EDMONTON – Leaning outside the window of his big blue truck, 2017 Jason Kenney denounced 2021 Jason Kenney for his decision to gamble $1.5 billion of taxpayers dollars on the failed Keystone XL Pipeline project. The pipeline, which had its permit cancelled by President Joe Biden this week is expected to cost Alberta taxpayers more than a billion dollars.
“A $1.5 billion dollar boondoggle, that what 2021 Jason Kenney signed us up for with his disastrous pipeline deal,” 2017 Kenney said. “This is one of the single largest expenditures by a government in the history of Alberta.”
“The rotten fruit of the Keystone XL deal, which the province harvested on Tuesday, was inevitable given the kind of sweetheart deal given to yet another private company with tax dollars,” 2017 Kenney said. “For too long, politicians like 2021 Jason Kenney have pretended they were businessmen, investing with other people’s money and they made an absolute failure of it.”
“With $1.5 billion, we could have built a mega-hospital or 50 new schools! $1.5 billion to do something the private sector was doing already, just to interfere in the market,” 2017 Kenney said.
“This reckless, out-of-control investment has sent billions of Albertans’ hard-earned tax-dollars into a fiscal train-wreck.”
“2021 Jason Kenney needs to get out of the business of business, out of the losing business of picking winners and losers,” 2017 Kenney said. “When 2021 Jason Kenney is risking your money instead of his own, you might as well send him to the casino. He has no incentive to get it right.”
“This costly boondoggle stuck Alberta taxpayers with a very expensive write-down,” Kenney said. “I call on 2021 Jason Kenney to release the terms of its secret $1.5 billion deal immediately. What does he have to hide?”
This marks the second time in the last year that the opposition NDP have out-fundraised the governing UCP, suggesting Albertans are voting with their pocketbooks and credit cards.
Here is what Alberta’s political parties raised during the fourth quarter of 2020:
Alberta Party $50,738.66
Wildrose Independence Party $45,863.49
Liberal Party $44,746.87
Green Party $17,847.00
Alberta Advantage Party – $4,055.00
Independence Party – $2,990.40
Communist Party – $100.00
This marks the first time since the UCP was created that the NDP have fundraised more money over the course of a year. According to the Elections Alberta disclosures, the NDP raised $5,061,979.02 in 2020 with the UCP narrowly behind at $5,046,322.52.
The Alberta Party, Wildrose Independence Party, Liberal Party and Green Party also saw increases in their quarterly fundraising, though they remain significantly behind the two major parties.
The maximum annual donation to political parties was increased to $4,243 from $4.000 as of January 1, 2020.
Probably the least surprising news to hit Alberta politics this month is today’s reports that incoming American President Joe Biden will revoke the Presidential Permit approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline on the first day of his presidency.
Biden promised months ago that he would cancel the permit, so it comes as no surprise. But it marks another huge blow to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who invested a huge sum of his own political capital and Albertans’ real financial capital into the project.
While Keystone XL has sucked up a large amount of oxygen in provincial politics over the past few years, completion of the Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline depended almost entirely on the re-election of Donald Trump in November 2020 – an outcome that was never a sure bet.
That was the bet that Kenney made when his United Conservative Party government invested $1.5 billion of public funds into the TC Energy Corporation pipeline project and promised $6 billion worth of loan guarantees. Because of the secrecy surrounding the details of the agreement it remains unclear how much of the loan guarantees have been implemented.
For the Kenney government, it is now all about political posturing, which usually means blaming the federal government in Ottawa and eco-socialists and green-leftists abroad, and trying to justify to Albertans the billions of public dollars were just lost in this foolhardy investment.
Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn has been removed from the United Conservative Party caucus, according to a statement released by Premier Jason Kenney. It is not clear whether Kenney unilaterally removed Rehn himself or whether it was the result of a vote by UCP MLAs.
Rehn was caught up in the recent hot holiday scandal after a year-end trip to Mexico, but the political problems facing the first term MLA were bigger than that.
The entire town council of Slave Lake, the largest municipality in his northern Alberta district, called on him to resign for being an absentee MLA and apparently being unwilling to live or spend time in the region since he was elected in 2019. The letter also alleged that he spent “more physical time managing his business in Texas” than being physically present in the constituency.
