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Since its election in April 2019, Alberta's United Conservative Party (UCP) government has passed two budgets, tabled 60 bills (as of press time), and changed regulations in multiple areas.

The rapid pace of its announcements and the speed at which bills are pushed through the legislature have made careful analysis of the UCP’s agenda challenging for the opposition parties, civil society organizations, and journalists. Moreover, the opportunities for these actors to do their important work of communicating with the public about the implications of the UCP’s policies have been curtailed, along with public debate.

While trying to keep up with the avalanche of new developments, we may lose sight of the big picture—the “cumulative effects” of these changes on the political landscape. Among these are the effects on democracy and citizenship.

We have witnessed a series of moves to strip resources from civil society organizations, remove or weaken rights to representation and collective bargaining, and repress opposition to government policies. The cumulative effect of these measures is a significant shift of power to the government to rule by decree and to employ state power to repress opposition.

There has been a full-blown return to the cronyism and patronage politics of the old PCs. The man appointed to head up the $3.5 million inquiry into the “foreign-funded anti-Alberta energy campaign,” Steve Allan, had supported the Justice Minister’s campaign for the leadership of the UCP. Allan went on to award a nearly $1 million contract to the law firm where his son was a partner and where Justice Minister Douglas Schweitzer had worked prior to being elected in 2019.

Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner, Marguerite Trussler, concluded in her July 6, 2020 report that, in appointing Mr. Allan, the minister had not violated the Conflicts of Interest Act; Trussler noted, however, that she did not have jurisdiction to investigate Mr. Allan. The UCP also removed members of the governance boards of public agencies and institutions mid-term, installing friends and donors in their places. In doing so, they ignored the rigorous and transparent search and appointment procedures, including diversity criteria, that had been established by the NDP.

Omnibus bills introduced in fall 2019 rolled back workers’ collective bargaining rights that had been instituted by the NDP government. The UCP restored the power of employers to use replacement workers during a strike or lock-out of essential services workers, and reinstated bargaining unit exclusions.

They also empowered ministers to issue secret directives to public sector employers (such as Alberta Health Services or university boards of governors) before and during collective bargaining, thereby asserting direct control over the governance of these supposedly arms-length public agencies and institutions. Bill 26 precluded farm workers from unionizing, and reduced occupational health and safety protections for workers, among other measures.

The control by pension plan members over the investment of their own pension funds was weakened by the government’s arbitrary transfer of some public sector pensions to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, and by prohibiting any public sector pension plan from replacing AIMCo as its investment manager.

"In the time remaining before the next election, we must find ways to reclaim and rebuild the conditions for democratic politics that (Alberta's United Conservative Party) has been actively undermining."
We have witnessed a series of moves by Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party to strip resources from civil society organizations, remove or weaken rights to representation and collective bargaining, and repress opposition to government policies. National Observer file photo.

The Public Health Emergency Measures Act, introduced under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, gave cabinet ministers the authority to write laws and change penalties for violations without the approval of the legislature. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has characterized this move as “an end run around democracy” and is challenging its constitutionality. The minister of environment and parks has already used this law to suspend requirements for environmental monitoring and reporting.

The constitutionality of Bill 1, the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, passed in May, has also been questioned by legal experts, and is being challenged in court by the Alberta Union of Public Employees.

This act gives sweeping powers to the government to declare any space (public or private) off-limits to the public and imposes heavy penalties that are intended to deter any protests that the government deems to interfere with “critical infrastructure.” Government spokespersons acknowledged that this legislation was motivated by the blockades, occupations, and other actions carried out in February 2020 in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en resistance to the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline. Bill 1 mimics similar acts that have been passed in the United States.

The UCP has already attempted to intimidate Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists connected to the global climate justice movement by labelling them “anti-Albertan,” associating them with shadowy foreign interests, establishing a secretive inquiry to dig into their funding sources and question their charitable tax status, and has funded an “energy war room” (not subject to Freedom of Information requests) to back the public relations and lobbying efforts of the oil and gas industry.

