What a pathetic coda to the respectable if not quite illustrious political career of Jim Dinning!

Mr. Dinning at last week’s news conference about the Alberta government’s effort to hijack more than half the Canada Pension Plan fund (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Once the whiz kid and heir apparent of Alberta’s Conservative establishment, Mr. Dinning has resurfaced years later as chief snake-oil salesman for the scam artists and would-be separatists dreaming of hijacking half the Canada Pension Plan’s investment fund. 

Mr. Dinning may not have gotten to be the premier of Alberta in 2006, when he was widely seen as front-runner in what was supposed to be not much more than a two-horse race with another former Progressive Conservative finance minister, Ted Morton.

Still, he need not be embarrassed by what must have been a big disappointment after he raised $2 million for the contest to replace Ralph Klein and at one point held a 20-point lead over Dr. Morton and a 40-point lead over the eventual winner, Ed Stelmach.

We’ll never know how Mr. Dinning would have performed as premier – perhaps not that badly with his experience as a three-term Calgary MLA, finance minister from 1992 to 1997, and habitué of corporate executive suites after he left politics in 1997. 

In the event, Mr. Stelmach turned out to be as good a Conservative premier as Alberta could have hoped for in 2006. Dr. Morton, of course, was almost certainly the worst premier the province never had.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith at the same press conference (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Obviously, Mr. Dinning is not a complete dope, so he has to have an inkling that no one with any sense is going to buy the dead horse he’s signed on to flog.

He was obviously persuaded to play this role to lend a little respectability to the ridiculous play by Premier Danielle Smith, her office manager and Svengali Rob Anderson, and the extremist Take Back Alberta nuts keeping them both in power. 

But if he thought he could edge close to power after so long without risking egg on his face, Mr. Dinning is in for another big political disappointment.

Indeed, he tempts a fate not unlike that awaiting former Governor General David Johnston after he agreed to serve as “special rapporteur” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ill-fated foreign-interference probe, or that of Calgary forensic accountant Steve Allan for his involvement in former UCP premier Jason Kenney’s ludicrous and ultimately pointless “inquiry” to scapegoat and bully environmental organizations that opposed further oilsands development. 

I’ll admit I shrugged over breakfast in Dublin last Thursday when I read in Don Braid’s column that Ms. Smith had launched her effort to scam Canadian pensioners out of more than half their national pension fund so she could set up a slush fund for the fading fossil fuel industry. Nor was I particularly shocked that the numbers underpinning the conclusions of the LifeWorks report, whose author’s name was “redacted to protect privacy,” just don’t add up. 

Former Alberta finance minister Ted Morton in 2011 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“The only way this math works is if Smith thinks a banana costs $42,” the Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick summed it up quite nicely. “That’s what happens when premiers don’t buy their own groceries.”

But I almost choked on my baked beans when I realized Mr. Dinning had signed on to be spokesthingy for this hustle. At 71, the same age as your blogger, he should still be in possession of most of his faculties.

Given that presumption, this says nothing good about the man’s judgement! 

So we Albertans may have dodged more bullets than we knew back in 2006 when Mr. Stelmach came up the middle on the second ballot and eliminated both Mr. Dinning and Dr. Morton!

Each day that has passed since the premier trotted out Mr. Dinning at her news conference, the claims on which the government’s case for an Alberta pension are based have looked shakier

Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach in 2010, during his time in office (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The demand that the CPP fork over 53 per cent of its fund to a province that has made about 16 per cent of the contributions to it is obviously going nowhere. As CPP spokesperson Michel Leduc said on the day of the news conference, “the amount the report says could be extracted from the CPP is impossible and based on an invented formula.”

Don’t expect politicians anywhere else in Canada, including many Conservatives, to say anything different. A few may put it even more bluntly than did Mr. Leduc. 

Even if the UCP somehow manages to win Ms. Smith’s promised Alberta pension referendum – and since the campaign is bound to be as crooked as the one that won the 2016 Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, with predictably disastrous consequences, that has to be considered a possibility – Mr. Dinning is not going to go down in history looking like a hero.

NDP Finance Critic Samir Kayande (Photo: Facebook/Samir Kayande).

Back in the day, he used to make more sense on this same topic – a fact that suggests a screw may have worked its way loose over the intervening years. 

As NDP Finance Critic Samir Kayande, MLA for Calgary-Elbow, reminded us last week in a tweet thread, in the late 1990s and early 2000s both Mr. Dinning and Mr. Klein “blisteringly vetoed the idea that Alberta is better off under its own plan.” (Asked Mr. Kayande, reasonably: What’s changed?)

