Bloviating Alberta premier with grazing bovine ruminant – how else to illustrate this story? (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

It is fairly bizarre, now that you mention it, that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is plowing ahead with his constitutionally meaningless anti-equalization referendum at a moment he’s so messed up Alberta’s response to COVID-19 that other provinces and the Canadian Armed Forces are having to send us ICU nurses to keep our health care system afloat. 

Asked about this by the Globe and Mail’s Kelly Cryderman yesterday at yet another uninformative COVID-19 news conference, Mr. Kenney let loose with one of his trademark bloviations on the topic.

A meme created for the spontaneous, unfunded “No” campaign in Jason Kenney’s cynical anti-equalization referendum (Image: @edwinmundt/Twitter).

“Obviously I’m focused on the task at hand with this fourth wave, uh, that is the overwhelming focus of my time and attention, as it should be, and as it is for the whole government,” he began rambling, piling parenthetical clause upon parenthetical clause. 

“But, other things continue to move forward in our society, including our democracy. Uh, we committed to this referendum at this time, uh, in the last election, nearly two and a half years ago, this is, we’re keeping that commitment, and, Kelly, we’ve had elections in, I think five provinces, four or five provinces, uh, throughout COVID-19, we just had a federal election, where every issue under the sun was debated, and people went to the polls, we have a municipal election, on the 18th of October, where people will be voting for, uh, school boards and municipal councils. I think it’s possible for Albertans to address important public issues that affect our long-term future as a province, including the need for us to have a fair deal. Uh, I don’t think that uh, a distraction, uh, for the p-public. You know, people have to, society goes on, uuuh, the economy has to function, and our democracy has to continue to work. …” 

Former Wildrose Leader Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That’s enough! Here’s the most likely translation: “It’s too late to get it off the ballot.” 

That said, it didn’t really make sense before the pandemic either, before Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party had laid waste to the health care system by opening the doors wide to the COVID virus, and when its only major accomplishment was expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline to B.C., a project bought and paid for by Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals in cooperation with the previous NDP provincial government.

Come to think of it, that’s still pretty much the only thing the UCP can claim as an accomplishment. 

It is more than merely ironic, of course, that the current equalization formula was imposed by the Harper Conservative government, when Mr. Kenney was an influential member of cabinet.

As for the referendum, it was probably originally tacked onto the Oct. 18 province-wide municipal elections as a way to get the UCP base out to vote against Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, despised by the UCP’s well-heeled developer supporters in the Cowtown Sprawl Cabal.

But Mr. Nenshi changed the dynamic of the Calgary vote by taking himself off the board. 

Outgoing Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Nevertheless, Mr. Kenney would still like to see the referendum pass, if only to distract from his present troubles and to open the door to future independantiste mischief to keep his foes in Ottawa and Alberta off balance and the UCP base sweet.

The question is: “Should section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 – Parliament and the government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments – be removed from the constitution?

As folks keep pointing out, now might be an ironically bad time for Alberta to be advocating any such thing.

Regardless, though, the Canadian Constitution can’t be changed at the snap of Mr. Kenney’s fingers, or even those of former Wildrose Party deputy leader Rob Anderson and his posse of bozo-erupting UCP MLAs. 

No, it would require Ottawa and all provinces to sit down and negotiate to amend the constitution, something that just isn’t going to happen no matter how strong the referendum result turns out to be. 

The unpopularity of the federal equalization program in Alberta is largely a built on misinformation promoted by Conservative politicians like Mr. Kenney and political groups with an interest in stirring up regional grievances. 

Former Fort McMurray-Cold Lake MLA Laila Goodridge, now the MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As has never been well understood in Conservative circles in this province, if equalization were to disappear, Albertans wouldn’t notice any change in their tax bills because the funds distributed by Ottawa are collected through federal taxes paid by all Canadians.

Still, I guess, at this point Mr. Kenney must figure getting voters to think about almost anything is better than having them focus on his terrible record or listen to the people on both sides of the province’s political divide who are calling for his head. 

And remember, as my blogging colleague Dave Cournoyer recently reminded me, the referendum idea wasn’t Mr. Kenney’s, but was dreamed up by former Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean when he was running for the leadership of the UCP in 2017.

Lately the former Fort McMurray MP and MLA, embittered by the tricks employed by Mr. Kenney to win that contest, seems to be plotting a comeback. 

