rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Advice to Kenney's cabinet: curb your enthusiasms, one conspiracy theory at a time

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney with Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, at cabinet swearing-in ceremony. Photo: Premier of Alberta/Flickr

It's sound advice in private and public life to restrict yourself to one nutty conspiracy theory at a time, lest folks start to wonder if you're the one who's, well, nutty.

Take Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party government in the context of this sensible and widely held rule of thumb.

The Kenney cabinet could almost get away with insisting there's a sinister conspiracy involving sinister American oilmen and equally sinister American environmental foundations to pay Canadian environmentalists to cook up defamatory disinformation about Alberta's oilpatch. (All part of a scheme to deny foreign markets to Alberta's bitumen, ya see, thereby land-locking the stuff to their own profitable benefit!)

Never mind there's precious little evidence to support this complicated explanation for the success of the very real domestic and international opposition to further development of Alberta's vast but problematic oilsands resource.

Even if you accept the conspiracy theory, after all, it's hard to dispute the facts the tarry (sorry!) gunk from northern Alberta requires plenty of energy to process, thereby putting lots of carbon into the atmosphere of a planet that by scientific consensus is rapidly heating up, and that in turn results in a low-quality, low-value product that entails a considerable pollution risk when shipped.

Still, most of us understand that yelling about foreign-funded activists is a great way to back-foot your domestic opposition in a world grown nervous about foreign interference, not to mention to distract the rubes in your support base from what you're about to do to them. So some of us might be willing to laugh this off as an exercise in cynical politics, even if it seems eccentric, and its $2.5-million-plus price tag a mite excessive.

This would probably be true even though much of the research underlying this fantastic interpretation of the facts is the work of a blogger with a background in an unrelated field reported to be none too clear about the sources of some of her own funding. After all, Premier Kenney himself, Energy Minister Sonya Savage, and Finance Minister Travis Toews have all lent their considerable prestige and credibility to these claims.

Indeed, this would likely be true even if the terms of reference of the inquiry hadn't been quietly revised to switch the main suspects from sinister Americans to sinister Russians.

But introduce another, completely different, sinister conspiracy theory into all this sinister theorizing, and, as they say, Houston, we've got a problem! (And that's not a reference to the problem Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. was having unloading that pipeline before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government took it off the Texas corporation's hands for a cool $4.5 billion.)

I speak, of course, of Jason Luan, Kenney's junior minister of mental health and addictions, who blundered onto the provincial stage this week with a completely new and different sinister conspiracy theory.

To charitably describe the predicament in which Luan found himself, he had been stuck with the job of trying to explain the Kenney government's mean-spirited approach to harm-reduction strategies for dealing with the opioid crisis. For background, the Kenney government's view of safe-injection clinics sounds a lot like the former Harper government's approach to the same thing.

Luan was apparently trying to explain the UCP's resistance to a medical consensus on harm reduction in reasonable terms when he asked in a vaguely Trump-toned tweet, "How much of the so called 'evidence based research' is funded by the multi billion dollar Pharma industry? Full disclosure is needed."

The reaction was not very sympathetic, all the more so when the tweet quickly disappeared from Twitter. (As should be expected, it turned out there were many screenshots.)

Luan probably didn't help himself by harshly telling a Postmedia columnist that supervised injection clinics merely "keep them alive by feeding the disease and not addressing it. Yes, you can keep them alive one more day but you're not going to save them. They're going to die the minute you're not with them."

Well, you can argue politely about whether life-saving harm reduction or long-term detox programs should be a government's priority. "He is either not engaging with the evidence in good faith or is ill equipped to actually evaluate the evidence," is the way University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine Professor Ryan McNeil put it.

"Either of those things should be disqualifying from his position as the associate minister of mental health and addictions," Dr. McNeil told the CBC.

Still, it was Luan's conspiracy theory that really grabbed the attention.

"To raise the spectre of pharmaceutical company interference in this is laughably absurd, especially in the middle of a crisis," observed McNeil, who is also associated with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use. Others were less kindly, dismissing Luan's musings as, for example, "a wackadoo conspiracy theory."

UCP caucus staff will probably give Luan a stern lecture about ignoring his talking points, hand control of his Twitter account to a grownup, and try to pretend the tweet never happened.

Somebody in the UCP strategic brain trust must know the best way to do this politics stuff is one crazy conspiracy theory at a time.

But if they double down and announce another inquiry, this time into foreign pharma funding of fake research to sell Naloxone kits, we'll know they've gone over the edge.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Premier of Alberta/Flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.