The Silly, Scary Truth about Alberta’s New Ministry of Truth

Ridiculed for their lies and bumbling, Jason Kenney’s propagandists soldier on.


One critic called Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s energy ‘war room’ an ‘expensive joke.’ That made his war room brain trust upset. Photo by Greg Fulmes, the Canadian Press.

Jason Kenney is learning that it’s not easy to set up a state-run propaganda agency.

Right off the bat, the Alberta premier’s “war room” swore, as every propaganda outfit does, that it would “reject what is false and promote what is true.”

The agency, officially named the Canadian Energy Centre and launched earlier this month with an annual budget of $30 million, picked one of its first battles with the Medicine Hat News.

That newspaper’s crime was to publish an opinion piece by Jeremy Appel that lambasted the agency’s motives: “Its entire premise is based on the notion that anyone who opposes oilsands expansion is a liar with ulterior motives.”

Appel called the war room “an expensive joke” and “a grave threat to our right to dissent.”

And he criticized Kenney for arguing, just like the extremist Ezra Levant, that the province needed a propaganda agency because Canadian oil is more ethical than Saudi or Russian oil.

“Are Albertans supposed to pat themselves on the back because they don’t jail and execute dissidents, but merely dedicate public resources to their vilification and harassment without a shred of transparency?”

Appel’s column proved something that George Orwell once wrote: that “if liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

And so, the CEC immediately swung into action. Grady Semmens, a CEC agent and former Trans Canada PR guy, sent the paper a note saying it wanted to respond to the “comments and inaccuracies” in Appel’s column. (For the record, Semmens describes himself as “a purpose-driven public affairs professional.”)

The subsequent “guest column” makes no mention of any “inaccuracies” but swears the propaganda outfit will be “informative, positive and educational.”

But how can a group staffed largely by conservative partisans or hydrocarbon fundamentalists be anything but ideological, political and false?

It starts at the top. Tom Olsen, CEC’s managing director, used to serve as the press secretary for Tory premier Ed Stelmach and was a failed United Conservative Party candidate in the last election. (Count Olsen as at least one Albertan put back to work by Kenney.)

Pumping a deflated ‘enemy’

Olsen and his indoctrinators, employing the Orwellian technique of inventing an enemy, pretend to be fighting a war against a foreign-funded, anti-oilsands campaign that largely ended four years ago. As Olsen blared, his agency “is a direct response to the domestic and foreign-funded campaigns against Canada’s oil and gas industry that have divided Canadians and devastated the Alberta economy as energy production in the United States and elsewhere has ramped up.”

Apparently Olsen has no knowledge of the 2014 oil price collapse, or other well-documented factors hurting his province’s petro-prospects.

And he apparently also forgot that years ago, four oilsands executives sat down with five environmental groups involved in the anti-tarsands campaign led by Tzeporah Berman. In backrooms, they all agreed to a half-assed plan to limit emissions as opposed to production, which, rightly or wrongly, largely derailed the campaign.

The NDP government later joined in the climate policy agreement, leading to a splashy announcement in November 2015.

Still, no good propagandist discards a deflated enemy when falsely pumping one up better serves his purpose. Fighting a battle that has largely ended is surely good work if you can get it. MORE


‘Fair deal’ panel town hall fails to stoke support for Wexit

The "fair deal" panel in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Image: David Climenhaga

The visit of Premier Jason Kenney’s “fair deal” panel to Fort Saskatchewan, an industrial oil town just northeast of Edmonton, may have been intended to be a separatist open-mike night when it was added as a stop on the travel itinerary by the UCP’s brain trust.

Whatever they expected when they ginned up their maximum-pressure campaign on the federal Liberals, though, that’s not what they got yesterday evening when about 100 souls braved temperatures creeping close to minus 30 to go to the town’s recreation centre and offer their two cents about Alberta’s role in Confederation.

Some of the folks who showed up, of course, may have just wanted to get a peek at Preston Manning, the godfather of the Canadian right and the panel’s most prominent member. Alas for the curious, Manning took a powder, as he did the night before in Fort McMurray too.

But despite the panel’s baked-in assumption that Alberta’s getting a raw deal from the rest of Canada and its apparent effort to lead witnesses to the conclusions the government wants, plenty of people got up on their hind legs, proclaimed their love of Canada and advised the panel members they thought the province needs to start trying to work with our fellow citizens instead of just yelling at them.

“We need policies that build bridges, not walls,” as one speaker put it.

