One very clear takeaway from the shocking leak earlier this month, which showed the American Supreme Court on the verge of tearing up Roe v. Wade, is that a lot of damage can be done if the wrong people are installed in a place’s judicial system.
It’s a thought that was front of mind for me when I read last week’s mind-boggling opinion from the Alberta Court of Appeal on a new piece of Canadian environmental law, the Impact Assessment Act.
Kenney did a bit of a victory lap last week, though the federal Supreme Court is expected to overturn the ACA decision anyway. (From the Government of Alberta livestream.)
A little background: the Impact Assessment Act is the latest version of the rules for environmental assessments of very large projects that could cause environmental damage. It’s a federal law brought in by the Trudeau administration that takes over from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which was a little tepid when it was introduced way back in 1995 and had been watered down even further by the Harper administration in 2012. Any attempt to strengthen environmental regulations gets industry lobbies howling, and the IAA had the figurative steam coming out their ears. The UCP melodramatically call it a “Trojan horse” meant to usurp provincial control over anything and everything.
The decision rendered by the Alberta court is some real spit-out-your-coffee level stuff. My eyes just got wider and wider as I read it. You can’t get eight pages into this thing before the justices are making ‘ethical oil’ arguments and start dropping veiled implications that foreigners are out to get our oil industry.
The court heard from a handful of First Nations and environmental organizations. But it also took input from some powerful industry lobby groups, and astroturf organizations aligned with them: the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Alberta Enterprise Group, and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. And whew, you can sure tell who they listened to.
“Climate change constitutes an existential threat to Canada. But climate change is not the only existential threat facing this country. The IAA involves another existential threat—one also pressing and consequential—and that is the clear and present danger this legislative scheme presents to the division of powers guaranteed by our Constitution,” the court argues. Yeah. World’s on fire but let’s fuss about jurisdiction.
Only one judge dissented. Justice Sheila Greckol pushed back against the Alberta government line, protesting that "likening Canada to a foreign invading army deceptively breaching our protective walls only fuels suspicion and pits one level of government against each other."
A change in government looks pretty likely for 2023, but if you’ve got hopes that an NDP administration might wrest our judiciary away from the grasp of the oil lobby, I’m sad to have to tell you that Rachel Notley applauded the court’s decision last week just as loudly as Jason Kenney.
Legal experts expect the Alberta court decision will almost certainly be overruled by the federal Supreme Court in short order.
A big round number!
You’re reading the 300th issue of Progress Alberta’s weekly email digest. Now that’s a big number! We’ve been at this for nearly six years now, trying to fill a hole in Alberta’s media system and counterbalance greasy right-wing outlets like the Rebel, the Western Standard, and so-on. I hope that our work is useful to you.
It’s tough for us to stand up against the incredibly well-funded media operations of the right, and we’re entirely reliant on donations and subscriptions from readers like you. I will admit that the PA accounts are not looking too hot these days—everyone’s feeling the pinch lately and many folks have had to cut back on what they can donate to projects like this. If you think our work is valuable, and you’re in a position to be able to chip in, I hope you will consider supporting Progress Alberta with a small monthly donation.
The “Great Replacement Theory”, a foul conspiracy theory popular in the worryingly-not-that-far right which alleges that powerful elites are trying to replace white people in order to take over countries with mobs of immigrants, is in the news in the worst way after an 18 year old man perpetrated a mass shooting in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday. The murderer released a manifesto citing the conspiracy as his motivation. Grimly, this conspiracy theory is very common in Canada too; some notable proponents include convoy organizer Pat King and Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media.
Albertans in five cities rallied over the weekend in opposition to the UCP’s program of health care cuts and privatization. As someone waiting desperately for a serious surgery (seventeen months and counting!), I have to say thank you! The nonprofit group Friends of Medicare is often right at the heart of these efforts, so if this is an issue that you’re concerned about, you should get on their mailing list.
Breaking from a formerly pretty miserly position on the issue, the Ontario NDP have made it a platform plank to firmly increase the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which is more or less Ontario’s version of AISH. Here in Alberta, the maximum AISH benefit is a paltry $1685 a month, which leaves someone relying on the highest possible AISH payments thousands of dollars below the poverty line. Will the Alberta NDP take inspiration and follow suit? Perhaps they might, with a little feedback from the public, so get your letter-writing hat on.
- The police budget is up for discussion in council in Edmonton this week, and in preparation the Edmonton Police Association has been running a greasy pressure campaign that has included a whole lot of fear-mongering about violence that isn’t actually supported by the crime stats. On the podcast this week, James Wilt, who recently wrote about a similar campaign by the police ‘union’ in Winnipeg, joins Duncan to discuss how police lobbies use fear and misinformation to squeeze funding out of city budgets.
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