Alberta Oil Sands Brian Beresh Ed Stelmach Fred Lindsay Greenpeace Mike Hudema

alberta and greenpeace: claims of political interference.

At a media conference on the steps of the Alberta Legislature this afternoon, lawyer Brian Beresh raised concerns that comments by Premier Ed Stelmach and Solicitor General Fred Lindsay could constitute political interference in Alberta’s judicial system. Beresh, who is representing Greenpeace activists recently arrested in Fort Saskatchewan and Fort McMurray, told reporters that he was stunned by Stelmach’s comments that protesters who trespass at oil and gas facilities should face harsher punishments and Lindsay’s musing about using the province’s counter-terrorism provisions against protesters.

Alberta and Greenpeace: Brian BereshAlberta and Greenpeace: Mike Hudema

With no evidence that the legal system is not working as it should be, it is being suggested by some legal experts that Stelmach’s comments may have hurt the prosecution’s case in court. In a media release, Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema was quoted stating that “most of us learned in Grade 5 that it is fundamental to our legal system that there must be a separation between the premier and the judicial process.” Beresh noted that the tone of the bail negotiations changed after Premier Stelmach’s public comments, implying that the release of the activists in Fort Saskatchewan was made more difficult because of the Premier.

Via twitter, my friend Chris Henderson put it best:

Special penalties for protesting is tantamount to suppressing free speech. Punish trespassing, not dissent.

Related Post:
Alberta and Greenpeace: It’s about site security, stupid!
Alberta and Greenpeace: Tourists home and abroad.

Alberta Oil Sands Alberta Security and Strategic Intelligence Support Team Ed Stelmach Fred Lindsay Greenpeace

alberta and greenpeace: it’s about site security, stupid!

Following recent actions by Greenpeace, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and Solicitor General Fred Lindsay have suggested that protesters who trespass at oil and gas facilities should face harsher punishments.

I have no doubt that the two politicians are eager to see justice dealt, but at this point in time there does not appear to be any evidence to suggest that our legal system is not working as it should be. The protesters have been arrested and are now facing charges of trespassing and mischief.

There are a number of obvious root causes of these incidents and none of them have to do with getting tough on crime. While attempting to focus international media attention on Alberta’s oilsands before the Copenhagen Conference, Greenpeace activists planning and executing actions like these know what they are doing is illegal and they don’t care. Instead of blaming the legal system, Stelmach and Lindsay should take real action by 1) articulating why their vision for oilsands development is the right one for Alberta, Canada and the world; and 2) improving public confidence in how our most valuable nature resources are being safeguarded.

What is the state of security in Alberta’s oilsands?

Just as a confidential report prepared by sector experts has highlighted serious concerns about security in the oilsands, Shell is now taking productive steps by publicly vowing to review facility security. While the conclusions have now been contradicted by the evidence presented through Greenpeace’s canoe-paddling incursion skillz, Solicitor General Lindsay described the provincial security plan as “one of the most comprehensive in the country” in the Legislative Assembly on February 19, 2009.

Mr. Richard Marz: My first question is to the Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security. What measures are in place to protect Alberta’s energy resources such as the oil sands?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Lindsay: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This government does have a plan in place to protect all critical infrastructure in our province. The Alberta counterterrorism crisis management plan emphasizes the use of intelligence from a range of sources to identify, mitigate, or prevent a security threat before it occurs, and the Alberta Security and Strategic Intelligence Support Team gathers, analyzes, distributes critical intelligent information to industry and law enforcement. Partnership and collaboration between government, industry, and law enforcement is the backbone of our counterterrorism plan.

Mr. Marz: My final question, Mr. Speaker, to the same minister. There have been several pipeline bombings in northwestern British Columbia in the past few months. What assurance can the minister provide that pipelines in Alberta will be protected from attacks such as the ones in B.C.?

Mr. Lindsay: Mr. Speaker, the Alberta government takes the security of our energy resources very seriously. There is no indication that Alberta Energy infrastructure is at risk, and our threat level remains low. However, we will continue to work with the oil and gas industry and law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of the industry. Our counterterrorism and crisis management plan is regarded as one of the most comprehensive in the country and is continually reviewed to make sure it meets the stringent requirements of both government and industry.

