Irritated by a question from an impertinent reporter about the makeup of her “expert panel” on Alberta’s energy future led by former Wildrose Party president David Yager, Premier Danielle Smith snapped back last week.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith at Thursday’s Edmonton Chamber of Commerce speech (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“Look, he put together a panel that had over 150 CEOs,” Ms. Smith told reporters after her otherwise not-very-informative speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

“Of course I’m going to take advice from CEOs,” she said. “Who else would I take advice from?”

Snarky though her defence of the chair of the “Premier’s Advisory Council on Alberta’s Energy Future” may have been, this comment provides some insight into how Alberta’s premier thinks.

Who else would she take advice from on questions about “Alberta’s energy future”? 

Who else would give her the answers she wants to hear? 

Alberta Energy Minister Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The implication of the premier’s riposte is that corporate CEOs, and energy industry CEOs in particular, are the true experts – not just about the future of the industry, but of how to manage the future of energy production and sale in Alberta and the world.

The premier’s personal rule does not apply to all CEOs, of course. Based on her history, we all understand that she doesn’t value the advice of, say, the CEOs of large provincial health authorities, especially if they are medical doctors with expertise in public health. On medical matters, the expertise she respects comes from the sundry social conservatives and anti-abortionists associated with the conspiratorial Take Back Alberta wing of the party. 

But the kind of expertise required to operate an oil company in a time when the environmental record of the fossil fuel industry is increasingly subject to public skepticism, even here in Alberta, is clearly her go-to source of economic advice. 

And as Ms. Smith said of Mr. Yager in her Feb. 16 news release announcing the creation of the energy future advisory panel, “I’m excited to bring together these skilled and experienced energy experts to help us plot a path forward for Alberta’s energy sector. … Now is the perfect time to create a panel of experts to look ahead to the future of our energy sector and how we can meet global energy needs in the years ahead.” (Emphasis added.)

It’s important to note that the panel in question in fact had five members, not 150. 

Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

The other four, all picked by Mr. Yager, are or were energy industry executives. Presumably, though, the affable oilfield executive, consultant, right-wing political activist, and commentator has talked to about 150 CEOs, if not in his role as chair of the premier’s advisory committee then over the 40 years or so he’s spent in the oilpatch. 

The trouble is that oilpatch executives, no matter how well intentioned, may not give the right advice to a province heavily dependent on what increasingly looks like a sunset industry.

Then there is the matter of the potential conflict between the panel members’ jobs and their role making recommendations from which they could benefit. 

This was what prompted the journalist’s question and Ms. Smith’s revealing reaction to it. 

Throughout the work of the panel, Mr. Yager was president and CEO of Winterhawk Well Abandonment Ltd.

As Global’s Saif Kaiser wrote in his story on the government’s announcement it would not make the report public after the panel submitted it on June 30, the premier insisted there is no conflict. Mr. Yager, for his part, assured Global his company “does not do well abandonment. We rent tools that can be used in the well abandonment process.”

Kenney Government energy minister Sonya Savage (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Why the government wants to keep the report secret after announcing the creation of the panel with considerable fanfare is a topic of much interest among followers of Alberta politics. 

After all, as Mr. Yager said in February’s government news release, “Our task will be to lay out clear recommendations that ensure this work is supported and continues well into the future.”

So what’s the problem? 

Did the panel recommend something the government doesn’t want to do? Or did its members recommend something that the government feels will take considerable preparatory work to get the public to accept. 

Such as, for example (potentially in either case), the premier’s scandalous RStar boondoggle, the scheme to give multi-billion-dollar oil and gas corporations a huge royalty holiday as an incentive to clean up messes they’re already legally obligated to pay to clean up.

This would be a contender for the largest daylight robbery of taxpayers in Canadian history and, in the process, toss the polluter-pay principle out the window. 

Ms. Smith’s mandate letter to Energy Minister Brian Jean instructs the other former Wildrose Party leader to develop “a strategy to effectively incentivize reclamation of inactive legacy oil and natural gas sites, and to enable future drilling while respecting the principle of polluter pay.”

The reference to the polluter-pay principle in the mandate letter, of course, is a reaction to the public and expert hostility to the RStar scheme, which was even rejected out of hand by former premier Jason Kenney and his energy minister, Sonya Savage, back when Ms. Smith was promoting it as a lobbyist.

