Is this what the “Transnational Progressive Movement” has in mind for us? (Photo: Screenshot of Monte Python’s “Anarcho-Syndicalist Commune” skit).

Now that people are sitting down and actually reading the papers commissioned by Alberta’s so-called Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns, they’re finding paranoia and poppycock aplenty.

It begs a question, though. What was Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan up to when he reached out and paid significant sums from the public purse for these papers?

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

On Monday, Vice Magazine dug into one chapter of the 133-page submission by Tammy Nemeth, a PhD historian said to be employed in the United Kingdom as a home-school teacher. She was paid $27,847 for her work, which suggests if nothing else that Mr. Allan thought it would make a significant contribution to his effort. 

Vice’s reporter concentrated on Dr. Nemeth’s claim groups of journalists covering climate change are organizing “to coordinate and effectively distribute propagandized climate change issues in their reporting.” 

Their alleged goal, according to a line quoted by Vice, is to effect a Great Transformation – the capital letters are Dr. Nemeth’s. “Life after the Great Transformation,” she warned, “will be constantly monitored, short, cold, and miserable, just like pre-industrial times.”

But it’s worth looking a little beyond Dr. Nemeth’s chapter on media – specifically journalists who have joined organizations dedicated to encouraging coverage of environmental issues, which done properly inevitably means covering points of view that are not going to please the fossil fuel industry and its enablers in government and politics. 

When University of Calgary legal scholar Martin Olszynski published his blog post on Jan. 15 about the three documents, which cost us Alberta taxpayers a combined $100,000, he politely described the efforts of two academics and a fossil fuel advocacy group as “textbook examples of climate change denialism.”

Noting that that none of the authors “appear to be trained in climate science,” he also concluded “these reports are replete with generalizations, speculation, conjecture, and even conspiracy.” 

That is undeniable. But there is more. 

Dr. Tammy Nemeth (Photo: Canadian Centre for Foreign Policy Development).

Quoting such learned authorities as Postmedia columnists Rex Murphy and Terence Corcoran, well known for their National Post paeans to petrochemicalism, Dr. Nemeth posits that there exists a “Transnational Progressive Movement” that “draws in, mobilizes, and utilizes whatever ‘vehicle,’ front, institution, organization, or individual at a given time that may aid the movement in achieving its outcome: the overthrow of modern western industrial capitalist society.” (Emphasis added.)

Even Barry Cooper, the University of Calgary political science professor whose paper alleging Marxism is “a widely held ideological view among social scientists who engage with the question of environmental philanthropy,” doesn’t go that far. 

For one thing, Dr. Cooper explained, he’s talking about a special kind of Marxism, “de-coupled” from socialism. What’s more, he conceded, not all environmentalists are terrorists, dedicated to the destruction of capitalism. Some of them might even be offended by such a characterization, he observed. 

His effort was a comparative bargain, fetching only $6,125 from the inquiry’s paymaster, although a quick back-of-an-envelope estimate suggests they were each paid about 75 cents a word. 

University of Calgary law professor Martin Olszynski (Photo: Twitter).

Dr. Nemeth, meanwhile, argues that what these would-be overthrowers of capitalism are actually advocating “is a form of corporatism where the government makes partnerships with companies and gives them directions as to what the government wants researched or produced – business winners, or euphemistically ‘champions,’ and losers will be chosen.”

If this sounds to you pretty much like what we’ve got now – with the current priorities being oil and guns – it does to me too. But to Dr. Nemeth, apparently, it is something far darker, motivated by, among other things, organic farmers. 

“The uncomfortable or unspoken truth is that for many at the centre of the Transnational Progressive Movement this global energy transition … is the replacement of capitalism and the post-World War II framework with a repackaged technocratic socialism, complete with an industrial policy that picks economic winners and losers, not based on economic principles but through arbitrary processes driven by ideology, and agricultural ‘planning’ that promotes small-scale organic farming and subsistence agriculture over industrial agribusiness.”

There’s more. This movement, Dr. Nemeth alleges, “is overseen by a technocracy that creates algorithms to ‘neutrally’ direct our existence augmented by Artificial Intelligence that monitors, evaluates, and judges where we go, how we get there, and what we are doing – just like it does in China.”

What’s more, she argues, they’re using the pandemic to achieve these sinister goals. 