Residents of the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding report being asked by a telephone pollster what they’d think if Mr. Jean ran to replace their former MLA, Laila Goodridge, who recently abandoned the riding lickety split when she got the chance to be elected federal MP for Fort Mac-Cold Lake. 

Ms. Goodridge will now be safely ensconced in Ottawa when the tumbrils roll for the UCP Government, in the spring of 2023 as expected or possibly even sooner. And I’m sure Mr. Jean would like to be back in the Alberta House as her replacement to argue he’s the only leader who could possibly save the province from a return of the NDP. 

Former Wildrose Deputy Leader Rob Anderson, lately spinning separatist pipedreams (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That might not be a very persuasive narrative, but you can hardly blame Mr. Jean for trying. 

The arrival of an ambitious Independent MLA with Wildrose ties to several members of the premier’s caucus would not be a positive development for Mr. Kenney.

Nor would an early UCP leadership review before March 1, 2022. 

Reports circulating on social media yesterday suggested that as many as 16 UCP constituency boards have now passed motions demanding a review of Mr. Kenney’s leadership before March 1. A total of 22 riding votes would be required to force the early review. 

An easy win in his silly equalization referendum on Oct. 18 might give Mr. Kenney a meaningless victory to tout as he tries to hang onto his job. 

How unfortunate for him that many of his opponents on both sides of the aisle have seized on the idea of using a No vote in the referendum as a way to show non-confidence in his leadership. 

As a meme circulated widely on social media by the informal, unfunded, grassroots campaign that has sprung up around this idea says: “Oct. 18 Across Alberta #RejectKenney VOTE NO to a useless equalization referendum.” 

Join the Conversation


  1. These pretend conservatives and Reformers will stop at nothing to feed the people of Alberta one lie after another. It’s unfortunate that there are Albertans who are dumb enough to fall for it. Alberta does not send any money to the nation’s capital, Ottawa, to the province of Quebec, or to other provinces. This is a smoke and mirrors game from the UCP. Peter Lougheed was right when he said that Reformers can’t be trusted. These pretend conservatives and Reformers in Alberta took Peter Lougheed’s oil royalty rate system, and changed it for the worse, thereby losing Alberta $575 billion. Additionally, they gave Albertans a substantial bill of $260 billion to fix up oil companies damages. At least $150 billion was gone from having extremely bad tax policies. Furthermore, a very large amount of money was flushed down the drain on the most pricey shenanigans, costing Albertans billions of dollars. Alberta’s revenue problems were internally created, yet the UCP wants Albertans to believe that they weren’t. Ralph Klein had the same mindset, and Albertans also fell for his lies. If Albertans keep falling for these deceptions that these pretend conservatives and Reformers tell them, they will continue to get shafted. They have nobody to blame but themselves.

    1. ANONYMOUS Once again Albertans are being treated like morons and letting these reformers do it. In a recent survey by Medicine Hat News 60 % said they would vote to have it removed. Apparently too stupid to realize as Dave has correctly pointed out that it means absolutely nothing.

      They still believe the Ralph Klein lie that we are broke because we have had to send billions to Ottawa and Quebec in the form of equalization payments and some of our senior friends still believe it. Trust me you can’t change them my friends and I have tried.

      In fact it was Brian Jean who brought this lie back up as leader of the Wild Rose Party. He isn’t any smarter than the rest of them. He was also promoting low taxes and low royalties for his rich friends.

      I was asked to run , as leader of the Wildrose Party ( Alberta Alliance Party) in the 2004 election. I declined knowing my wife was retiring in two years and we planned to do a lot of travelling and we have. You can bet I would have been all about getting this province back up to the Lougheed levels like Notley was planning to do. I spent 32 years with the Royal Bank and know there is no other way to get us out of this financial mess these fools created for us.

      1. ALAN K SPILLER: You do know what you are talking about. It’s very distressing to see Postmedia newspapers promote this. People also believe it. They falsely believe that Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau made our problems in Alberta. Danielle Smith was also giving accolades to Ralph Klein. That made the Wildrose even less credible for me. Peter Lougheed had said that the Wildrose won’t get anywhere.

    2. Thanks Anonymous and Alan K Spiller for the insightful comments.

      I live in an old Wildrose area of the province. The facts don’t matter to folks around here – they are either ignored or people don’t bother to know them in the first place. There is only blind loyalty to voting conservative.

