Smith's desperate for a scrap with the feds after Coutts scandal allegations

The Premier’s office is once again desperately twisting to get out of a scandal.

This time it’s allegations that Smith’s office was emailing and pestering Crown prosecutors to interfere with the investigations into the Coutts border blockade.

Meghan Grant and Elise von Scheel, two experienced reporters with the CBC, say that sources in the Crown prosecutor’s office told them that Smith’s people were trying to meddle. And it’s not hard to believe: Smith claimed so herself more than once, including in an interview with Rebel Media back in December, and also to real journalists on January 12.

Smith has since walked that back and now says her first story was “imprecise.” Her office was quick to react to the interference story breaking last Thursday, and they say they’ve checked and are in the clear, if you’ll believe it. (I don’t.)

It’s very easy for top-level government officials to hide correspondence if they’d like to. Most folks who have worked for politicians are familiar with the habit of going “voice mode” to avoid leaving a paper trail. And the administration Smith took over, Kenney’s, was already notorious for using personal phones and email accounts to keep correspondence off the record.

Smith aims to change the channel with a vacuous campaign against a memo

Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, was speaking to a committee last July to explain the “just transition” legislation that the Liberals aim to bring to Parliament this year.

The pitch from Wilkinson is easy to sum up, even if his notes are nearly a hundred pages. The economy is shifting as more and more of the world tries to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s going to have a big impact on many industries in Canada. Jobs are already drying up or being automated away. So the Liberals tell us they’re going to put together some programs and benefits to keep people from being tossed out in the cold.

Smith and her government, desperate to get attention off of the Coutts matter, cooked Wilkinson’s memo into a hell of a stew last week. According to them, it’s a plan to deliberately wreck Alberta’s oil and gas industries. Here’s Alberta’s Minister of Transportation breathlessly claiming last week that this Liberal plan will destroy 2.7 million Albertan jobs

(There are only about 2.4 million jobs in Alberta.)

Shaking a fist at the feds always plays well in Alberta and Smith even got an unexpected layup from Rachel Notley, who joined her in denouncing the federal plan last week too. Maybe the Alberta NDP think it’s a bad look agreeing with Justin Trudeau in public. I think it’s an even worse look for Alberta’s supposed labour party to be arguing against us being sent benefits, job training grants, and industrial subsidies.

What’s really funny about that Liberal memo—and what makes it the perfect accompaniment to all the buffoonery around the Coutts trials—is what’s actually in it. You can click right in to the oil and gas section of the memo if you’d like, it’s all online, and if you do you won’t find a New Deal, green or otherwise.

All that’s in there is the same plans that the UCP and the Alberta NDP pitch themselves. Propping up the industry with expensive carbon capture schemes. Trying to sneak our oil and gas into green markets by laundering it as hydrogen and biofuels. Dumping some government money into an investment fund. These three parties don’t disagree; they have exactly the same ideas. What they’re squabbling over is which politicians will get the privilege of delivering handouts to the most profitable industry in Canada. 

Mercifully the misleading “just transition” discourse seems to be burning out. As to Smith’s scandal with the Coutts trials, I think we’re going to have to wait and see if the CBC’s source actually leaks those emails.


This is the online version of the Progress Report email newsletter. Don't depend on some social media or search engine algorithm to find this content in the future. Sign up to get updates on the most important local political issues in your inbox every week. If you like what we do at the Progress Report there is also one big way you can support us and that's by becoming a monthly donor. The regular donations of the 500 or so regular monthly donors keeps this small, independent media shop going.