“You’ve got to do it because it makes economic sense,” Mr. Klein said in 2002, soon after he’d tossed Stephen Harper’s separatist “Firewall Letter,” which included the Alberta pension idea, in the trash where it belonged. “We have examined it, the last examination was under Jim Dinning … it didn’t make sense.”

Premier Klein’s reference to Mr. Dinning under the circumstances was telling. At the time, he was thought to be a guy who could be trusted. That may have changed, but the idea still makes no sense. 

Former Canadian governor general David Johnston (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

To give him his due, Mr. Dinning certainly spoke the truth last week when he said a provincial pension fund made up of more than half the wealth the CPP purloined from other Canadians’ retirement savings would make Alberta into an international financial powerhouse.

But so what?

We’d also be a genuine global powerhouse if the Kingdom of Norway decided to hand us more than half of its $1.4 trillion sovereign wealth fund on the grounds it was Peter Lougheed’s idea in the first place and so what if other Alberta Conservatives decided to burn through it all to buy off generations of voters? That’s about as likely to happen. 

Likewise, it would also help if Elon Musk decided to fork over 53 per cent of his personal fortune to help out Albertan’s Cordilleran Elite, whose repugnant social views he appears to share. 

Well, there’s obviously no need to extend this silly list of non-starters, is there? 

Former Alberta Inquiry commissioner Steve Allan (Photo: Lieutenant Governor of Alberta).

This is just going to make Mr. Dinning – a bit of a lightweight, maybe, but a guy who probably would have been an OK premier back in his heyday, which was long before Canadian Conservatives lost their collective mind – look like a fool. 

It’s going to tarnish his reputation through his association with the genuinely unsavoury Take Back Alberta crowd that now controls the United Conservative Party, not to mention with Ms. Smith’s own reputation for a casual relationship with the truth.

As Mr. Kayande said: “Dinning made an admirable contribution to Alberta and to Canadian unity in the past. Many of my constituents respect him. And I would hate for him to suffer the same sort of reputational consequences that Steve Allan suffered.” 

Or as political consultant Stephen Carter put it, accurately: “What an embarrassment. I cannot believe that Jim Dinning would debase himself and put his name on this report.”

Well, he did. The damage to his reputation has been done. It’s never going away. 


Join the Conversation


  1. Well, since it’s someone who has been an MLA, in the provincial government, led by the Liberal, turned Reformer, Ralph Klein, they have no integrity at all. That’s the first thing I can say about Jim Dinning. What has he done that has helped us? Nothing. These phony Conservatives and Reformers are like pigs at a trough, and they just can’t stop looking for easy money, while so many Albertans have to struggle to get by. Preston Manning is another one. No job in his lifetime, and a political opportunist. He has a very large political pension to boot. Danielle Smith rewards him with a princely sum of around $250,000 and a $2 million expense account to come up with a Covid-19 report, that still hasn’t been released to the public. Preston Manning is 81, and he has no financial hardship, from getting a very sizeable political pension. There are other seniors in their 80s and 90s, and seniors even younger, who cannot make ends meet. They could use that money. Other Albertans, who are struggling, could also use that money. The UCP has a history of losing pension money through a less than stellar organization, that is joined at the hip to the UCP, AIMCo. $4 billion of it vanished, because AIMCo is connected to the turbulent oil and gas markets. Danielle Smith is still intent on an Alberta pension plan, no matter how risky it is. Pretend Conservatives and Reformers never can be trusted to help people retire. In the CPC, the $35 billion income trust nightmare happened. Also, Alberta lost out on $575 billion, because the oil royalty rates of Peter Lougheed were no longer being collected. Ralph Klein is the culprit for this. On top of that, Ralph Klein made it so that we have to come up with $260 billion to correct all the abandoned oil wells and other oil industry damage in Alberta. Norway and Alaska have abundant savings funds, while Alberta has nothing. It is very baffling how Albertans put up with this nonsense. There are people who have connections to the provincial government of Peter Lougheed, and they have financial acumen, and they know just how stupid all of this is.

  2. Welcome back….I certainly hope the duty free shop was good to you, I believe you’ll probably need it…lol

    So… Dani & the Misfits , seemed to take advantage of your absence, or so it seems.
    I have a question— the Alberta Treasury board engaged Lifeworks to prepare a detailed analysis of the costs, benefits and structure of a potential Alberta Pension Plan(APP)……and who owns Lifeworks? Well as far as I could tell from my research, it was bought out by Telus Health….my question..? wait, WHAT?? Telus Health is also doing pensions?
    Well according to their website, yes….Pension administration–Our powerful pension administration solutions deliver advanced integrated technology for reliable, scalable ,and more cost effective operations .
    ( the Ariel《tm》pension administration solution).