And then there is the Constitutional Referendum Amendment Act, introduced in June 2020, which allows third parties to spend up to half a million dollars to promote a position in a referendum. The referenda are not triggered by civil society mobilization, as in other contexts, but can be called only by the premier (including during an election), on a question chosen and framed by the government, for political reasons.

Bill 29, the Local Authorities Election Amendment Act, also introduced in June, will give an advantage to candidates in municipal elections who have support from well-heeled donors.

The act removes the requirement for candidates to disclose their donors prior to election day, removes limits on spending by third-party advertisers outside the local election campaign period (from May 1 to election day in October), and allows individuals to donate up to $5,000 to as many candidates as they want during an election.

All of this is exacerbated by the UCP’s introduction, on July 8, of Bill 32, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act. The act cannot be characterized as anything other than a full-on attack on Alberta’s workers and their unions. The bill sets limits on how unions collect dues from their members and on what they can do with dues. It requires explicit consent from each individual member before the union can allocate any portion of their dues to political, social or charitable causes.

Of course, the UCP government has given itself the exclusive right to determine, through regulation, what constitutes “political, social or charitable” causes. It will likely put almost any public interest endeavour into this category.

The obvious impact of these limits, when combined with the legislation detailed above, will be to allow only the discourse and opinions that the UCP agrees with to be funded in the public realm. Groups advocating for labour rights, fiscal reform, public services, health care and education, as well as research institutes looking at progressive policy alternatives, all stand to lose their key source of funds.

We have not even touched on other bills, or on the anti-democratic effects of the UCP government’s budgets, which also serve to undermine the capacity and autonomy of civil society organizations and worsen social inequality. The measures needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have made it additionally difficult for citizens to demonstrate collective responses to the UCP’s anti-democratic agenda.

But in the time remaining before the next election, we must find ways to reclaim and rebuild the conditions for democratic politics that the UCP has been actively undermining.

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Wow! It looks like democracy is just too messy for Alberta. Jason Kenney shows himself to be the Koch brother's errand boy in Alberta. Maybe Kenney and Harper really don't believe in global warming because that is a far greater threat than a few protesters.

Yep, little feller's just doing as he is told.

One must not forget that Kenney in Canada's most conservative Conservative! Google principles of Neoliberalism, or fascism and you can see where we are going. Protecting the elite and financial supporters of the UCP is paramount. Gaslighting Albertans on a daily basis, predominant .
The article just touches on some of the changes and to anyone who cares, is fairly scarey. Calling him Hyper Harper would be in order as Harper had no use for democracy or our House of Commons.

Poor Albertans! Now under the Koch/Trumpian thumb of their very own Dumpty!
How many are now regretting their vote?

Not as many are regretting their vote as should be. Albertans have used their oil advantages for too many years, to 'not pay much attention to politics' after the election puts their side in office. Bad management and authoritarian legislation didn't bother well heeled Albertans when the sweet light crude was too many think arch conservatives can magically bring the good days back.

It isn't going to be possible.........can't get water, or oil, from a stone. But before the entitled wake up, a great deal of damage is likely going to be done to our province, and the regular men and women who's labour keeps it running.

We can perhaps look to the south of us to see the consequences of rule by oligarchy, but will we bother to make the connections?

On the key issues of climate and energy, it must be said that the UCP are only continuing the neoliberal, anti-science policies embraced by Notley's NDP.
If the NDP were miraculously returned to power, under Rachel Notley, policies propping up AB's floundering oil & gas industry would continue, if not expand.
NDP leader Notley supported Kenney's "investment" in Keystone XL. And as AB Premier threw billions of dollars at fossil fuel companies.

Under a Notley govt, under-reported fossil fuel emissions would continue to climb year after year.
Notley's climate plan sabotaged Canada's climate targets.
Notley steamrolled over the concerns of B.C. First Nations opposed to her pipelines.
Ignored the health concerns of AB First Nations in the oilsands region.
Pandered to the oil industry and oilsands boosters -- who would never vote NDP even if she built a billion pipelines.
Set Albertans up for even more catastrophic economic crashes and job losses in the future.
Lied to Albertans about fraudulent oilsands emissions caps and climate change plans that don't reduce emissions.
Flouted IPCC warnings.
Endorsed Vivian Krause's conspiracy theories.
Bet the house on climate action failure.
Sold her grandchildren down the river.

