Orange smoke covers Edmonton in August 2018.
Orange smoke covers Edmonton in August 2018. Credit: David J. Climenhaga Credit: David J. Climenhaga

The United Conservative Party (UCP) announced it would use the potential for spring forest fires three years from now as an excuse to extend its term in office by four and a half months.

The government’s introduction of Bill 21, the Emergency Statutes Amendment Act, 2024, based on a forecast we’ll have a bad fire season in the spring of 2027, suggests that in Alberta it’s never too early for a Conservative government to worry about its ability to get re-elected! 

Among the measures in the bill, which Opposition Justice, Public Safety and Emergency Services Critic Irfan Sabir assailed as legislation “to control everything, everywhere, all at once,” is the bright idea of moving Alberta’s fixed election date four and a half months from May 31, 2027, to October 18, 2027.

That way, Premier Danielle Smith said in the government’s news release, “no matter which region of the province is affected by an emergency, we are able to have an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

Plus, no one should have to campaign on a do-nothing-about-climate-change platform when the skies are NDP orange and whatever is left of Alberta Health Services (AHS) in 2027 is issuing daily warnings not to let your kids play in the unbreathable fug outside!

“With natural disasters like wildfires, drought, and floods more likely to occur in the spring and summer months, moving Alberta’s election date from May to October just makes sense,” said Justice Minister Mickey Amery, who was also trotted out at the news conference along with the Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz, Forestry Minister Todd Loewen, and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis. 

“The change would also bring Alberta in line with other jurisdictions that already hold provincial elections in the fall,” Amery added, irrelevantly. 

Well, as Opposition Leader Rachel Notley observed, this would all be more believable if the government had moved the date to the fall of 2026, or the early spring of 2027. Giving themselves the extra time “seems very self-serving and opportunistic from a government that has a strong record of being very self-serving and opportunistic,” she said.

“The UCP is overriding its own fixed election law and unilaterally extending their mandate,” Sabir said in a statement emailed to media, noting that there has been “zero consultation with key stakeholders.”

“This is a government that has an incredibly exaggerated sense of their own value and their own power. Danielle Smith said during the election that Albertans were her bosses, but it is clear now that she intends to be the boss of everyone,” Sabir added.

Readers may wonder, How can they be sure it’ll be smoky at the end of May 2027? The answer, I suppose, is that the party of habitual climate change denial can read the smouldering auguries as well as the rest of us. 

Ellis told The Globe and Mail he thought it would be “almost negligent” to hold another spring election. Alas, there’s no guarantee the worst fires will only burn when it’s convenient to the UCP. Skies throughout Alberta have been clotted with smoke in in the fall as well as the springtime. 

Does that mean the UCP might decide a fall election would be negligent as well? What happens then? 

After all, it seems possible the UCP will not be the only government resistant to measures to mitigate climate change before it is too late that will use the predictable impacts of climate heating to implement increasingly arbitrary emergency measures. 

Notwithstanding Alberta’s constitutionally dubious fixed-election date law, which can be amended or repealed by a vote of the Legislature, Canada’s constitution requires an election to be held five years following the return of the writs of election from the previous election. So, constitutionally speaking, the UCP could stall the next election until May 2028. 

On the other hand, if the government wished to dissolve the Legislature sooner and ask the lieutenant-governor to call an election, that could be done at almost any time without constitutional complications.

What is it with government adjacent Alberta logos, anyway? 

Does anyone remember that time Jason Kenney’s fatuous Energy War Room had to change its logo when it was discovered its chosen corporate symbol belonged to a U.S. software company? 

Or how, after that embarrassment, the logo it chose to replace the first one also turned out to be embarrassingly similar to that of another U.S. based technology company? 

So, is it just me, or does the new logo for the UCP’s Recovery Alberta spin-off from Alberta Health Services look an awful lot like the logo for a group that calls itself Recovery Coaches Alberta, right down to the colourful little empty chair at the bottom of the semi-circle? 

This is Recovery Alberta’s:

And this is Recovery Coaches Alberta’s:

 Is this another design blunder, or is there some kind of relationship between Recovery Alberta and Alberta’s recovery coaches that makes this OK?

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...