The Harmac Pacific mill on Vancouver Island. Image: David Stanley/Flickr.

Where’s the tough guy we got to know during the last Alberta election campaign, the Jason Kenney of the Summer of Repeal, the War Room and the War on Foreign Funded European Urban Greens?

The Alberta premier’s favourite American president, Donald J. Trump, says he won’t let 3M, the corporation based in Maplewood, Minnesota ship any more N95 medical masks to Canada, and our combative premier with prime ministerial ambitions finds it “extremely disappointing”?

Extremely disappointing? Seriously? Where’s Mr. Belligerence when Canada needs him?

“It’s very disappointing,” Kenney whimpered (metaphorically speaking) on Friday. “I would remind our American friends and neighbours that we’ve always been there together in important moments in history.” (Like the War of 1812? — Ed.)

I would remind Kenney that our American friends and neighbours don’t listen very well to gentle reminders from their allies these days. The least Kenney could do under the circumstances is threaten to withhold Devin Dreeshen’s valuable services from Trump in the U.S. election campaign this fall, which suddenly isn’t looking so good for the president.

Nowadays Dreeshen is Kenney’s minister of agriculture, but the world knows him best as the young fellow in the MAGA cap toasting Trump’s victory on election night 2016. Back in the summer of 2018, when Dreeshen had just won a byelection in south central Alberta and his choice in headgear was momentarily controversial, Kenney shrugged it off and touted his ties to the Trump campaign.

“I think it’s actually helpful to have in our caucus an MLA who can get people on the phone in the U.S. administration, who knows some of them and has worked with some of them,” the premier said then.

So tell him to pick up the phone now! Let’s see how he does!

Meanwhile, Kenney seems to have forgotten something that I’m sure his great rival, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has remembered.

Workers at the Harmac Pacific mill in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island are working overtime these days producing the special K10S pulp used to make masks and surgical gowns because a U.S. manufacturer that produces the things has recently doubled its order.

“It’s a customer out of the States and we’ve been supplying them for years,” Harmac president Levi Sampson told a reporter for B.C.’s Black Press last week. “In light of what’s going on in the lack of medical supplies, they’ve doubled their order with us in the last week, so we’re doing everything we can to meet that demand.” In response to media queries on April 4, however, Sampson said the U.S. manufacturer in question is not 3M and that Harmac does not supply materials used to make N95 masks to any other company.

Just the same, I’d say that’s a pretty good hand for Canada to be holding when the president of the United States threatens to cut off our supply of N95 masks in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the greatest health threat either of our countries has faced in a century.

By the way, those are cards Canada wouldn’t hold were it not for the courage and foresight of the members of the former Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, who put up $13.2 million of the cash needed to buy the mill they worked in from a U.S. owner that was about to pull the plug on it just over a decade ago.

Members of the union, now known as the Public and Private Workers of Canada, each contributed $25,000 of their own money over three years to keep the mill afloat. They barely made it through the financial meltdown of 2008, and received their first dividend cheques in 2011. Now they’re sitting pretty — and working hard.

Kenney is right about one thing: The situation with President Trump, he said, “underscores why we must produce our own critical equipment here at home, because apparently we can’t even count on our closest friend and ally to be a supplier.”

Well, duh. Isn’t that what supposedly squishy New Democrats have been telling Canada for generations? It’s nice to see someone like Kenney finally coming around!

So, what’s the premier actually doing to get Trump to shape up? Other than being extremely disappointed, I mean? Oh, he’s offering to get Alberta’s taxpayers to sink several billion dollars into building a pipeline to the Gulf Coast for him.

And what happens, as former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason asked the other day, if “Joe Biden wins the election and cancels the project, as Obama did?”

We all know the answer. Kenney will be extremely disappointed. And the rest of us Albertans will be out seven or eight billion dollars.

A dippy to-do and Tyler too!

Speaking of picking up the phone, if Premier Kenney won’t fire Health Minister Tyler Shandro or even try to persuade him to quit, you’d think at least he’d take his cell phone away.

The latest revelation about Alberta’s very angry health minister, thanks once again to the CBC, is that Shandro has been calling up physicians who have taken issue with his policies on their personal cellphones.

Apparently, he got their numbers from Alberta Health Services without the doctors’ permission. One doctor has filed a complaint with the provincial privacy commissioner.

So, in addition to all the other things he’s been doing to embarrass Kenney and the government, Shandro turns out to be a fellow who knows how to take the smart out of his smartphone.

At the very least, the premier needs to tell him, “no more screen time for you, mister, until you can learn how to behave yourself!”

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,

Image: David Stanley/Flickr

Editor’s note, April 6, 2020: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated “the only source in the world of the specialty pulp used in the super-effective N95 masks is located in … Canada,” a claim repeated in the article’s summary: “we are the world’s only supplier of the paper product they’re made from.” The same version of this post also incorrectly suggested “What do you want to bet that U.S. manufacturer is 3M?” In response to queries on April 4, 2020 by The Globe and Mail, Harmac’s president Levi Sampson said his company does not supply 3M or any other company with materials used to make N95 respirator masks​. This post has been corrected to reflect those facts.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...