  2. Oh where to begin here? First of all the equalization formula was last revised by the Harper government, you know the one Kenney was a cabinet minister in at the time. If it really is so bad, shouldn’t he have spoken up at the time?

    Of course, Kenney’s defense is that was then, this is now. Much like a couple of months ago he was adamently against vaccine passports and unnecessary Federal elections. The guy seems to change positions these days more often than some people change socks. It is getting hard to keep up with all his contortions.

    As for that pipeline it was approved before Kenney became Premier, so he really should not get credit for it. Albertans who want it can be thankful the PM is at least as not as petty and vindictive as some other politicians.

    As for Brian Jean, I always thought he was more decent than Kenney, although I suppose that is not a high threshold to beat. I also feel Jean does genuinely care about and is connected to his community. So perhaps he should run to be MLA again.

    Lastly I suspect Kenney is counting on this referendum to distract everyone from the terrible job he has been doing and so help save his leadership. Yes, it may provide some distraction, but I not sure Kenney’s numerous blunders will either be so easily forgotten or forgiven by most at this point.

    1. Don’t forget Brian Jean is just another one of these Preston Manning , Stephen Harper trained reformers and like Kenney is continuing to promote all their idiotic comments. Looking after their rich friends and forcing us into a lot more privatization is all they care about. He was promoting Klein’s lie that we were broke because we have had to send billions to Ottawa and Quebec in the form of equalization payments.

    2. @Dave – Mr. Jean was my MP for too many years. He certainly has a nice façade that could be described as pleasant, but as an MP he was useless unless you agreed with his ‘principals’. He would not help me with matters since we disagreed. He would not help my daughter with a simple request as her families (mine) politics were not in sync.

      I never found him to be ‘professionally pleasant’.

    3. That is correct Kenney wants you to vote no, as he is a federalist and federalists want to buy votes in jurisdictions down east.

  3. As I and as it turns out, a great many commenters here, have been saying for a long, long time the problem is not that Alberta doesn’t have the revenue, it doesn’t have the operational competence to build a half decent social infrastructure.
    Comments from the Yes side last nite stated that other jurisdictions got our money for better facilities than we have. I believe that is likely true on both counts; other jurisdictions will get positive financial adjustments because Alberta is a much wealthier place and it is very likely that most other jurisdictions will spend that cash much more wisely and with greater effect than we do here because they are firstly, more competent and secondly, less corrupt.

    The ignorant slobs we elect in Alberta are always and in every way never going to be able to get out of their own way. Their concern has never been the social good, only how many goodies they can fill their pockets with. This Equalization Referendum shows these distinctions so very clearly.

  4. ‘its only major accomplishment was expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline to B.C.’ ….

    In these times it is far from an accomplishment. I would have put quotes around “accomplishment”.

  5. Reject Jason Kenney. Vote “no” to his equalization question. Vote “no” to permanent Saskatchewan time. And don’t forget to vote for Duncan Kinney, the Senate abolition candidate. Drive the point home.

    We might be stuck with the UCP until 2023, but let’s make it clear that they have lost the moral authority to govern.

  6. I just count the days these covidiots fall as a government and leave us alone. The damage this UCP government has caused to Alberta is going to stay with us for a long time.
    It is enough and we need to get rid of these psychos

  7. It is very distressing to have to listen to “Dr.” Kenney at anytime, but hearing him say that his ‘priority’ is the situation that he and his cohort caused in the first place while absolutely not, in any way, admitting such! Disingenuous at best!

  8. The equalization referendum would be, were it not for the dishonest reconstructions of the history of Premier Bumbles’ responses to the Covid crises, the acme of gaslighting that the UCP/Wildrose and Kenney have tried to foist on people of Alberta. The prevarications of Bumbles and the UCP are endless, and the lies they promulgate concerning equalization the most egregious.

    They pretend that somehow, through some mysterious mechanism that no one can see, the federal government is taking more money directly from Alberta taxpayers than it does from other taxpayers. The truth is we all pay same federal tax rates. If the federal government does not provide equalization payments to the province, it is because we are doing better, as a province, economically than other provinces in confederation. The point of equalization is to ensure that provinces can offer roughly the same quality of services despite the disparities in their respective individual tax base. But, don’t take my word for it, Professor Tombe provides a much more cogent and thorough explanation than I ever could:

    But, if you find his analysis too long, let’s keep in mind the following from the constitution:

    “Parliament and the government of Canada are committed to the principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.”

