Edmonton Strathcona NDP Member of Parliament Heather McPherson during yesterday’s Parliamentary Environment Committee hearing (Photo: Screenshot of video).

Anyone who watched the head of the Alberta Energy Regulator refusing to answer questions yesterday during the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development’s hearings into Imperial Oil’s Kearl site tailings pond spill in May 2022 has to wonder what the actual purpose of the provincial agency is.

Alberta Energy Regulator CEO Laurie Pushor (Photo: Screenshot of video).

But don’t worry! The AER wants you to know it’s on the job – closely examining Hollywood’s output to ensure no impressionable moviegoer is influenced to blow up critical infrastructure!

Well, as we’ve said before and will probably say again in commentaries about politics in Alberta, you just can’t make this stuff up. 

Alberta Energy Regulator CEO Laurie Pushor repeatedly refused to answer Edmonton Strathcona MP Heather McPherson’s pointed questions yesterday about when the so-called “regulator” informed Alberta’s United Conservative Party Government of the spill. 

The federal Parliamentary committee’s hearing was called to discover why continuing seepage from the site wasn’t reported to Environment Canada or nearby First Nations communities for nine months, until a 5.3 million litre spill became known in February this year. 

“By failing to answer my questions, Mr. Pushor has shown extreme contempt for Parliament,” Ms. McPherson said in a statement published by her office yesterday. 

Movie poster for How to Blow Up a Pipeline, 2022 (Image: Wikipedia).

“More importantly,” the NDP MP continued, “he has shown contempt for Canadians, particularly the impacted First Nations and Métis communities.” 

She said the federal NDP will raise a point of privilege in the House of Commons “to compel the AER to provide clarity on when Danielle Smith and the UCP knew about the ongoing seepage and spill.”

The same day, however, the AER issued a statement of its own, assailing American film director Daniel Goldhaber’s How To Blow Up a Pipeline, which the Guardian’s reviewer dubbed “a propulsive eco-thriller.” 

The 2022 film may make it clear, as the Guardian noted, that “these characters are extremists whose actions will have potentially devastating consequences,” but that’s not good enough for the AER. 

“The release of this movie should not be taken lightly,” huffed the regulator in a statement published yesterday. “Provincial and federal agencies across North America are preparing for scenarios where activists, inspired by the film, may turn to sabotage to get their message across, putting themselves, their communities, and industry in danger.”

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Plus, presumably, since the boss was on the stand facing a question he’d really prefer not to answer, they’d rather you got your knickers in a twist about fictional terrorists. 

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Mr. Pushor was dodging and weaving to avoid Ms. McPherson’s questions, arguing there was no need for him to answer her simple question because the AER’s board of directors is conducting a review and it will be made public in due course, in the fullness of time, one of these days.

McPherson: “Can you tell me, when did you inform any provincial government representative of the seepage that you first learned in May 2022?”

Pushor: “Me personally?”

McPherson: “The AER. When was any representative from the provincial government notified?”

Pushor: “Well, you know, we do have a review that’s being conducted by our board of directors and so I think it would be best to leave that …”

McPherson: “So you can’t tell us that date that you let the provincial government know that this was happening?”

Pushor: “I think it’s best that we let that review be a full independent review. And all of those answers and all of those questions will be addressed in that review, and the board has made a commitment that those findings will be released publicly.” 

McPherson: “Mr. Pushor, you’re in front of a Parliamentary committee. I would ask that you tell us the date that the provincial government knew when this spill was happening. The date that any representative from the province of Alberta knew that this spill was happening.”

Pushor: “So we have extensive relationships at the field level …”

McPherson: “That is not a date Mr. Pushor! I would like to know the date the provincial government knew that this was happening in Indigenous communities in northern Alberta.”

Pushor: “So what I’m saying is that that’s part of the review that the board will do and we’ll find out all of the places that …”

You can watch the rest of the exchange between Ms. McPherson and Mr. Pushor, which was posted by the MP’s office on social media, here

In her statement, Ms. McPherson explained that she was seeking “what information the AER provided to the government that led to Premier Danielle Smith’s claim on March 6 that there was no environmental impact from the ongoing seepage and the spill.”

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

“It was a very good question and Mr. Pushor had no reason not to answer it,” tweeted University of Calgary environmental law professor Martin Z. Olszynski yesterday afternoon. “Certainly, the so-called ‘independent third-party review’ ordered by the AER board (and currently out for tender!) in no way precluded him from answering.”

A thorough report on the backstory of the Parliamentary committee’s hearing, for which Mr. Pushor was required to testify under oath at Ms. McPherson’s insistence, was published yesterday by The Canadian Press

As for the AER’s statement, it sternly advised that “operators and licensees should increase their level of awareness, review their security and emergency response protocols, and monitor this evolving situation. 