What does Mr. Yager think about this? “Chanting ‘polluter must pay’ solves nothing,” he wrote last month

By classifying the panel’s report as advice to the premier and cabinet, Ms. Smith has ensured it can’t be the subject of a freedom of information search. So at this point it seems as if a leaked copy is the only way to inform the public of what Mr. Yager’s panel came up with.

Members of the Premiers Advisory Council on Alberta’s Energy Future

Announced February 16, 2023

David Yager, Chair – President & CEO, Winterhawk Well Abandonment Ltd. of Calgary and former president of the Wildrose Party of Alberta
Carey Arnett – President of Arnett & Burgess Pipeliners Ltd. of Calgary
Bob Curran – Former public affairs director of the Alberta Energy Regulator 
Phil Hodge – President and CEO of Pine Cliff Energy Ltd. of Calgary
Hal Kvisle – Chair of ARC Resources Ltd. of Calgary, former executive of numerous oilpatch companies, including nearly a decade as CEO of Transcanada Corp., now known as TC Energy. 

Join the Conversation


  1. This is what happens when you make a lobbyist premier and a bunch of flunkies her minions. Danielle Smith will take all her instructions from CEOs and Alberta will accept this because this is what they voted for, whether they want it or not. Today’s CEO is a raging anarchist, who seeks to maximize profits because everything’s broken.

    At some point, you may see taxes completely abolished, as well as public ownership of anything, because that’s what Adam Smith and Jesus would want. Social-Darwinism will rule, and to hell and the grave to anyone who can’t handle it. This is the world that will forever sing the praises of His Lordship Conrad Black, and Lady Barbara Amiel. (Along with her three closets of 2500+ pairs of shoes)

    Meanwhile, the Earth will burn, the waters will be poisoned, the cities will further decay, the population will become even stupider, and conspiracy culture will rule everything.

      1. Oh yeah, great plan, right up there with cutting off ones nose to spite ones face. Just a classic win for everyone.

      1. Hmm they are as stupid as possible already. What else could explain the election of Danielle Smith? The problem is the other 45% that voted against her and have to put up with this crap due to our non-democratic voting system.

      2. Not all of us are stupid, not all of us voted for UCP. DS got most of her rural people to vote her.

    1. I have to agree with you that this is not conservatism or libertarianism but anarchy. Professional anarchists who advertised their services on the internet were showing up at protests in Alberta in 2021, so this is hardly a surprise. Albertans who voted for Smith support this anarchy, not conservatism or libertarianism. They will reap what they have sowed. They seek to destroy everything and break down society. Nice neighbors we have here.

      1. That’s not what anarchism is, and no, that did not happen.

        Anarchism which comes from the Greek, meaning “self rule” has nothing to do with chaos and in fact the marriage of the two words is intentional as propaganda against anarchists, who hold ORGANIZATION as the highest principle of their political beliefs.

        Libertarianism trades heavily on anarchisms territory but being that it completely lacks empathy or has any tenants of responsibility whatsoever it really isn’t even fit to be spoken of in the same breath as anarchism.

        There aren’t any “professional anarchists” that’s really a liberal/NGO/fascist sort of thing, anarchists are primarily focused on their own communities because they are the most realistic vectors for change and (again, ORGANIZATION)

      2. I’ll be picky, here. Conservatism is unrelated to libertarianism; rather it is more related to anarchism: they are both communitarian philosophies; libertarianism is not.

        The common misinterpretation is to equate anarchy—the leaderless society—with chaos—the rule-less “society.”

        How picky? If you have the time (that’s an inside joke), read Noam Chomsky’s “What is Anarchism?” Even Noam is stumped for a precise definition. But, in general, anarchism is somewhere on the communitarian spectrum, with communism on the far left and fascism on the far right (Canada has very few members and supporters of communist parties, but many more social democrats —“democratic socialists”— who make up our partisan left. Traditionally our partisan right was occupied by Tories who believe in an organically whole society; in the last quarter-century, however, the nominal Conservative Party has moved much farther to the right, past the Socreds and Union Nationale, into the realm of reaction and fascism, the latter’s bundle of rods —symbolizing the ancient Roman tribes— ligatured together under pain of punishment —the battle-axe tied in the bundle—illustrates that fascism is actually communitarian, too.

        Liberalism and its extreme, libertarianism, is—as the root word implies—about freedom from community responsibility, about individual rights. Theoretically, liberalism is not on the communitarian spectrum but, in practice, it may intersect at any place along it: thus, the Liberal Party of Canada intersects from the centre-left of the spectrum to the centre-right which the nominal conservative party has abandoned as it moves itself away from the centre. Libertarianism just might intersect the spectrum at the far right, but also somewhere wherever anarchism is.