    Or keep in mind that Premier Lougheed, still presumably venerated by some holdover conservatives in the UCP (I hope), believed that the principle of equalization was crucial to confederation. Let’s also not forget that, before oil was discovered in the province, Alberta was relatively poor and did benefit from federal largesse, whether in the form of helping to market grain through the Wheat Board (sadly another victim of the Harpo era) or through relief money in the depression.

    Albertans today are recipients of federal largess to help us deal with our Covid crises, made worse by the incompetence of Bumbles and crew. Yet, apparently, we are leaving a bunch of that money on table. Why? Could it be that Bumbles does not want to admit to the generosity of the feds and would rather we exhaust our own treasury instead?

    Professor Tombe elsewhere makes the argument that, if you got rid of the principle of equalization from the constitution, it would not stop the federal government from addressing regional disparities. The federal government would still have the right to tax and spend as it sees fit. Would it really let a poorer province, especially if it held critical votes, than Alberta (or whatever province is economically ascendant) have grossly inferior services than the rest of Canada on average? I think not. However, in the absence of the principle of equalization in the constitution, you could see the potential for some very unfair distributions of tax revenue.

    The UCP and the right-wing mob seem to be utterly incapable of serious reflection upon these and other matters and care only about stirring up the mindless passions of their base with endless dog whistles and lies. To what end? Keeping themselves in power to continue to allow and enable the financial elites to extract even more revenue and resources before we are finally abandoned on an economic slag and dung heap when the resources and revenues are finally exhausted.

    1. Phlogiston, you raise several valid points. I do wonder how many of the people who will vote ‘yes’ in the referendum are under the impression the provincial government writes a cheque to Ottawa for equalization payments.

      You are also correct that before Alberta started swimming in oil wealth we too were in a position to need help from Ottawa, especially during the 1930s. I think an even more relevant point is that at some point in the future we could be hoping for equalization help again. It isn’t hard to imagine a scenario where electric cars become the primary type of vehicle, and the demand for Alberta’s hard to refine fossil fuels disappears, leaving us with agriculture as our primary industry. And, given the effects of climate change like we saw this summer, agriculture isn’t as reliable as it once was. Worse yet, it is also possible to see this happening just as the anti-equalization lobby finally succeed in pulling Alberta out of equalization somehow.

      1. Bob, you are correct to point out a possible future, more likely if the UCP remains in power, where the province might become even more dependent on the generosity of the federal government and then become reliant on the principle of equalization to help it deliver services.

        What was one of the first things the UCP did when they got into power? They cancelled the Alberta Investor Tax Credit, which the NDP put in place to promote and assist the tech industry, among other industries, in an effort diversify the economy. Almost immediately, BC started to successfully woo a number of companies to relocate. This is just one example of how short-sighted the UCP government is and how little the care about the long-term well being of the province relative to their own desire to stay in power (it is built into our system that most governments are short-sighted and see staying in power as their primary objective, but the UCP is particularly bad in this regard).

        Another example is the UCP’s apparent inaction on creating an electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Instead, the UCP focusses blue hydrogen (hydrogen derived from natural gas). They apparently don’t want to promote or in any way make it easier to own a car or truck that does not consume energy that is not a fossil fuel or closely related to one. Nor do they appear all that eager to make renewable energy a primary goal – this would also help to diversify our economy.

        Finally, the most important resource in Alberta is probably its people. The damage that the UCP is doing to the education system is an effective way to ensure this value of this resource is not effectively realized. There are long-term consequences to dumbing down the education system and making post-secondary education less affordable.

        The UCP embraces the past and fears the future. And, the past they embrace is one where high oil prices create another boom cycle, and they can take credit for a prosperity that is merely a matter of luck and timing, rather than policy or good, competent governance. We all know how previous oil-fueled booms have gone down before – they have never ended well.

  9. When equalization becomes the backyard topic of conversation
    My standard position is that we should be proud as Albertans that we have been in a position to help our fellow Canadians and that our contribution is no more or less than any other Canadian of equal income.
    It is if you are to believe at any point in the “Christianity ” of Alberta the right thing to do.
    That is almost the definition of a conservative … a person absolutely outraged that some one , some where that they feel is undeserving is getting the exact things they are.