Jounalist and author Chris Turner (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“It is clear that the Transnational Progressive Movement seeks to use the economic shut-down of the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to restructure the global economy, as was attempted in 2008/09,” she states.

However, Dr. Nemeth opines a little later, “as the pandemic has demonstrated, lives depend on a vibrant, free, and well-functioning economy with reliable, affordable, and secure energy at its core that enables the possibility of well-being and prosperity for those who choose to work and participate in it.”

“Those who advocate a complete replacement of the current free-market hydrocarbon system with a ‘beyond GDP’ circular or ‘net-zero’ economy with ‘green’ renewable energy at its core know that their new system is about degrowth and subsistence rather than prosperity,” she asserts. 

“This new system, with the EU having gone the farthest in attempting to implement it, will re-make modern life in a way that will make it unrecognizable. The public at large do not understand what it represents; what it means for their individual every-day existence. If they did understand, they would reject it.”

It would be fair, if colloquial, to describe this dystopian worldview as bonkers. 

In addition to being fair, it is reasonable to call the author’s conspiratorial view of the COVID-19 pandemic dangerous, since it hardly encourages cooperation with public health measures. 

Further, it is not unreasonable to conclude that no matter what the inquiry’s professional spokesperson says about the commissioner’s determination to be balanced, his willingness to pay significant sums for this kind of stuff, and this kind alone, is a reflection of how he and the United Conservative Party Government that set up this inquiry see the world.

How Dr. Nemeth came to the attention of the inquiry remains a topic for speculation. It is interesting to note that, as environmental journalist Chris Turner pointed out yesterday in a tweet, “the best evidence I can find is that she once contributed to the Dorchester Review, which was founded by Jason Kenney’s favourite curriculum review advisor, C.P. Champion.”

The $3.5-million inquiry is supposed to submit its final report next Monday. 

When next we return to this topic, we’ll take a look next at the submission by Energy in Depth, the Washington D.C.-based fossil fuel advocacy organization funded by a group of independent oil and natural gas fracking companies in the United States. 

Its contribution, for which we paid about $64,000, is a somewhat different breed of cat that raises an additional important question. 

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  1. Dr. Nemeth’s PhD has stood her in good stead in at least one respect–her description of life after the “Great Transformation,” as “short, cold, and miserable” rhetorically echoes Thomas Hobbes’s famous description of the “natural state” in his work, The Leviathan, as “nasty, brutish, and short.” They both even use the Oxford comma!

  2. The UCP are looking for boogeyman that don’t exist, to come up with an excuse for their many very costly failings. Who ends up losing? Albertans do. It’s time to dump the UCP for good. When 2023 comes around, Albertans have to make that happen.

    1. Neoliberal usurpation of nominal conservative parties was well planned to take advantage of a confluence of globally awesome shocks: the Soviet collapse sold as proof that globalizing corporatism had finally beaten sovereign democratic socialism once and for all; worldwide electronic transactions, especially of money now difficult to track or tax; Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the first pandemic since the advent of vaccines and antibiotics; genetic engineering that integrated agro-chemicals with crop-seed supply, and consolidated powerful agro-monopolies with pharmaceuticals, to name the most important, all designed by right-wing think tanks in reaction to arts and science academies considered “lefty” enemies of said globalizing corporatocracy. When the Berlin Wall fell, George Fukuyama called the new era “The End of History.”

      In the commercial, techno-strategic melee ensuing, political traditions were swept away and political parties strained to the breaking point. It was called “neo-conservatism” even though it dispensed with traditional Tory mores like sovereign patriotism and fiscal prudence—thus better called “neo-rightism” instead. The neo-right movement was both globalizing and global: the planet was its oyster and the spectrum of political philosophy its moods. It affected all ideologies, generally shifting the spectrum to the right, sparking squabbles in socialist parties (about how far right was allowed), and nearly destroying centrist liberal parties which traditionally comprise elements of both left and right. The Tory parties, in contrast, had been falling behind fast-changing times, weakened and therefore most easily influenced and usurped. Thus, traditional conservative tropes were retained or cleverly adjusted in order to co-opt the requisite electoral base of real, old-style Tories. For example, the trope of fostering business interests would be acceptable to conservative minded voters—so long’s they didn’t realize it had changed from the interest of Queen and country: in fact, neo-rightism idealizes stateless corporatocracy which effectively undermines such old fashioned notions of patriotism, organic society, and good government. It lasted forty years, by which time the promise of prosperity and “trickle-down” has been debunked. In its throes, the neo-right has become dangerous like a cornered rabid skunk.

