Razzle Dazzle ‘Em: Part Two


Last week Jason Kenney unveiled his Fight Back Strategy.  No longer would Alberta be apologetic about the energy industry.  From now on Alberta, the federal government and the industry were going to fight back.

Kenney

Prepare to be razzle dazzled!

  1. War Room

Kenney will set up a war room in the Ministry of Energy to respond aggressively and in real time to lies and myths about Canada’s energy industry “through paid, earned (?) and social media”.  If necessary, the war room will include satellite offices (war roomlets?).

The war room will be funded by Alberta taxpayers. They have the right to ask how much it will cost and more importantly whether it will be incrementally more effective than the Notley government’s campaign which includes cross country tours, meetings with industry and government reps, media campaigns, etc.  If not, it’s a PR stunt.

 

  1. Use legal tools to attack foreign-funded political activists masquerading as charities

Kenney’s lawyers will put together an “evidentiary case” alleging that charities like the David Suzuki Foundation are in flagrant violation of charities laws.  They’ll send the case to the Canada Revenue Agency and the feds.  If CRA and the feds don’t take action, Alberta’s Attorney General will sue for mandamus forcing them to act.  

Same question as #1.  How much will this cost?  Will it be effective?  Even if AG gets CRA to consider the case that doesn’t mean CRA will rule in Kenney’s favour.  And if it does, so what.     

  1. Financially support pro-development lawsuits, including those brought by pro-resource aboriginal groups

Kenney will create a litigation war chest to fund First Nations who want to be “partners in prosperity” but have not been contacted under the duty to consult.

There’s a reason these FN have not be contacted.  They’re not owed a duty to consult;  expanding the duty to consult beyond those to whom it is owed is lunacy.    

Kenney asked why the courts and media focus on the minority of FN who oppose pipelines, instead of consulting with groups like the Eagle Spirit consortium who he said should have been consulted before the government vetoed Northern Gateway.  He said the FN who opposed Trans Mountain at the Federal Court of Appeal were funded by Tides (were they?) but the Eagle Spirit consortium had to crowdsource funds to hire lawyers.

This is so garbled it will take some time to sort out.

First, the “Eagle Spirit consortium” is not a First Nations group.  It’s owned by Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd, a corporation backed by a number of FN and the Aquilini Group, a diversified group of companies founded by Luigi Aquilini who emigrated to Canada from Italy.  Aquilini is involved in property development, construction, management, hospitality, sports and entertainment, technology, renewable energy and agriculture. 

Second, the “Eagle Spirit consortium” includes a number of FN who “staunchly opposed” Northern Gateway because they want their own pipeline (which is expected to open in 2020) to proceed.

Lastly, Kenney did not explain why the “duty to consult” should be extended to corporations or FN who opposed Northern Gateway, nor did he explain why Alberta taxpayers should fund lawsuits brought by corporations owned by multi billionaires.   

  1. Put pressure on political leaders who block Canadian energy, including potentially cutting off oil shipments

Kenney would initiate reprisals against BC ranging from periodic safety inspections on products passing through Alberta and the “ultimate sanction” of periodically reducing energy shipments.

Reprisals may make Kenney feel better, but they’ll have no impact on the Federal Court of Appeal which suspended Trans Mountain because the NEB failed to consider the impact of marine traffic and the federal government failed in its duty to consult.

Kenney would petition the federal government to declare Trans Mountain “for common advantage” under section 92(c).

Kenney acknowledged such a declaration would be purely symbolic and would have no effect so why is he still talking about it?   

  1. Equalization referendum to address unfairness of transfers to provinces blocking Alberta’s resource development

Kenney said Alberta has been “tremendously generous to Confederation” but if politicians try to block Alberta’s resources, he’ll trigger a referendum on Section 36 of the Constitution requiring the federal government to change the equalization formula now, not five years hence.

Kenney admits triggering the referendum doesn’t guarantee Alberta will get the desired outcome but he’ll do it anyway to “elevate Alberta’s demand for fairness to the top of the agenda”. 

In other words, Kenney is proposing a plan that will enrich the lawyers, pull on government resources and distract Albertans from the fact that Kenney signed off on the equalization formula when he was a member of Harper’s Cabinet.  This is a waste of government resources and tax dollars.      

