You might be tempted to think Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was on the right track with her obvious discomfort at the thought of her predecessor’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act being used to prosecute the so-called anti-carbon-tax protesters impeding traffic along the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary.

A few of the protesters at the Cochrane truck stop (Photo: Twitter).

But we all know Ms. Smith would advocate using the problematic legislation in the blink of an eye if it were climate change activists or First Nations rights protesters who were slowing traffic on a highway on which Albertans think they have a God-given right to speed, instead of some of the same bad actors who blockaded the border at Coutts in 2022.

I was going to say misusing the act, but you can’t really misuse the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act. 

That’s because Alberta’s last United Conservative Party Premier, the departed and unlamented Jason Kenney, intended it as a blatantly performative incursion into Ottawa’s jurisdiction over criminal law and to criminalize legal and constitutionally protected behaviour. That is to say, legitimate protest, when practiced by groups of people Mr. Kenney saw as enemies of the state. 

It is an execrable law and deserves to fall to a constitutional challenge, which one of these days, all or part of it will. 

This is not to say, by the way, that blockading highways and rail lines ought not to be restricted by the law – only that it already is, quite effectively, both by the federal Criminal Code and provincial traffic legislation, just to name a couple of laws. 

Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney in happier times, soon after his election in 2019 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In the meantime, though, it’s been fun to watch Mr. Kenney’s successor as captain of landlocked Alberta’s ship of state squirm when uppity reporters ask her questions about why the act isn’t being used to prosecute the MAGA protesters at the Cochrane turnoff of Highway 1. 

At a news conference last Tuesday about the UCP’s new addiction, mental health and corrections agency, which really ought to be known as Not Alberta Health Services (NAHS), the CTV’s reporter cheekily asked her about this. 

“According to Cochrane RCMP, obstructions are expected to continue today,” she told the premier. “Is the province at all considering using the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, and is there any direction being given to the protesters to move to where they don’t constrict these economic corridors?”

“Well, look, let me give that direction,” Ms. Smith responded sharply. (Pay attention when Ms. Smith begins a response with an introductory “Well, look.” It’s usually a sign that a whopper is about to land.)

“I don’t support it when Extinction Rebellion glues themselves to the street and stops traffic, and I don’t support anyone stopping traffic as well. You can protest. Do it at the side of the road. Don’t interfere with the movement of goods. Don’t interfere with the movement of your neighbours. It’s the reason why we have the Critical Infrastructure Act, and I would just ask people to be compliant with the law.”

Artur Pawlowski, the unpastorly pastor from Calgary (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In the event, the reporter moved on, but another journo was waiting. 

“I just wanted to follow up on a previous question there, premier,” said the reporter from The Canadian Press when she got her chance. “You just said in regards to the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act that you would just ask people to be compliant with the law. Can you just tell us, yes or no, whether you’re willing to use that act to quell these protests if they continue to affect highway traffic?”

Premier Smith trotted out a similar talking point, with an addition. “As you know, police make their own decision on arresting decisions,” she said sourly. “That’s not a decision for a premier to make.”

Well, to give Ms. Smith her due, she learned that one the hard way when she tried to influence what prosecutors were going to do about Artur Pawlowski, the unpastorly pastor from Calgary who persisted in ignoring vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I’m just asking people to accept that we have a Critical Infrastructure Act in place and I wouldn’t, I don’t endorse it, when left-wing-activists wanna block bridges and roads, and I don’t endorse it when people who are opposing carbon taxes also wanna block bridges and roads,” the premier continued. “There’s a way to be able to do peaceful protests and continue to allow for the flow of goods and people.”

Of course, sometimes impeding the flow of goods and people is the only way to achieve justice, however you define it, but such behaviour in a society of laws comes with the understanding that you may have to face the metaphorical music when the cops move in. Preferably, this should be done without undignified whining. 

But there’s no way, as the premier showed with Mr. Pawlowski, that she wants her friends and allies to face the music, be it that of church or state. (Mr. Pawlowski, by the way, came on down to the Cochrane turnoff last week to preach against the carbon tax, just as he preached against vaccine mandates.)

So there was equally no way she was going to answer yes or no to a question about whether she thought the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act should be used, because, like Mr. Kenney, she thinks it should be used against her enemies, just not her law-breaking friends. 