The more Notley fought for pipelines, the more she fanned the flames of anger among Albertans. A pipeline project became the rallying flag for Albertans, whose sense of grievance against Ottawa burns eternal. Fuelling the right-wing rage machine.

The pre-2015 AB NDP was a force for good in opposition. The only voice of sanity on climate and energy. Notley eliminated that option.
Now we have zero oil industry critics in the AB Legislature. Banished to opposition benches, the shrivelled NDP caucus can say nothing about oilsands expansion, oil & gas pollution, and climate inaction — because they shilled for Big Oil in office. Notley threw billions of dollars at the oil industry, beat the drum for new pipelines, failed to increase royalties, failed to investigate health concerns in the oilsands, and failed to fix Alberta's Energy Regulator. Whose CEO 'grossly mismanaged public funds'.
Once Notley endorsed Vivian Krause wacky theories, it was no longer right-wing and no longer conspiracy theory. Notley took it mainstream.

Notley's denialism and pipeline push, supported by a wide coalition of progressives, created the political space for Kenney to move AB further and faster towards climate disaster.
We no longer have a mainstream party that champions science.
Notley's failures enabled Kenney's successes.

If progressive Albertans want change, perhaps they should start with the party that purports to represent their interests. Notley's NDP.

Lost in the Wilderness: Progressive Voices from Alberta

"Oilpatch odours in northwestern Alberta still pungent, years after inquiry"
"[Donna Daum, a retired teacher] points out that members of the current NDP govt — including Premier Rachel Notley — were loud in their support when they were in opposition.
"'(Notley) talked about the precautionary principle, which obviously is no longer in their dictionary. I can't believe how these dictionaries get rewritten the moment there's some responsibility attached to things.'"

In opposition, the NDP voiced support for a comprehensive healthy study on cancers in Fort Chipewyan. In govt, the only sound was crickets.
"[Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation,] said his people continue to die from cancer at alarmingly high rates, a fact he blamed on oilsands developments. 'Whatever food I'm bringing in from the bush, it is getting our people sick.' The chief said he had hoped that after four decades of Conservative rule in Alberta, things would be different when the NDP government came to power in May 2015. But under the Rachel Notley government, he said, it's business as usual. 'I feel very, very ashamed to call myself an Albertan. I feel very, very ashamed to call myself a Canadian citizen.'" (January 2017)

"The talk around our table is that the NDP government is just another platform of the previous Conservative government with a different logo. Nothing has changed." (Chief Allan Adam)

Former AB Liberal leader Kevin Taft: "Through her whole career and her whole party, up until they became government, [Notley and the NDP] were very effective critics, counterbalances to the oil industry. As soon as she stepped into office, as soon as she and her party became government, they've simply became instruments of the oil industry."

Dr John O'Connor: "Pre-election, the NDP/Rachel Notley were vocally supportive of bringing accountability and responsibility to bear on the environmental and health impacts,especially downstream, of the tarsands. After the AB Cancer Board report on Fort Chipewyan, she was notably outspoken on the need to comply with the recommendation for a comprehensive health study of Fort Chip, which was never even started.
"Now—it’s buried and forgotten. Such hypocrisy."

Naomi Klein (06-Feb-18): "Alberta has a left-wing political party in power, one that has somehow convinced itself it can beat the right by being a better suck up to Big Oil."

Reakash Walters, federal NDP candidate in Edmonton Centre 2015: "As one of two people who nominated Rachel in 2015, I am truly disappointed in the direction the provincial party has taken and that they have chosen to prioritize oil extraction in the middle of a climate crisis."
"What was Rachel Notley suggesting when she said she’s not committed to voting for Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats?" (Alberta Politics, 2019)

Notley's NDP relentlessly attacked environmentalists and pipeline opponents:

Premier Notley on the UofA's decision to award David Suzuki an honorary degree: “Speaking personally as an alumni (sic), I’m not a big fan of this decision. It struck me as being a bit tone deaf.”
"If I'd been on the senate, I wouldn't have personally voted for it."