The strategy Kenney is no longer talking about

Okay, here’s the sequins in your eyes part.

When Kenney initially set out his fight back strategy he said as premier he’d call up the CEOs of major energy companies “to discuss a new approach to social license”, namely replicating the litigation strategy of Resolute Forest Products which sued Greenpeace and others for defamation and violation of RICO laws.  The lawsuits started in 2013 and are proceeding in fits and starts on both sides of the border.

Having served as General Counsel for two large publicly traded companies I know Canadian companies detest litigation.  They’re distracting, they drain the company of time, money and resources that could be better spent elsewhere, and they frustrate the heck out of the company’s directors and shareholders who just want it all to go away.  Such lawsuits are called SLAPP suits, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, they make companies look bad and increase sympathy and support for the NGOs.

This is a Trumpian idea:  Kenney thinks he has the right to tell corporations what to do.    It’s utterly inappropriate in a modern democracy.  Someone must have told Kenney he’d crossed a line because while he raised it in his speeches it does not appear in his five-point strategy meme.

Summary

Kenney’s fight back strategy boils down to diverting taxpayer dollars to fund a PR campaign and a litigation war chest while at the same time threatening reprisals against those who cross him.  Markham Hislop rightly summarized Kenney’s strategy as vengeance, not vision.

Kenney is fond of saying we can’t spend our way out of a recession, it’s time someone told him we can’t sue our way to recovery.

Anyone who believes otherwise has sequins in their eyes.

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34 Responses to Razzle Dazzle ‘Em: Part Two

  1. Mohamed Mahdi says:

    All of the points in kenney’s fight back strategy are pretty awful. I just wish for a government that worked with all groups to support pipeline projects which includes working class people that work in the oil industry, environmentalists, first nations and ceo’s of major energy companies. Not going to shit on kenney here but every single time I hear him talk about energy issues he doesn’t seem to care about the anti-pipeline side much and only seems to care about pro-development first nations and other groups that support pipelines. Punishing people who disagree with you and funding something as pointless as an energy war room to spread your pro-oil proganda is a waste of time and money especially when Alberta is having fiscal issues at the moment. A good government would try to work with people opposed to something as simple as a pipeline instead of trying to punishing them for disagreeing with them. Pro and anti-pipeline have a right to air their opinion and they should not be punished for having an opinion opposite of a governing party. Notley and the ABNDP are at least not punishing people who disagree with them on oil and gas issues by advocating for the stripping of environmental groups/charities funding and etc. This is one of many issues that makes it impossible for me to vote for the UCP until they moderate on this issue.

    • I agree Mohamed. In a democracy, the government is supposed to represent all of its citizens. It does not have the right to attack the segment of the citizenry who disagree with government policy and use their own tax dollars to do it. I know of at least one high level person who attended the Energy Relaunch program and was shocked and disgusted by Kenney’s comments. I think there are many more who choose not to talk about it in public, hopefully they are sharing their concerns with their colleagues behind closed doors. Kenney will drag Alberta backward if he’s elected.

  2. Sam Gunsch says:

    Some of the Kenney stuff you quote can be categorized as pure bullshit as defined by Harry Frankfurt.(wikipedia excerpt below.) As per Frankfurt’s take on BS, Kenney doesn’t care about whether he’s making stuff up or not, i.e. it’s not his concern if it’s part truth, no truth, full lie, part lie… he’s just trying to persuade his base and oilsands supporters that he can and will do some things that the NDP hasn’t & won’t. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit EXCERPT: On Bullshit (2005), by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt, is an essay that presents a theory of bullshit that defines the concept and analyzes the applications of bullshit in the context of communication. Frankfurt determines that bullshit is speech intended to persuade without regard for truth. The liar cares about the truth and attempts to hide it; the bullshitter doesn’t care if what they say is true or false, but rather only cares whether their listener is persuaded.[1]

    • Sam what a wonderfully cogent explanation. If Kenney doesn’t care whether what he says is true or false, that explains how he can continue to spout contradictions. For example, he’s free to attack the equalization formula today despite the fact he supported the principles on which it is based yesterday when he was a federal Cabinet minister. Hannah Arendt thought it was quaint that North Americans (unlike their European counterparts) still expected their politicians to be honest. That may have been the case in the 1950s and 60s. It’s no longer the case today.