That thought even seemed to have occurred to a number of speakers at the two-hour, town-hall style meeting who said they felt Alberta isn’t getting a fair deal but were pretty sure making threats and throwing tantrums wasn’t going to make things better.

That isn’t what I was expecting when I drove to Fort Saskatchewan, and nor was the surprising number of town-hall participants who advised the panel the time has come for Alberta to join the grownups of Confederation and adopt a sales tax like every other jurisdiction in the country.

“The ‘Alberta Advantage’ may be a luxury we can no longer afford,” said one man before calling for implementation of a sales tax.

But if any message came through with crystal clarity for MLA panel members Tany Yao, Miranda Rosin and Drew Barnes to take back to their UCP caucus-mates, it was this: “Leave our pension funds alone.”

Or, more to the point, as several speakers put it, keep your hands off our Canada Pension Plan! And (one also said) we don’t trust the Alberta Investment Management Corporation either.

Well, you’ve got to love an Edmonton crowd, where progressivism runs deep even in a small-town on the periphery where the demographics lean hard toward grey hair and pale skin.

But panel staff indicated the idea that Kenney should keep his paws off the CPP comes up everywhere. So keep that in mind when you read the panel’s final report in March. If it suggests otherwise, that should set off your instinctive baloney detector.

Another thing that must come up a lot is the depredations of the UCP budget. Otherwise, why would panel chair Oryssia Lennie, a former senior civil servant, warn participants: “This is not the time to talk about the budget”?

“If you wish to speak about matters pertaining to the budget,” she advised the crowd, “please contact your MLA.”

More than one speaker pleaded for the environment. One reminded her neighbours that separation would mean you’ll need a passport to go to Kelowna. A couple of municipal politicians scored the UCP for trying to keep them from taking federal money without getting provincial permission — talk about adding red tape! And one young man astonished everyone with his passionate plea to decriminalize sex work. (Just think of all the tax revenue, he observed.)

And, yes, there was a little hard-core group of Wexiters who applauded each other’s remarks noisily and asserted, for example, that “the climate change agenda scam is being used to push socialism, which inevitably turns to communism.” Or, “the most ardent federalists seem to be taking talking points out of a union manual.”

One such fellow even advised telling the rest of Canada: “It’s a nice country you have here. Too bad if something happened to it. By the way, we’re bringing the pension back.” (You really can’t make this stuff up!)

But of the 27 folks who registered to speak — one guy previously observed by your blogger assisting George Clark of #Kudatah fame at another event spoke twice — I counted 16 who defended Canada as it is, 10 who thought constitutional reform is needed (about half of whom had drunk the Wexit Kool-Aid), and the sex-work guy.

Every defence of the CPP got a round of spontaneous applause.

The UCP grievance campaign, as one man summarized it, is just so 2003. “Albertans do not want to leave the country, they don’t want their own pension plan, and they don’t want to lose the RCMP,” he said. “We’re in the best country in the world and it shouldn’t be messed with!”

Jason Kenney, take note!

Like Manning, panel member Jason Goodstriker was also missing. The session was attended, though, by the remaining members of the panel, Stephen Lougheed, Donna Kennedy-Glans and Moin Yahya.


From zero to $60: Edmonton parents brace for increases to school bus fees

Extracurricular activities, family’s budget will be impacted, says one mom

Last week’s decision to increase bus fees will impact the families of around 11,000 Edmonton Public School students. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

With school bus fees set to rise by hundreds of dollars in the new year, Tia McAdam says her Edmonton family has some difficult decisions to make.

She has already cut back on her twin daughters’ choir and dance lessons in light of rising school fees. But McAdam says all extracurricular activities could be kiboshed to help pay for a three-fold hike in bus fees, approved last week by Edmonton Public School Board trustees.

“That’s what’s heartbreaking,” she said.

“I hate the fact that they’re doing nothing but homework and housework when they come from school. But, you know, I guess that’s just the political climate right now.”

On Feb. 1, the cost to bus her daughters to Riverbend Junior High on a subsidized Edmonton Transit Service pass will increase from $19 to $60 a month. It takes about an hour for the Grade 7 students to make the seven-kilometre trip on transit.

Trustees approved the increase last Tuesday, in reaction to the Alberta government’s decision to eliminate the School Fee Reduction grant. That program was introduced by the NDP government to help offset the costs of 2017 legislation that prohibited school boards from charging bus fees to families living more than 2.4 kilometres from their designated school.