        Again, Chomsky is unsure, exactly, where anarchy fits on the communitarian spectrum.

        But a society in which each individual is totally unrestricted by rules designed so a community may function would be one of chaos—and possibly one where certain individuals appoint themselves leaders—which, naturally, would be antithetical to archaism.

        Provocateurs who foment chaos usually do so to wreck a paradigm so’s to change it to one they like, whatever it is. That is, not to impose chaos on society as a way of life, but simply to use it—in today’s American parlance, to “weaponize” it —only until some ulterior purpose is achieved. As with Robespierre, as soon as that purpose is achieved, the chaos must be decommissioned —even if formerly allied shit-disturbers have to be executed.

        1. I don’t really care at all what Chomsky says about anarchism, and it’s not surprising to me he has such a hard time defining it, he should probably start by actually reading what anarchists wrote down and go from there.

          I do not venerate the man.

        2. “But a society in which each individual is totally unrestricted by rules designed so a community may function would be one of chaos—and possibly one where certain individuals appoint themselves leaders—which, naturally, would be antithetical to archaism.”

          Again, what you’re describing is libertarianism. Anarchism is about the strength of the community as a whole, and it doesn’t mean an absence of rules or order, it’s an absence of rulers. There is no central government or police, problems of production, social disorder etc are handled by the community. Say what you will about it as a philosophy but we’ve seen concrete examples. Anarchists are often the first folks on the ground when there is a ecological disaster and some of the last people to leave. With the recent decimating hurricane in Puerto Rico, some of the only food crops (as opposed to cash crops) were being grown by anarchists who promptly dug them up to distribute to the community. Ditto with the power they shared because they had used their organizational skills to bring solar power to their cooperative. So literally saving some countless lives of people long before official “aid” showed up. It’s about community resiliency and I think folks having a hard time seeing that in the west is down to their own individualistic ideology that sees cooperation with ones neighbours as unlikely at best or unsafe at worst.

      3. There’s a professional anarchists website? Sort of like Un-Linked? Where you find ads like “ Hello, I am Sergei. I do not like walks on the beach and I believe in nothing. You cannot contact me.”

  2. Hello DJC,
    As you indicate, this government is perfectly aligned with the desires of the oil and gas industry. It’s very consistent, actually, whatever the oil and gas industry suggests is in its best interests is what the UCP government will do unless there are very compelling, such a an election loss or something equally catastrophic, reasons not to do it.
    As for Danielle Smith’s thinking, what conflict of interest? What is conflict of interest anyway?
    The current provincial government is the most captive to the oil and gas industry that I am aware of, dating back to Peter Lougheed in 1971.

  3. The difference between today’s disasters and the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event is that the last set of dinosaurs did not deliberately chart a course to collide with the asteroid.

    “David Yager, a former Wildrose Party president whose writing on energy constantly swipes at ‘environmental radicals’ and international climate plans, was picked to lead Smith’s new advisory panel on Alberta’s energy future.
    “Smith chose former Reform Party leader Preston Manning to chair a panel to review the province’s handling of public health emergencies — after he’d spearheaded efforts to launch a ‘citizen’s inquiry’ into Canada’s COVID response, which primarily attracted those who disparaged it.
    “Along with former Supreme Court justice John Major, the premier appointed Dr. Martha Fulford as its lone infectious disease specialist. Fulford advocated for groups that denounced mask mandates and other restrictions, putting her right in alignment with Smith’s longstanding position on public health emergencies.
    “Politicians hear what they want, listen to whom they want, decide who gets close to them as advisers and staff.”
    Jason Markusoff: “From well cleanups to Sovereignty Act, Danielle Smith’s big ideas keep deflating” (CBC, 2023)

    The federal and provincial governments exist to funnel public money to private interests, notably the largely foreign-owned oil & gas industry.
    The giveaway party that never ends.
    Until the asteroid hits.

    1. Have you read Reagan Boychuck’s series on the oil and gas industry in alberta ? It was literally set up to give it away to Americans, most notably the Rockefellers. I really cannot stress enough, politically active folks in alberta need to read that history, otherwise chances are very good we will be chasing our tail while the world burns around us.

