Lava flowing from a volcanic eruption in Spain’s Canary Islands reached the Atlantic Ocean yesterday, raising fears among scientists who study geophysical and geochemical phenomena of dangerous explosions and toxic gases.
Meanwhile, in the Canadian province of Alberta, political scientists were tracking a major bozo eruption in the small city of Airdrie, a bedroom community in the northern reaches of the metropolitan Calgary area.
No actual physical destruction has yet been observed, but the morning announcement by a group of dissident right-wing members of the provincial Legislature of something they called the “Free Alberta Strategy” is likely to be yet another threat to the survival of the province’s United Conservative Party premier, Jason Kenney, already in trouble as a result of his dangerously incompetent response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hot mess – which a CBC reporter rather too respectfully termed an initiative – seems to be the inspiration of former Wildrose and Progressive Conservative Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson. Apparently the two-time floor crosser, pretty well persona non grata in Alberta politics since he joined the mass defection to the PCs led by then Wildrose leader Danielle Smith back in December 2014, sees this half-baked separatist scheme as his ticket back into public life.
Mr. Anderson will almost certainly be disappointed. Still, as Winston Churchill famously observed after rejoining the British Conservative Party in 1923, “anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.”
“The Free Alberta Strategy is a strategic plan for Alberta to assert its sovereignty, offload the burden of Ottawa’s tyrannical economic policies against this province, and secure self-determination for the people of Alberta within a reformed Canada,” Mr. Anderson wrote in a column on a right-wing website published by Derek Fildebrandt, another former Wildrose and UCP MLA with no love lost for Premier Kenney.
The wacky “strategy,” which basically consists right now of a website with data-capture and fund-raising capabilities, plus a fanciful list of proposed laws, claims to be provide a roadmap “to make Alberta a sovereign jurisdiction within Canada.”
Particularly troubling should be the fact both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Alberta Legislature took part in a Facebook Live news conference – Speaker Nathan Cooper supposedly as a mere observer, and Deputy Speaker Angela Pitt, now the UCP MLA for Airdrie, as an acknowledged supporter.
Ms. Pitt made news by responding to a reporter’s query about whether she had any confidence in Premier Kenney by bluntly stating, “The answer to that question is no, I don’t. And I don’t think my constituents do either.”
She seemed to be daring Mr. Kenney to kick her out of the UCP Caucus. As for Mr. Cooper, who is thought to have his eye on Mr. Kenney’s job, he might not mind being removed as Speaker all that much.
Not coincidentally, two former members of the UCP’s unofficial but influential COVID-denial caucus, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes and Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen, also participated in the event. A third, Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, still part of the UCP, also took part.
Mr. Barnes and Mr. Loewen were booted from the UCP in May for statements that undermined Mr. Kenney’s leadership. Last year, Ms. Pitt was advocating that Alberta become an autonomous region like South Tyrol, the German-speaking Italian province that didn’t get rolled into the German Reich along with next-door Austria in 1938 because the leaders of Germany and Italy at the time were somewhat simpatico.
It doesn’t take a constitutional lawyer to see that Mr. Anderson’s notion Alberta can just ignore the Canadian Constitution and the courts to establish itself as a sovereign entity is a whack-a-doodle load of Freemen-on-the-Land quackery.
Still, if you’d like the opinion of a constitutional lawyer, here’s one: “This the dumbest thing that I have read in a long time (and that’s a feat in AB),” tweeted University of Calgary law professor Martin Z. Olszynski soon after the news conference. “The flagship proposal (AB Sovereignty Act) is unconstitutional on its face while the attack on Canada’s judiciary – and federal judges especially – shd render any #ableg MLA support disqualifying.”
“This is the kind of dumbfuckery that will be unleashed if the #equalization referendum goes the way these clowns want,” Mr. Olszynski added in another tweet.
This situation presents Mr. Kenney with another difficulty: It’s hard to see how Mr. Cooper can remain as Speaker, now that he’s blessed this crackpot separatist scheme with his presence, or how Ms. Pitt can continue to sit as a UCP MLA after calling out the premier.
If he doesn’t skid them, and soon, it will be strong evidence he is no longer in control of his caucus.
Mr. Kenney couldn’t have been pleased the dissidents chose to try to upstage him hours before he had a big news conference scheduled in an effort to recover from his mishandling of the COVID epidemic. His declaration last June that the province was “open for good” and on the verge of the “best summer ever,” is now widely seen as contributing directly to its current catastrophic health care crisis.
In the event, he announced Alberta would use its almost certainly unconstitutional Critical Infrastructure Defence Act to ban all demonstrations outside Alberta hospitals, supposedly to protect staff, patients and families at Alberta health-care facilities from anti-vaccine protesters.
Since anti-vaccination protests outside Alberta hospitals haven’t amounted to much, this is thought by many to be an effort to use the divisions over COVID policies as an excuse to ban picket lines outside hospitals at a time several public-sector health care unions are in difficult negotiations for new collective agreements.
As for doing what’s really needed to get COVID-19 under control and save the collapsing health care system – implementing a strict circuit-breaker lockdown – Mr. Kenney indicated he has no intention of doing that.