In February, the monthly cost of a yellow bus for students from kindergarten up to Grade 6 will rise from zero to $33 a month for families living further than 2.4 kilometres. For older students, the monthly fee rises from zero to $60.

Similar fees, also going into effect Feb. 1, were approved Tuesday by the Edmonton Catholic School Division. Under its cost recovery program, the monthly cost of passes for students from kindergarten to grade 6 will be $33.50 per month. The cost for older students will be $56.50 per month.  MORE


Jason Kenney’s Year Of Attack

Meet the young Indigenous organizers working to bring together ceremony and activism in Alberta


Veronica Fuentes, a 20-year-old organizer with the Beaver Hills Warriors, says it’s important for Indigenous activists to “recenter the narrative and take hold of the narrative” when it comes to advocacy on land and climate issues. Photo: Abdul Malik / The Narwhal

For Indigenous activists in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton), a change in government doesn’t necessarily mean a change in tactics.

When Alberta premier Jason Kenney was elected in April, many local activists kicked into high gear.

A public inquiry into the funding of environmental groups, a war room, scrapping the carbon tax — all of these policies seemed to many activists to be an onslaught of worrying government policies.

But for Edmonton organizer Veronica Fuentes, it seemed a bit like more of the same.

Fuentes, whose father is Salvadoran and whose mother is from the Yellow Quill First Nation in Saskatchewan and a survivor of the sixties scoop, is an organizer in early her early twenties who is part of an Edmonton group called the Beaver Hills Warriors.

The colonial violence inflicted on her family members by past governments is part of the reason, she tells me, that she doesn’t feel all that different under Jason Kenney.

“That’s the difference when it’s Indigenous-led organizing,” she says. “The faith you have in your government is already skewed.”

When I meet Fuentes, she’s just handed in her last assignment for her second year in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.

In addition to her studies, she works a number of jobs and spends as much time as she can organizing with the Beaver Hills Warriors, an Indigenous youth collective that advocates for Indigenous rights.

She focuses her energy on Indigenous-led activism — for her, that’s activism that centres ceremony, self-care and community building.

She also believes engaging in electoral politics has its place. “We’re all well aware of it, we follow it, we all just sit in our seats just, like, facepalming,” she says. She believes centring Indigenous ceremony and building relationships among Indigenous people is also powerful — if not more so.

“That’s not to say we don’t understand the significance of engaging in electoral politics, but a lot of us don’t feel safe in those spaces,” she tells me.

“The reality for my community in El Salvador and in Saskatchewan — [my family is] from the Yellow Quill First Nation — is very, very different from the reality that’s centred in white climate justice,” Fuentes, who identifies as Anishinaabekwe tied to Treaty 4, says.

“A group of Indigenous folk took note of that and wanted to recenter the narrative and take hold of the narrative.”

The Beaver Hills Warriors was born out of this Indigenous-led movement in activism and community organizing.

‘It’s all interconnected’

Nigel Robinson, another member of the Beaver Hills Warriors, was 24 when he first took out a weathered copy of “The Fourth World: An Indian Reality,” by George Manuel from the Edmonton Public Library. “I read the first 70 pages of that and it blew my mind,” he says.

For Robinson, those pages put words to feelings he had not seen in print before. He remembers reading about how “the common perception that Indigenous people are inherently inferior … and that the colonizer uplifted us,” and it struck him that there must be a persistent belief in inferiority in order for a society to dispossess Indigenous people of their land.

Indigenous activism Alberta climate justice

Nigel Robinson is a member of the Łuéchogh Túé First Nation near what is now called Cold Lake, Alta. In his lifetime, he’s already seen changes in the lake, which has been part of his motivation to advocate for climate justice. Photo: Abdul Malik / The Narwhal

Robinson had been thinking a lot about the larger forces at play in society since his father’s death in 2010, at the age of 48, when Robinson was still a teenager. He says he heard terrible sentiments at the time, with people saying, “he’s just an Indian.”

Robinson says that was when he “started to think critically” about some of the issues he saw in his community. He began to realize they were “methods of dispossession.” He says residential schools and “imposed alcoholism,” both at play in his father’s death, were tools of colonialism.

“It’s all interconnected,” he says.

Robinson’s family has a history of advocacy. He says his uncle was of particular inspiration to him, and was a mentor until his death earlier this year.

He’s been asked to present to local high school classes and prefers to steer presentations away from what he calls “tokenizing” performances, toward discussions about modern, nuanced Indigenous life.

