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Gretamania strikes Alberta as activist Greta Thunberg arrives in Calgary

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Sixteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg in Calgary yesterday. Image: Druh Farrell/Twitter

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Gretamania appears to have struck Alberta!

Yesterday, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who is apparently the environmental movement's answer to St. Joan of Arc with a planetary mass following to suit, was spotted in Calgary.

This wasn't like your usual Alberta Elvis sighting, either. There was an actual photograph taken and circulated on social media.

Apparently unconcerned by a stern warning from the would-be separatists at Wexit Alberta that she could be charged with defamatory libel for speaking ill of the oil industry, the young Swedish environmental activist will lead a lunch-hour march tomorrow from a downtown Edmonton park to the nearby Alberta legislature.

Thunberg and her supporters will gather at 11 a.m. at Beaver Hills House Park on Jasper Avenue and set out for at 11:30 for the legislature six blocks away, where they'll rally until 1 p.m.

Climate Justice Edmonton said in a news release the group expects hundreds of Thunberg's enthusiastic supporters to turn up.

With anti-environmental trolls in full cry, the Wexit crowd vowing "our team will monitor Ms. Thunberg's statements closely and report any suspected violations to the appropriate law enforcement authorities," and former "kudatah" guy George Clark busy on social media trying to drum up a noisy truck convoy to toot their air horns impotently at the visitor, one supposes police will have to be on hand to maintain order too.

Well, if the cops won't help, maybe the Wexiters can email the government inquisition snitch line. Chances of an actual charge of defamatory libel, a rarely used Criminal Code offence, being laid in circumstances like these are so remote that they are practically on holiday in Antarctica. As for the possibility of a conviction, that would be even farther out -- say, somewhere in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

With the Alberta government's war room -- pardon me, its un-FOIP-able Canadian Energy Centre Ltd. wholly owned private subsidiary -- not quite organized, the United Conservative Party response to Thunberg's visit has so far been fairly low key, often incoherent, and occasionally whiny.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon got stuck with standing in for Premier Jason Kenney, who is scheduled Friday to be visiting a power plant near Edmonton switching from coal to natural gas. A big guy said to have thrown his weight around, Nixon was reduced to whinging that Thunberg doesn't understand Alberta, a dubious proposition that doesn't particularly help the government's crusade to make oil great again.

"I think when you look at some of Miss Thunberg's comments, she doesn't understand our province … she doesn't understand the reality that to accomplish climate change goals worldwide, we need Alberta as part of that solution," he complained to reporters on Tuesday.

Nixon didn't exactly explain how that is supposed to work seeing as the UCP has just dismantled almost all of the previous NDP government's carbon-reduction policies intended to help achieve such a goal.

Other UCP leaders seem to have been hoping to avoid having to meet and be lectured by the young woman who is possibly the most prominent 16-year-old on the planet at the moment.

Setting the bar low, the Alberta government has also been issuing statements arguing that since we don't abuse human rights here as badly as they do in Saudi Arabia, our greenhouse gas emissions ought not to be counted. "We trust that Ms. Thunberg will recognize Alberta's leading human rights and environmental standards," a Kenney spokesperson said last weekend when the young activist's trip was announced. "… Especially in comparison to oil-producing dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela -- which she will presumably visit next," the aide added sarcastically.

As Alberta political columnist Graham Thomson observed in iPolitics, "these are the same arguments the province's Conservative governments used for years. Without success."

It will be interesting to see if the UCP communications brain trust's intentionally irritating I-Love-Alberta-Oil placards are still pasted in the legislature's windows tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Star Metro newspapers in Calgary and Edmonton were surely displeased yesterday to discover someone supporting Thunberg's visit had opened some of their unlocked newspaper boxes and wrapped each copy of yesterday's edition in a lookalike four-pager proclaiming "change is coming" and touting a green new deal.

A banner on the front cover of the unauthorized wrap asked readers to "join the movement" and directed them to our-time.ca, so at least Star management has someone to whom to complain.

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.

Image: Druh Farrell/Twitter

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