that the UCP reversed their decision to sell off Alberta’s provincial parks to private interests. Perhaps there was backlash, and the UCP caved in, or there was no private groups who wanted the parks. Regardless, the UCP have to go. I hope you have a Merry Christmas, and a great 2021.

    1. Come on down to Big Jay’s Mountain Emporium, where every heap of scree is on offer. Financing available, no downpayment. No unreasonable offer refused. Ask for the Big Jay special. Those mountains give me such a thrill. But those peaks won’t pay my bills. I want money. That’s what I want, the Big Jay way. That’s what I want.

    2. BRET LARSON: Countries that aren’t socialist, like Saudi Arabia and Russia, have been controling oil prices since 2014. Can’t blame anyone else for Alberta having oilsands oil, the most costliest kind of oil to refine in the world. The pittance in royalty rates the Alberta PCs got, since the mid 1980s, lost Alberta $433 billion in revenue. The Alberta PCs, beginning under premier Ralph Klein, gave Albertans a $260 billion cost to cleanup messes caused by the oil industry in Alberta. That’s $693 billion dollars Alberta could use today, in these turbulent times. Those pesky socialists!

  9. Hi David
    For all the flap about this being an information age
    maps are hard to come by
    that said
    I’m in Claresholm and if you check on this map from the tyee
    i am pretty sure the porcupines are the dark green band towards the top of this map (unmarked)
    the line of road i would bet is highway 22
    the blue band crossing the road is the oldman river
    where it comes through the mountains is the gap
    the big sell off is in the lower kananaskis
    the valley bounded by the peak to peak bc alta border line and the livingstone range
    either side of the forestry trunk road
    the southern equivalent of Banff / if you think about it
    not the porcupines or the whaleback
    so in short by this very unofficial map and calculation ….not the porcupines
    another calculation i had to do
    which also might not be right but
    that 1835 hectares is about 7 square miles
    helpful to me as the Alberta rural landscape is on a square mile grid.

  10. Merry Christmas Dave and Happy New Year. Thanks for your posts here. Helps to keeps me sane in these crazy times. 2021 already looks better, with the orange menace that is Donald Trump gone…..

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