When we meet, he’s on contract with the Blue Quills language program, and is passionate about the importance of Indigenous languages. He’s working toward fluency in Dene and Cree. “Indigenous languages are the first languages the land has given us,” he says.

And he’s a mainstay at Beaver Hills Warriors events.

Indigenous activism Alberta Greta Thunberg

Nigel Robinson on the megaphone at an October climate rally in Edmonton — in which Indigenous activists led the march — joined by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Photo: Sharon J. Riley / The Narwhal

‘Life-sustaining nature to our worldviews’

Robinson is a member of the Łuéchogh Túé First Nation near what is now called Cold Lake, Alta.

He never drank the water from Cold Lake, but his grandparents did. He grew up swimming in the waters, but that’s now discouraged too.

“The lake is easily impacted,” Robinson says, and his own observations of its changes were part of what led him to his work advocating for climate action. (Robinson recently attended the climate summit in Madrid.)

Robinson has been very involved in the group’s recent actions to push for the federal government to reject proposals for Teck Resource’s Frontier Mine project —  a massive new oilsands mine proposed in northern Alberta.

Indigenous climate justice Madrid

Robinson (centre) at a Reject Teck rally at the climate summit in Madrid. Photo: Allan Lissner / Indigenous Climate Action.

climate justice Indigenous Madric Frontier mine

Indigenous activists have called on the federal government to reject Teck Resources’ Frontier oilsands mine project in Northern Alberta. Photo: Allan Lissner / Indigenous Climate Action.

There’s a “life sustaining nature to our worldviews,” Fuentes says. “And I think that’s something we can teach the Western world something about.”

This is something Fuentes is conscious of — and conscious of who is centring the narrative.

“Energy solutions without free, prior, informed consent of Indigenous communities — this replicates colonialism, which I think is something that we that we have to be constantly pushing [back against],” she says.

That’s part of why the “Reject Teck” campaign has been conscious of amplifying Indigenous voices.

Indigenous activism Alberta climate change

There’s a “life sustaining nature to our worldviews,” Fuentes says. “And I think that’s something we can teach the Western world something about.” Photo: Abdul Malik / The Narwhal

Indigenous activism Alberta justice colonization

Robinson first read George Manuel when he was 24. He remembers how it struck him that there must be a persistent belief in inferiority in order for a society to dispossess Indigenous people of their land. Photo: Abdul Malik / The Narwhal


‘Unfairly paints us as militant natives’

Fuentes is concerned with the way Indigenous activism is often portrayed in the media. “It unfairly paints us as militant natives,” she says. “And that’s exactly what makes us unsafe.”

One of the first actions Fuentes remembers with the Beaver Hills Warriors was anything but militant.

“We occupied 104th and Jasper [in downtown Edmonton] for about 45 minutes with a round dance,” she remembers. The action was in “solidarity with the Gidimt’en check point raid and the Wet’suwet’en at Unist’ot’en Camp.”

“We’d like to move f

The Alberta experiment with authoritarian government

Premier Jason Kenney and Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer announce Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act. Image: Government of Alberta/Flickr

Imagine living in a place where liberalism and democracy have dissipated, and given way to authoritarian government. Imagine a jurisdiction where open discussion is out of the question and debate unworthy. Imagine the state sees enemies — identified as liars or worse — and decides they must be defeated using all means possible.

This is the portrait right-wing German political theorist Carl Schmitt presented in The Concept of the Political, a 1932 pre-Nazi treatise where he categorized politics as a combat to the finish between friends and enemies.

Those on the same side — “friends” — had to recognize that their actual and potential adversaries on the other side were actually enemies and not just opponents with differing views of the good.

Seeing the world as a coalition of our friends versus collective public enemies — and then dismissing attempts to reconcile conflicting views as a utopian waste of time — is what autocrats, false populists, dictators, tyrants, and intolerant right-wing regimes have in common.

Now think of Alberta, where Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party (UCP) generate fear and anger ranting about imagined enemies of Alberta.

In a video, former prime minister Stephen Harper welcomed delegates to the UCP second AGM, running from November 29 to December 1. Harper vilified the outgoing NDP government as having “empowered those who wanted to see this great engine of Canada’s economy fail, and capitulated to a Liberal government in Ottawa that put roadblocks against our Alberta economy.”

In the hostile world imagined by Harper and Kenney internal enemies include the “Liberal” mayor of Calgary as Kenney calls Naheed Nenshi, as well as NDP opposition leader Rachel Notley.