This is just one reason why the UCP should never be allowed to set up its own politicized and ideologically blinkered police force.

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  1. What the UCP are promoting is a full blown dictatorship. It’s all about power, control and submission to them. The provincial police force has staunch opposition from rural municipal leaders in Alberta, because they would see a further increase in municipal property taxes, to pay for the provincial police force, which has a minimum price tag of $1 billion. This was not going to be included in the last provincial election campaign for the UCP. As if the UCP cares what the electorate wants, they are going ahead with this. Anyone that questions the UCP, could be reprimanded by the UCP’s own police force. Any other laws that the UCP feels they can dodge, will not be subjective to an investigation by the R.C.M.P, because the R.C.M.P aren’t there anymore. It’s actually puzzling why the investigation into the leadership of the last UCP leader took so long by the R.C.M.P, and it came to the conclusion that it did, given all the evidence that showed what transpired. A provincial police force would sweep any infractions that the UCP does under the carpet much quicker. Here is other evidence of how the UCP are power hungry. They want municipalities to be under their complete scrutiny. What the UCP are doing is very undemocratic.

    1. The proposal that Alberta collect all federal taxes and remit them to Ottawa also leads to questions about what powers this proposed agency would have. Could they conduct audits of Albertans’ federal taxes? If so, a handy tool for stifling dissent.

  2. Those people who are holding those “Axe The Tax” signs, sure are making themselves look like fools. They are intent on believing every lie that Danielle Smith and Pierre Poilievre feeds them about the carbon tax, while we are in a very precarious situation with a lack of moisture in Alberta. We have wildfires that are still burning in Alberta, and we can expect to see more of them. Crop failures will also happen, because of the drought. Peter Lougheed knew that there would be an issue with water, and here we are today.

  3. “Of course, sometimes impeding the flow of goods and people is the only way to achieve justice, however you define it, but such behaviour in a society of laws comes with the understanding that you may have to face the metaphorical music when the cops move in. Preferably, this should be done without undignified whining.”

    Agreed, and well put.

    “So there was equally no way she was going to answer yes or no to a question about whether she thought the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act should be used…”

    But should she have answered yes or no, though? I would say that either of those answers would have stepped on the toes of law enforcement, and that Smith got it about right by making the neutral point that the law exists and ought to apply to everyone. That’s about as far from “politicized and ideologically blinkered” as one can get!

  4. On Sunday this “axe the facts” group had a massive set of flags suspended by a crane over the highway!

    And we are paying for portable electronic traffic signs warning us to
    “Expect days event ahead”.

    I’ve contact the AB minister of transportation and my federal conservative MP to inquire why theses fools aren’t procedures for violating the Traffic Act.

  5. First of all, Pawlowski sure keeps showing up at inconvenient moments for Smith. I can understand his keen interest in religious assembly, in carbon taxes, not so much. There seems to be developing on the right an almost professional type of protester. I suspect they may feel Axe the Tax could be their ticket to greater political influence. They may be correct about that, but they may have also again overplayed their hand here. The public does not like roads, borders or cities blockaded.

    So Smith will in this case do what she often does with what she doesn’t like, ignore and dismiss it. And if that means ignoring the UCPs own law and looking inconsistent or hypocritical, so be it. She hopes her supporters are not watching her inconsistency too closely and outside of a few good media questions here, she is probably correct.

    So she will certainly not enforce a bad law here, nor is is probably embarrassing enough to repeal it. Of course, this may make it harder to selectively enforce in the future, but no doubt the UCP wants to keep it as a threat hanging against potential enemies. So yes, we do not want these people to have more power over policing in Alberta. As they have already well shown their ability to misuse and abuse power.

    1. Dave: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s,” as someone said. Yah. Not for Pastor Art. DJC

  6. I’m beginning to think hypocrisy makes up 98% of the modern day conservative. Thanks for tossing the word “dignity” into the same sentence as Pawlowski’s name. I can’t decide which is my favourite memory of the, ahem, pastor. CPS dragging him head first down Deerfoot Trail, while he screeched like a stuck pig. Or him hiding behind 6 year old children, the first time he tried to crash his way onto the Stampede Parade route. Yup, dignity Pawlowski style.

    1. I like the video of a different arrest where he had flopped on the ground and a policeman complained “You always go dead fish on us.”

      1. Yup, that’s the one. My description was a little off, more head first and knees dragging along the roadway.

  7. As one who drove that highway over the weekend (both ways), being an Albertan of some vintage, I am fully aware that the vehicular traffic on that stretch of highway comprises many non Albertans, both tourists from near and far and fellow Canadians. Is Ms. Smith aware of the face Alberta is presenting to the world, with the “F*ck Trudeau”, “Trump 2024”, and “Axe the Tax” flags, Canadian flags upside down (true patriots them!), and various quasi-American paraphernalia? I am sure the irony of setting up the protests right next to a Petro Canada (something to do with the elder Trudeau, despised even more than his son in these parts, even though long dead) is lost on the protesters. Mr. Kenney found out all too well, as Ms. Smith is now experiencing, that when when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas (DJC, while James Sanford is no Shakespeare, they were around the same time).

    1. Flying your national flag upside-down was a distress signal at one time. Considering the state of Oilberduh’s politics today, I’d say that’s appropriate.

  8. Well, look. The RCMP have decided to leave the protestors where they are, as long as they stay off Highway 1 and out of the ditch. They’re on provincial land at a weigh scale, where Alberta Sheriffs are in charge, and on provincial land across the highway at a rest stop. Touché! Your move, Marlaina.

    Seems nobody will be charged with mischief over $5000 this time around. After some initial recklessness and a lane blockage, they’re playing by the rules at this location. No doubt they’re following the trial of three men who were charged for their role in the Coutts border blockade of 2022.

    How long they will stay where they are and maintain order? It’s anyone’s guess. The port-a-potties are in place, they’re doing supply runs into Cochrane and replacement protestors can come and go.

    The problem is that other groups have not been as orderly, with tractors in the Crowsnest Pass, tractors at the legislature and unorderly behavior on the highway at Walsh, near the Saskatchewan border. Further protests are planned, including one at the legislature that is drawing protestors from outside the province. Left unchecked, these protests will grow. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the latest premier of Alberta had to tell the feds that she needs help managing this mess within her own borders? Make up your mind, Marlaina. Whatcha gonna do? Deal with it or let it grow?

  9. I got the shock of the day when I reached the midpoint of this article and realized the Coutts blockaders are CURRENT blockaders…I thought you were referring to the covid-era blockade. Do these people not have better things to do with their lives?

    1. Expat: To be clear, the present day blockaders at the Cochrane turnoff on Highway 1, west of Calgary, include some, possibly several, of the same people who were at Coutts during the pandemic. I can say that with confidence because I have seen three of them on video news clips of the Cochrane demonstration. DJC

      1. At least one of the RCMP officers who served at Coutts has been on duty at the current Highway 1/22 protest. He had to attend court in Lethbridge this week for the trial of three Coutts blockaders. This officer has experience managing protests and has met certain key protestors before.

        RCMP at Walsh seemed adept at de-escalating the protest there. Some protestors interviewed by media even admired their diplomacy and patience.

        Despite the catcalls and baiting, RCMP have remained steadfast in dealing with protestors.

        It remains to be seen if the relationship between police and protestors will be cordial on the May long weekend.

        1. Abs: I notice on social media that the Coutts/Cochrane protesters have been running clear portrait photos of all the RCMP officers policing their little roadside picnic. This is pretty clearly intended as a threat, in my opinion. DJC

          1. The officers no longer wear their name patches. They’ve also been taking photos and I’m sure that includes licence plate numbers. Better hope none of those rigs have infractions and nobody is defying court orders.

      2. Freedom George, Moose McDavid, Artur Pawlowski…
        There are also protests in other provinces, though the Cochrane one may be the largest. They started on April Fools Day (Smith’s birthday) and some say they plan to stay until the carbon tax is cancelled.
        As long as they stay off the highway and out of the towns, who cares?