“Furthermore,” it added, “we recommend that operators conduct enhanced surveillance and monitoring of surface pipelines and verify that leak detection systems and emergency shutdown valves are functioning properly.” 

Well, you can’t fault that advice, I guess.

As for those moviemakers, they’ve already seen what happened to Bigfoot Family. The makers of How To Blow Up a Pipeline are now on notice that they can be next! 

We Albertans may not be able to be confident our provincial officials are working very hard to prevent leaks and spills of toxic materials, but at least we know that when the going gets tough, the tough review movies. 

Join the Conversation


  1. And so this saga continues, under the UCP. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sonya Savage chose not to run again because there is a lawsuit looming against the AER and the UCP for negligence. The First Nations and the Metis have every right to sue. When people bring up how bad the UCP are, they get badmouthed, and it’s visible in Postmedia owned newspapers. Anyone that had ties to the oil industry, when Peter Lougheed was premier, would know he would never let things get this way. Laurie Pushor is quite a less than stellar choice to run the AER, but the UCP doesn’t care.

    1. Anonymous It isn’t hard to understand why Smith and Poilievre want to destroy the CBC to shut them up for telling the truth about their party catering to criminals is it? When you look at all the sleazy characters who have been involved with these phoney conservatives it doesn’t surprise me. Wanting to kick out the RCMP is just one more example of a political party trying to get even, isn’t it?

    2. On March 24, 2023, sonya savage announced she would not be running again as she wanted to ‘spend more time with her family’.
      Good riddance!
      Now, if only someone could convince smith to do the same.

  2. This is shocking behaviour by the CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator. As Heather McPherson, MP, points out, Mr Pushor’s refusal to answer the question of date that the Regulator advised the Alberta government about the spill/leak demonstrates contempt for Parliament, First Nations and Canadians in general. The attitude he displays in his remarks is also insulting and arrogant. It is surprising that he had no cookies at hand.

  3. Native residents in the oil sands area are reporting that they no longer have confidence in the AER, for good reason. In that sense, the release of ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ is probably good news for the AER. If there is an eco-terrorism event now, it will be the movie’s fault, not the people’s loss of confidence in the AER. I wonder what movie inspired Weibo Ludwig?


  4. Thank you for this, DC. The conclusion I draw is this: Release a movie and the AER is all over it; release millions of litres of toxic sludge, not so much.

  5. So Pushor confirms that the UCP were apprised of tyhe situation well ahead of anyone else. What do these conservative brainiacs think Albertans will correcntly infer from their avoidance of telling the truth.

  6. Laurie Pushor is maybe on paper a better choice than Protti was, but it’s ridiculous to suggest someone with his resume isn’t going to pliant and easily controlled by industry. The AER is a captured entity. Nice to see ms. McPherson earn her paycheque and finally talk about something other than xianjian or Russia

  7. The first thing I think of as a former Bank Manager is “ What is he being paid to keep his mouth shut until at least after the election”. Wouldn’t you like to know what’s going on? It’s no different than watching Preston Manning filling his pockets and those of his friends with taxpayers money when you already know what the answer will be. Screwing Albertans out of their money and helping themselves and their friends become richer is all Reformers care about and you can’t make it any clearer to the idiots that support them, can you?

  8. “Well, as we’ve said before and will probably say again in commentaries about politics in Alberta, you just can’t make this stuff up.”

    Very few individuals freely talk about the Alberta Disadvantages and the Alberta Disadvantaged, of which there are many.

    Without “making stuff up”, the realities, “on the ground”, so to speak are likely far worse than the dribs and drabs that are sporadically and infrequently reported by a submissive and relatively docile Alberta 4th Estate. That is, for example,

    “This is not news. All tailings ponds leak all the time. They are designed to drain to groundwater; otherwise, they would overflow their dikes. The Kearl leak differed somewhat from chronic tailings leaks in that tailings water escaped to the land surface rather than into the groundwater contamination plume that extends from each tailings pond to the Athabasca River.”

    “In reality, these events represent a minuscule fraction of the ecological damage that has been assiduously hidden from public scrutiny. The bigger story is the chronic, largely hidden, cumulative effects inflicted by the fossil fuel industry with the complicity of regulatory bodies.”


    What is equally important and seldom explored are the use of power and power relations and their strategies and mechanisms as the tools for both punishment and reward that represent the fundamental means of maintaining a status quo of captured regulators in the modern petro-state , controlled populations, and the subjugated/’disciplined’ bodies and minds that are all necessary for the existence of an exploitative, extractive “market based economy”. Where the “market” [and its myths] as the de facto organized modern religion have effectively become “Opium des Volkes”. Further hints and analysis can be found in the following:


  9. Not only has Mr. Pushor refused to answer a simple question, the AER has not in fact completed any sampling whatsoever. The sampling has been done by the operator and any affiliated consultants but not by the regulator.