Notley responded likewise to Jane Fonda’s visit in 2017: “Super tone-deaf."
"Graham Thomson: Jane Fonda's outdated rhetoric fails to make dent in pipeline expansion"

Cheryl Oates, Communications Director for the Premier: "We have been clear that when it comes to Alberta’s oilsands, Tzeporah Berman is dead wrong."

Notley forbid her NDP sheep from posing for pictures with federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman: "I recall many times Jagmeet Singh has not been a friend to Albertans, to working people or to our nation when it comes to energy policy."

Premier Notley heaped scorn on federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh several times over Trans Mtn:
“To forget that and to throw [working people] under the bus as collateral damage in pursuit of some other high level policy objective is a recipe for failure and it’s also very elitist.”
"To do that and forget the needs of working people, or to throw working people under the bus, means that both economic growth and environmental protection are bound to fail."

Elitist? In subservience to Big Oil CEOs, Notley travelled the country, preaching salvation by pipeline to choirs of business elites. In May, Notley hosted a hundred businesspeople who flew into the AB Legislature from BC.

Notley's barely disguised insults towards environmentalists like Berman and Greenpeace's Mike Hudema didn't go unnoticed.
"How a Rachel Notley volunteer wound up on a bridge blockading an oil tanker"
Former NDP Environment Minister Shannon Phillips co-wrote the foreword for the 2004 book "An Action a Day Keeps Global Capitalism Away" by Mike Hudema, a campaigner for Greenpeace Alberta. Phillips has since minimized her role and renounced those views.

NDP leader Rachel Notley supported Kenney's "investment" in Keystone XL. And as AB Premier threw billions of dollars at fossil fuel companies.
Just a sample:

-In 2016 the AB govt agreed to provide $500 million in royalty tax credits to 2 large petrochemical projects in the Industrial Heartland region.
-In Feb 2018, the AB govt announced a $1-billion grant and loan program to build six partial oil upgraders. The Energy Diversification Act (March 2018) earmarked up to $1 billion in incentives to help leverage billions more in private investment to build partial upgraders.
The AB govt will provide up to $200 million in grants and up to $800 million in loan guarantees for partial upgrading.
-In March and November 2018, the AB govt invested a total of $2.1 billion (royalty credits, grants, and loan guarantees) in a petrochemical upgrading program to incentivize new energy development and "diversify" AB's oil and gas sectors.
-In April 2018, the AB govt announced more than $2.3 billion in subsidies to AB's oil & gas industry to cut methane emissions.
Including exempting industry from carbon levy costs for the next 5 years.
-In Nov 2018, the AB Govt exempted oil & gas drillers from the provincial carbon levy for clear fuel usage for on-site drilling. The rebates to drillers will total btwn $775,000 and $1.5 million a year.
-In 2018 AB shelled out $1.2 million for an advertising campaign for the TransMountain pipeline expansion project. Including a national robocall survey.
-In 2018, the AB Govt announced a long-term commitment to ship 50,000 bpd of crude on Keystone XL. Estimated cost $2.6 billion. Under the take-or-pay agreement, the AB Petroleum Marketing Commission (APMC) will pay c $130 million in annual pipeline tolls for 20 years.
-In Feb 2019, the AB govt signed contracts with Canadian National and Canadian Pacific to lease 4,400 rail cars at a cost of $3.7 billion over 3 years.
"Alberta announces deal with CN, CP to ship crude by rail" (CBC, Feb 19, 2019)
-The AB Govt will provide Calgary-based Nauticol Energy with $80 million in royalty tax credits for a $2-billion methanol manufacturing plant south of the city.
"Province invests $80M in royalty credits in methanol plant near Grande Prairie" (CBC, Feb 20, 2019)

-"The provincial government is spending $84,000 on print advertisements in the Montreal Gazette, Star Metro Montreal and Le Devoir, “extensive home page presences” on the papers’ websites and projecting advertisements onto the sides of nearly 20 central Montreal buildings."
"Alberta government to slather Montreal with oil revenue loss ads during premiers meeting" (Edmonton Journal, Dec 6, 2018)
-AB's NDP govt spent more than $23 million in 2018 on its pro-pipeline campaigns.
"Alberta Has Spent $23 Million Calling BC an Enemy of Canada" (The Tyee, 15 Jan 2019)

