The Elk Valley Coal Mine near Sparwood B.C. – how metallurgical coal is mined in Canada (Photo: Teck Resources Ltd.)

The plan to approve coal developments on the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains is another thing that remains on the United Conservative Party’s agenda – if not for 2022, at least for some point in the future after the 2023 election is out of the way. 

This is another tidbit that can be prised out of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s responses to Global News Provincial Affairs Reporter Tom Vernon’s Dec. 7 interview, which the broadcast network didn’t release until New Year’s Day. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney during his Dec. 7 interview with Global News (Photo: Screenshot of Global News clip).

Mr. Vernon tossed the premier a softball on this one, rather suggesting to him where an acceptable answer might lie. Coal policy on the Eastern Slopes? “Is your government still looking for a way to find coal development on that while still managing concerns with the environment from area landowners?” he asked.

Premier Kenney responded: “Our general approach is to support responsible resource development, as we’ve always done in Alberta.”

Now, it must be said right here that the UCP has only been the government in Alberta for less than three years, and even in that short time this statement is hardly credible. 

That said, one supposes, it was what any government leader would say about resource development, and indeed what pretty well all governments do say when contemplating such activities. This would even include the NDP government in the province next door to the west, a point we’ll return to in a moment. 

Getting back to Mr. Kenney first, however, he illustrated his point about how responsible his government is being about this by saying: “We have a consultation, a panel, talking to Albertans about how do we get that right balance when it comes to coal.”

There are a couple of important hints in this simple statement. After all, Mr. Kenney’s government tried in May 2020, on the Friday before a long weekend and with zero public consultation, to remove the Peter Lougheed Progressive Conservative Government’s 1976 ban on coal mining on the Eastern Slopes. 

When a lease auction in Southern Alberta was revealed later that year, a storm of controversy was unleashed – much of it from Albertans who make up core supporters of the UCP government in rural areas dependent on agriculture.

Global News Alberta Provincial Affairs Reporter Tom Vernon (Photo: Screenshot of Global News clip).

If Mr. Kenney, Energy Minister Sonya Savage, and Environment Minister Jason Nixon had imagined they could employ the usual wedge politics to divide rural Conservatives from urban greens, as they like to describe environmentally conscious citizens, they were soon disabused of this notion. 

Which is why the committee that Mr. Kenney referenced was set up, to mollify the anger among UCP supporters with the coal-mining scheme. 

Since the interview with Mr. Kenney was recorded, the committee has reported, although the government is treating its recommendations as a state secret, for the moment at least. 

Ms. Savage, at least, acknowledged the reality of public opposition in her response to the controversy. Mr. Kenney, by contrast, seems to still think it can be made to go away. 

“You know, there have been coal mines, up and down the Eastern Slopes in Alberta since European people arrived here in the 1870s,” the premier went glibly on. “So this has been a constant part of our economic history, and there are entire communities like Grande Cache, for example, that depend on it. 

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“I’m not one of those cold hearted people who just says, ‘We’re gonna turn those into ghost towns,’” he stated. 

This is an important statement. It tells us more clearly than anything else where Mr. Kenney intends to go with this, and what his core wedge issue will be again – probably with a dash of “ethical coal” thrown in. 

Whether or not his strategists will try to dissuade him, given the looming election, scheduled for 2023, is another matter.

Which is where the B.C. NDP comes in. Premier John Horgan’s government is no paragon of environmental responsibility either, but perhaps Mr. Kenney thinks he can swing a little support for coal mines in the Rockies the UCP’s way with some faint praise for his western counterpart. 

“In British Columbia, under an NDP government, they have over 10 coal mines operating to support global demand for steel-making, for example, and thermal coal for Asian power plants,” he told Mr. Vernon. 

“So, I think if they can do this responsibly under an NDP government in British Columbia, I believe in principle we can do it responsibly, on a limited basis, here in Alberta, to find that right balance between environmental preservation and job creation.”

Alas, there is no responsible way to mine or use thermal coal in the planet’s current circumstances.

The market for metallurgical coal, used to make steel, is still strong, but can be expected to diminish over time as well. 

And there is no way anyone is going to mine metallurgical coal in Canada, on the Eastern Slopes or anywhere else, but by using open-pit, surface mining techniques. And the number of people employed in such operations is quite small. 

Mr. Kenney surely knows all this too. 

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13 Comments

  1. sell your daughters beauty for two pennies
    someone can eat a meal again
    sell your daughters beauty for two pennies
    beauty gone forever
    but get me thru today
    your water will be gone
    but you can buy a …… new blue truck

  2. If Kenney were to be honest, perhaps he should make “Coal is the future of Alberta” his reelection slogan. Of course, even Kenney knows how that would go over politically. In addition to being very unpopular and unconvincing, it would probably also be completely ridiculed. So, he will try doing more stealthily what he can’t do overtly.

    Instead, there will be consultations for now, but no clear conclusions from them. I suppose it is not the stupidest economic development idea ever, but it has to be close. A very 19th century solution for a 21st century economy.