Related Post: Alberta and Greenpeace: Tourists home and abroad.

Alberta Oil Sands polls

canadians unsure about their oil sands reputation?

Just as the Government of Alberta launched a $25 million national and international rebranding campaign to counter critics of current oil sands development practices, the latest Nanos Poll suggests that many Canadians, including here in the West, still have mixed feelings about our oil sands reputation.

Here are the national results and regional breakdown:

Do you believe that oil sands development has a positive, neutral or negative impact on Canada’s reputation abroad?

Positive: 26%
Neutral: 25%
Negative: 35%
Unsure: 14%

Atlantic Canada
Positive: 40%
Neutral: 25%
Negative: 24%
Unsure: 11%

Positive: 14%
Neutral: 29%
Negative: 46%
Unsure: 12%

Positive: 30%
Neutral: 24%
Negative: 29%
Unsure: 17%

Western Canada
Positive: 29%
Neutral: 22%
Negative: 36%
Unsure: 13%

Alberta Oil Sands Alberta Social Credit Len Skowronski

social credit weighs in on oil sands debate.

For those who missed it (and I imagine most Albertans fit into this category), Social Credit Party leader Len Skowronski waded into the great Oil Sands debate in February by releasing a nine-point plan for Oil Sands development. Social Credit formed the Government of Alberta from 1935 to 1971.

Alberta Oil Sands Andrew Nikiforuk

downloading the tar sands (for free).

I posted this on Twitter yesterday, but just in case you missed it, Andrew Nikiforuk‘s book ‘Tar Sands: Dirty Oil & Future of a Continent‘ is available as a free pdf download until tomorrow (March 20, 2009).

ACTISEC Alberta Oil Sands Council of Alberta University Students Maria Minna Martha Hall Findlay Michael Ignatieff Monte Solberg

be careful where you dump your wastewater.

– What is it about the current government and concealing information until after elections? In 2004, it was access to flight logs, and in 2008, it appears that the governing PCs didn’t release information about charges that had been laid against Suncor in relation to the dumping of undertreated waste water into the Athabasca River. Meanwhile, on the topic of Oilsands, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have published a response to a recent National Geographic feature on Canada’s Oilsands.

– While the Council of Alberta University Students met with over 50 MLAs at the Alberta Legislature this week to advocate on Post-Secondary Education issues, the Alberta College & Technical Institute Student Executive Council practiced a much less effective method of advocacy.

– Former Cabinet Minister and Medicine Hat Conservative MP Monte Solberg is once again blogging. After writing a popular blog during his time in the opposition benches, Solberg stopped blogging when he became a Cabinet Minister in 2006. After serving 15 years in the House of Commons, Solberg did not seek re-election in the 2008 election. Solberg also writes a regular column for SunMedia (h/t @BreakenNews).

– Following Michael Ignatieff‘s visit to Alberta last month, two Liberal MPs will be visiting the province. Beaches-East York MP Maria Minna will be speaking at a Calgary Liberal fundraiser on March 20, and Willowdale MP Martha Hall Findlay will be speaking at an International Women’s Day Brunch in Edmonton on March 22.

Alberta Oil Sands Carl Benito Linda Duncan Progress Party

alberta’s oil sands make national geographic.

– The March 2009 edition of National Geographic has a feature on Alberta’s Oil Sands.

Jason Morris has shared his thoughts on why he has joined some of the political conversations that have been happening in Alberta. Jason has been involved in some of the same conversations I’ve previously written about.

Don Braid argues that the Lorne Gibson firing proves democracy cannot be trusted to politicians.

Trevor Scott Howell has written a piece on how the new executive of the Alberta Greens have been courting a name change to the Alberta Progress Party.

– For all you fans of the Rodeo motion, please give a warm welcome to Linda Duncan‘s National Hockey Day and Carl “Northern Roughstem Benito‘s ‘official Mushroom of Alberta‘ motions.