    1. It’s laughable you think that helping politicians buy votes in eastern Canada can ever be a good thing. All the equalization formula does is disincentivize product behaviour.

  10. Kenny’s proposal just got me laughing. How stupid is the guy or how stupid does he think the citizens of Alberta are.

    As you point out, he can not “open” the constitution again without a few others wanting to do so and given what Quebec may want, the others aren’t keen to do that.

    Equalization is a good thing because at any time a province/territory could have a “problem” and really need that money. Opting out is short sighted.

    As some suggest, Kenny is simply looking to deflect from the problems at hand.

    Looks like if 16 Constituencies are interested in a “review” the rest may follow in due course. Back in the day, in B.C. one Constituency decided the leader, one Vander Zalm needed to go. That did get the ball rolling. If Alberta has 16 already, my money says Kenny ought to dust off his resume. At this time Kenny still has support, but if a lot more people die due to covid, he may loose that support. Nothing changes a person’s mind like having some of their family die.

  11. My eyes just aren’t as sharp as they used to be, but that attached photo above of Kenney and a bovine animal made me think of the deep connection between him and bull ****. Yesterday was a banner day for him with mountains of it oozing from his every word.

    Could the UCP constituencies get on with it… and toss him NOW, please?

    1. Yes they don’t like him either. Which is a funny thing to recognize.

      Maybe it’s because he is in the middle, and more hollowing out of the middle can only be good?

  12. I’ve never voted in early elections before this year. Thanks to kenney and the ucp I feel I may now be motivated to continue what I have started this year. The only solace I have is the belief that there must be a proverb from some culture, past or present, about shitty people and their shittiness bringing out better behaviour in others.

  13. Hey! Wouldn’t a “#RejectKenney” campaign be something Commissioner Allen might be assigned to look into? I mean, if,—in the sense of holism, ass ‘t were— “Equalization” is energetically equated with “Alberta Energy” and then with Major Covid General “premier Kenney”, then couldn’t “#RejectK-Boy” be construed as “Anti-Alberta Everything”? Send in the “War Room”, right? Maybe even sandbag that embarrassingly lame Report a little longer, eh?…last-minute update kinda thing…

    Well, it could be…right?…Couldn’t it?…Like, waaaaay right, right?…

    …too QAlbertanon, maybe? But, hey, all things considered…

    We’re all rooting for you in these crazy times, Alberta friends. Let’s be safe out there during Thanksgiving and get through this!

    (That said, I think #RejectKenney is a most appropriate way to make a valid and maybe effective point out of an otherwise pointless exercise. What the hell, it’s already paid for…right? Right on!! One turkey per table! Peace-out!)

  14. And the NDP opposition has released leaked documents that allege that there was a concerted effort on the part of Adriana LeGrande and Jason Copping to cover up the scope and the effect of the COVID outbreaks in five schools across rural Alberta. I suspect Dr. Hinshaw may have also been involved in this cover-up, and it may also involve the Premier’s Office as well.

    If this is the depth of ineptitude and the malfeasance that Kenney is capable of, maybe it’s time to consider more than just removing him from office. Perhaps it’s time to begin criminal action against Kenney and everyone responsible for this disaster.

  15. I’ve been debating with myself which is the better strategy to show my disdain for this pseudo-issue: to refuse or spoil my ballot on the equalization referendum — and the Senate Nominee election, yet another silliness — or to vote ‘No’ & for Mr Duncan Kinney.

    I can’t remember the last time any question of public policy was so firmly based in myth and misinformation as the debate over equalization. Along with the entirely valid points made by both our host and most of the commenters about the false premise of the equalization referendum, there is the undeniable fact that equalization is paid to provinces with lower fiscal capacity per capita, as compared to the national average. Alberta has made a conscious, deliberate choice — by embracing a low-tax fiscal regime — to underutilize its fiscal capacity, and so has no right to expect to ever receive any money from the equalization pool.

    My other observation is that opponents of equalization rarely, if ever, seem to complain about the programme helping out economically weaker provinces like Newfoundland & Labrador, PEI, or Manitoba. The target of their rage is always Québec. My suspicion is that this reflects a deep, longstanding animus towards Québec — dating all the way back to the 60s and “no French on corn flakes boxes” — that is really an expression of a deep streak of anti-francophone bigotry that has long existed in Alberta. The Québec government’s stubborn insistence on reflecting the wishes of its electorate in opposing fossil fuel pipelines across its territory is only a proximate and superficial factor in this resentment.