Recent reports suggest that while in Alberta he spent almost all his time in Edmonton rather than in the district he was elected to represent.
This is not the first time the local councils have raised concerns with the UCP government about Rehn’s lack of presence in the region but it appears that his becoming a political problem for Kenney was the final straw for the absent backbencher.
This marks the first time that Kenney, reluctantly it appears, has removed an MLA from the UCP caucus. After initially defending them in a strange press conference, Kenney bowed to public pressure and removed Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard as Municipal Affairs Minister and accepted the resignation of his Chief of Staff, Jamie Huckabay, for their overseas travel over the holidays.
Five other sun-seeking backbench UCP MLAs, including Rehn, who were discovered to have gone on hot holidays after the government spent months telling Albertans to avoid non-essential international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were removed from their committee roles.
Here is Kenney’s statement:
Rehn will now sit as an Independent MLA, the only Independent in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly. When the Assembly reconvenes in February, it will have 62 UCP MLAs, 24 NDP MLAs and 1 Independent.
Dr. Jared Wesley joins Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast to discuss Jason Kenney’s leadership of the United Conservative Party, Rachel Notley’s focus on health care during the pandemic, the Alberta Party and Wildrose Independence Party leadership races, and the equalization referendum and Senate nominee elections that will coincide with the October municipal elections.
The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.
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The first week of January is typically a sleepy time in Alberta politics, but 2021 is an incredible exception.
They found Tany Yao! And he’s staying in Mexico
MLA Tany Yao has re-emerged in Mexico and appears to be defying Premier Jason Kenney’s directive to MLAs to immediately return home after “disconnecting” following a stressful year of passing a one-page private members’ bill that easily passed through the Legislative Assembly on November 16, 2020.
The United Conservative Party MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo apparently turned his cell phone off after he arrived in Mexico on Dec. 26, avoiding news of the hot holiday scandal that started to envelope his government last Friday. He will return to Alberta on Jan. 9, according to media reports.
Kenney goes into hiding after firing cabinet minister
Kenney was nowhere to be seen the day after he announced on Facebook that he was asking for the resignations of Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and his Chief of Staff Jamie Huckabay and demoting the handful of UCP MLAs who ignored advice to stay home and jetted off to hot destinations over the Christmas break.
Instead, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and new Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver took point at the COVID-19 press conference yesterday, thanking Albertans for being angry at the government over the MLAs ignoring the recommendations to stay home and avoid non-essential international travel, claiming the government feels the same way.
Kenney’s last public appearance was on last Friday, when he took to the podium to defend Allard’s Hawaiian vacation and claim that he has been encouraging international, despite 9-months of telling Albertans to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19.
On top of the troubles in his sun-seeking Caucus, a recent Leger poll showed that 69 per cent of Albertans disapprove of how the Kenney government is handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Slave Lake Town Council calls for Pat Rehn to resign
The biggest political news of the day came from up north.
With his Mexican vacation cut short by public outrage, Pat Rehn will have returned home to face a letter signed by the entire Slave Lake Town Council calling for his resignation as the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake. But the letter isn’t about his hot holiday.
“We have lost faith that you have the ability and the desire to undertake the work which is required of an MLA. On behalf of the Town of Slave Lake and those we represent, we are asking for your resignation as MLA for the Lesser Slave Lake constituency,” the letter, signed by Mayor Tyler Warman and all the town Councillors said.
Warman used to be a supporter of Rehn’s and donated $500 to the Lesser Slave Lake UCP association in 2019, according to Elections Alberta records.
The letter accuses the first-term backbench MLA of consistently missing meetings with local officials, not living in the constituency and spending “more physical time managing his business in Texas” than being physically present in the constituency.
In all my years writing about Alberta politics, I cannot recall a municipal council being forced to take this sort of drastic action against a local MLA. The town council must have felt they had exhausted all other options in trying to work with Rehn, who was first elected in 2019 after unseating NDP cabinet minister Danielle Larivee in the UCP sweep of rural Alberta.
Rehn responded on Facebook with a statement that does more to spin the issue than address the concerns raised by Slave Lake town council.
His response does not deny missing meetings with local officials or refute the allegations that he spends more time in Texas than in his constituency by saying he “doesn’t own property in Texas.”