      Whence Jason Kenney? His sole occupation has been politics, first on staff for a Liberal MP, then with an anti-tax advocate, then with the nascent neo-right as it picked the lowest hanging fruit: the Progressive Conservative party which it subsequently destroyed, surprisingly quickly after having won the two largest parliamentary majorities in Canadian history. While effectively knocked out (the right-wing vote now split between Western Reform and Bloc Québécois), neo-rightism next sparked a war within the Liberal party— so bitter and existential it collapsed. Thus the NDP became loyal opposition for the first time ever, and the new HarperCon party the minority government—both by default.

      The CPC was successful only in HarperCon theology. It was never loved, failed to get its centrepiece policies done, won a single majority on its fourth try during which its previous legislations were regularly quashed by the Supreme Court; it was turfed the minute the Liberals had sorted themselves out. The CPC was built by treachery, was a lacklustre government which resorted to cheating to achieve little, and developed into a sad spectacle of bigotry at its subsequent leadership race to replace its founder. Kenney, a powerful minister in Harper’s cabinet deftly avoided that gong-show to test his mettle on another piece of low-hanging fruit: the Alberta conservatives.

      The neo-right shift had torn the provincial ProgCon party apart after a remarkable 43 years in power. The malaise didn’t much register in opposition parties, rather it caused a series of PC leadership squabbles and the hiving off of the neo-right Wild Rose Party. Voters’ frustration was expressed by doing the hitherto unthinkable: electing a socialist government. Meanwhile the bitumen market crashed and wildfire consumed part of the bitumen capital city. Kenney arrived while Alberta was in a state of triple-whammy shock.

      You might say he took advantage of a vulnerable people by repurposing the underhanded electoral tricks that kept an unloved, unsuccessful CPC alive for nine years in Ottawa. He bullied his way into the PC leadership (the old party executive resigned en mass), cheated his way into leading a new “conservative” party he assembled from fringe factions that’d popped up like mushrooms on cow-patties, and declared war on the reality that Alberta’s main industry was dying and the cupboard was bare after years of bribing the private interests to stay on, despite irrefutable proof the industry was the dirtiest, most unprofitable petroleum supplier in the world. He won the next election but, unlike the overwhelming majorities of PC governments past, the NDP succeeded in winning a healthy 24 seats to become an effective loyal opposition for the first time in Alberta in living memory. Kenney’s been in a bad humour ever since.

      Kenney insinuated himself into the next federal election as if he were a candidate—in fact, betraying the fact that he aspired to leading a federal CPC government but had to settle for Premiere of Alberta. Winning there with nearly 60% of the vote, he strutted boldly, rattled his sabre and helped the hapless CPC leader in any way he could to heap ad hominem onto the first-term Liberal leader. And the CPC lost again, even against a Liberal government which had disappointed many in its first term. Even though the Liberals were reduced to a minority, Kenney and his Westerners went wild with resentment —some even threatening to separate from Canada. His only consolation was that the next CPC leader, one of the Eastern CPC MPs who now formed half of caucus (it’s the first time Westerners don’t dominate the party) had to come out to Alberta and kiss Kenney’s ring—or something like that—before returning to Ottawa and vowing to “Take Back Canada!” King Kenney the king maker!

      But ain’t nuthin goin’ right. Kenney’s bizarre regime of caterwauling fantasts has picked fights with chimeras and mirages while ignoring serious problems his government should really be dealing with. Worse, as his own popularity tanks, so does the CPC’s with more than a whiff of associative stink. And, almost incredibly again, the Alberta NDP is getting more popular than Kenney’s united neo-right. With a couple years to go yet before going to the polls, he’s got time to turn things around, but the current depth of Alberta’s problems and his own propensity to make them worse doesn’t look promising. He maybe should be praying for a miracle—that Covid just blows away and the world suddenly wants a whole bunch of bitumen at premium price.