    1. You are definitely correct about the misunderstanding that surrounds equalization, and how a lack of understanding doesn’t prevent people from being opposed to it. I really think it reflects the quality of news source equalization opponents rely on. A few years ago, during the NDP government, a Rebel News headline read something like “How much does Alberta pay into equalization? Ask Joe Ceci”

      For years I have thought it would be great fun to circulate a petition directing the provincial treasurer not to make any more equalization payments, just to see how many people would sign it. It would have been foolish for Joe Ceci to say it, but I have also thought it would have been fun to watch the right wing media if Mr. Ceci had made a campaign promise that he would refuse to send anymore equalization cheques to Ottawa. In order to offer a criticism of Mr. Ceci’s foolish promise, the right wing media would first have to acknowledge they had mislead their readership.

      Happy Thanksgiving David, and commenters!

  16. I believe in following the science and it would be much more informative to hear what many Canadian doctors have to say on the other side of the debate than just having a one sided point of view. And did you know that the covid virus is patented in the US and Europe. You can’t get a patent on something unless you invent it.

    For example you can’t patent oxygen. You can manufacture it and sell it but because it exists in nature you cannot patent it

    1. Dave in Sask: “You can’t get a patent on something unless you invent it.” That is incorrect. Canola was created by cross-breeding existing strains through public plant breeding directed and paid for by farmers and taxpayers. Then the Cons gave a patent on it to a big agro-chemical-seed company. The company did not invent or develop canola and all the genes existed in nature, yet the Cons gave them a patent on it to screw farmers every year for seed the public paid to develop in the first place.
      Oh, and about two weeks after the Wuhan outbreak the Chinese had sequenced the Covid 19 genome and made it public – no patent. It is good to be suspicious, but it has to be evidence based, not based on a daisy chain of inference.

    2. “…because it exists in nature you cannot patent it”
      Not true. Molecular geneticists routinely patent natural genes that they have discovered, not manufactured. It gives them priority in any technological or medical applications that may arise from their work.

    3. Unfortunately, Dave, the neocon “everything is for sale” attitude long ago corrupted the legal interpretation of “patent rights.” Anything living that’s been modified by genetic engineering, no matter how common, how widespread, or even unique, can be patented (maybe not in EVERY country, but certainly in the richest ones).

      Nobody’s yet taken up Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” interpretation of claiming employees’ “DNA and all derivative works” (for the old-fashioned, your first-born child) but that’s probably because they’d rather claim individual genes (no expense of raising the derivative works to the age of productivity!).

    4. What do you mean by “the other side of the debate”? What doctors are on some “other side” than the one they’re on? Would there be a “debate” about, say, staunching loss of blood in order the patient doesn’t bleed to death? If there were another “side”, what information would we get from hearing it? Oh, right! Got it!—we’d learn that there are misguided people in every profession—and thank goodness 99% of doctors aren’t. Exactly what kind of “science” do you “believe” in?

      Your reasoning seems fallacious (no, that doesn’t mean ‘sucking’ or ‘sickle-shaped’ or ‘inopportune humour’ : rather it means unsound reasoning that vitiates an argument). For starters, there’s no such thing as “the” corona virus. There are many, many strains of corona viruses—some cause the common cold—and they’re constantly mutating as they use the host’s cells to reproduce themselves in numbers so vast transcription errors abound.

      US Patent law (to which most of the rest of the world refers) was challenged by Monsanto when it applied to patent the entire genome of a laboratory mouse. A court of law rejected it on the ground that Monsanto had no particular use for this genome (use being a key criterion, among others like resemblance and description). At the time, techniques (like today’s CRISPR) to precisely cut out segments of genetic code didn’t exist; the crude methods of subdivision in those days yielded random- length segments for which the applicant had neither any clue of their functions nor what to do with them. Had a patent been granted in this case, Monsanto would have been able to reserve proprietorial claims to these random segments until it figured out what they did and how to use them profitably, in effect precluding anybody else’s research or uses of genetic sequences found in tens of thousands of species, genera and families of mammals which share at least half their genetic constitutions with a mouse—including humans.