    My ear is still ringing after informing my sister, whom is rightfully still steaming about her pension ala the Aimco fiasco, and Telus was on her “list” already. Back in the day, the operator would have cut us off for very unladylike language.
    As to Mr Dinning , it seems that the Canadian mint missed out on a bunch of the old bad pennies, they’ve been popping up in the strangest places lately.

    I would also like to add a
    #3. to Jerrymacgp’s …..” Albertans have been overpaying on their CPP…everyone in Canada pays the same, and “if ” you do your taxes and have a overpayment, you get it back. (Unless the boss is running a second set of books, then in that case the workers usually take the hit, because they can’t afford the lawyers).

    Sidebar: while you were gone,
    Nowhere did I see a whiff, a hint, a mentioned in passing, about the AHS citations at Dani’s restaurant, while the e-coli outbreak was happening. I assumed she was staying mum, waiting to see if someone was going to bring it up. So sad, that reporters can’t do their jobs anymore.
    Metroland(?) closing in Ontario— .

    As far as bicycles in Belgium, as the kids say/used to(?)
    OH SNAP !!!

  3. Welcome back, Dave. I had some September days where I was quite starved of intelligence concerning Alberta and its Political shenanigans. You are irreplaceable!

    1. Kind of you to say, Wes. I’m still pretty tired. Not quite firing on all cylinders, yet. DJC

  4. The premier used to pick through garbage cans for best (or worst) ideas when she was a Calgary school trustee. She managed to get herself and the rest of the board fired for that. Different garbage, different outcome, if the lies are big enough?

  5. It would seem that we are dealing with the similar assortment of individuals that presided over Brexit. Both involve(d) setting aside the long established principles of good governance.

  6. The same “Honourable Dinning” who privatized liquor stores and then landed a job as President of Alberta’s leading private liquor? I must be mistaken.

  7. The same Jim Dinning who tried to sell Klein’s plan for private hip and knee surgery when he was chair of the Calgary Regional Health Authority; an idea that eventually led to Klein’s demise. The same Jim Dinning who supported a carbon tax until it became Liberal/NDP policy and he changed his mind. He likes to tout new ideas until they backfire on him. Taking on the APP will no doubt serve as another example. You’d think he would have learned his lesson by now.

  8. Given the strange goings-on in Canadian politics, not to mention the discovery that no one actually is checking who and what is on the guest list, it seems that the notion that Canadian politics is boring is in for a very rude awakening.

    Apart from the very, very complicated relationship Ukrainians have with their history, it looks like nearly equally complicated circumstances are happening in Alberta. Jim Dinning is among those conservatives who are not supposed to be nuts; however, as his recent pronouncements about the amazing idea Danielle Smith to repatriate Albertan’s pensions from the grubby hands of PMJT, it maybe that the crazy has infected even those who are considered to be sane.

    What gives?

    I believe this may have a lot to do with what is going on the Republican Party in the US, where a multiple convicted felon has an unbelievable chance of winning the party’s nomination, based entirely on the perception that he has every crazy with a vote in his corner. In Alberta, it’s a case of when Danielle Smith calls, you better show up and say nice things about everything she does. Or else, TBA will get you. We can presume that Jim Dinning, like everyone else in those reasonably minded CON circles, have been taken hostage by the lunatics who are now running the asylum.

  9. Jim Dinning? Hadn’t thought of him in years. My first reaction was, “Dinning? What is he THINKING?!” I never liked his politics, but he seemed–back then–to have his head screwed on with the nose forward. But now?

    I wonder if he’s getting bored in retirement, or something. Or maybe Miz Smith’s minions offered Dinning a paycheque with lots of zeros behind the one.

    And why not hand it over to Preston Manning, the formerly-grand old man of Alberta Conservative thinking?* Maybe he’s just too busy with other pet projects from Queen Dani of Qberduh.

    *Yes, Manning was at one time a relatively thoughtful person. Apparently, no longer.

    PS: welcome back! Hope your vacation was a good one.

  10. Hi David,
    Sad to see Jim Dinning’s name associated with this rubbish.
    Thanks for an entertaining column about this awful pension idea. Glad that you are back, and hope you had a nice holiday.

    1. Thank you, Christina. I’m still pretty tired. Adjusting to Alberta time quite slowing, impeding my habit of late-night blog writing and posting. DJC

  11. For someone who was once close to being Premier at one time, this shady CPP side gig must be a bit disappointing. Even more so because of the dubious quality of the substance of the proposals so far.

    Dinning had credibility with Conservative voters and now seems to have sold it or cashed it in, for what reasons I am not sure. With his political career over, I suppose he doesn’t need it any more.

    No doubt Smith and crew were eager to find someone who could lend respectability to their outlandish proposal. I don’t see the rest of Canada going along with giving over half the CPP funds to the Alberta government. But, some UCP supporters are not very well grounded in reality and will buy whatever their leaders say with little or no critical thought. However, I suppose Dinning is around to try bring some of the more skeptical ones, of which there are probably quite a few, on board here.