    Also unfortunately for Kenney, a number of past UCP rural supporters are concerned about the eastern slopes. So Kenney’s coal enthusiasm will not be helpful for his upcoming leadership review either. I expect Kenney will have to bury his plans for more coal development at least for a while.

  3. And Kenney’s response in regard to this issue is typical of the mindset of people who do not live in Alberta, or any areas that will be affected by the development of the mines.

    As I always point out, everyone in Alberta is from somewhere else. They come to Alberta to work and pillage, but it’s not like they have any intention of remaining or even care about the consequences of this resource development. They prefer to live elsewhere, in another province or in another country. In the case of the owner/developers of the project, there are from Australia, so have no interest in any of the impacts on the area’s environment. And since the UCP government has every intention of using any and every means of pushing through this development on their behalf, they have really minimal skin in this game. It’s those who make their livings off the natural heritage of Alberta — farmers, ranchers, and First Nations peoples — who will bear the enormous future costs wrought by this development’s impact on the environment.

    Kenney always complains about Ottawa treating Alberta like a colony. In this case, Kenney is the best colonial agent the mining corporations of Australia have ever had.

  4. The head honcho of the UCP is sly like a fox. He will distract Albertans and then pursue open pit coal mines in the Rocky Mountains. If I recall correctly, this initiative to reverse Peter Lougheed’s 1976 Coal Policy was done during the May long weekend in 2021, thinking Albertans wouldn’t notice. There was a strong outcry over this. First, a well known Alberta country musician, Corb Lund, who is also a rancher in the affected area, voiced his opposition to this. His fellow Alberta musicians, including Paul Brandt, Jann Arden, Teri Clark, and others, chimed in to voice their displeasure with this. There are other issues of concern too. Selenium contamination in waterways is a very serious issue. There isn’t any known technology that I am aware of that can undo the damage. The pollution can go far, and it is toxic to wildlife, livestock, and to humans, if we ingest it in large enough quantities. Also, there is the permanent damage to the mountains. They would end up looking like an ugly sculpture. What’s more is the limited amount of employment that would be seen. Automation would be likely taking up the bulk of the processes of the coal mining, and any other employment would be either temporary in nature, while some foreign CEOs take care of all else, and lining their bank accounts in the process. In addition, we have such a miniscule royalty rate on coal, which sits at 1 percent, and this was likely instituted by premier Ralph Klein. This is the same Ralph Klein who also changed Peter Lougheed’s oil royalty rates for the worst, losing Alberta $575 billion, let foreign owned oil barons take our oil, and the vast majority of the revenue, and also was very negligent when it came to coming down on oil companies to rectify their damages, leaving Albertans on the hook for the grand sum of $260 billion to fix up all of that. Peter Lougheed, being a true conservative, never would let industrial activity put the environment in jeopardy. Nor would Peter Lougheed allow oil companies, or any other resource companies, to shaft Alberta of the royalties from the resources, like the aforementioned oil, which he said belonged to all Albertans. The head honcho of the UCP also didn’t mention what else happened in British Columbia, from their coal mines.

    https://flatheadbeacon.com/2021/03/26/b-c-coal-mine-fined-record-breaking-60m-for-fisheries-act-violations/

    https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/u-s-ramps-up-concern-over-b-c-pollution-eight-senators-write-to-premier

    https://thenarwhal.ca/u-s-looks-crack-down-pollution-montana-river-b-c-coal-mines/

  5. Peter Lougheed knew it. Ralph Klein knew it. Rachel Notley knows it. In fact anyone with a modicum of understanding of Alberta knows it. We do not want strip mines on the eastern slopes in southern Alberta. Period. If Jason Kenney understood the Province he is leading he would know it to.

    I have nothing against mining coal. Do it the old fashioned way…underground. Better for the enviroment but not as profitable. That’s the solution right there. Tell the Aussies to sink a shaft and they’ll pack up and go home. Jason and Jason et al can then say they tried.

    When the NDP tried to expand the protected areas down south and rein in the out of control ATV gang they screamed bloody murder, the UCP want to take the tops off the mountains and you don’t hear a peep from that crowd.

    What really galls me is our lout ” Enviroment Minister ” charging user fees for K Country. I mean how out of touch can you be. Charging Albertans to be in Alberta. Yes I’ve heard the rationale. We need the money. I wonder how far the Billions these idiots wasted would go to maintaining K Country.

  6. If tales of strip mining the eastern slopes of Alberta since the 1870s have reached as far east as Oakville, Ont., then it must be true. But who gains by this? From a cost-benefit perspective, when you factor in how few people such ventures will employ and how low corporate taxes are in Jason Kenney’s Alberta, it looks like all the benefits will accrue to the coaling mining interests while all the costs accrue to Albertans. Who does Jason Kenney work for anyway?

  7. And the leaders went to the mount to send a message to their subjects, but the mountain was no longer there…..just a vast wasteland that they aimlessly wandered and wandered over until their “time” was up.

    that kind of sums up the You See Peabrain mentality, does it not?

  8. Just for a bit of levity this morning, because we all need some, it just struck me that Kenny is always catering to his base, so the question is, Since when did he become such a Meghan Trainor fan and is that his theme song?

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