The UCP regime fired the elections commissioner investigating UCP electoral corruption, who had already dished out $200,000 in fines to UCP candidates, and had still to report on the corruption surrounding the Kenney UCP leadership campaign.

On camera during the 2019 Alberta election campaign, Kenney signed a giant pledge to support public health care, and has now brought in measures to fire 750 nurses and other frontline workers — overall 5,900 public servants this year — with thousands more job losses to follow.

Kenney ignores union contracts, has seized control of public sector pensions, and fires workers, because unionized workers are public enemies for him and his party.

City of Edmonton councillors talk about how 2,000 jobs will need to be cut because Kenney abolished the city charter financing arrangement. Calgary also had its charter financing revoked and has already announced 250 departures.

Outside enemies are plentiful and vary according to the humours of the premier. Prominent are the Ottawa Liberal government that bought a pipeline to assure continued access of Alberta diluted bitumen to the West Coast; Quebec which approved the reversal of Enbridge Line 9 so that now 50 per cent of its imported crude oil comes from Alberta; B.C. (home since 1953 to the Trans Mountain pipeline built by B.C. Hydro) which has an ocean coast line and precious marine life it is determined to protect; and Canadian environmentalists opposed to climate change.

An Alberta Federation of Labour study estimates that the Kenney budget cuts just introduced will kill more jobs than the oil price collapse of 2014-16 and create a Kenney recession. These spending reductions are estimated by economist Mel McMillan to be nearly 15 per cent over the next four years, after accounting for population growth and price inflation.

Premier Kenney’s approval rating in Alberta has fallen from 60 per cent in September to 42 per cent at the end of November, according to polling done by Leger Marketing.

Once Albertans discover that the UCP finance minister was wrong to describe economic diversification is a “luxury”; that the tax credits for film production and tech expansion created jobs and should not have been eliminated; that Kenney’s $4.7-billion corporate tax cut has not stopped energy companies from laying off employees; that Energy Efficiency Alberta had generated $850 million of business in the two years before the UCP shut it down; and that cuts to health, education, and public university funding impact daily lives in every way — expect approval ratings to decline even further.

In the meantime the temptation to proceed against Kenney and the UCP as the enemy needs to be resisted, hard as that may be given his program will increase the incidence of mental illness, and that for many, it threatens psychological as well as physical well-being.

Emotionally fuelled partisan rhetoric puts citizens off, distracts from bringing forward what matters to people, and plays into the government’s hand.

Documenting and laying out what is going wrong, and addressing the issues facing Albertans is a better strategy for civil society, and, especially, the official opposition NDP. SOURCE


Alberta government attacks knowledge with cuts to post-secondary education

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to media December 6, 2019. Image: Government of Alberta/Flickr

The days when many young Alberta men could join major oil companies or wildcatters, or find work as roughnecks and roustabouts earning six-figure salaries within months of high school, are over and not coming back. Between 2014 and 2016 alone, over 40,000 jobs were lost in the oil and gas sector, according to the Labour Force Survey done by Statistics Canada.

The male-dominated oil patch is facing continued retrenchment because of low prices, high costs, and greenhouse gas-intensive bitumen extraction.

Alberta needs a major economic transformation.

A government that prized gender-based analysis and budgeting would make a difference. So would seeking wisdom from a wider circle than those who gave large donations to the winner of first the Progressive Conservative then the UCP leadership races before becoming premier.

Jason Kenney raised over $2 million in funds from donors that remain, for the most part, unknown to the public, but presumably know how to make themselves heard to the premier.

The province should be building on its recognized education system (students ranked third in the world in science and reading, seventh in mathematics) and welcoming more graduates to the most complete post-secondary system in Canada.

Alberta has two research universities rated in the top 200 in the world. As post-secondary education expert Alex Usher has pointed out, based on population size, only Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Massachusetts do better.

Created over 50 years ago, the Northern Alberta and Southern Alberta Institutes of Technology (NAIT and SAIT) give Alberta two big polytechnical schools that along with big and small universities prepare graduates to contribute to the knowledge-based economy.

In an incomprehensible attack on the foundations of an advanced society, the Kenney government has decided to slash funding for the current financial year (that ends next March) to the university sector by five per cent, with further cuts of five per cent projected for each of the following three years.

With four years of cuts coming, taking inflation into account, 21 post-secondary Alberta institutions (colleges, universities and technology institutes) will lose one-quarter to one-third of their public funding.

Pointedly, the Kenney government excluded the four faith-based Christian universities from its cuts, while singling out Grant MacEwan University and Bow Valley College for initial 7.9 per cent reductions.

