Root beer floats … are those paper straws? Not in Alberta, by gosh! (Photo: IReallyLikeFood.com).

On Saturday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith laid down a red line that Ottawa must not cross.

You’d better be paying attention, Justin Trudeau! 

Don’t worry, paper straw haters, says Premier Danielle Smith … help is on the way! (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

I give you … paper straws! 

Ms. Smith was bloviating in her characteristic gab salad for the benefit of her audience on Your Province, Your Premier, the forty-some minutes of what amounts to free political advertising CORUS Radio provides to Alberta’s United Conservative Party premiers. 

Alberta’s restaurateur-premier was trying to explain why we need her Sovereignty Act, legally and rather deceptively known as the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act, when a truly epic example of federal overreach sprang to her habitually overactive mind. 

Having just claimed to Wayne Nelson, the show’s jovially enabling host, “the federal government is using environmental legislation to violate our provincial rights,” Ms. Smith proceeded to an example that any good Albertan can understand, and that is obviously front of her mind as the owner of The Dining Car at High River Station, a restaurant that is not surprisingly located in a dining car at High River station. 

If only we’d had the Sovereignty Act, she exclaimed …

The Dining Car in High River (Photo: Facebook).

PREMIER SMITH: “So how many people love the fact that they are now having to use paper straws? I can tell you ’cause I have a restaurant, and when you’re tryin’ to give a kid a root beer float, you have to plan to give them four paper straws because they get so destroyed.” …

HOST: “Yup.”

PREMIER SMITH: “Wouldn’t it have been better for us, in advance, to say, ‘Hold on a second.’ We can recycle plastics our own way, a different way, without, without identifying things that just don’t make sense, and get people talking about it in advance, and then be able to develop a policy about, around recycling that makes sense. Instead, we sat back, we waited for the federal government to pass policy. They identified six single uses of plastic and it, uh, and it, and some of them are idiotic, and now we’re fighting it in court to get those, uh, to be able to get that power back. Wouldn’t it have been better if we hadn’t allowed them to take the power away from us in the first place? That. I think it would have. And those are the things that we’re looking for.”

HOST (perhaps sensing this was not going in a direction that would be helpful to the premier): “Yeah, being pro-active. Awright! Back to the phones …”

So there you have it, a situation that clearly would have benefited all Albertans if only we’d had on hand an unconstitutional law that handed the job of our impartial and independent courts to our partisan Legislature, which is packed with deep thinkers like Ms. Smith! 

I admit I am not entirely clear on how this would have prevented Parliament from passing the law in the first place.

University of Calgary Professor Barry Cooper (Photo: The Gauntlet).

Regardless, I think we can all agree that, with this, Ms. Smith has pretty well sewn up the demographic of 10-year-olds who love root-beer floats and hate mushy straws, not to mention southern-Alberta restaurant owners who are seeing their budget for straws, already hammered by inflation (and we know who to blame for that) going through the roof of the rail car. 

Maybe some of the kids’ parents will support her too if it’ll stop the little whiners from crying in their (root) beer about the way the cheap straws at the Dining Car keep collapsing.

That said, I can’t help thinking that maybe the Car’s manager, whoever that might be, might solve the problem by using a better class of paper straw

Full disclosure, in his misspent youth, before discovering the pleasures of that other kind of beer, the one made from hops and barley instead of sassafras bark, your blogger consumed many milkshakes at the bowling alley in his home town through paper straws without ever suffering a straw collapse! 

Is it possible that paper straws are something else that just ain’t what they used to be? Or could the problem that could be solved with Canadian-made artisanal paper straws? 

I mean, seriously, people, is this worth breaking up the country over? After all, even though Ms. Smith insists her Sovereignty Act is not only constitutional but will actually strengthen Confederation, one of the architects of the scheme apparently thinks otherwise. 

Leastwise, University of Calgary professor, climate change denier and advocate of Alberta separation Barry Cooper has said in writing that “the whole point of the Sovereignty Act” is that it’s unconstitutional. 

Well, in fairness, Dr. Cooper said that before the act had been passed in its present form by the Legislature. What he said afterward, though, was this: “I want the Constitution to be changed, or we’ll have another referendum.”