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        ‘spout contradictions’ And the increase in this by political leaders is, my guess anyways, is a key factor in alienating citizens from engaging in politics and participation in political parties.

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        And FWIW, some have argued that we’re seeing the consequences/politics of an extreme example of Frankfurt’s BS/bullshitter model in USA politics right now with Trump. EXCERPT: ‘Donald Trump says a lot of things that aren’t true, often shamelessly so, and it’s tempting to call him a liar.
        EXCERPT: But that’s not quite right. As the Princeton University philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt put it in a famous essay, to lie presumes a kind of awareness of and interest in the truth — and the goal is to convince the audience that the false thing you are saying is in fact true. Trump, more often than not, isn’t interested in convincing anyone of anything. He’s a bullshitter who simply doesn’t care.’
        https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/5/30/15631710/trump-bullshit

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        Frankfurt himself pointed out early on that Trump fits the BS model(below). Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting Kenney is in the same league as Trump, but jeez… Kenney doesn’t seem to give a fig when anyone points out the clear contradictions he’s spouting, as you have pointed out… makes one wonder… EXCERPT: ‘However, it is often uncertain whether Trump actually cares about the truth of what he says. This makes it unclear whether his assertion is a lie or merely bullshit. Since a person does not lie unless he makes an assertion that he himself takes to be false, we cannot properly say that he is lying if he actually believes what he says. ‘ http://time.com/4321036/donald-trump-bs/

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        And I’ve read arguments that BS is distinctly more damaging to democracy than lying. My guess, they’re right. https://theconversation.com/why-bullshit-hurts-democracy-more-than-lies-96331

      • Sam, thanks for these links. I was thinking about these points when I watched the Frum/Bannon Munk debate on YouTube. The Munk debates are usually intellectual exercises, but this one was bizarre. The proposition was supposed to be: “The future of Western politics is populist, not liberal”, but Bannon skillfully redefined it as follows: “The only question before us: is it going to be populist nationalism or populist socialism.” Also, while Bannon debating the affirmative may have been appropriate given he’s a populist, Frum debating the negative was off base because Frum is a dyed in the wool Republican, he doesn’t have a deep connection to key liberal issues like the importance of the social safety net, the value of quality state-funded public healthcare and public education, the need for strong unions to keep corporations in check, the importance of government regulation to save us from a rampant free market. The organizers of the Munk debate let everyone down. By inviting Bannon to the debate they gave him a veneer of credibility, by selecting Frum to argue the negative they give Bannon an opponent he could easily demolish. Pathetic really.

  3. Hi Susan. Good post. One tiny correction: my last name is spelled Hislop. 😀

  4. Peter says:

    I trust this insightful and well-researched backdrop to Alberta’s pressing election issues will be supplied to our Premier.

  5. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I think Jason Kenney is full of hot air. It is sad to see people being misled by what he says, including the media. I don’t trust Jason Kenney’s motives or intent.

    • Dwayne, I agree. The story that’s gaining traction everywhere but here in Calgary thanks to a lack of coverage by the Calgary Herald is Kenney having to disavow a former campaign worker alleged to have ties to white supremacists and anti-Semetics. Kenney says the UCP is working on a way to better screen extremists who apply for membership, but given how poorly it has done to date in screening the 50+ people who put their names forward as nominees in various ridings all I can say is “Good luck!”
      As someone said on Twitter: no one is calling Kenney a bigot, they’re simply saying bigots believe his party is a party for bigots.
      Here’s the link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/kenney-campaign-worker-controversy-1.4885151

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: It is like an infomercial. I remember those from way, way back. What you see may look good at first, but when you get the product, it is the opposite.

  6. GoinFawr says:

    “Kenney’s lawyers will put together an “evidentiary case” alleging that charities like the David Suzuki Foundation are in flagrant violation of charities laws…”

    Why does he need to be premier to do that? Sounds like he’s somehow already convinced, so why does he need public money to talk to the CRA? Just drop off your evidence Mr.Kenney and you’ll find they are an institution quite capable of seeing which way the wind blows.

    “Kenney would initiate reprisals against BC…”

    Oh, so he would mimic the actions of the NDP gov’t; well, you know what they say about flattery and imitation!