  10. The ones we saw just outside the park boundary on the Alberta and B.C. sides of Jasper Park on April the first weren’t blocking anything other than making an ass of themselves at the side of the road with their “Axe the tax” signs, hollering and jumping up and down. I bet they didn’t dare do it in the Park and likely were warned not to, by their Reform Party friends. Apparently they are too dumb to understand what refusing to join the rest of the world in trying to do something about global warming has already cost Albertans with the loss of the Keystone XL pipeline that would have brought billions to this province. Add that to destroying the oil by rail that Notley tried to create until the pipeline to the west coast was established and these Reformers continue to destroy this province financially. Of course delaying the construction of more green energy, 24,000 jobs and a $33 billion investment for Albertans is just one more part of their stupidity isn’t it?

  11. Curiously, Ms. M.D. Smith was publicly all for the carbon tax just a scant 3 years ago!! And next door [east] Mr. Moe has concluded that the current carbon tax is cheaper than all the other scenarios that he charged others to examine, surely to prove that he is right and the Federal Liberals are wrong, again! Oops!
    I for one like getting a net return with the rebate scheme, as it provides for about six free tanks of gasoline [at 50 litres per fill] for about 6200 kms of travel!

    1. The idea for a carbon tax came from a conservative think tank as a free market solution to address climate change. I heard on CBC’s West of Centre a few weeks back that the Notley Government was instrumental in developing the Federal carbon tax framework and that part of the objective was to put more pressure for emissions reduction on the consumer side and less on the other place it would naturally go, the tar sands. Now I’ve always thought that consumer pricing for pollution is a really good idea as long as there is support in place to make sure people can meet their basic needs. What a rich irony that this excellent conservative, market based solution now has conservatives spitting bile, and turns out to be a pretty useful tool for some old timey wealth redistribution. And if they repeal it – well we’ll be squeezing industry more to meet our emissions reduction goals, and by industry I don’t meant Quebec Hydro. Or I suppose PM Poilievre could just give a middle finger to the rest of the world, but that won’t help us sell ethical oil.

      1. I heard U of A economist Andrew Leach on CBC Calgary’s “West of Centre” podcast a few weeks back, arguing for the carbon tax, & saying that an exclusive focus on large-scale industrial emitters would put a disproportionate burden on Alberta’s oil & gas industry. He also argued that his only beef with the Notley government’s plan, which he had a hand in designing, was that the rebate system was income-tested. He much prefers the federal approach, if I recall correctly.

        But now it’s too late. The days of the federal carbon levy are numbered. Their first mistake was in allowing CRA to use administer the carbon rebates and to use direct deposit to send them out to Canadians – rendering them relatively invisible. We needed to have green paper cheques boldly emblazoned with the words “CARBON TAX REBATE” mailed to us on a quarterly basis in a bright green envelope with the same bold text stamped on it. That way nobody could claim they didn’t know they were getting them.

        Their second & most fatal mistake was their crassly political carve-out for home heating oil, which preferentially favoured Atlantic Canadians due to the higher relative prevalence of oil heat in that region than in other provinces. In doing so, not only did they dump a pile of pork from the barrel, they implicitly accepted the Conservatives’ unfounded narrative that the carbon tax was contributing significantly to inflation & the affordability crisis. From that day forward, the carbon tax was doomed.

  12. Actors, performance art, and subliminal [?! “using suggestive language in political messaging to garner support from a particular group without provoking opposition.” as both the audience and the opposition becomes habituated to both the signal and the noise] messaging masquerading as reasoned impartiality cannot hide the underlying dogma, its “values”, and the habitual red baiting that remains its core feature, for the talk show host, the stalwart followers, and the legion of anonymous ‘backers’ [intellectual, financial, ect.].

    1. “I don’t endorse it, when LEFT-WING-ACTIVISTS wanna block bridges and roads, and I don’t endorse it when people who are opposing carbon taxes also wanna block bridges and roads,”” {emphasis is mine} Both the division and the negative association is fairly clear. The choice and use of the rhetorical device is calculated, deliberate, and directed.

    2. Because even the mere suggestion of leftism/Marxism/Communism becomes sufficient to both denounce, reject, and silence people, groups, and/or ideas without having to honestly address any claims or arguments presented.