But perhaps the most tone deaf part of Rehn’s response is when he accused Slave Lake Town Council of trying to “sow political division.”
Rehn, who just returned from a hot holiday in Mexico after his government asked every Albertan to cancel their own Christmas gatherings and holiday trips, has no moral authority to accuse anybody in Alberta of “sowing disunity.” He has done that himself.
It has come to the attention of this Author that a number of influential government officials and Members of the Legislative Assembly have brought scandal to the highest seat in the land.
Sir Jamie Huckabay, the loyal right hand of Lord Jason Thomas Kenney, the Premier of Alberta, left the province and sailed to Great Britain in contravention of government rules requesting the good people of Alberta to remain at home.
If he had only kept his seat firmly planted in Alberta his scandal could have been avoided!
But alas, Sir Jamie was not alone.
Whilst most of polite society cancelled their festive gatherings in light of the latest pandemic, a handful of government ministers and deputies absconded to the tropics!
Accompanied by a large host of valets carrying numerous valises, the deputies appeared eager to enjoy a reprieve from the frigid weather and dry atmosphere of the prairies in December.
And with the waterways yet to be frozen over, off they sailed!
Until today, Lady Tracy Allard of La Grande Prairie was the newest Minister of the Crown, debuting in great fashion last August. She was widely seen as an up and coming star in an overcast sky, but her decision to flee Alberta for the Hawaiian Islands has led to a quick end to her political career. She was summarily sacked amid large fanfare.
Lord Kenney and his associates are said to have been barraged with the sort of commentary from the public that cannot be printed in an honourable publication such as this.
It is said that even Lady Danbury, forced by circumstance to cancel her annual Solstice Ball, had penned a strongly worded letter to Lord Kenney’s principal secretary.
Lady Allard is back in town, along with Misters Jeremy Nixon, Pat Rehn, and Jason Stephan, and Lady Tanya Fir. Marquess Tany Yao remains unaccounted for.
The Marquess absconded from his seat at Fort McMurray-on-the-Clearwater and appears to be incommunicado with the outside world from his retreat on the Mexican coast, much to the chagrin of Lord Kenney in Edmonton.
But despite the cold’s tendency to turn one’s nose a rather unattractive shade of red, Lord Kenney’s colour was likened to a sheet of white as he defended the now former-Minister Allard on Friday last.
This Author cannot help but wonder whether Lord Kenney’s decision to sack the whole lot was too little and too late, or whether it will appease the masses clamoring for a sacrifice.
One can only wonder if this incident will compel Lord Kenney, who has suffered from a bout of unpopularity locally, to finally leave the provincial town and return to the comfort of the capital in Ottawa.
Or perhaps, he is content with the situation at hand? Not every politician desires popularity, after all.
To any readers who do not understand the references in this post, please watch Bridgerton on Netflix. Viewer discretion is advised.
In the midst of its biggest scandal since the United Conservative Party formed government in April 2019, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao is still vacationing in Mexico, but, according to reports, no one can get ahold of him.
Reports online say that neither the Premier Jason Kenney’s office nor the UCP caucus have been able to contact the MIA MLA. Maybe Yao turned off his cell phone to avoid any distractions and enjoy a hot holiday on the beach while the rest of us are stuck at home?
Yao is the sixth UCP MLA we know of who ignored his government’s recommendations to cancel all non-essential international travel and stay home to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Yao was first elected in 2015 as a Wildrose MLA and was re-elected under the UCP banner in 2019. He was one of three MLAs appointed to the UCP government’s “Fair Deal Panel” on Alberta autonomy in 2019.
The other UCP MLAs who ignored the COVID-19 recommendations include Minister of Municipal Affairs and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, Calgary-Klein MLA and parliamentary secretary Jeremy Nixon, Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, and Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan.
Even Kenney’s own Chief of Staff, Jamie Huckabay, ignored the recommendations and recently travelled to the United Kingdom with his family.
Closer to home, it was also revealed yesterday that Energy Minister Sonya Savage recently made a trip to British Columbia to check on some recent maintenance work in her vacation home in that province.
At a press conference last Friday, Kenney said he would not remove Allard from cabinet because she technically did not break any rules by flying to Hawaii for a Christmas vacation with her family.