– From the Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama‘s climate czar Carol Browner said that the Environmental Protection Agency ‘will soon determine that carbon-dioxide emissions represent a danger to the public and propose new rules to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gas from a range of industries.’

2009 Throne Speech Alberta Oil Sands Barack Obama Les Brost Michael Ignatieff Preston Manning Stephen Harper Twitter

show me a throne speech that isn’t long on promises and short on details.

Alberta’s Throne Speech 2009. Long on promises, short on details, as Throne Speeches always are. Check out David Climenhaga‘s take.

Preston Manning is in today’s Globe & Mail calling for a sustainable energy security strategy for North America. has been launched to raise awareness of the environmentally damaging effects of the oil sands before President Barack Obama‘s 5 hour Ottawa visit with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on February 19.

Edmonton’s Twestival hit the front page of the Edmonton Journal this morning.

In a recent poll, new Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was viewed more positively than negatively in every province except Alberta across all age and gender groups.

– More evidence of the continued implosion of the CanWest media empire. I was sad to hear that the Calgary Herald will be letting go many of its freelance writers, including political writer Les Brost.

– There’s some interesting ongoing debate on the state of Liberal politics in Alberta in one of my previous posts.

Alberta Oil Sands Dave Taylor David Swann Doug Horner Ed Stelmach Iris Evans Kent Hehr Raj Sherman Ted Morton

winter 2008 pre-session primer.

With the Second Session of the 27th Alberta Legislature set to begin next week, here are a couple things that will be on my radar:

Throne Speech: Having attended five out of the past six Speeches from the Throne, I’m having a difficult time raising my expectations this year. No matter what is read, PC MLAs will roar, Opposition Liberals and NDP will oppose, but in the end, everyone will still love Norman Kwong.

Provincial Budget: Expected in March/April, this will be the first provincial deficit budget that Alberta has seen in over a decade. After sending out mixed signals, it looks like dipping into the Sustainability Fund will provide short-term protection to Premier Ed Stelmach and Finance Minister Iris Evans from being lynched by the rabid fiscal conservatives in the PC caucus. Are the days of the Deep Six long gone?

Health Care: Health Minister Ron Liepert will be in the spotlight over restructuring, layoffs, and the daily delisting and (un)delisting of services. Focus will be on Liepert, but I will be keeping an eye on his Parliamentary Deputy, Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman, says or doesn’t say on the issue of privatization during this session.

New Official Opposition Leader: Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann will lead the Official Opposition into his first Legislative Session as leader. Can he lead the rag-tag Liberal Caucus as a cohesive unit? Pay attention to what Calgary-Currie MLA Dave Taylor does in this session.

: Stelmach has invited President Barack Obama to visit Alberta’s Oil Sands, but this isn’t about oil, this is all about Climate Change. The PCs are clearly concerned that Obama’s Climate Change agenda could force the traditional oil industry to clean up its act. It’s a market, and if the consumers (the United States) change their standards, it’s up to the producer (the oil companies) to either adapt or perish. It’s not hard to see what direction the energy market is moving towards when large energy companies, such as BP, continue to move resources into renewable energy projects in the United States. Albertans have a unique opportunity to become leaders in innovation in new cleaner energy markets, but as long as our leaders continue to focus on the old economy, we risk being left behind.

Land-Use Framework: Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton has the job of navigating his proposed land-use framework through the minefield that is the Alberta Legislature, and more specifically, the PC caucus. This is a very important step for Alberta, so critical debate and public attention towards this issue will be important.

Respect: Swann wants to tone down the rhetoric and dramatics in the Legislative Assembly, but it will take more than nice wishes to change an entrenched political culture. Without a joint statement between Swann and Stelmach, it is likely that it won’t become anything more than a nice idea. Bets on how long it take for Stelmach to accuse Swann of being a communist?

Post-Secondary Learning Amendment Act
: Advanced Ed & Tech Minister Doug Horner will introduce amendments to the PSL Act that will pave the way for Mount Royal College and Grant MacEwan College to become Mount Royal University and Grant MacEwan University. Last week, representatives from the AUCC were spotted at Mount Royal assessing the transition.