-Two new drilling incentive programs in 2016.
"NDP to move ahead with oil and gas incentive programs" (Calgary Herald, July 10, 2016)

-In 2016, the oilfield service lobby asked for half a billion federal dollars to clean up old wells. In the end, the AB Govt issued a $235-million loan to the Orphan Well Association, with interest covered by Ottawa. So far taxpayers are on the hook for at least $30 million.

-Alberta Innovates invested $2 million in seven projects to explore alternative, non-combustion uses for bitumen. (2018)

@Geoffrey Pounder. Superb inventory/ summary of the record in office of Rachel Notley. She is no genuine advocate/proponent for the integrity or viability of the environment, and likewise not for indigenous peoples, other than those (and of course they exist) in the indigenous communities and diaspora who favor expansion of 'opportunity' for O and G at the expense of the environment. There was no more active shill for the interests of Big Oil related to TransMountain pipeline,and hence doubling down on oil/tar sands extraction, than Rachel Notley.

You are, of course, right Geoffrey. I suggest that Notley is more accurately described as “Kenney Lite” given her shared strong, sibling-like support for Big Oil, but also her differences in social policy. In Alberta, the latter doesn’t matter half as much as slurping from the bitumen cup, which in the minds of magical thinkers should runneth over forever.

TMX is a bitter, bitter pill to be forced to swallow on the coast. The polls indicated that the support for this highly flawed and egregiously dangerous project (specifically to fresh water aquifers, marine ecosystems and the coastal economy) is split on the south coast where nearly 3 1/2 million people live. That effectively translates into the number of opposed people exceeding the entire population of Calgary. “National interest” being used to describe projects like TMX is a convenient sop to the oil industry donors to Alberta and federal government parties. Not that any of that matters to the Supreme Court when considering the merits of Indigenous appeals to the project approvals.

Added to this mess is our weak-kneed, naive, milquetoast and visionless prime minister. Buying TMX after signing the Paris Agreement? Jayzus, that is the ultimate in straddling a two-faced fence. But claiming the 13 billion dollar ultimate cost of this anemic pachyderm will generate oodles of revenue supposedly from Asian sales of a poor quality product at premium prices to fund windmills and solar farms? What has the drama class kid/teacher been smoking? How many decades of profit — if any — will be absorbed by the economic, environmental and international jurisdictional damages from a major TMX tanker spill on the coast?

Trudeau and Kenney should be forced into a Zoom conference call with the CEOs of every major carmaker in the world with one agenda item: the future effects on world oil demand by electric vehicles. Doug Ford should be in on that call too, as should the chief economist at the International Energy Agency who has a thing or two to say about oil demand and renewables.

The pre-pandemic Greater Toronto Area consistently generated the equivalent in GDP wealth as the entire province of Alberta in good oil years. Canada’s top six cities generate half the wealth of the country. Cities are the true economic engines of the nation, and that is where recovery funds should be directed first. To most Canadians who want action on climate change (um, that would be the majority, Justin) that means no less than electrifying the domestic economy, therein decreasing our dependency on fossil fuels in big, forward-facing steps.

Leadership is saying NO to economically suspect and environmentally damaging projects, and meaning it. It is also about using the fed’s really powerful credit discount to directly fund actual climate-fighting projects immediately as part of a post-pandemic recovery, and avoid holding more expensive funds in the infrastructure bank for months or years to the point the public loses sight of the bank’s original purpose, effectively defeated by what Jody Wilson Raybould calls “strategic inaction.”

The next federal election will be a judgment on Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic (an ‘A’, maybe an ‘A+’ so far, compared to many other nations), and on his post pandemic economic recovery initiatives. The latter will be the deciding factor for a million strategic voters. Will Justin be paying attention?

I'm amazed how aptly you represent the fallacies of being an activist with only one idea Geoff. But go ahead..........conflate everything into your one big crusade.

See if it helps.