Former Energy minister calls on Kenney to sack sun-seeking MLAs and staffers
Adding to the growing chorus of voices calling for consequences for MLAs and political staffers flouting the public health recommendations is former Energy Minister Mel Knight. The former Grande Prairie MLA took to Facebook to call on Kenney to sack all the UCP MLAs and staffers who ignored the government’s COVID-19 advisories and went on hot holidays last month. Knight wrote that Kenney would no longer have his support if he failed to act.
Knight served as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky from 2001 to 2012 and as Minister of Energy from 2006 to 2010.
Another former PC cabinet minister, Greg Stevens, told the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid that “I cannot believe how stupid and unbelievably ignorant he (Kenney) has shown himself to truly be, when the issues demand strong and principled decisions.”
You could almost feel the collective anger of Albertans building as news trickled out yesterday that more and more United Conservative Party MLAs had ignored their own government’s COVID-19 recommendations to stay home and cancel any non-essential international travel over the Christmas break.
Despite receiving the same recommendations against non-essential international holidays that every other Albertan has been told by the government since March 2020, at least five UCP MLAs, including one cabinet minister, decided the recommendations put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 did not apply to them and instead jetted off to hotter locales.
As of today, we know the following UCP cabinet ministers, MLAs and senior political staffers have travelled internationally in recent weeks, or are just now returning home from abroad:
Tracy Allard, MLA for Grande Prairie and Minister of Municipal Affairs, was in Hawaii.
Jeremy Nixon, MLA for Calgary-Klein and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Community and Social Supports, is returning from Hawaii.
Pat Rehn, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, is returning from Mexico.
Tanya Fir, MLA for Calgary-Peigan and Treasury Board member, has returned from Las Vegas.
Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South and Treasury Board member, is returning from Arizona.
Jamie Huckabay, Chief of Staff to Premier Jason Kenney, has returned from the United Kingdom.
Michael Forian, Press Secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and 2019 Conservative Party candidate, was in Hawaii.
Eliza Snider, Press Secretary to Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, was in Hawaii.
Premier Jason Kenney has publicly shrugged off the hot holidays, claiming international travel was good for the economy despite his own government’s pandemic recommendations that Albertans don’t do it.
He has refused to fire or publicly discipline the MLAs for ignoring the public health recommendations that millions of Albertans abided by when they cancelled their own winter vacations and Christmas family gatherings.
Kenney says he was unaware of the trips, but it seems unlikely that a politician known for being a intense micromanager and workaholic would not have some inkling that this was happening.
The Premier’s weak response to the jet-set MLAs could suggest a few things: 1) he’s fine with them ignoring the recommendations, 2) there are more MLAs or staffers who travelled overseas on non-essential trips, or 3) support for his leadership in UCP Caucus and Party is tenuous and he cannot afford to discipline so many backbenchers at once.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford fired Finance Minister Rod Philips for attempting to cover up his Christmas vacation to a Caribbean island.
In Alberta, the lack of consequences for making such poor and tone-deaf decisions has stripped back Kenney’s populist-veneer and exposed an arrogant and elitist culture of exceptionalism within the leadership of the UCP.
For her part, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley says all of her party’s 24 MLAs remained in Alberta during the Christmas break.
Perhaps the only good news for Kenney is that the MLA hot holiday scandal, or Alohagate and Hawaiigate as some are calling it, is a distraction from the provincial government’s disappointingly slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While waiting in the departures lounges of various international airports, some of the UCP MLAs published likely pre-written statements on their social media accounts saying they will now comply with the recommendations and return to Alberta. How thoughftul of them.
With the handful of UCP MLAs now on their way home, there are signs of a growing rift in the party, as two UCP MLAs are now publicly speaking out against the vacationing colleagues.
Since the most recent COVID-19 measures were announced, a number of my constituents requested guidance related to their own potential holiday travels. I have always encouraged my constituents to follow the public health measures including the following:
“An official global travel advisory remains in effect. Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.”
“The Canada/U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel.”
Michaela Glasgo, the UCP MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat, was much more direct, describing the trips as “a major lack of judgment.”
“The directive that we were given was the same as every Albertan, which was to remain responsible, and ultimately I think this was a major lack of judgment shown by some of my colleagues,” Glasgo told CHAT NEWS.