  10. Grande Cache Coal mine waste water releases. Are these “incidents”, really spills, accidents or intentional actions to cheaply dispose of coal waste water? When was this pollution first reported to Albertans? What were the impacts on fish and public health?


    “The first incident occurred on Dec. 29, 2022 when approximately 107,000 litres of coal wash water was released from CST Coal’s Grande Cache mine site. The larger of the two incidents took place on March 4, 2023 when 1.1 million litres of coal fines (water and coal fine particles) were released into the Smoky River.”

  11. Early in my job with an oil and gas production company in downtown Calgary, 30ish years ago, I prepared the legal paperwork to complete the sale of one low production oil well from my employer to another company. Typically, a simple transaction like this involves a purchase and sale agreement, a transfer of well license and a few other ancillary documents. The key document is the well license transfer, which must be submitted to, and be approved by the government. The well licensee is liable for the well, compliance with all regulations and eventual abandonment. The government rejected the document because the transferee was in arrears for taxes due to rural municipalities for its other wells. The deal to sell that well was scrapped.

    Importantly, I discovered that the then ERCB received and retained all technical information relating to each well drilled in Alberta – all down hole test results, core samples, casing specifications, perforations, etc. Plus, every well licensee was required to provide the government with daily production information, on a monthly basis. Licensee’s reporting zero production for a specified time period received letters of inquiry from ERCB. If it was determined the well was not capable of commercial production, ERCB issued an abandonment notice. These abandonment notices were enforced back then.

    My speculation is AER management is covering up a lack of policy enforcement, resulting in the very problem Alberta has now regarding the Kearl pond leak and ballooning well abandonments. Only now, Kearl has made this a federal issue and tougher to cover up. RStar is a scam, Pushor is a shill and Danielle Smith is inept or complicit.

    1. ” . . . Danielle Smith is inept or complicit.”

      Again, short cuts involved in both general and specific decision making processes suggest that the following test is invaluable and that it is especially so when an individual is tasked with evaluating serial gaslighters/schemers/deceivers:

      “The duck test is a form of abductive reasoning, usually expressed as “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” The test implies that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing that subject’s habitual characteristics. It is sometimes used to counter abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be.”

      That is, for example:




  12. I tried watching the bigfoot movie just because of the stink the ucp raised and will try this movie too. I probably would have never given either a second glance if it wasn’t for their protestations. What do they say about bad publicity. The contempt for the people up north is unbelievably disgusting or is it no longer unbelievable.

  13. MP Mike Lake wants us to give him an idea of what we think in the Devon Dispatch newspaper. I have known Mike since he was about 7 years old and I certainly told him what I think of his boss Poilievre. I trust Trudeau a lot more than him.
    If you feel like responding and I hope you will. Mike will listen he is a great guy. He is certainly with the wrong party.

    1. Alan, you could very well be right about Mike. But, as they say, appearances are everything and the appearance that Lake gives is that he’s behind PP’s conservative party 110%

  14. Nobody should be surprised at the lack of regulatory enforcement in Alberta (and other provinces). Decades of chronic under-funding have led municipalities to pretty much abandon all preventative enforcement activity. They only get involved after a workplace incident. In my industry, everybody knows the regulator isn’t looking so why bother following expensive regulatory requirements. It’s cheaper to pay the fines after the fact.

  15. Can we please, please, PLEASE ask Rachel Notley to fire the entire AER senior management team? Also the board of directors, their hangers-on, and every middle manager they’ve hired?

    The lower-level managers and the field experts they supervise can be transferred back into the Environment department. With luck and some intestinal fortitude from Notley and her cabinet, the guys who know what happens in the field—and how to FIX IT—might be able to do their jobs.

    1. She’s not going to do that. Oil companies are much too powerful for a small premier in a single province in a tiny insignificant country like Canada to take on, unless she wants to have a very short and potentially dangerous career. I would wager
      Rachel Notley, of all people 150% knows this. Believing she can and will is pretty hopelessly naive.

  16. What a Banana Republic we have become in the hands of these idiots.
    We think Climate change is a problem, wait until this tailing pond issue finally reaches the point of no return

  17. What is the opposite of transparency? The AER is about as opaque here as bitumin.

    Of course this is because an election is coming up soon and the politicians currently in power really want to keep a lid on anything that might be embarassing.

    1. Dave: You have answered your own question. Opacity is the opposite of transparency. DJC

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.