Troubling numbers and irrational actions. The week of March 22-27, 2021

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The Missive” on Aug.15, 2021. Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/ or access background info and special content with a paid subscription.

Jason Kenney had the Supreme Court rule against him on the federal carbon tax on Wednesday. In response, he lied about the ruling in his official statement, misrepresented the facts about the industry, and admitted he had no plan for Alberta.

“The Supreme Court ignored the Alberta Court of Appeal’s warning and discovered a new federal power that erodes provincial jurisdiction and undermines our constitutional system.” (Kenney)

Jason Kenney

The court did not “discover a new federal power,” it doesn’t work like that. It decided due to the nature of climate change, the federal government was acting within its existing constitutional power by imposing a carbon tax. Even the dissenting opinion didn’t make such a ridiculous claim.

In fact, the court challenge was the action that threatened to “undermine our constitutional system.” Some legal pundits suggested that if the federal government had lost this case, it would have been the beginning of a crisis for federalism in Canada. If the government didn’t have jurisdiction on climate change, what would it have jurisdiction over? Luckily, the court agreed.

To argue that climate change is a regional matter to be dealt with by the provinces individually, simply defies logic. But hey, this weekly news roundup isn’t named the Irrational Report for nothing.

“Alberta’s government has supported the development of world-class technology that has helped the Canadian oilsands to reduce the carbon footprint of a barrel of bitumen by 30 per cent over the past two decades.”

Jason Kenney

This is a popular talking point for the Canadian Energy Centre. What this message fails to explain is that the overall oil production (most of which is bitumen) has increased by more than 88 per cent in even less time. A per barrel reduction is meaningless without the larger context of increased production, which is conveniently omitted in a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

Having been a consultant to oil and gas when this carbon intensity messaging was first circulated as an option for the industry, I can say those who use this messaging are well aware of its purpose to obfuscate. Companies with integrity would have rejected it outright or decided – at a minimum – to pair it with more contextual information. But then there’s Jason Kenney and the UCP government who have no compunction about misrepresentation.

Following the announcement, Alberta’s Premier then went on record as saying he had no back-up plan for this scenario. Kenney is a politician so damned arrogant that he doesn’t even consider being caught with his pants down on the climate change file something to be embarrassed about. His dismissive stance says it all. He just doesn’t care. And he’s sending money to Ottawa that could remain in Alberta until and unless he comes up with a new plan.

There was another example of not caring that stood out this week as well. Consider this: “The provincial government has been negotiating with the feds since late 2020 to try and delay the launch of the Alberta Jobs Now program, which will cost nearly $200 million and relies almost entirely on extra funding the federal government handed over this year through the workforce development agreement (WDA).” (CBC News)

Yes, you read that right – DELAY. And if they don’t reach an agreement in the next five days, the province will lose access to at least $148M in federal funding.

The feds want the provinces to provide immediate access to skills training, on-the-job-training, employer-sponsored training, employment counselling and other aid for the unemployed.

“Neither (Jason) Copping nor his office would provide more information about how much money had been spent on the new jobs program to date, when the program will be launched or whether there is a contingency plan, should the provincial government fail to reach a deal with the federal government this week.”

(CBC News)

Kenney and the UCP government just don’t care about actual Albertans who are suffering.

So, what was the government willing to talk about this week? There were 22 official news releases, including five releases about the COVID-19 pandemic and another new app. Their last contract tracing app just turned out so well.

To no one’s surprise, the app — which notifies emergency responders when a person overdoses — was sole-sourced and the contract awarded to a company whose paid lobbyists include three former UCP government staffers. The full story from Kim Siever is worth a read as there was a previous clinical trial with a similar approach that was shut down just before it launched. The associate minister felt it was too “dangerous.” Suddenly, here we are with a similar approach but this time facilitated by conservative insiders, who are certainly profiting.

The government also announced an expanded rapid testing program on Tuesday. This is a good time to remind everyone that Progress Alberta reported in February that the government awarded a significant contract for COVID testing to a company whose paid lobbyist is the father of a staffer in the Health Minister’s office. The company was actually listed as an oil and gas company owned by a conservative donor less than two months before it was awarded the healthcare app contract, but hey, nothing to see here.

******

Those COVID-head ads are super annoying for a new reason this week. The government released a statement on how much money has been spent on COVID-related advertising. They still have not revealed the breakdown of spending by sub-campaign. A total of $15.4 million was spent, while we still don’t have nearly enough information about what are the most effective prevention measures, why there are vaccine supply issues and how they are prioritizing people for the vaccine. Dr. Deena Hinshaw regularly apologizes for a lack of available information, promising more will be coming. I’m guessing a large chunk went to the Covid Loves ads which are useless and have made no measurable impact on behaviour.

Of course, the Premier still finds time to attack Ottawa for its pandemic information. #BecauseTrudeau

This week’s news also included an announcement of a new child-care program just as the NDP’s $25/day childcare program is scheduled to end on April 1, cancelled by the UCP. The new program announced this week creates about 1,500 new spaces across the province by sending funding directly to the childcare providers. Sixty-five per cent of Albertans have said it would be better to have the funds go directly into their pockets so they can afford to put their kids into the new spaces. But that plea has gone unanswered although some are holding out hope the old NDP program won’t be canceled as planned. What are the chances?

Unfortunately, there was a lot of anxiety for women this week, especially in Calgary where a poster campaign was launched in my neighbourhood, the Beltline, warning women to beware of an increasing threats and harassment by men. There is a report circulating of a violent sexual assault last week on a woman walking to work.

I won’t further alarm you with the stats and data about how poorly women are faring in the UCP’s Alberta. Suffice it to say, women are not doing well here compared to other provinces and as I’ve been pointing out almost every week, Premier Kenney shows no real indication that he recognizes the gravity of the situation or cares.

So bicycles.

Bicycles are one way to empower women and make their movements more safe. In the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard in the UK, the topic of safe transportation is again in the news. The young woman in London was murdered, allegedly, by a police officer while walking home.

An article in The Guardian by researcher Kate Jelly explains the importance of cycling infrastructure and a strategy that is created with input from women.

“We have normalised a society in which men can move around as they please while the rest of us fear for our lives for the simple act of travelling home.”

Kate Jelly

I’m going to leave you this week with a classic song by Sleater-Kinney.

“And for all the ladies out there

I wish we could write more than the next marketing bid

Culture is what we make it, yes it is

Now is the time

Now is the time

Now is the time to invent”

Sleater-Kinney

Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and – full disclosure – used to be married to a lobbyist.

2 thoughts on “Lies, damn lies and lobbyists

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