Your weekly update on Alberta politics for February 11, 2020
Across the country this week all eyes are on northwestern BC, where the RCMP have begun a severe crackdown against land defenders and the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
The chiefs oppose a natural gas pipeline project, the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, which crosses their traditional territories.
The RCMP are enforcing a media blackout zone, preventing journalists from observing their treatment of peaceful protestors. Karyn Pugliese of the Canadian Association of Journalists was on the Canadaland podcast this week to discuss that, and what you hear may shock you. The way that the RCMP are trampling over the free press to keep people from seeing photographs of them cracking down on protestors, or seeing the militarized police with their carbines, or hearing about things like the use of LRAD sound cannons on protestors, is extremely disturbing. Civil rights seem to evaporate very rapidly in this country when there’s resource-extraction money to be made.
Solidarity protests have erupted across the country, including here in Alberta. Yesterday over two hundred demonstrators occupied the Enbridge Building in Edmonton, demanding that BMO divest from the pipeline.
The pipeline project is only just on the other side of the Rockies, but many Albertans have an even closer connection to the project. That’s because AIMCO, the provincial government’s investment corporation (to which the UCP have recently been giving control over teachers’ and public sector workers’ pensions) recently purchased a very large stake in CGL. This puts everyone with pensions managed by AIMCO in a very uncomfortable position–if the project fails, our pensions take a gigantic hit. If the project succeeds, we’re complicit in Canada’s ongoing colonial violence against Indigenous people.
Last week demonstrators in Edmonton rallied to urge AIMCO to divest from CGL but I find it extremely unlikely that the UCP government would ever allow that to happen.
The only media boots on the ground covering this siege seem to be The Tyee (an independent BC magazine), The Narwhal (formerly DeSmog, an environment-focused publication), and Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN).
- For months the UCP have been deflecting criticism of their public education funding freeze by arguing that they’re not cutting school board budgets (even though the schools are being forced to cover growing enrollment without growing funds.) But even that fig-leaf technicality appears to have been a flat lie: according to documents that the ATA managed to wring out of the government with a FOIP (freedom-of-information) request, all but four public school boards in the province saw their funding cut in the last year, all while Jason Kenney and his cabinet were telling us there were no cuts at all. In sum the cuts amount to around $136 million less for public education in Alberta.
- I’m very excited about our Progress Report podcast this week because we’re covering a campaign that’s very dear to me: the push for universal fare-free transit. We don’t have to buy a permit to use our sidewalks. You don’t have to buy a ticket to get into the library. And likewise, our public transit system needs to be seen as an important and freely-accessible public resource. Free Transit Edmonton organizers Paige Gorsak and Laura Kruse join Duncan to lay out the case in our latest episode.
- Is Jason Kenney making up his own revisionist history? David Climenhaga at albertapolitics.ca wrote this week about Kenney’s strange insistence that Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama colluded to kill the KXL pipeline–something that Canada’s ambassador to the US at the time says is absolute nonsense. If you’ll remember your recent history, the Prime Minister at the time KXL was vetoed was old Emperor Palpatine himself, the Right Honourable Stephen Joseph Harper.
- In a classic show of conservative hypocrisy, city councillor and ‘fiscal hawk’ Joe Magliocca has been exposed for running up some very dodgy, and very large, bills at Calgarians’ expense. Now the people Joe claims he spent that money hosting are saying he made these meetings up entirely. At what point does city council call the cops for a fraud investigation?
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