Bill 201. Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr will be introducing Bill 201: Traffic Safety (Seizure of Vehicles Containing Illegally Held Firearms) Act.

Lobbyist Registry. After years of promising to create a Provincial Lobbyist Registry, is there a chance that we might actually see some concrete movement this spring? (fingers crossed…)

Alberta Oil Sands Robert Silver

an oil sands poker face?

Just how strong a hand are the Oil Sands for the Provincial and Federal Government to play with the new Obama Administration? Not very, according to Robert Silver.

Afghanistan Alberta Oil Sands Alison Redford Archie McLean Ed Stelmach Kent Hehr Lorne Gibson

alberta politics this week.

1) With inspiration from Barack Obama and Malcolm Gladwell, Jason Morris at has some thoughtful insights on Alberta’s political environment.

2) Oil Sands Smog. An Environment Canada study obtained under the Access to Information Act predicts that sulfur dioxide will rise by up to 34 per cent by 2017 and nitrous oxides will rise by up to 24 per cent. Are you ready for acid rain in Fort McMurray?

3) While Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson has called for increased transparency and accountability in party leadership races, Kent Hehr is asking Minister Alison Redford why Alberta Justice isn’t investigating 16 violations of election finances rules uncovered between 2006 and 2007 (including at least one violation committed by his party).

4) How are Alberta’s financial and economic prospects, Premier Ed Stelmach? Good, really bad, not as bad as I told you 24 hours ago, and rosy depending on which day of the week it is.

5) Good luck and safe travels to Journal reporter Archie McLean on his trip to Afghanistan. You can follow Archie’s Afghan tour at Assignment Afghanistan.

Alberta Oil Sands Michael Ignatieff

michael ignatieff on alberta’s tar sands.

(h/t Scott Ross)

Alberta Liberals Alberta Oil Sands Dave Taylor David Swann Mo Elsalhy

can david swann change politics in alberta?

Alberta Liberals may have selected a new leader this weekend, but they still face the same serious challenges as they did a week ago. New Official Opposition leader David Swann, and competitors Dave Taylor and Mo Elsalhy were only able to convince 6,000 Albertans to participate in the vote, which raises some serious questions about the viability of the Liberal organization in Alberta. As leader, Swann will need to engage the +250,000 Albertans who supported the Liberals in the last election, while trying to reverse his party’s downward slide in popular support over the past 15 years.

The latter is a challenge not uniquely faced by Swann and the party he now leads. As voter turnout continues to slide across the board, it is clear that there is a serious disconnect between the average Alberta citizen and the political organizations and politicians representing them in the Legislature. This poses a serious threat not only to all of our political parties, but also to the existence of democratic vibrancy, a humbling reality that is lost on many of our current elected representatives.

The serious question also needs to be asked whether the Liberals are politically, organizationally, and financially past the point of saving. I have serious questions about the future potential of that party, which was only able to draw around 120 delegates to its recent annual convention. As I’ve written before, as none of our political parties have been able to successfully engage Albertans, it may be time to look outside the traditional party establishment (others have thoughts on this as well).

Though partisan opponents have already begun to label Swann as an ‘out of touch academic,’ I have a hard-time believing that most Albertans would categorize a family doctor as an academic. This type of behavior dilutes the political dialogue, and is the exact type of lowest-common denominator partisanship that keeps citizens away from political involvement in droves.

In the end, Swann may prove not to be the great leader who leads the Liberals to victory in Alberta, but he is certainly cut from a different cloth than the two other party leaders in the Alberta Legislature. He is not a career politician (both Ed Stelmach and Brian Mason have been politicians for over 20 years) and is not any more charismatic than either of his counterparts in the Legislature, but agree or disagree with his politics, Swann is a devout Christian, social justice advocate, and environmentalist who personally practices what he preaches when it comes to what he believes in, and you can’t fault him for being genuine (he has also been one of the few MLAs to seriously engage First Nations communities on water safety and oil sands issues in northern Alberta).

As a politically engaged and frustrated Albertan who is looking to become involved in 1) an organization that is serious about engaging and challenging Albertans to be better citizens, and 2) a viable and competitive alternative to the current governing party, I have serious doubts that the Liberal Party fits these descriptions, but seeing engaged citizens like David Swann get involved in elected politics gives me a little bit more hope for democracy in general.