Former right-wing talk radio icon Dave Rutherford took to his Facebook page to unload on Kenney.
“Dammit, I’m pissed off that my premier, the guy in whom we had placed such high hopes for principled leadership, has ignored all of the sacrifices that we have all made to fight this virus because ‘we are all in this together,” wrote Rutherford. “Obviously not.”
Ralph Leriger, Mayor of Westlock, also had some strong words in response to the vacationing MLAs and called on Premier Kenney to resign.
Postmedia’s two main political columnists in Alberta’s daily newspapers blasted Premier Jason Kenney for his weak response to UCP MLAs who ignored government recommendations to stay home and cancel all non-essential international travel to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
At least four UCP MLAs, including Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard, parliamentary secretary Jeremy Nixon, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn and Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir, hopped on planes and jetted off to hot holiday destinations this December. Kenney’s chief of staff, Jamie Huckabay, also travelled to the United Kingdom to visit family.
While most of us were painfully isolating ourselves from family and friends, trying to decide if we should even risk the grocery store, these people were heading to Hawaii, Mexico the U.K. and the U.S.
By Saturday morning there were seven confirmed UCP politicians and officials who jumped ship for holiday, the latest being MLAs Tanya Fir and Jeremy Nixon.
Maybe Kenney can’t fire any because there are so many. This is a genuine scandal that shows no sign of fading away.
It’s been a great week on the sunny Big Island! The weather in Hawaii is fantastic and we are really enjoying continuing our family tradition this year. The pandemic has been a real drag back in Alberta, so it felt like a great time to hop on a plane and escape to a tropical paradise! Wake boarding is a real thrill!
I’m looking forward to being back soon and attending to my duties as the minister responsible for Alberta’s emergency management agency. I hope the vaccine distribution is going well and everyone is exercising personal responsibility back home!
We wish you could all be here with us! See you soon. ❤️
🌴 Merry Christmas (or Mele Kalikimaka as the locals say!)
UCP MLA for Grande Prairie
Minister of Municipal Affairs
With 2020 on its way out here is quick look at what might await Alberta’s political parties in 2021:
United Conservative Party: The UCP will continue pushing through a legislative agenda and ideological project that includes mass privatization of public services and public land, and big job losses for public sector workers.
The UCP’s inability to pivot off its agenda has been demonstrated clearly during the COVID-19 pandemic as Health Minister Tyler Shandro continued his fight against Alberta doctors, planned layoffs of thousands of nurses and health care workers, and schemed to privatize large swaths of the public health care system.
Kenney’s inconsistent approach to the pandemic has likely alienated him from both Albertans who would like to see more serious public health measures taken and those who think being required to wear a face-mask in public spaces is too far.
A federal election in 2021 might distract Albertans from the UCP’s mismanaging of the COVID-19 pandemic, so expect the UCP to ramp up attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals. Increasing attacks of the federal government and next year’s promised referendum on equalization and Senate nominee election could also serve as a distraction from poor economic growth and the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline permit by incoming United States President Joe Biden.
Kenney’s approval ratings took a big hit in 2020 and the UCP has dropped considerably in the polls since 2019. If their leader looks like he has become a liability for re-election in 2023 then expect a change at the top. Conservative parties in Alberta are ruthless with leaders who stop looking like winners, just ask Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford.
The good news for Kenney is that he is only two years into his government’s four year term in office which leaves him with some time to turn around his political fortunes. But the clock is ticking and the tire-kickers could soon be kicking.
Alberta NDP: It is not often that political leaders in Canada are given a second chance, but despite losing the 2019 election Rachel Notley remains in firm control of her New Democratic Party.
Notley’s moderate NDP is leading or tied with the UCP is three of the four recent voter intention polls released during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and has maintained competitive fundraising levels, but the next election is still more than two years away.
The potential for strikes by public sector workers in 2021 could test the NDP’s political coalition. The NDP’s opponents will inevitably try to use any major labour disputes as a wedge between the party’s union activist wing and its more moderate and centrist supporters.