      So here it is in summary: the Prime Ministerial wannabe who came skulking back to Alberta in defeat organized a posse of shell shocked, right-wing zombies and commenced to digging a big hole beside which they must stand to test the first-time incumbency of a Frankenstein party made out of other Frankenstein parties now beset by problems mostly of his own making and most probably unsolvable before next Election Day. Meanwhile, Albertans are kinda wishing they had Rachel Notley’s NDP back in power again—turns out she wasn’t so bad after all. These Canadian neo-rightists! —they got the King Merde-ass touch, alright.

      Now, pray tell me what’s this legendary heroism Jason Kenney acts like he owns? From my vantage point, he looks like the poster boy for neo-right decline and death.

      I pray Albertans, my compatriots, do “make that happen”—with apologies to Johnny Cash: “When The 2023 Woman Comes Around”

  3. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if the Inquiry paid somebody to go and dig up the bones of Ann Rand and bring em back to Alberta as a shrine to honour the God of petro-capitalism.

  4. Awful to find out that not only the UCP is a party of idiots but that our leaders are Flat earthers.
    One day they will realize that it is 2021

    Rest my case


  5. I find this paragraph to be particularly amusing: “Those who advocate a complete replacement of the current free-market hydrocarbon system with a ‘beyond GDP’ circular or ‘net-zero’ economy with ‘green’ renewable energy at its core know that their new system is about degrowth and subsistence rather than prosperity,” she asserts.

    First of all, there is no free market hydrocarbon system. Governments around the world support the industry in myriad ways, including low taxation, direct subsidies, funding delivery systems (pipelines, oil by rail, etc). If it were a free market system, tax dollars would not subsidize it at all.

    Secondly, prosperity and growth are not inextricably entwined. In fact, eternal growth is what’s impossible and we are seeing that in action.

    Third, what is her definition of degrowth? What is her definition of subsistence? My definition of degrowth is making sure we live within our planetary means. Reduce our carbon footprint dramatically. Does that mean that large corporations make less money? Probably. Is that a problem? I don’t see any reason why. Making billions is irrelevant to the quality of life of the vast majority of the population of this world. Also the world subsistence. It conjures up thoughts of poor people scratching in the earth for meagre food supplies and almost starving to death. But is that really what it is? If we get rid of the thoughts that we have to always grow and expand, and accept that we need to work on working with what we have, that’s technically subsistence. And what’s wrong with that?

  6. The problem with people like Dr. Nemeth is that her work latches onto issues that are actual serious problems but does so in a way that discredits the seriousness of the issue and makes it difficult to talk about them. A case in point is the problem of algorithms and how they affect our day-to-day lives. Usually it is something we wouldn’t be concerned about such as targeted ads based on our internet search history but algorithms can have major consequences such as changing benefits or credit scores and those do have major ramifications for how we live ours. I’ll leave a link below to the MIT Technology Review about credit, poverty, and the links to algorithms that I’d recommend anyone interested read. Ultimately, as much as we can laugh about the conspiracies spouted by these papers the truth is that they are effective in discrediting any legitimate discussion of the issues they have taken into their conspiracy—that is the biggest problem in them.

  7. OK, there is probably a real word for this, but I don’t know it, so I call it “moral infrastructure”. It is the values, beliefs and behaviours that allow a society to function while doing a certain thing.

    If you live in a community where nobody locks their doors and there are no break ins, you have the “moral infrastructure” to support that lifestyle.

    I worry that bad actors are making a lot of money by destroying the moral infrastructure that allows us to have free speech.

  8. Alberta in a nutshell…

    One-third of the population are idiots and proud of it.

    One-third goes along with the idiots because that when they can steal from the public accounts.

    And the remaining one-third has had enough and can’t wait to escape to a place governed by adults, like B.C.

    1. Sadly, I have come to much the same conclusion about Alberta. My family has lived here since 1897 and for the first time I fear for our future here. I can see my children and grandchildren leaving Alberta in despair.

      In Russia Putin has carried on a memory war creating a sanitized past and Great Victory mania which focuses the population on the past and allows the ruling clique to enjoy their present prosperity and privileges without having to bother with offering a vision of the future to the population.

      Our situation here is too similar. The UCP feeds us a limitless list of grievances that prove out victimization, false hopes of returning to the mythical prosperity of the past and no vision for the future. The gullibility of Albertans is summed up for me in a clip I saw of an Oil and Gas demonstration in Grand Prairie with a small boy holding a sign that read, ‘I want to work in the oil patch like my dad’. In other words for this child the only possible future is his dad’s past of 20 years ago.