    2. Well Geoffrey, you campaigned against Rachel Notley and the AB NDP and indeed they lost the election. Who did you think Ms. Smith would pick to develop energy policy after she won – you? You’ve got what you wanted and you wear some responsibility – take it…

    3. In my observation much of the voter support for the UCP comes from oil and gas service sector workers displaced by improved technology. They see oil and gas production increasing while “The industry cut its workforce by 27.6% between 2014 (when it peaked at 170,268) and today (123,384)” to quote a former oil and gas lawyer.
      These workers and small company owners have been fed a steady diet of ‘government bad’ by their patrons in the giant American oil companies who pay their bills and they cannot believe their god of free enterprise has betrayed them. As you say, the giveaway party never ends.

  4. Interesting quote from Derek Evans, CEO of MEG Energy, to CBC yesterday:
    “We will lose not only the opportunity to decarbonize, we are going to lose the next generation in terms of their belief in are we actually doing what’s right for the environment,” Evans said. His daughter often presses him about his work, he said, and whether oil companies are serious when it comes to climate change.

    I hope more of them start listening to their kids.

    1. Mr Bott: your comment reminded me of Sting’s 1985 song, “Russians”, on his first album after leaving the Police, “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”, with its chorus lyric, ‘… if the Russians love their children too’.

  5. This sort of scam has been going on in Alberta for a while now and the voters don’t seem to mind. The Government assembles a group of well connected party hacks and labels them as experts. Granted, their advice is bullshit but since it’s the exact bullshit the Government wants, it is worth its weight in gold.

    Something tells me there are a lot of prestigious Oil & Gas Company Board memberships in Danielle Smith’s future.

  6. The premier might be wilfully ignorant of the climate disasters in other parts of the world, but the rest of the world is not. Gaslighting brainwashed Albertans is child’s play, but let’s hear from the people of Milan, as water carrying chunks of ice overwhelms their streets, homes and businesses. Let’s hear from the tourists in Greece, falling sick from the heat outside the Acropolis. Albertans can be duped into thinking this is a completely normal summer but consequences are coming for us from the rest of the world if we continue down this path of ignorance and disinformation.

    How about those boreal forest fires continuing to ravage the northern part of our province, forcing the evacuation of entire communities? What? We thought that was over, and the smoky skies were B.C.’s fault.

  7. Hello Just me,
    I tend to agree with you. What I cannot figure out is, how the executive types who run these corporations fail to realize that they, and their children, grandchildren etc. if they have any, will also have to live with the environmental effects of a poorly regulated oil and gas industry. And also, as you allude to, water laced with toxins, aquifers that don’t function well because they are paved over and depleted (a la Doug Ford’s plan to allow his developer friends to build housing over 2 aquifers with the result that they no longer will be able to supply drinking water to Toronto), probably less successful farming because of poor soil management and use of pesticides such as neonicotinoids sold by Bayer etc. that kill bees, and so on.
    After all, companies are run by people. Do the decision-makers not see that even they cannot escape from the effects resulting from their actions? Is it that they don’t understand the results, think that somehow these results won’t affect them and their families, think that their money will protect them, simply don’t care, or some reason that I haven’t thought of? I have never been able to figure it out.
    Apologies to readers if I go beyond the scope of the problem that DJC has described so very well in this specific column.

    1. The executive types are well off and will not have to suffer the consequences of their short sighted, profit driven motives. It’s like the well known Conservative mantra: we have ours, screw everyone else.

  8. Hello DJC,
    You paraphrase Mr Yager’s comment by writing that he “assured Global his company ‘does not do well abandonment. We rent tools that can be used in the well abandonment process.’ ” And that, Mr. Yager contends, means that there is no conflict of interest. Does he really think that Albertans cannot see through to conclude that he obviously is in a conflict of interest? He will benefit directly from recommendations that he and his fellow panel members will make since Danielle Smith has publicly stated that she plans to follow these recommendations. In other words, Mr. Yager will make money, through his company, as a direct result of his opinions which he will, almost certainly, write in the report to the premier. How is that not a conflict of interest? It certainly is a direct conflict of interest.
    I literally laughed when I read about his contention that this is not a conflict of interest. I am concerned that a fair number of residents of Alberta may miss the lack of rationality of this assertion that it is not a conflict of interest or, perhaps even more detrimental, will not care.

    1. There is effectively no way to have a conflict in the Alberta government, unless you’re not an alt-right UCP/TBA member.

