Having rammed through two controversial bills Tuesday night, one opening the door to more health-care privatization and the other eliminating workplace fairness and declaring war on unions, the Alberta legislature wrapped up its business just after 8 a.m. yesterday morning.
United Conservative Party social media spent the afternoon bragging about how much legislation the government has passed so far this year. "Alberta introduced and passed more laws in 2020 than any other province in Canada," boasted one oft-repeated meme.
A smiling Jason Kenney, apparently now the paper-stack premier, soon appeared in a photo clutching a thick pile of paper, representing the volume, if not the quality, of the UCP's legislative effort this year, and looking like a wee little man beside UCP house leader Jason Nixon.
How odd that Alberta's supposedly red-tape-hating Conservatives, steeped in the anti-government rhetoric of the old Wildrose party, should be bragging about smothering the province in legislation! As one wit remarked on social media, there's enough new paper in this province now to bury the red tape reduction minister.
Let's dispose of those rumours about rebel 'Rosers, shall we?
Speaking of the Wildrose party of yore, let's dispose of those rumours circulating on social media that a cabal of rebel 'Rosers in the UCP caucus, worried about keeping rural doctors and displeased with Premier Kenney's iron-fisted control of what they get to say, is about to tear a page from recent history and cross the floor to sit as independents.
The name most often heard in connection with this yarn is that of Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, who, it is true, is a bit of a loose cannon on deck.
Lovely thought. Don't count on it happening, though.
Yes, many rural MLAs are deeply unhappy with Health Minister Tyler Shandro's war on doctors. They're hearing about it daily from frightened constituents. But as bad as things may be on the home front, it's just too early in the life of the government for them to let themselves be cast into utter darkness and deprived of all influence.
Maybe, someday, the rebellion will catch fire. Just not yet.
Doctors vote no confidence in Health Minister Tyler Shandro
Speaking of the doctors, the Alberta Medical Association's rhetorical vote of confidence in Shandro saw 98 per cent of the physicians, residents and medical students who voted say they have no confidence in the health minister.
The results released yesterday morning weren't a surprise, but they sent a powerful message just the same. Of the 13,405 physicians who were eligible to take part in the AMA survey, 8,470 indicated they have no confidence in Shandro, 137 or 1.5 per cent said they did, and 57, fewer than one per cent, abstained.
UCP issues managers and their ilk were soon spinning this as a meaningless vote of a special interest group, but seeing as the group in question includes most of the doctors in the province, and two thirds of them cast a ballot, it should worry the government just the same.
AMA president Christine Molnar immediately demanded a meeting with Premier Kenney to discuss what he's going to do about it.
The smart move would be to schedule a meeting, make conciliatory noises, and shuffle the intemperate Shandro off to another portfolio where he can do less damage. That doesn't mean, of course, that's what the government will do.
Is a cabinet shuffle imminent? Might be a plan!
Which brings us to another rumour circulating in Alberta political circles, to wit, that a cabinet shuffle is imminent.
Well, the time is certainly right. A busy legislative session with an ambitious agenda of radical and controversial legislation is over, and conventional wisdom would suggest the moment is right to spruce up the cabinet, demote weak players and reward good performers from the backbenches.
Given that, this talk likely has more foundation that the rumoured 'Rosie Rebellion.
Candidates to be moved -- if the premier's political instincts are as good as they once were -- would include Shandro, a clear disaster in the health portfolio, and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, whose underwhelming performance reassures no one about the government's determination to send students back to their packed classrooms in September, COVID-19 pandemic or no pandemic.
Bad reviews for UCP's back-to-school plan
No one seems to have been reassured after LaGrange's awful performance on a Facebook Live session Tuesday answering a few questions about the government's school reopening plan, which has parents and teachers growing increasingly restless.
It's said here Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw also wasn't doing anything to encourage public confidence in her judgment, which was very strong during the first weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, by backing the government's plan to reopen schools without reducing class sizes, hiring more cleaning staff, or requiring students to wear masks.
It would be interesting to see the results of any polling about public confidence in the back-to-school plan. There sure are a lot of parents on social media talking about keeping their kids home in September, although they're bound to be dismissed by the UCP noise machine as NDP agents.
The government would do itself a favour by paying attention to this file too. If they think the doctors are hard to deal with, just wait until the soccer moms get riled up!
Total disaster! French energy giant pulls plug on Alberta's oilsands
Also yesterday, on the heels of another European bank announcing it'll put no more money into Alberta's oilsands, French energy giant Total SA wrote off its huge investment in the Alberta's bitumen mining industry to the tune of US$9 billion.
Total also quit the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, saying the powerful Calgary-based industry lobby is out of sync with the corporation's environmental goals.
Paris-based Total -- with annual revenue of about US$200-billion -- said it now considers oil reserves with high production costs that will have to be worked more than 20 years (you know, like the oilsands) to be "stranded assets."
As for CAPP, which for all intents and purposes openly campaigned for the UCP and the Conservative Party of Canada in the most recent provincial and federal elections, Total diplomatically said its goals are "misaligned" with the company's climate ambition statement.
No one who is praying for God to give Alberta another oil boom so that we can piss it all away again should be reassured by this development.
With a characteristic UCP touch, Energy Minister Sonya Savage bitterly called Total "ill informed," "short sighted," and "highly hypocritical," assailing it for citing climate ambition as its rationale for pulling the plug on its oilsands investment.
Total should be aware "our province and industry are bound by the rule of law" (except when it comes to labour relations, perhaps), Canada has a "stable and ethical democracy," and Alberta's industry is doing its part to reduce emissions, she complained in a news release.
Sadly, this is a sentiment unlikely to have much more impact tomorrow in Paris than it did on Monday in Frankfurt.
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: Jason Kenney/Facebook
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