      My grandchildren are seventh generation Albertans and if things don’t change will undoubtedly be the last of my family to live here.

      On an even sadder final note resonating with other developments in Eastern Europe, you don’t need a majority of the population behind you to foment separatist violence and bloodshed.

  9. I suppose you can scour the world and find someone who agrees with your views and if you are willing to pay, you can even get someone with some credentials to write something. However, I don’t think these contributors could even really be regarded as experts in this field, so this report looks like it will be fairly thin gruel. Basically a bunch of people carefully curated to reinforce the viewpoint of those behind this inquiry, with any different ideas to be ignored or dismissed.

    This all seems to be heading more towards some sort of grand conspiracy theory, where the evidence is elusive and we are to only rely on the statements of passionate chosen few, who supposedly see all of this. I suppose this is not a surprise given that the seeds of this inquiry included conspiracy theory, but it does seem to be headed more off the rails. An inquiry should have evidence and facts . Going around using academic sounding terms like corporatism to support arguments, while perhaps sounding impressive to some, falls short of this.

    I do hope this inquiry comes to an end soon, as it is a waste of tax dollars and like a dog chasing its tail, it is going nowhere and is looking more and more ridiculous.

  10. Well put Janna.
    As many have said in different ways, our energy cum economic systems at this time is the demand for unfettered and continuing growth, while at the same time our climate needs a contraction in resource use and the concomitant wastes such as pollution of all sorts, particularly in OECD countries. What is not acknowledged by most citizens of OECD countries is that “nature always bats last”; that all the trillions of dollars spent over the last decade to deal with the aftermath of “natural disasters” are the result of our denial over the last half century of what our lifestyles have done to contribute to this predicament. Even more, we in this part of the world have seen so much less of these disasters that, in effect, we have been “mere spectators” who continue to deny our contribution to the misery of so many others around the world. Either we work toward a bottom-up managed decrease in resource use, or we continue as we are going and have our natural world do it for us anyway.
    Jason Hickel: Degrowth has two parts: an ecology part and a social justice part. It seeks to (a) reduce excess resource and energy use (specifically in high-income nations) in order to bring the economy back into balance with the living world, and (b) to do so while at the same time reducing inequality and improving people’s access to the things they need to live long, healthy, flourishing lives.

  11. So, the UCP’s “truth” is that organic gardeners, farmers, and bird watchers are colluding to destroy industrial civilization. What a fun bit of misdirection!

    Meanwhile, on real world farms the three-giant agrochemical-seed companies and their allies are attempting to privatize all the food genetics developed at public expense by Agriculture Canada and farmers using the misleading name of “Seed Synergy.” The attempt at privatizing food genetics goes hand-in-hand with a bogus “responsible grain practices” code of conduct pushed by Harper Cabinet Minister Ted Menzies and former head of the agrochemical industry’s lobby group CropLife Canada.

    This so-called code of conduct implies farmers who do not use the products and techniques prescribed by the ag-chemical industry group are not responsible. So, organic growers, or those who want to save seed for next year’s crop should beware.
    But heck, this is all down on the farm and as long as the agrochemical companies, food processors, and retailers make record profits, who will care?

  12. “ …replacement of capitalism and the post-World War II framework with a repackaged technocratic socialism, complete with an industrial policy that picks economic winners and losers … and agricultural ‘planning’ that promotes small-scale organic farming and subsistence agriculture over industrial agribusiness.”

    “ … complete replacement of the current free-market hydrocarbon system with a ‘beyond GDP’ circular or ‘net-zero’ economy with ‘green’ renewable energy at its core… “

    She cites these things like they’re undesirable, when any thoughtful person knows these are in fact the only real long-term hope for our future as a species. My only issues with this have been on the matter of implementation, and how to support families still dependent on sunset industries like oil & gas to make a just transition to a new low-carbon economy. For example, what happens to the residents of Fort McMurray — which, given that without the oil sands virtually nobody would voluntarily live there, is just the world’s largest work camp — if the oil sands shut down, whether that be by government fiat or by market forces.

    It reminds me of a song by female-fronted rock band Halestorm, which goes, “you call me a bitch like it’s a bad thing” …

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