      Today, techniques like CRISPR can precisely remove or insert discrete segments of genetic code in order to learn their functions and, subsequently what uses they could be put to. More importantly from a patentability standpoint are the abilities to extract precisely-described (in both physical characteristics and use) sequences from one genome and insert them into another. Both the technique’s apparatus and the new, invented genome which never existed before in nature are patentable. Moreover, non-natural sequences can now be artificially invented (obviating, for example, Monsanto’s mouse) and inserted into a constituted genome for precisely-described fashion and purpose.

      Monsanto (again) availed these patents to claim proprietorship of genetically engineered or “modified” (GMO) it created: the canola engineered to be immune to Monsanto’s main herbicide, Roundup (which kills all competing weeds, leaving just the GMO canola). In an infamous case, a canola farmer who conserved some of his seed-crop for re-sowing was sued by Monsanto because his crop was found to contain its GMO gene. In his defence, it was revealed in court that pollen from Monsanto’s GMO canola had blown from a neighbouring farmer’s fields and fertilized the defendant’s crop, its seed inheriting the patented gene, the defendant then unwittingly sowing it the next year (Monsanto calculated that he owed tens of thousands of dollars in royalties—which the court ordered he pay). Wind-blown pollen that can fertilize any canola, cultivated or wild, arguably “exists in nature”—in fact, Monsanto confirmed it’s proprietary and proved its case against the defendant because it owned—and tested in lab and law—the patent of its GMO canola which had been released into the environment and now “exists in nature”. Your premise is as mistaken.

      Covid 19 is a separate class from all common cold strains. Colds are not deadly. Influenza is a whole other, non-corona class of viruses which have one-tenth or less the kill rate as the Corona 19 strains we’ve seen so far. But with hundreds of millions of humans hosting Covid 19, a lot of mutation is happening so it’s only a matter of time until a more virulent strain acquires greater potential to kill humans; the ‘Delta’ variant (so-called because it’s the 4th variant of concern so far) is only somewhat more infectious and deadly (currently, Covid 19 has killed millions of people worldwide in less than to years), but it also causes more serious illness in children who have been generally little-affected by the first three variants.

      It’s hardly surprising that a Covid strain is patented in the course of developing vaccines: the strains are, after all, modified by inserting genetic segments or, by the same technology, the protein “spikes” on the crown-like virus body which attach to human cells (in order to inject the virus’ code into the cell where it commandeers the cell’s reproductive machinery). You seem to be insinuating that Covid was purposely invented in a lab, a conspiracy theory common on the internet and the patenting of genetic engineering processes and GMO viruses is proof. You appear unaware that these strains are, indeed, modified or “invented”. They are invented in order to do the research required in order to develop vaccines which are themselves invented and patented.

      True: one can’t patent oxygen, but one may patent the process by which it is isolated from nature and, of course, own the (unpatentable) product until it is sold or traded. But, as above, the same does not apply to modified genomes which can be patented, are introduced into nature, and now exist there. Chemical elements can’t be modified by definition, but certainly suppliers of medical radioactive isotopes profit from the patented technologIes which produce unstable isotopes which are not found in nature. But, for all that, genetic material is not elemental: it is a kind of chemical compound, found in nature, which can be modified; the new, artificial compound can be patented and released into nature. Any vaccinated person is carrying the viral modification in nature. Ecologically, the people of childbearing age who have been vaccinated will probably survive Covid 19 if they get it, and be able to reproduce; their descendants eventually evolve. It’s all about nature, even as artificial as lifesaving vaccines, antibiotics, and stoplights are.

      I suspect your motivation to raise these particular points comes from the plethora of bogus conspiracy theories found online that deny the seriousness—or even the natural existence—of Covid 19, which subscribe to quackery and charlatanism, and make partially or completely unfounded statements as if proven fact. The “other-side-of-the-debate” notion applied to basic epidemiology where there is no “debate”, the insinuation of conspiracy by ordinary genetic patent holders, and the mistaken notions about patents, inventions and what exists in nature follow the adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. They’re are all giveaways.

      But the biggest one is that the Monsanto story happened in Saskatchewan. I would have thought you’d heard of it. It was a pretty big deal.