Translation: I want the Constitution to be changed to suit my cranky and unpopular notions of an independent Alberta, or we’ll have another referendum just like the ones they had in Quebec.”

I wonder what he thinks about the Clarity Act? Just something to fix with the Sovereignty Act, probably. 

You’d almost think from the way he phrased his comment that Dr. Cooper imagines he’s the de facto premier of Alberta. Or is he? 

It’s all very entertaining to have little fun with idiotic policy discussions about straws, and I don’t necessarily refer to the environmental policies of the federal government, some of Premier Smith’s friends have very dangerous ideas. No less so because they lack popular support. 

Indeed, over the holiday season, it might be a good idea to keep a very close watch on what Ms. Smith’s increasingly extremist government gets up to when everyone else is thinking about presents, festive decorations, family dinners, peace on earth and goodwill to all.

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43 Comments

  1. Perhaps it is all an insidious plot to undermine Alberta – paper straws! Who knew that those straws work well in Ontario and BC. You see, apparently they fail in the cooler drier climate of Alberta. The Alberta government has now conducted several scientific studies to support this.

    Well, if you believe this, I have a lucrative rail car diner in High River to sell you. Barely used, high potential revenue.

    Marx said history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Smith seems to prove we are now at the farce stage.

    If you don’t like paper staws, then by all means vote for a federal party that is against them, but it is not a good example of federal over reach into areas of provincial jurisdiction, nor does it single out Alberta for harm. If this is a considered a strong argument for Smith’s bill, she really is ASWUCAd.

  2. Who is Barry Cooper? From the UofC website – I find the last sentence interesting.
    Profile
    Barry Cooper, a fourth generation Albertan, was educated at Shawnigan Lake School, the University of British Columbia and Duke University, where he received his doctorate in 1969. He taught at Bishop’s University, McGill, and York University before coming to the University of Calgary in 1981. For the past thirty-five years he has studied western political philosophy, both classical and contemporary. Much of his teaching has focused on Greek political philosophy whereas his publications have been chiefly in the area of contemporary French and German political philosophy. Over the years he has spent considerable time in both countries, teaching and doing research. 
    Cooper’s other area of continuing interest has been Canadian politics and public policy. Here he has brought the insights of political philosophers to bear on contemporary issues, including the place of technology and the media in Canada, the on-going debate over the constitutional status of Quebec, and the precarious status of Canadian defence and security. 
    He is the author, editor, or translator of 35 books, most recently Paleolithic Politics, and has published nearly 200 papers and book chapters. 

    1. Every so often rumours, which are always vehemently denied, surface that the Calgary School, of which Cooper is a founding member, is heavily influenced by Leo Strauss, another huge fan of ancient Greek political philosophy, in particular Plato. Strauss, it might be recalled, is the presumptive father of neo-conservatism and his work is mired in controversy about how texts might withhold their secrets from all but the initiates who have a deeper understanding of the context. To Straussians and many fans of Plato’s Republic, the world is a place where there are people who are fit to be ruled and those who are fit to rule.

      Here is a good primer on the relationship of Plato and Conservatism.

      https://doctorow.medium.com/plato-would-ban-ad-blockers-f30c95c7e741

      Regardless of whether or not Cooper is influenced by Strauss or Plato, he certainly has some wrong-headed and dangerous ideas that have obviously found purchase in the fevered mindset of PDS.

    2. His background in Western political philosophy of course gives him all of the epistemological and factual grounding he needs for his rejection of climate science.

  3. Referendum? Bring ‘er on! In my storage locker, I still have a pristine NON sign from the last Quebec referendum. Not that marching around Chelsea (95% no) had much impact. I’m ready Dannie. Woke straws held high!

  4. I was under the impression that Alberta grows quite a lot of wheat and barley. I’d have thought the Premier would have been touting natural, Alberta grown, straws as a replacement for those icky paper straws.

    1. Oh, no! She’s about to to subsidize private industry with public money again, with the northern town of Athabasca turned into the world’s largest producer of high-quality paper straws, or something. Am I right? The paper straw factory could employ all the AU arts students who can’t find jobs in the local grocery store. Not to pit arts students against the grocers of the world, but to paraphrase someone on Twitter, “How do you think I got to work and live overseas? With an arts degree, silly!” Arts degree vs. grocery store clerk or night stocker: do the math. Math is hard.