  9. Time for a doubling down on confirmation biases and any other cognitive biases that may assist in arriving at the sought after conclusion it seems . . . because,

    How could it possibly be any other way (?) where it is apparently the case that the ‘shot callers’ [The choice of wording is deliberate i.e., “Someone in charge, especially the leader of a street gang. (US, prison slang) A prison inmate who holds informal authority over other inmates.” In this case the UCP ‘street gang’ and/or the ‘asylum inmates’, referencing Jason Kenney.] in charge guarantee that both a petro state political determinism and captured corporate lobbyists in the form of ‘in group’ political hacks [That is, “There aren’t many deep thinkers in the Calgary Petroleum Club, which prefers facile pablum from industry shills like Dave Yager.” As does the UCP establishment, apparently. The obviousness of that particular truth being what it is, is difficult to argue with.] result in an unchanging predictable future reality, i.e. one that is already bought, paid for, signed, sealed, and delivered [To do otherwise might certainly jeopardize future employment prospects in the petro state.]:

    “The UCP . . . is the servant of the oil and gas industry. Kenney and Smith have willingly given the industry everything it wants, but this is an industry that always wants more and there is no doubt that another UCP government will acquiesce.”

  10. So she would take advise from the C.E.O.s who make their money in the oil/gas business. Sounds like she won’t be taking advise from scientists, etc. She is only interested in making as much money as possible for the oil/gas sector.

    When Alberta runs out of clean water, they may find things aren’t so great and money doesn’t matter. the C.E.O.s will have left and forgotten Alberta. They won’t be taking Smith with them. There will be other politicians who think they’ll be important and help the corporations make more money. C.E.O.s are no one’s friends. Smith hasn’t learnt that yet and neither have the voters of Alberta.
    This morning I read, 400K years ago was the last time most of the ice melted on Greenland and the oceans rose 5 feet. It might be time smith takes some advise from the scientists who work in that field.

  11. What is Danielle Smith doing? She’s digging-in defensively even though the objective is offensive. Only from the inside of a redoubt does this strategy, such as it is, look like it will work.

    In Alberta that means keeping Big Bitumen’s morale up and profitable even though the public purse has already forfeited boggling tax and royalty wealth to do so and, since rainy-day reserves have been sucked low as a result, appears set to forgo even more by relieving the petroleum industry of its obligation to clean up after itself.

    So long’s current accounts look good, the long shadows of sunset make the wagon wheels and sand bags surrounding the laager look formidable enough. Although the tar sand deposit is huge, it’s location, continentally isolated in a sovereign jurisdiction on the periphery of the crude product’s refinement and consumption, is about right for a redoubt: it is remote and defensible. The question is for how long.

    The rhetoric is on the offence: it presumes continual expansion to supply “global demand.” It also promises to reduce emissions with exotic technologies not-yet invented, let alone applied to reality on the ground—or in it, or far under it. Might as well throw in new tech for nuclear waste disposal, too. Alberta voters have a lot of faith that they’ll get paid to do all this, but subsidies are plainly coming to the negotiating table—as in: what subsidies aren’t simply stopped will be tied to actual emissions reduction.

    Political narrative has already cultivated the bunker mentality. The wagon laager is indeed incredibly organized—at least on paper, propaganda, and psephology. However, defenders squint into the low-angle star of our existence as the winds and tides and new dawns of change create a shimmering mirage far off in the distance. The question for them is getting hard to ignore: if this is a siege, when will it be relieved? Is that the dust of its saviour.

    What is the landlocked version of “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning”?

    Redoubterism depends on a safe place to retreat to and time to recuperate and, presumably, return to the attack. The prospect of revenge is what keeps the rapturously aspirational day getting passed around the laager. But is it really Big Bitumen, not its United Consycophant Party, that’s keeping morale up for as long’s it needs to? One night it will simply ride away but, for now, all is well among the independent thinkers of Polluterpaygetsyounowhereland.

    Or: try that in a small town…

  12. Leave aside the fact that that employs panels of “experts”. Is she operating with a full deck? Not likely! We’re in, or should be, in panic mode! This gal is bound for glory!

  13. Can you eat, breath or drink money? Maybe the CEO’s can clean up the mess they have left for the rest of us. It looks like they will have the money.

  14. During the run up to the 2019 election I was called a few times on my landline asking for support from the UCP. I said no because I believe at the time they were a corporate party and not a party of/for the citizens. I have been saying this since 2019. I should check back in those friends who scoffed at this idea.

  15. Dale McNally, Minister of Service and Red Tape Reduction has a video made July 27 I think. He says he will listen to Industry about reducing red tape, and to Albertans. Emphasis on Industry.

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