Alberta Oil Sands Public Affairs Bureau

Alberta’s Public Affairs Bureau and the Office of the Premier have launched a new websiteFor the Record.” The website is meant to correct “mistakes” made by media outlets when reporting about Alberta.

Will this be another exercise in spin that portrays the government as a victim against the the big, bad media, or will it be an honest attempt at correcting information? Discuss.

(h/t ALC Blog)

UPDATE: It looks like this site is off to a great start. As reported by Jeremy Klaszus in Calgary-based FFWD Weekly:

So far, both entries are about the oilsands. The second entry addresses a recent report about the oilsands’ deadly effect on migratory birds, referring to a story about the report in the “Toronto Globe and Mail.” The entry links to a government PDF that assures readers that oilsands operations have “strict environmental requirements, including bird protection, and are required to collect dead birds and report the numbers.”

However, there is no paper called the Toronto Globe and Mail; the publication is a Toronto-based national newspaper called The Globe and Mail.

Despite its insistence on accuracy, the government isn’t admitting its mistake. “It’s the Toronto Globe and Mail — don’t kid yourself,” says Tom Olsen, spokesperson for Premier Ed Stelmach. “We don’t see that as an error. We see The Globe and Mail as the Toronto Globe and Mail.”

Olsen, a former columnist for the Calgary Herald, says the site was created “to get the best factual information to Albertans as possible.”

Alberta Oil Sands Linda Duncan Rob Renner Michael Ignatieff Stephane Dion

while ‘crisis’ envelops ottawa, canadians have landed in poznan.

As the ongoing political drama in Ottawa continues to unfold with Stéphane Dion‘s second (and near third) resignation, and Michael Ignatieff’s coup d’parti of the Liberal Party of Canada over Dominic LeBlanc and Bob Rae, there isn’t much media attention being paid to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP14) being held in Poznan, Poland.

Representing the Government of Alberta is a delegation led by Environment Minister Rob Renner, who is expected to be joined by Calgary MP and Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice later this week. Also from Alberta, as part of the 26-member Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD), are Pembina Institute Policy Advisor Alex Doukas of Calgary and Christel Hyshka of Edmonton. You can follow CYD updates from Poznan over twitter at @CYDPoznan.

(UPDATE: Edmonton-Strathcona MP and NDP Environment critic Linda Duncan is also part of the Canadian delegation at the Poznan Conference)

Rumour had it that Premier Ed Stelmach might be attending, as it appeared the Government of Alberta had sent a point person to the City of Poznan a full two weeks ahead of the conference to “arrange things for the delegation” (which seems like a lot of effort for Renner).

The debate over CO2 storage and Carbon Capture (CCS) is being reported as a hot topic at the conference. Though the debate surrounds its use in Coal plants and transportation, I wonder if Minister Renner is feeling any heat over the recently released government report concluding that CCS would not be effective in Alberta’s oil sands. Research in CCS technology has focused on coal and transportation emission, contradicting speeches made by Stelmach during his trips across Canada, the United States, and Europe that the $2 billion tax-payer investment in CCS would green the oil sands.

Alberta’s oil sands continue to be the fastest-growing source of CO2 in Canada and are set to increase from 5% to 16% of total emissions by 2020 under current expansion plans.

Closer to home, the Oil Sands Tailings Conference 2008 is being held from October 7-10 in Edmonton. For those of you who forgot about northern Alberta’s toxic lakes after 500 ducks took a swim earlier this year, the Pembina Institute projects that by 2020, the oil sands will ‘create enough tailings ponds to fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools—that’s a surface area five times that of Sylvan Lake.

Albertans should also take note of a meeting today between former United States Vice President Al Gore, President-elect Barack Obama, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden to discuss the new administration’s environmental agenda. With a new administration in Washington D.C. taking over in January 2009, Albertans should be prepared to embrace the kinds of change in our environmental policy and oil sands extraction practices that may need to happen to adapt to the market realities of new energy and environmental policies south of the border.