The key to an NDP victory in 2023 will be a breakthrough in Calgary, smaller urban centres like Lethbridge and Red Deer, and a small handful of suburban and rural ridings scattered across Alberta. The NDP swept those regions in 2015 and Notley has already signalled through her constant visits and social media posts that her focus in 2021 will be Calgary, Calgary, and more Calgary.
Alberta Party: Finding a new permanent leader should be the top focus of this tiny moderate conservative party. The Alberta Party has become home to a small group of disenchanted former Progressive Conservatives unhappy the combative tone and social conservative politics of the UCP. The party lost all its seats in 2019 but continues to poll around 10 per cent support in most surveys. In a two-party political environment, the Alberta Party needs to give Albertans a reason to vote for it that is beyond just not being the UCP or NDP.
Alberta Liberal Party: The Liberals not only need to find a new leader, they need to find a reason to exist. After forming Official Opposition for 19 years, the Liberal vote collapsed in 2012, saw almost all of its supporters migrate to Notley’s NDP in 2015 and lost its only seat in the Assembly in 2019. With the NDP now comfortably occupying the space held by the Liberals in the 1990s and 2000s, the Liberals need a raison d’être in Alberta.
Green Party: Yes, Alberta has a Green Party. The Greens have been issuing a steady stream of press statements that plant the party firmly to the left of the moderate NDP on climate change, the environment and pipelines. It seems unlikely that the party will make any electoral breakthroughs in the near future, but they could put pressure on the NDP to remember that it still has a progressive wing.
Wildrose Independence Party: Also looking for a new leader in 2021, the child of a merger between the Freedom Conservative Party and the Wexit group in 2020 is now led by former Wildrose MLA Paul Hinman.
While separatist sentiment appears to be waining the further time passes from the last federal election, Hinman has clamped on to the anti-mask and anti-COVID restrictions groups as his focus, appearing at demonstrations in the two cities.
A number of UCP MLAs have expressed similar views, leading some political watchers to believe that one UCP MLA in particular – Drew Barnes – could be auditioning for Hinman’s job if his public comments become too much for the UCP.
The other fringe separatist parties: The Alberta Advantage Party and Independence Party of Alberta are also looking for new leaders. Advantage Party leader Marilyn Burns, a former Wildrose supporter, resigned in the fall amid a leadership challenge and has announced plans to run for the position again. Former Wildrose constituency president Lenard Biscope is now interim leader.
The devil will be in the details but it appears as though the Alberta government may have backed down from its plans to delist or close 175 of Alberta’s provincial parks.
Albertans from all corners of the province have rightfully feared that delisting parks and re-classifying them as crown land would remove environmental protections from the land and almost certainly lead to it being sold away to the highest bidder.
I will approach this announcement with caution and skepticism and will wait for more information, but it is very clear that growing public pressure forced the United Conservative Party to make this announcement.
Alberta conservation and environmental groups mounted an aggressive public advocacy campaign called Defend Alberta Parks in support of provincial parks after Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon unilaterally announced the changes without any public consultation earlier this year.
The campaign was arrogantly dismissed by Premier Jason Kenney who casually accused it of being run by “foreign special interest groups” and “green left organizations.” But if you take a drive through almost any neighbourhood in Alberta you are bound to spot green and white Defend Alberta Parks lawn signs.
Here is the press release from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association in response to the announcement:
“The good news Albertans needed”: Provincial government announces 175 Alberta parks sites will no longer be delisted or closed
December 22, 2020
CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta Chapters are happy to see the Government of Alberta’s announcement that all parks included in the February “Optimizing Alberta Parks” plan, which stated that 175 parks sites would be delisted or closed, will now retain their current designations and associated protections.
“This is the good news Albertans needed as we say goodbye to 2020,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director with CPAWS Southern Alberta. “After months and months of fighting to keep these parks from losing their protection, we can celebrate the recent announcement from the Government of Alberta.”
The announcement states that “All sites will maintain their parks designations, regardless of whether they have confirmed an operational partnership. All sites will remain protected in law, and are accessible to Albertans for recreation and enjoyment.”
While the release states that there are now 170 parks partnerships, this list includes all the previous Facility Operating Agreements and partnerships, and thus it is unclear exactly how many new partnerships have been found.
“We look forward to transparent operating agreements between all partners and Alberta Environment and Parks to ensure that high standards of conservation and responsible recreation are upheld within all of these sites,” adds Chris Smith, Parks Coordinator with CPAWS Northern Alberta.
