Here we go again. After spending years fighting a futile legal battle against the federal carbon tax, Jason Kenney’s UCP government has found another hill for its well-paid lawyers to die on.

This time it’s the federal Impact Assessment Act governing large projects, a piece of legislation Kenney and his allies dubbed the “no more pipelines law.” In a 4-1 decision, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled the act is unconstitutional, mostly on the basis that it frustrated Alberta’s ongoing efforts to build pipelines in as many directions as possible.

The federal government immediately announced it would appeal, which means the province will once again head to the Supreme Court of Canada for a constitutional fight it will almost certainly lose. That won’t happen for at least a year, though, and probably at least two. In the meantime, conservative politicians and pundits are busy making hay over their home-field win.

Kenney described the decision as a “historic victory,” while Sonya Savage, the province’s energy minister, told the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos that “this is the biggest constitutional win in Alberta’s history.”

This is a bit like pretending you’ve won a football game because you scored a touchdown in the first quarter, and it ignores the fact there are far bigger actual wins in Alberta’s history. Chief among those is the 1982 Supreme Court decision that ruled Ottawa couldn’t tax provincially owned oil and gas wells, which paved the way for a massive revision of the hated National Energy Program. Given its relentless commitment to hating all things Trudeau, you’d think the Kenney government would remember this one.

When it comes to misreading the meaning of this decision, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon took the cake when he suggested it meant the Impact Assessment Act could no longer be used in Alberta. As Globe and Mail deputy national editor James Keller noted: “The Alberta government appears to be under the mistaken impression that the court’s opinion today is binding and takes effect immediately.”

But if Kenney and his ministers are still a bit fuzzy on the legal dimensions here, they’re crystal clear when it comes to the political aspects.

As with the carbon tax reference case, they get to spend months building their argument in the court of public opinion — where pesky things like facts and evidence are far less important. You can be certain they will use this decision to paint a picture of a federal government that’s out to get Alberta and, more specifically, anyone who works in its oil and gas industry.

Postmedia columnist David Staples answered the call with a predictably overwrought piece suggesting the decision would “save Canada” — if the federal government let it stand. “The federal overreach in this policy has been so excessive and dangerous,” he wrote, “it’s made me question if Alberta can survive within Canada.”

Opinion: After years fighting a futile legal battle against the federal carbon tax, Jason Kenney’s UCP government has found another hill for its well-paid lawyers to die on, writes columnist @maxfawcett.

This is, to be clear, the same Canada that bought and is building the first new pipeline to tidewater in a generation. This is the same Canada that spent more money on COVID-19 supports in Alberta than in any other province and invested $1.7 billion to help oil and gas companies clean up the old wells they keep leaving behind. This is also the same Canada that has so far refused to crack down on Alberta’s disproportionately large contributions to the national climate debt.

Implicit in Staples’ piece is the threat, widely repeated among both separatists and those who play footsie with them, that if Alberta isn’t allowed to build all the pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure it pleases, it would seriously consider leaving Confederation. This would be about as dumb as pouring your life savings into crypto a few weeks ago on the advice of a career politician whose retirement is already fully funded by taxpayers.

But when you’re as desperate for a political win as Kenney and the UCP are these days, you’ll take a lot of inadvisable gambles. Never mind the fact that, as University of Calgary law professor Martin Olszynski wrote, much of the legal opinion in question hinges on a straw man — the notion that there are projects that don’t require federal permits but are still being subjected to the Impact Assessment Act. “To the best of my knowledge,” he tweeted, “there is not a single project on the registry like this.”

Kenney and his colleagues don’t seem to have considered the possibility that if Alberta is given autonomy over decisions related to natural resources, provinces like British Columbia and Quebec would be, too — including pipelines traversing their borders. If anything, this decision, if upheld, would do more harm to his desire to see pipelines built than anything the federal government could contemplate.

All of this bravado and bluster over the Alberta Court of Appeal decision also ignores the reality, one that’s been obvious for years now — that government regulations like the former Bill C-69 aren’t what’s standing in the way of the sorts of new pipelines people like Kenney want to see built. Instead, it’s the growing concerns about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, both from state actors like the Biden administration and shareholders who don’t want to invest in assets that could be stranded by more stringent climate policies.

No matter, though. The facts of this case are far less important than the politics that surround it, unfortunately. Those will only get more divisive and destructive as Kenney and his party try to paper over the divisions in their movement and prepare for a provincial election in Alberta.

By the time this decision gets overturned by the Supreme Court, the damage to Confederation and our sense of national unity may already be done.

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Utter stupidity appealing to the utterly stupid, as usual. This morning on CBC we hear there is yet another dumbass Alberta conservative party now, the "Buffalo Party!" They're not separatist apparently, just want "more autonomy from Ottawa," which will serve to further split the right at least, but many in Alberta are not just gritting their teeth here, they're feeling quite desperate at how we are going to endure another year of such disastrous governance.
The only consolation is that the conservative brand generally DOES appear to be self-immolating.