  5. Straw Man (Wikipedia): …a form of argument and an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man”….

    Straw Woman: Danielle Smith

    House of Straw in porcine fable:
    “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.
    “No, not by the hairs on my chinny chin chin.
    “Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”

  6. “Is it possible that paper straws are something else that just ain’t what they used to be?”
    Your esteemed premier is no dummy. Just last week I consumed a McDonald’s chocolate shake through a paper straw. The inconvenience bordered on frustration. As I pulled the scrumptious liquid upward, the strain on my jawbone was beyond funny. That poor excuse for a straw means I can no longer enjoy the finest drink Ronald McDonald has to offer. Give me plastic!

    1. Tom, I more or less gave up on McDonald’s milkshakes because my jaw ached from the sheer force required to drink one, even with a plastic straw. (It would collapse, but at least it sprang open again.) I know it’s not the same, but how about a spoon? Or bring your own oversized, stainless-steel straw? Just askin’….

  7. The notion of Danielle Smith, figuratively and literally, grasping at straws has become reality. (Snickers)

    Taking the position of non-plastic straws on Alberta is surely the most grievous attack on human rights since the Nazi ‘Blood Laws’, Smith has taken and found another road to that deep end that she so loves to jump off of. I’m sure David Staples has no trouble applying his village idiocy to come up with the pretzel logic needed to justify Smith’s lastest musings, like finding some way to declare that the UN Charter of Human Rights specifically outlaws the freedom of choice for drinking apparatus. Of course where the UN declared that First Nations peoples have rights, well, that was unjustifiable overreach. Oh, yeah. And blame Trudeau, too.

    At this point, there can be no doubt that the UCP brass has discovered that there’s no shame in being stupid and outragous. So, double-down on the crazy because that stuff is gold to the kook-burgers who have a vote.

    There was a saying from the TV series ‘The West Wing’ that when President Bartlett would go all rogue, the standing order was “Let Bartlett be Bartlett.” The same now applies to Danielle Smith. Of course, the difference is that President Bartlett was a educated and literate man, with a heightened sense of decency and fairness, though tempered with, sometimes, cold logic where necessary. Smith has none of this going for her, save for how much she can rage farm the crazies.

    A bitter harvest is coming.

    1. Just Me, the frightening thing about “letting Smith be Smith” is that she already does. Worse, a significant number of Albertans agree with her bloviations. I strongly doubt the “kook-burgers” are common enough to win Smith a majority government. At the moment, disgust at Smith’s incompetence and foot-in-mouth disease pretty much guarantee a Notley win in May. That’s one way that reality differs from fiction, but it may be less important than the OTHER fiction making the rounds these days.

      The really frightening part is that the Free Alberta Fantasists are apparently taking credit for passing the Sovereignty Act. If this clique has any serious backing with big money, they just might generate enough noise and confusion to trick people into voting for either separation or Smith.

      My other favourite blogger, Susan on the Soapbox, has some comments on this:
      https://susanonthesoapbox.com/2022/12/11/what-just-happened/

      (PS: in the spirit of Ms. Soapbox’s “What just happened” post, when did the Calgary Herald start publishing anti-Smith, anti-UCP op-eds, while the Edmonton Journal started publishing pro-Smith, pro-UCP op-eds? I don’t read either, but when did the traditional pro- and anti-Conservative stances do a 180? The end must be near, if Calgary’s gone non-Con….)

      1. Mike, thanks for the link , gives me a smidgen more hope, that there are more voices trying to be heard over the so-called freedumites …as per the trucker rally in Vancouver last week with the flag waving in the wind that said —Mandate Freedom—

        And just a thought, a Xmas wish, shall we say…I wish Barry, Rob, David and Danielle WOULD separate from Alberta, along with their ardent followers, they could head south, (just be sure to stay clear of Kansas right now). That would be the best, most comforting gift the UCP gave Albertans for Xmas, then we could all literally breathe easier. .