      1. Scotty: your touching faith in the accuracy of CRISPR reminds me of the hubris of the geneticists I took my first genetics course from just 15 years after Watson/Crick had identified the nature of the DNA molecule. Fact is, we are just at the start of understanding a complex genetic system which has evolved over the past 3 billion years. Maybe someday we can give wings to pigs and make humans immortal, but that will not happen soon, if ever.

        The Sask. Monsanto case was a very big deal. What the Supremes established in their judgement was that Monsanto owned the herbicide tolerant genetics even if they were accidentally on someone else’s property and could take compensation from the hapless farmer, while at the same time they had no liability to anyone who suffered damages, including the millions of farmers who have been forced to deal with super-weeds created by the leakage of the GM genes into related weed species.

        The Cons have enshrined a conflict of interest into plant breeding in Canada overturning 8,000 years of seed saving and sharing and 160 years of plant breeding in the public interest in Canada. There are really only three agro-chemical-seed companies in the world and if you think they will develop seeds and plants that do not need their toxic chemicals, well I have an oil-contaminated quarter to sell you.

  17. “Following the science” is essentially an expression of piety now. From the outset of Covidmania, “science” had little to do with policies in most of the world. The largest campaign to induce hysteria since the Great War has overwhelmed reason and objectivity in a vast swathe of humanity.

    Covid has afforded the political class an opportunity to play mind-games with the public, regardless what particular denomination to which one cleaves.

    The upshot is that the neoliberal dismantling of the post-war way of life will continue, but will increase in speed. As the world embarks fully on a post-work economy in which the vast majority of the human population is not required in the fashion in which they were needed by industrial capitalism, public education with teachers and public health with health-care providers will go bye-bye. It never fails to amuse me to see the “progressives” yearning for more restrictions and thus greater implementation of remote provision of “services”, literally begging for the policies that neoliberals could not push through pre-Covid.
    Ford the Lesser was trying to hammer online schooling down the throats of people in Ontario, and Covid brought the folks around to begging for it.
    Grifters like Shandro were given the bonanza that is remote health-care. The reckoning of the destruction of the financial flows at every level of government, from civic to provincial to federal, will be the rationale behind the Barbarossa campaign against public services.

    Be careful what you ask for, as you just might get it.

    Meanwhile, with 90% of the absurd PCR tests negative in Alberta, Hinshaw and co. announced that all untested respiratory illness is now Covid.

    Food for thought. The peak of daily vaccination in Alberta for Covid was reached in May, and the number of Covid deaths in the last 120 days now includes 28% double-vaccinated. New cases are around 26% double-vaccinated, and active cases and hospitalized cases are also over 20% double-vaccinated. So more than 1 in 5 “infected” folks can use their papers to partake in public life, although that ratio of double-vaccinated cases rises every day.

    Who would have ever thought that Pfizer wouldn’t come through in the clutch?
    Justice Department Announces Largest Health Care Fraud Settlement in Its History

    “Pfizer to Pay $2.3 Billion for Fraudulent Marketing”

    To quote Jack Crabb of “Little Big Man”, “Honest Jack Applebaum wouldn’t do that to me!”

    Still waiting for us to hit that 800 000 infections in Alberta that we were told was the minimum to expect by May, 2020, during full-lockdown in April, 2020. Scary!

    Looking back, wistfully, I remember Alberta Health saying that they would have 1000 ICU beds ready for Covid during that same time frame. Nineteen months later, the Sprung surge tents were never used for Covid, a health system with 8000+ beds is about to go under with 260-odd ICU “Covid cases” and now the Army has to come to save healthcare.

    So no 3 or 4 billion spent to build Covid facilities to treat the 5% of the 5% of the population that has severe outcomes, although given that 74% of deaths have an average of 3.4 serious pre-existing conditions and 60% of those folks are among the 26 000 in Long Term Care, I can see why no governments in Canada bothered with crash-training LPNs to work as RNs, nor built any actual health infrastructure despite dealing with the greatest catastrophe to strike 0.025% of the population over nineteen months since the Kaiser started eating Belgian babies.

    The world has truly gone mad when policy has made John Carpay and the Holy Roller brigade the most reasonable people in the room.

    1. “Barbarossa campaign against public services.” I like it.

      You missed on gimme, “never waste a good crisis”.

      For big government types covid has been a god send. They can get funding for every cousin no matter how remote.

      Course, when the currency tanks and everyone losses their homes they might not enjoy that so much.

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