What will the Buffalo Party be serving at their fundraising BBQs? Buffalo chips. There are many ways to cut the bull, but it's still BS in the end.

Yes, the UCP’s celebration of the Alberta Court of Appeal reference (it’s not a decision making, unmaking, or changing any law) is all for show, given it will likely be overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada. (Unless it can take BC with it, or Saskatchewan and Manitoba, either way to access tidewater, the threat of Alberta’s secession can be simply dismissed out of hand.) And yes, like a cornered, rabid skunk —doomed but can still do damage in the meanwhile—the UCP does wear at the ties that bind our federation together. But we’ve been down this road before—twice with the nation at stake, and a number of pipsqueak episodes of which Wexit-Buffalo are two. If this hackling seems a desperate melodrama we already know the ending of, it’s because it is.

tRumpublicans appear to be doing the same fevered alarmism (minus the secessionist threat, taboo since 1865) with which Kenney is hitchhiking for some free association. In fact, almost all conservative parties in the world’s largest trading blocs, North America and European Union, are experiencing the same phenomenon of discreditation and decline of the neo-right—nominal conservative parties peddling traditionalist tropes, but in service to globalizing neoliberals and their aspirational stateless corporatocracy. Almost all are resorting to bigoted xenophobia and gender politics of religious extremism in order to win power and undermine democratic sovereignties’ ability to tax and regulate globalized enterprise. By most measures and in context with the biggest challenge of our time, climate change, these tactics don’t look like they’re paying off at the ballot box, the blatant prevalence of electoral cheating by the partisan right probably corroborating It.

Another symptom of the neo-right’s terminal moribundity is the increasing number of moderate conservatives, or traditional Tories of the centre-right, who have been repelled by their former parties’ recruitment of more and more extreme elements. Such has been relatively plain in Canada, and perhaps somewhat in UK, but in just the past week or so, the first hints of a growing anti-tRump movement are beginning to show as the GOP wends its way toward US midterm elections in half a year. Basically, erstwhile centre-right voters are questioning the direction their old parties are headed: absurd denialism of Covid and climate-change while flirting with Q-Anon as it steers toward the edge of its flat earth.

In addition, but a bit less sensational, is the fact that most of these neo-right parties rail against things most of their citizens want—by margins so big (the large majority of Americans, for example want more public, universal healthcare and the large majority of Canadians want to keep ours) that it’s a wonder the centre-left doesn’t make more hay out of it. One wonders if the centre-left is too chicken to move in for the kill.

It’s not as if centre-right sentiment isn’t trying to do something about this hot mess. Michael Chan and Lisa Raitt took a brave but unsuccessful stab at moderating the CPC by contesting the first post-Harper leadership, an unabashed display of bigotry and extremism that resulted in the runner-up hiving off to form and even more bigoted and extreme party while the SoCon who squeaked past him tried to look moderate by prevarication on SoCon issues—and lost his own bid to become prime minister; O’Toole’s leadership bid succeeded in part because enough members took him at his word that he’d carefully moderate the party—but failed because he didn’t win his own shot at becoming prime minister; today the former ProgCon leader Jean Charest appeals to moderation while his leadership rivals seem to oblige by being even more extreme.

However, I consider the CPC beyond redemption, Charest and O’Toole notwithstanding. IMHO, the only way out is to form a new party of the centre-right which overtly eschews extremism, bigotry, and absurdism—a step that would forego a shot at government for at least one, and probably two or three mandates. So far that’s a step the gin-fogged CPC can’t quite accept.

We should acknowledge that there really are incremental steps being taken toward something like a renewal of the partisan right toward parties which can constructively contribute to the challenges of out times instead of ginning denialism, continuing to fail electorally and declining fatally in popularity. That includes the steps the extremists are taking that ultimately condemn them. Something’s gotta give. We can hope and encourage divisiveness if it means of the deathly ill neo-right, leading thence to a renewed Tory presence. I mean, this 35-year ride—20 years of CPC and, mercifully, only several for the UCP (it’s almost unbelievable it’s been in power only three years—take that as yet another increment in the right direction—no pun intended...much) deserves to take its lumps. That’s one thing moderates should be able to own up to, and I think a NCP, let’s say, would do quite well. I’m no conservative myself, but I do believe it’s better to have political balance.

For now, all eyes are on Alberta (the CPC french-language debate sure to be a yawner).

PS: in case anybody is arcanely wondering, there is no tidewater opportunity for Alberta through the NWT because, the NWT, not being a sovereign province of our federation, has no mechanism for seceding like a province does (albeit a difficult route if the SCoC’s reference comes into effect, RE: the Clarity Act and something like a constitutional amendment). But if Alberta (and maybe its fellow landlocked neighbour, too) starts promoting NWT’s confederation (population-wise, Yukon is the more likely candidate), it’s safe to assume it has something to do with tidewater. After all, Albetar’s primary product is keeping the Arctic shore more ice-free all the time!