  8. “Indeed, over the holiday season, it might be a good idea to keep a very close watch on what Ms. Smith’s increasingly extremist government gets up to when everyone else is thinking about presents, festive decorations, family dinners, peace on earth and goodwill to all.”

    We know how they are when they think nobody is looking. Who knows what nefarious plot they’ll come up with when actual days elapse between schemes, instead of the usual hours? Is this enough time to build a wall to keep Ottawa out?

    Pre-emptive action is needed to eliminate Fridays from the calendar in 2023. Friday afternoons are a dangerous time for Albertans, rife with perilous UCP proclamations. Also, any drinking establishments with the name “Winchester” should be guarded carefully.

  9. It’s so nice to see that Queen-in-all-but-name Dannie will still be able to indulge her taste for hyperbole, illogic, non-sequiturs, and maybe even root-beer floats. Maybe this will provide a safety valve for her (reducing episodes of foot-in-mouth disease in Question Period). It’ll also be an easy way for her critics to monitor the crazy quotient of what she does instead of thinking.

    Much more worrying, though, is Barry Cooper’s recent blather. Cooper recently had a long opinion piece published in the Western Standard, AKA Derek Fildebrandt’s vanity project. Frankly, I couldn’t force myself to read it. For those with more tolerance for BS and greater intestinal fortitude than I have, here it is:

    https://www.westernstandard.news/features/barry-cooper-challenges-for-western-independence/article_bf90e662-ca5e-5ea2-8968-6e84f3baa01b.html

  10. No-straw-dumbass predicts big trouble ahead unless the feds, health care providers, municipalities, educators, and appointees suck it up and bend to her will.

  11. DJC, just out of curiosity…..isn’t there a precedent/law * for an MLA/ Premier, for conflict of interest, about touting one’s own personal business while in office?? I realize it’s Alberta and it’s Danielle, * and the law does/doesn’t apply, but I’m just curious.

    Roger– and in case you missed it, co-author, along with Rob Anderson and David From: the “Alberta First Strategy”, basis for the ASWAUCA…. IMHO, it’s not the just the journey, but the destination, sometimes the road was straight, sometimes full of twist and turns..and who knows what he learned at those pit stops?? Hmmm??

    CBC Edmonton >Oct 7th 2020
    Ban on single use plastic ,won’t trash Alberta’s recycling hub…and Sonia Savage:>” federal government should stay in their own lane” < , I guess Danielle just borrowed the line, and she's just carrying the torch for Kenny, environmental impact(water) and oil don't mix ,because we are doing you a favor by making things easier, faster, yada yada..and we have our shareholders to answer to….petroleum =plastic =economy = jobs and the future is for the kids to worry about, Greta go home…

    Someone should tell Danielle's, umm, manager/hubby, that if they don't like the paper straws, they can save a whole lot of money, by getting their customers to bring their own reusable ones …problem solved..
    and she can use up the paper ones making those paper chains for Xmas decorations, Bonus!!

  12. Interesting that on CTV Question Period Dingy Smith was asked if she has a mandate from Albertans to basically fight with Ottawa. Of course she indicated she has the mandate, apparently left over from the Kenny election to IMHO to do as she likes. Having a majority does mean she can enact what she likes but even though I really dislike Kenney, at least he wanted feedback from voters on things like getting rid of the RCMP and a stupid Alberta Pension. Dingy Smith seems hell bent on ramming this through regardless of what the masses think. Funny how she is all about the feds treading on her territory, but Federal Pensions are just that Federal. She is clearly sticking her nose where it does not belong on that one. Hopefully PMJT will stop any sort of take over of Federal Pensions by at least asking those affected.

  13. Note to David: Can you let me know how to comment using paragraphs? I find it difficult to read comments that are lengthy and appear to be a single paragraph and I can’t be the only one. Thanks in advance for any tips you might be willing to share.

    Under the ‘Free Alberta Strategy’, the unelected puppeteers that are in charge of the ucp have chosen “Ending Equalization and Net Federal Transfers Out of Alberta” as one of their two key objectives.