While the plan announced in February will not go forward, there is still risk that these areas could lose protection as legislative changes to Alberta’s parks system are expected under the province’s new Crown Land Vision. Our teams will be working to ensure that all of these areas and the entire provincial parks system maintain equivalent or stronger protections under any proposed changes to park legislation.
We encourage all Albertans who believe in the importance of a strong parks and protected area system to take this opportunity to share their opinion through the Government of Alberta’s public engagement on the Crown Land Vision. We encourage everyone to keep their Defend Alberta Parks lawn signs up and keep the pressure on to ensure that any changes only strengthen and improve the protection of Alberta’s parks.
But today, the more than 21,000 Albertans who wrote a letter to their MLA in opposition to the plan to delist and close parks have a reason to celebrate and should be proud that they stood up for their parks.
CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta Chapters, along with the Alberta Environment Network, thank the Alberta government for listening to Albertans and providing some much-needed clarity on provincial parks planning that has been called for over the last year. Our teams look forward to hearing further details on parks partnerships and the protections planned for these sites under the Crown Land Vision.
The Alberta Party hasn’t been making many headlines lately, but there will soon be a significant staff change in the ranks of the small moderate conservative party. The party announced today that former Progressive Conservative executive director Troy Wason is taking over as interim executive director of the Alberta Party, replacing outgoing interim executive director Mark Taylor.
A well-respected long-time PC Party activist, Wason took over as executive director of the PC Party following the long-time governing party’s defeat in the 2015 election and resigned on the dayJason Kenney became that party’s leader in 2017.
Wason’s joining the Alberta Party could provide some internal direction for the party, which lost all of 3 of its seats in the 2019 election. The party continues to struggle to define itself and remains without a bigger key player – a permanent leader.
The Alberta Party has been without a permanent leader since the resignation of former leader Stephen Mandel in June 2019. The role remained vacant until earlier this year when former Fort Sasktachewan-Vegreville PC MLA Jacquie Fenske was named as interim leader, solidifying the party’s image as a refuge for former PC supporters uncomfortable with the social conservative flavour of the United Conservative Party and unable to support the moderate New Democratic Party.
The party was expected to have held a leadership race in 2020 but, like most other things, it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid a month-long spike in new COVID-19 cases, the Alberta government introduced increased measures and restrictions on businesses that include closing casinos, bar and in-person dining in restaurants, and a province-wide mandatory face-mask requirement. The measures are necessary but come after weeks of feet-dragging by provincial leaders.
Weaker measures introduced two weeks ago proved ineffective but you will not hear Premier Jason Kenney admit it, and you will not hear him call the new measures a lockdown.
At times it has seemed as as though Kenney was more concerned with not doing anything that might alienate elements of his political base than he was in taking measures to actually stop or slow the spread of the virus. This concern about his voter base appears to also include an avoidance of the word “lockdown,” despite it being an appropriate description of what the government has implemented.
As of today, there are 20,388 active cases province-wide and have been 640 deaths caused by COVID-19.
Still no federal app
The measures announced by Kenney still did not include the activation of the federal CovidAlert app in Alberta. The federal app has become one of the latest targets of partisan attacks against Ottawa, with cabinet minister Jason Nixon referring to it as the “Trudeau Tracing App.”
Despite the adoption of the ABTraceTogether App early in the pandemic, it has proven ineffective and is reported to have only been effectively used 19 times since it was launched in the spring.
Unlike Alberta’s app, the federal app allows contact tracers to track the spread of COVID-19 across provincial boundaries.
Schweitzer shows a little humanity, some leadership potential
Along with Kenney and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the press conference announcing the increased measures featured Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer.
Compared to Kenney, who remains robotic, unemotional and prone to partisan outbursts, and Shandro, who appears to perpetually carry a giant chip on his shoulder, Schweitzer sounded like a real human being. While he does have a serious ‘dude bro’ vibe and his comments today were weighed down by business jargon, he was a much clearer and sympathetic communicator than his two colleagues.
Kenney may be in complete control of his party today, but history shows that Conservative parties in Alberta can be ruthless towards leaders who become liabilities at the ballot box. Just ask Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford.