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Last weekend, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms president John Carpay told a crowd at a gathering of conservative activists in Calgary:“How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism? Again, you’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility towards individual freedoms.”
Carpay quickly apologized for the comments, but drawing the connection between the rainbow pride flag, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride and LGBTQ social movements, and the hammer and sickle and swastika flags, symbols of oppressive and totalitarian regimes, was a step too far.
Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote in the Calgary Herald that Carpay’s comments were “disgusting, demeaning and dangerous.”
This is notthe first bozo-eruption to dog the UCP leader, but it appears to be the first made by someone with strong political ties to Kenney. The UCP leader spoke at a JCCF event in 2017 where he is reported to have compared Carpay’s work to that of civil-rights activist Rosa Parks.
Carpay and Kenney are social conservative activists from Calgary and have been in the same political circles for decades. Carpay is known for staking out controversial positions popular among social conservatives, whether it be in opposition to abortion or gay rights or, more recently, to student-led anti-bullying clubs known as Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools.
As a delegate at the UCP’s policy conference earlier this year he spoke in support of a policy that would allow teachers to inform parents when students participate in GSAs, a policy that would out some students to their parents. “This is about parental rights. The only societies and governments that trample on parental rights are totalitarian ones,” Carpay was reported to have said at the May 2018 UCP policy meeting.
Kenney was quick to pounce on Strashok, declaring that he had ordered party officials to cancel his membership. But Kenney appears to be less eager to dish out a similar fate to Carpay.
The UCP leader’s soft-peddling in response to Carpay is puzzling to many UCP supporters, including some who attended today’s sold-out Edmonton Chamber of Commerce luncheon, where Kenney spoke to a packed ballroom. Speaking to attendees before and after Kenney’s speech, I have the impression that while the UCP’s economic message resonated with the crowd there was an unease and discomfort with Kenney’s social conservative baggage.
Attendees to today’s luncheon may not be alone in their unease. A recent survey released by Abacus Data shows Kenney’s approval ratings are far below support for the party he leads, suggesting that many Albertans like the idea of a UCP government much more than they like the idea of Premier Jason Kenney.
Kenney’s slow response to the most recent bozo-eruption is likely because social conservative activists, like those who support anti-abortion groups Right Now and the Wilberforce Project, anti-GSA Parents for Choice in Education, and Carpay’s JCCF, are key players in the political coalition that Kenney has built during his almost three decades in politics.
Kenney has never hesitated to take hard-line stances against opponents like Premier Rachel Notley, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, environmentalists Tzeporah Berman and David Suzuki, and even actor Jane Fonda. It is now time for Kenney to prove to Albertans that he can also take an equally hard-line against the social conservative forces that are embarrassing his own party.
The group of 18 includes representatives from municipal governments, First Nations, Metis communities, the energy industry, and environmental groups who will “advise government on the oil sands aspects of the Climate Leadership Plan and ensure that its initiatives are effective and widely supported.”
Almost immediately after the advisory group was announced, the Wildrose Party attacked Ms. Berman’s appointment, claiming she was a radical by citing her comments that the Oil Sands reminded her of “Mordor” from the fictional Lord of the Rings books. A vocal critic of the oil industry in the past, Ms. Berman posted a response on her Facebook page yesterday afternoon, saying she regretted the comments.
Ms. Berman wrote: “Though I have been a vocal critic of “business as usual” in the oil sands, I recognize that change doesn’t happen over night. It is a tremendous step forward that the Alberta government has decided to extend our earlier industry-environment work and enlist the help of more industry participants and the wisdom of non-Indigenous and Indigenous community leaders. I am committed to working in good faith with the rest of the advisory group to develop advice that ensures a strong economy and a leadership position for Alberta on environmental issues.”
The NDP have put forward the most comprehensive plan to fight Climate Change that Alberta has ever seen, something that the Progressive Conservatives were unable to do in the final decade of their 44 years in government and the Wildrose Party has been unable to do in its four years as official opposition.
But with critics and climate change deniers ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, it is clear that the NDP government needs to do a better job clearly communicating why their much-lauded Climate Leadership Plan is important. Anticipating opposition criticisms and preparing to actively counter them is a critically important element for the success of the Climate Change plan.
The irony of the criticism in response to Ms. Berman’s appointment is that, only a few years ago, opposition NDP MLAs would have roasted the old PC government for appointing a former CEO of CAPP to co-chair an advisory group like this one. In fact, they did.
In 2013, the NDP called on the PCs to reverse their appointment of Gerry Protti as the chair of Alberta’s energy regulator. Mr. Protti is the founding President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and at that time was a registered lobbyist for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, an energy industry lobby group.
The then-NDP opposition Environment critic Rachel Notley said in a press release that “the Redford government isn’t doing itself any favours with this embarrassing post—it unravels the entire yarn they’ve been trying to sell the world about their commitment to responsible resource development and environmental protection. If we continue to act like a banana republic, we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re treated like one by the international community.”
Three years later, the NDP has appointed a former CAPP President and CEO to co-chair a group that will advise the implementation of the government’s flagship Climate Change policy. Partnering Mr. Collyer, Ms. Berman and Ms. Lepine as co-chairs was a bold move that reinforces the government’s message that the NDP are able and willing to work with a broad group of Oil Sands stakeholders.
One of the most admirable strengths of Ms. Notley’s government has been its ability to build broad and pragmatic coalitions that include champions from outside of the NDP’s traditional sphere.
Unlike the previous government, the NDP has intentionally sought to bring together a group of people with diverse and differing political views and expertise to advise on the implementation of Alberta’s Climate Change plans. This was very evident when Ms. Notley released the government’s Climate Leadership Plan in December 2015 surrounded by energy and environmental leaders, when Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips tabled the Carbon Levy legislation in May 2016 and yesterday when this Oil Sands Advisory group was announced.
Here is list of the other members of the Alberta Oil Sands Advisory Group:
Veronica Bliska – Reeve of the Municipal District of Peace
Bill Clapperton is Vice President – Regulatory, Stakeholder and Environmental Affairs of Canadian Natural Resource Ltd
Anne Downey is Vice President of Operations for Statoil Canada and responsible for resource development and continuous operations for the Leismer Asset
Simon Dyer is Pembina Institute’s associate regional director for Alberta and former director of the Institute’s oilsands program.
Tim Gray is Executive Director of Environmental Defence.
Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom is Chief of the Woodland Cree First Nation, with a population of 1,300 people, 700 of whom live on the Reserve at Cadotte Lake.
Bill Loutitt is Vice President, Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935. He is also President of Nistawoyou Friendship Centre and former President of Metis Nation of Alberta Region One
Karen Mahon is the Canadian Director of STAND (formerly ForestEthics Advocacy)
Jon Mitchell is Vice-President, Environment & Sustainability at Cenovus Energy
Alison Ronson is Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Northern Alberta Chapter
Kevin Scoble is the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
Christa Seaman is Emerging Regulatory Policy Issue Advisor at Shell Canada
Richard Sendall has been Senior Vice President of Strategy and Government Relations at MEG Energy Corporation
Arlene Strom is the Vice President Sustainability & Communications at Suncor Energy Inc.
Lloyd Visser is Vice President, Environment and Sustainable Development at ConocoPhillips Canada