    No matter how often the provincial right wing howl that Alberta or another province ‘make’ equalization payments to Ottawa, this is a blatant lie. The payment of federal income taxes (at the same rate in every Canadian province) are NOT EQUALIZATION payments to the federal government, it is simply the payment of federal taxes, just as Albertans pay provincial income taxes.

    Given that there is indeed an actual FEDERAL GOVERNMENT (this is a very simple explanation) who has decided that a goodly portion of federal income taxes collected will be used to ensure that certain services (infrastructure, health, etc.) are accessible to Canadians no matter which province they live in, EQUALIZATION payments are made TO provinces based on need.

    Back to the “Ending Equalization and Net Federal Transfers Out of Alberta’ – again Alberta make NO equalization payments (although both klein and the ucp have and are trying to play mommy and daddy warbucks to other provinces with interest free loans, free PPE and now free childrens tylenol/advil – Alberta taxpayers are picking up the bill for their largess).

    Since equalization payments from Alberta are a figment of the fevered imaginations of the “Free Alberta” authors and their ucp puppets, it would appear that their puppet may pass legislation that intends to cut Revenue Canada out of the taxation loop.

    This could indeed end equalization and federal transfers but not from Alberta TO the Federal Government (because these don’t exist) but possibly FROM the Federal Government TO Alberta.

    Albertans need adults in their provincial government not fifth columnists who answer to extremists.

    1. A.O.: I don’t really worry too much about the technical side of the WordPress platform. Granted, there are no indents, but you seem to have been able to insert paragraphs breaks between your sentences. My usual go-to solution for this problem – especially acute on Twitter DMs – is to write my message in TextEdit with the breaks made with the Return key, and cut and paste the whole thing into the text box. DJC

    2. I have long been of the opinion that objections from within Alberta to the federal equalization programme are, in fact, thinly disguised bigotry against Québec and Francophones in Canada. They rant on about how Québec “sponges off the rest of Canada” by refusing to develop its non-renewable energy resources (does it even have any?) and accepting equalization — never mind that it is also the highest-taxed jurisdiction in Canada and that it has been doing exactly what the “Alberta Firsters” want Alberta to do: making its own decisions at the direction of its electorate.

      It’s just a continuation of the 1960s resentment of French on cereal boxes at the breakfast table.

  14. These Reformers are so busy catering to the losers in Canada who don’t give a damn about global warming or the future of Canada, yet aren’t smart enough to understand why they aren’t wanted by the majority of people. Smith gets fired by the conservatives, as a school board trustee, and loses 3 conservative elections but still thinks that she is a lot smarter than the rest of us conservatives. While she bashes Trudeau for doing the right things her party is so busy giving away the peoples oil and tax wealth in an effort to buy votes when they need help who do they run to Trudeau of course. I don’t like paper straws either but don’t wet my pants over it, like she does. Can you think of a dumber thing to make a fuss over?

  15. As I write this I am using my reusable metal straw that I started carrying with me to avoid using plastic straws.

    I also remember using paper straws in my youth. Some places had good straws, others had straws that did not do their job. I rejoiced when plastic straws came into common use, but again some were good and others failed, although not as bad as poor quality paper straws.

    Things change, sometimes it seems the change is good until we find the change wasn’t as good as we thought.

  16. “Wouldn’t it have been better if we hadn’t allowed them to take the power away from us in the first place?”

    Huh, Danielle Smith? What you sayin’? Betcha Barry usedta-could say it with more presass exactitood: “What about Queebec? Eh?” How come HE ain’t the pez’dint of Alberduh?

    Okay, Hoss, settle down. It’s pea-shooter Danielle, not Barry, in the mahawi—the one-hump kind. The hissing and spitting mighta fooled you. No blame, Hoss, no blame: this camel can take plenty more straws yet.

    Smith’s patented ivermectin straw-recycling process has been deployed for Alberta’s very own Emergency Within a United Canada Act: top priority will be given to kids with root beer floats while every attempt will be made to get this crisis under control, hopefully with as few casualties as possible. Are you ready to renegotiate PET’s pet Constitution yet, Ottawa! And if you think you can take navy-bean-calibre straws away from law abiding Albertans (what they need for shootin’ wild hogs), you got another thing comin’!

    Alberta’s going on strike. Strike one was the unconstitutional proto-secession Declaration of Independence, strike two is Smith’s oblivious admission of a glaring conflict of interest: her root beer float business directly benefits from retention of plastic drinking straws, the black market price of which is tanking like a barrel of oil (its poor cousin bitumen bringing up the rear). She stands to make a killing.

    Strike three will be open carry, after seemingly interminable fouls: choruses of mental and spiritual injuries from Ottawa’s paper straws. You need about fifteen of ‘em just to get one floater down the hatch.

  17. Well well! Dani, oh Dani! That might just be your last straw! If not? Maybe, like senseless plastic, you to can find new opportunities in the grand scheme of things! Speaking of which, I have a job posting that’s just perfect for you! Failure? Willing to lie straight faced? Good lord! Your name is on St Paul’s mausoleum already! https://youtu.be/pCtNxp7sfhE Put more simply? Please go bother people dumb enough to welcome you!

  18. Danielle Smith is truly grasping at straws.

    Two votes here in Calgary that most definitely will not be going her way. Plastic straws or paper straws.

    She, and her feeble Government is truly an embarrassment for we Albertans. Is it no wonder that the rest of Canada views us, with ample justification, as a bunch of hillbillies.

  19. Very odd, except for Pierre Poilievre dancing around while wearing a tee-shirt with Tar Sands written on it: there has never been (to my knowledge) any reference to how the esteemed straw expert, or Poilievre intend to pay for their inability to deal with the 260 billion $ plus pollution problem. Allowed to grow to such an extreme amount, while profits were spent and the legal agreements for re-surfacing the tailing ponds was purposely ignored. I wonder who pays for this astronomical clean-up bill—NOT Canadian taxpayers. All our scientists and environmental experts (especially during the Harper dome and gloom decade) were denied access to any of the disgustingly toxic sites. Still enough of the tailing ponds were allowed to leak tonnes of effluent directly into the Athabasca River system–so much for concern or responsible behavior….of any of these vying leaders?

    1. Visiting media used to be impressed by the reclamation efforts at the tailings ponds near Fort McMurray. Look at all the green-tinted spray-on grass! Never mind that when the press went home, the grass never grew. Just spray it on again before the next media tour.

  20. Kids dying in hospitals. A raging COVID, RSV, and Flu epidemic, and this is what the batshit crazy lady is focusing on, plastic vs paper straws? WTAF!

    To think in one recent poll conducted nearly 40% of Albertans still approve of the work she is doing. The mind boggles. What kind of people approve this clusterXXXX? It’s both tragic and scary at the same time.

  21. It is nice to see Mr. Climenhaga’s blog posts make it onto the Tyee, that important left coast media outlet (so it’s said). The main thing of note is that the quality of the commentariat here is shown to be vastly superior. Congratulations to all…

    Having said that I miss the contrary POVs who posted reasonable, cognizant, lucid, and often valid differing opinions here. Have we chased them all off? They go off to their echo chamber and we stay in ours? I have had enough re-enforcing of my opinions to last my lifetime, I want reasoned discussion & opinion. Come back…

  22. The Sovereignty Act… is basically an act to primarily protect the oil and gas industry which includes the petro chemical and plastics industries.

    If Premier Smith tries to smith up a plan to use the Sovereignty Act to start a constitutional fight with Ottawa over plastic straws or other single use plastics, she will lose and waste even more of Albertans’ tax dollars with another stupid UCP non winnable court challenge. I say this because plastic straws along with other plastics are often disposed of improperly and significant amounts of the plastics end up in the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers along with the Athabasca River and float into other Provinces along with the unnecessary manufacturing pollution from producing such products. When such pollution crosses Provincial or Territorial boundaries, then it becomes Federal legal jurisdiction and the Federal Government can take action to stop it and that is what a useful smart government will do.

    Danielle Smith wants to protect the profits of industries producing single use plastics with the Sovereignty Act because she does not care that these products end up in our food, our lungs, and in human breast milk which creates chemical/hormonal imbalances which make politicians so crazy they come up crazy legislation like the Sovereignty Act rather than doing some useful, like ending homelessness.

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