    3. For example,

    “Went to a @ABDanielleSmith event tonight in Calgary. If she doesn’t win Alberta is finished and Canada becomes a communist shithole. Climate lockdowns and 15 minute cities will be the first then @rachelnotley will go door to door jabbing you with gain of function bio weapons. Get…”

    — Theo Fleury (@TheoFleury14) April 27, 2023

    4. So it is that, “The greater became the wealth which was capable of concentration in the hands of individuals, the more the fight for political power developed into a question of money.” That is, the dictatorship of money.

  13. How is Danielle Smith’s equation of rote, neo-right equivocation and false equivalency doing these days? With perfunctory obsequiousness to the “the flow of goods”, “well, look…” and the Wizard of Pawl, she never fails to provide impromptu ‘state-of-the-United-CP’ addresses or remind by way of official rumination, endorsement or disapproval exactly who is the ruler of law and ordering. The ole Equivometer indicates she still has that remarkable facility to browse the field of news media queries, reliably produce cud and talk, all at the same time—for which she is Texas-North-Hold’em, ‘all-in’ famous.

    To wit (which globalizing neoliberals’ pseudoCon proxies complain is ‘unfair’), note Smith’s attempt at fair-minded, even-handed, balanced and level-headed comparison of different types of protest to which the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act might apply: “people who are protesting carbon taxes” are accorded personhood and reason (to block bridges and roads) but “Extinction Rebellion [whatever that disturbingly-named thing is] glues themselves [apparently more than one of them] to the street and stops traffic,” adding, for distinguishing clarity, “ and I don’t support anyone stopping traffic as well,” presumably including human beings, too— fairness and balance off-the-cuff, as ‘t were.

    Not to put too, too fine a point on it, Smith emphasizes that she doesn’t endorse “left-wing activists,” presumably ‘people,’ too, but of such inhumanely wicked intent that she asks Albertans “to accept that we have a Critical Infrastructure Defence Act,” while avoiding news media questioning whether she would implement the widely condemned-as-unconstitutional-Act. Will she implement the CID Act against implied people of good will whose road-blocking protest actually endorses her government’s official opposition to carbon taxes. Wow!—the ole Equivometer’s is hitting the bell!

    Now, there are, and have been, many other ways to measure Danielle Smith’s native glibness, but there might not yet be an instrument that can measure such minute amounts of political shrewdness. To be fair, the simmering disunity of her United Conservatives is reason enough for her to show reticence in implementing untried legislations which are very vulnerable to successful constitutional challenges, despite her brave rhetoric.

    DJC is correct: just imagine what kind of cudgel the CID Act could be for a MAGA-coordinated Alberta police force. That particular proposal probably won’t hunt psephologically, but just having it on the books, unused and untested in a court of law, usefully appeases the Take Back Alberta faction upon which Ms Smith’s political future depends.

    Or just imagine what the TBA would do with the CID Act in an independent Alberta with its own, party-directed police force: TBA would take Alberta back to the time of morality police, forced sterilization, eugenics and mental asylums for unwed mothers and wed gays. Poor Danielle! How hard it must be to span that gap between TBA’s heroic age-rage and her own dystopian vision of gas-fracking-bitumen-cooking-dilbit-piping to Make Alberta Great Again. Acrid smoke is issuing from the political-valuation calculator —it’s going flat-out.

    While we wait and contemplate how the PTUBAC can straddle the widening spread as one faction heads in one direction and the other another, we might consider a truly globalist fact: so long’s they’re diametrically opposed in direction, the two UCP factions will eventually meet somewhere on the other side of the planet, somewhere with, as per UCP prediction, a wealthy thirst for diluted bitumen, if not 19th century Christian rectitude.

    Hey!—did somebody just turn on the Acme FactShredder?—hmmm, could it be the Christian-Redoubter, flat-earth ant-vaxxer TBA who’d otherwise have a hard time squaring a spherical premise on a pancake planet, or potential confusion with whatever ‘globalists’ they blame for everything unholy. Gotta be some political points for Danielle in there somewheres.

    Wait! The political-valuation calculator is braking, the results are tracking out of the slot —it’s stopping, the page is cropping into the tray. Let’s have a look-see how valuable Danielle Smith’s political manoeuvring is…exciting, no?…(trembling, fumbling with ‘the envelope’…)

    Aw, darn! It answers a question with another question—all very scientific I suppose, but “What’s a farthing?” Heck, Canada doesn’t even mint pennies anymore!

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