    I think selling their questionable CPP plan will be an uphill battle for the UCP, but I suspect that they hope by stirring up enough anti Ottawa sentiment, making unrealistic but enticing promises and finding more credible spokesmen like Dinning, they will be able to get enough Albertans to vote against their best interests.

  12. This whole CCP idea, to me is very similar to the lead up to the Brexit vote. Full of misinformation and mis-truth. How well did that work out for the average citizen? It is going to take years for the average citizen to recover.

    1. PS: If the UCP succeeds with this scheme, Canadians in general and particularly Albertans will never recover. DJC

  13. The outrageous amount that Denial Smith claims is owed Alberta from the CPP is just a ploy she is using to stir up a frenzy in the province when the claim is rejected. Then with everyone heated up against the feds, this proven trickster will call a sovereignty referendum.

  14. Welcome back!

    I’m looking forward to understanding Danielle Smith’s Alberta pension plan math. Premier Jim Prentice was right: Conservative math really is hard.

    Commanding the CPP to stand and deliver fully half its poke—to which Alberta only contributes 5/32nds—might have been a figure picked out of smoke, but surely there must be some kind of rationale, even if only to be as federally obnoxious as possible.

    But it could also be based on Quebec with its own pension plan —both of which and more Alberta has always been jealous of. Call it the QPP factor—or maybe pension envy.

    Or maybe three-hundred-odd billion dollars is what the Smith’s UCP government figures it needs to pay Big Bitumen to haul Alberta’s dominant resource away. If that’s the case it’s only fair to compare Alberta’s management of its vast tar sand deposit with Norway’s management of its own offshore oil patch. Must be an infinity-factor in there someplace—but of what constant, I can only suspect.

    Or maybe it’s just a wild pitch in the first of several innings in a preseason play on federalism—at least as close as it can get, sans Quebec (hey!—isn’t that just what Preston Manning and Lucien Bouchard wanted when they shredded the ProgCons’ record-setting parliamentary majorities—thanks to les Bleues Québécois— and virtually separated the new pseudoCons from the electoral affection of la Belle Province?)

    Maybe Smith’s trying to work Team Federal’s lead-off batter from crowding the strike zone (doing his best Tommy Lasorda impression, Ontario’s D’ohFo has already countered with some blunt commentary from the dugout), even as she risks beaning the the slugger with her screwball pitch and walking chim to first base. Alberta’s certainly got a bullpen bursting at the safety-pins, but given the federal nature of the regular season, one wonders if an APP Referendum would be subject to the federal Clarity Act. And considering the size of Smith’s demand, I don’t think that would be too far-fetched.

    I have some investment advice, too: stock up on popcorn, beer, and hotdogs—three years and eight months worth. Or maybe some Sasquatch sniffers.

  15. Reputations damaged by ill-judged exercises: David Johnston, Steve Allen, Preston Manning with his anti-vaxxer inquiry and his other anti-vaxxer inquiry, and potentially Rick Hanson with the E. coli outbreak inquiry.
    Maybe you didn’t hear while trotting around Europe, but when Smith first publicly mused about an inquiry into E. coli she murmured that maybe Preston Manning could do it. I guess even she noticed all the heads exploding at the very suggestion.
    At least Rick Hanson is not Manning, but he is also not a medical expert, so was he appointed to do a coverup, a skill that policemen seem to pick up on the job?

  16. I wonder if Dinning’s job is to stall for time while Smith fills the air with enough horseshit to bamboozle just enough of the voters of Alberta to go along with her idiotic plan. After all, other than voting in the NDP, when was the last time the voters in Alberta made a smart decision?

    In the meantime, Smith will be telling her pension lies a thousand times until it becomes the truth. It appears Smith has been studying Goebbels.

  17. Really can’t add anything to the comments above. Trust the UCP with 170,000 orphan wells (at least $60 – $130 Billion in remediation), Fort Mc to clean up, thanks to Klein and Dinning. I mean Lougheed left $12 Billion in the Heritage Trust Fund — along with the Museums like the Royal Tyrrell, Head-Smashed-In, parks like Waskasoo here in Red Deer, Inglewood in Calgary, Helen Schuler in Lethbridge, G.P. Medicine Hat, Kananaskis and so on — and we collected Royalties up until 1985. Getty did inherit a mess. What is in it now? $18 B? after the $4 B AIMco fiascoloss. Compare it to Norway or the Alaska Oil Fund. (Norway is quite unique; they tax the majors and have their own Equinor player). Ernie Manning sold us out the American Majors long ago. Anyway this is just so unctuous and proves Dinning to be the sycophant he is.

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