Victims of immediate 6.9 per cent cuts are the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. The consequence will be to throttle back the research activities of these world-class institutions, forcing the universities to reduce all spending on items not covered by long-term contracts and denying Alberta students access to important opportunities in the emerging sectors that drive the modern world economy.  MORE

First Nation says Alberta premier is ‘killing’ proposed oilsands mine by failing to address concerns

‘This would be the first time that the Alberta government is killing its own oilsand project,’ says chief

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to the Canadian Club of Ottawa, Monday December 9, 2019 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is urging the federal government to approve an oilsands mine which would be the largest Canada has ever seen — but a northern Alberta First Nation says the main obstacle facing the project is Kenney’s own government.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, north of Fort McMurray, Alta., is accusing the Alberta premier of sabotaging the project by neglecting to address lingering environmental concerns.

“The Alberta government is killing its own oilsands project by not negotiating with ACFN,” Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam told CBC News.

Vancouver-based Teck Resources wants to develop a $20.6-billion oilsands project about 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. The project would disturb 292 square kilometres of pristine wetlands and boreal forest over its 40-year lifespan (although Teck won’t actively mine its whole lease at once). That’s an area half the size of the city of Edmonton.

Kenney was in Ottawa this week to urge the Trudeau government to act on a list of provincial demands, including the swift approval of the Frontier mine.

“Another thing that must be done is to get to a positive approval of the Teck Resources mine in northern Alberta,” Kenney said Monday during an address to the Canadian Club. “(The mine) has multiple deep partnerships with Indigenous communities.”

‘The premier has to take a step back’

Unlike past oilsands projects, Frontier isn’t getting vocal opposition from large numbers of Indigenous communities. Teck has secured the support of all 14 First Nations and Metis communities the mine affects. That includes the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation — which Kenney singled out in recent remarks by noting its chief once hosted anti-oilsands Hollywood celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jane Fonda.

“Chief Adam has given his conditional support to the Teck Resources oilsands mine because he sees it as an opportunity to move his people from poverty to prosperity.” Kenney said.

WATCH the complicated relationship Indigenous communities have with the Teck Frontier oilsands mine

WATCH: One Indigenous community’s complicated relationship with the oilsands  4:51

Historically Indigenous communities in Northern Alberta have oppos oilsands development. Now they have thrown in their lot with a major mining company. But as CBC’s David Thurton finds out, not everybody is on board. 4:51

But Adam, who was also in Ottawa Monday and attended Kenney’s speech, said the Alberta government has failed to meet with his nation to address outstanding environmental concerns.

“The premier has to take a step back,” Adam told CBC News immediately after Kenney’s speech. “We won’t let Canada approve this project unless Alberta is at the table fulfilling their obligations. Because we are not just going to take hot air anymore.”

Adam said the Alberta government needs to satisfy fears about the loss of fish, bison and caribou habitat before the federal cabinet makes its decision on the mine at the end of February. Adam has threatened to take legal action if Alberta doesn’t address those concerns

Allan Adam is the chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

“If they don’t do that, Alberta is going to kill this project by themselves,” Adam said, suggesting the project will die in the courts.

If approved, Teck’s Frontier mine would produce 260,000 barrels of oil a day starting in 2026.

The mine underwent a review in 2018 by both federal and Alberta regulators. The joint-panel review concluded the mine would be in the public’s interest but would significantly harm the environment and Indigenous peoples. The regulators issued several recommendations, citing the need to mitigate negative effects on the environment and habitat.

Adam said his nation has been meeting with the federal government to resolve its concerns. But the Alberta government hasn’t come to the table.

The ore crushing unit at the Fort Hills oilsands mine on Sept. 10, 2018. (David Thurton/ CBC)

The Alberta premier’s office directed questions to Alberta Environment and Parks. In an email, the department’s press secretary, Jess Sinclair, said the provincial government has met with ACFN several times.

“Throughout these meetings, we were able to focus a discussion on key items for consideration, which was communicated to ACFN,” Sinclair stated. “The items include working toward establishing the biodiversity stewardship area, which is completed.”

But an ACFN spokesperson said Tuesday night there are still a number of outstanding concerns that need to addressed.

Sinclair also said the Alberta premier had a brief phone call with Adam to congratulate him on his re-election as chief and to discuss working “productively with ACFN on this critical project.”

Teck Resources’ spokesperson Chris Stannell declined to comment for this story. SOURCE