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April Fool's Day aftermath: UCP says it's broke, AUPE job protections back on, spill reporting suspended, and more

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The Alberta legislature in Edmonton. Image: Jeff Wallace/Flickr

Whether or not Bob Buckle meant it to be an early April Fool's joke when he posted his deep thoughts on public education on social media, opining that "perhaps it's time to reduce our physical plant and footprint with large structures and move to virtual online learning," he'd be smart now to claim that was his intention.

"If we can justify a complete school closure for a large portion of the year without major impact then maybe there is a better way and more cost effective way to deliver educational programming than the way it has been done the last century," Buckle opined in a comment on March 31.

"Worth looking at?" asked the city councillor, chamber of commerce stalwart and McDonald's Hamburger University degree holder from Cold Lake.

Advocacy of this view by one of the burghers of the small city in northeastern Alberta seems completely plausible. As a business guy who relies on an educated workforce and doubtless talks all the time about "dollars and sense," you could say it's completely implausible too.

The response on social media was forceful, almost universally negative -- although Shane Getson, United Conservative Party MLA for nearby Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland, seemed sympathetic.

Anyway, it's never too late in the age of Donald Trump and Jason Kenney to say the opposite tomorrow of what you said today and deny anything has changed. Especially when there's a great excuse like April Fool's Day just lying around.

If Buckle has any sense, he'll grab it.

Being both plausible and implausible at the same time, of course, is the very definition of the perfect April Fool's hoax.

At the risk of tooting my own horn, the most successful April Fool I ever perpetrated was in 2014, when April Fool's Day fell eight days after Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford resigned in response to being handed her walking papers by her own caucus.

"Alison Redford set to sue Alberta Government for wrongful dismissal," fooled everyone.

"The former premier believes that because she was given a 'work plan' by the leadership of the province's Progressive Conservative government and then forced to step aside before actually having a chance to prove she could do the job as set out in the plan her lawsuit has a strong chance of success," the story continued.

Few readers read further than that before they expressed their outrage on social media.

Over to you, Buckle. It's not too late for redemption!

Maxed out, UCP warns it may have to cease operations

Oh my gosh, the United Conservative Party says it may have to cease operations!

Grabbing hold of the global coronavirus pandemic and shaking it hard to see if any spare change falls out, Jason Kenney's UCP sent off a fundraising email to the party's credulous supporters Monday, warning that "we have received almost no revenue this month, and we are getting close to hitting the maximum of our line of credit."

The reason -- according to the fundraisers, anyway -- "our Leader asked us to stop fundraising when the crisis began." Readers may believe that if they choose.

"We have cut costs, but if we do not receive some revenue to support our basic operations, we will be unable to pay our bills, and we will have to cease operations."

Remember, this is a party that raised more than $7 million in donations in the most recent fiscal year. Come to think of it, this may explain a lot about the province's just-passed budget, which is based on the prediction oil will soon be fetching close to $60 a barrel.

Government changes course, agrees to extend job protections for AUPE

The public reaction to the layoff of 26,000 education workers followed by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees' announcement Monday the Kenney government had also rejected its call to suspend planned layoffs of public service employees until the COVID-19 crisis had passed must have been harsh.

Whatever the reason, the government has reversed course. AUPE said today the job cuts are now off the table for the time being.

AUPE said it signed a memorandum of agreement with the government Tuesday evening to extend job protections contained in a letter of understanding attached to the last agreement until the end of June. Bargaining for a new collective agreement has also been delayed until the end of June.

What's up with Alberta's environmental regulations?

Last night, Leah Ward, Alberta NDP caucus communications director, warned "the UCP government is using the cover of a pandemic to suspend environmental reporting requirements."

She provided a link to the ministerial order suspending the regulation requiring reports of spills and releases under the Water Act and other environmental regulations.

It's possible this suspension is a genuine response to the difficulty of processing paperwork at a time when the government and the economy are both in a virtual lockdown. But if so, it's hard to feel much sympathy with a government that has illustrated a proclivity in recent days to lie about so many things.

Under the circumstances, Ward's suspicion "the UCP are jeopardizing the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we grow our food on and I cannot for the life of me understand why this is OK," is completely understandable.

Alberta Greens choose new leader -- sort of

Members of the Green Party of Alberta have elected firefighter Jordan Wilkie of Edmonton as leader of their party -- sort of.

Since the Greens, who have gone through a surprising number of leaders lately for such a small party, have adopted an unorthodox co-leader format, there's yet another leader to be chosen soon.

Wilke's victory was announced in a press release on the weekend after the party's planned convention in Red Deer was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Romy Tittel was elected leader in November 2017 after Janet Keeping stepped down from the post. Six months later, she quit. Coral Bliss Taylor served as interim leader until September 2018, when Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes was chosen. Chagnon-Greyeyes served for a year before stepping aside, after which William Carnegie was interim leader.

'Fair deal' timing perhaps not the best

Yesterday being April Fool's Day, it seems appropriate the final report of the recommendations from Premier Kenney's "fair deal" panel on Alberta autonomy was due to be submitted.

Will anything change, now that the federal government appears to be keeping our collective head above water? Or will the UCP just stall for a more propitious date to release the panel's predictable findings?

In closing, riddle me this …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau buys a pipeline for Alberta and he's a bum. Jason Kenney buys a piece of another one for potentially about the same price, and he's supposed to be a bold and innovative hero. Can someone explain this, please? Inquiring minds want to know.

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 at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Jeff Wallace/Flickr​

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