    Don’t forget how Mr.Kenney has promised to roll back consumer protections on behalf of an auto dealers association! Amazing what 175 large can get you in politics these days! Alberta Lemons!

    Hocus! Pocus!

    • Bob Raynard says:

      “Amazing what 175 large can get you in politics these days!”

      Yes. Apparently social media is referring to the UCP as the Used Car Party.

      • GoinFawr says:

        “Used Car Party”
        I like it! Let’s make it stick!
        We need an update on the 60’s Nixon poster:
        “Would you buy a used car from this man?”

      • Carlos Beca says:

        OMG this is funny
        Let us take this serious and try to get this out there as much as possible
        I will be ready if he sends his goons out 🙂

    • Hocus Pocus indeed (and just in time for Halloween!) I have yet to hear an original idea from Jason Kenney. It’s all the same old, same old: cut taxes, roll back regulation, free the free market and all will be well. Anyone with two functioning brain cells will recognize this as a rehash from the Klein playbook and remember it worked for a few, but not the many. That’s not good government.

  7. james Mather says:

    I was surprised to see you you diss Vivian Krause ( “a nutritionist” and :spokespersonfor the eenergy industry”). Yes, she has a Masters in Nutrition, and worked in that field for several UN organizations, in Guatemala and Indonesia and Sumatra. She also worked for NUTRECO, a salmon farming corporation. So hardly “just a nutritionist”. She has been paid appearance or speaking fees by Canadian Resource companies, which hardly makes her a spokesperson.

    And, her various blogs and reports about possible intrusion by US charities into Canadian environmental/development issues provide very detailed information about how this might be affecting what Canadians know about economic development on the west coast.

    So my question is: What is it about Vivian Krause and her work that you find so distasteful that you treat her so disrespectfully?

    Other than this, I enjoy your weekly work. I too fully believe that the UCP and its leadership have nothing constructive to say or do in Alberta.

    • Fair question James. I’m not discrediting Vivian Krause’s expertise as a nutritionist. She’s probably good at her job but she’s not a cross-border tax lawyer or an expert in Canadian or US tax laws relating to charities and foundations. My point is Jason Kenney cited Krause as an authority for the proposition that US charities and corporations are conspiring to kill Canada’s energy industry. When Krause appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources she said she found no evidence that commercial interests in the US were funding campaigns against Northern Gateway, all she said was she found evidence of “motivations” to protect the environment and achieve energy security. I don’t know what that means but it’s not hard evidence of a conspiracy to kill Canadian energy as Kenney would have us believe. https://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/vivian-krauses-conspiracy-theory-you-decide

      A quick note on Kenney’s plan to get CRA to audit the charities. This is an idea borrowed from Harper who launched the political-activities audit program 2012. It targeted 60 charities as being in breach of a provision in the Income Tax Act that limits a charity’s political activity to 10%. Any charity that exceeded this limit would lose their charitable status. This limitation was successfully challenged by a tiny charity, Canada Without Poverty, in July 2018. The federal government appealed the decision to seek clarification on some constitutional and charity law issues, but said its appeal would not change the policy direction which is to remove the 10% threshold on political activities. This means that even if Kenney succeeds in gathering the “evidentiary case” he won’t be able to strip charities of their charitable status based on their political activity. So what’s his objective other than to make it look like he’s doing something. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/08/15/charities-political-activities_a_23502926/

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        Re Krause and her theories… Narwhal explains who, what, when, etc https://thenarwhal.ca/topics/vivian-krause/

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        In 2014 Narwhal (formerly Desmog Blog i believe) wrote this about Krause. Some useful sunlight…

        https://thenarwhal.ca/convenient-conspiracy-how-vivian-krause-became-poster-child-canada-s-anti-environment-crusade/

        Convenient Conspiracy: How Vivian Krause Became the Poster Child for Canada’s Anti-Environment Crusade
        Emma Gilchrist and Carol Linnitt
        Nov 13, 2014 6 min read

        Today Vivian Krause published an opinion piece in The Province claiming “a vote for Vision is a vote for U.S. oil interests.” So, you might be wondering: just who is Vivian Krause? We’re so glad you asked…

        An essential component of all public relations campaigns is having the right messenger— a credible, impassioned champion of your cause…

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        And in case anyone has missed Kenney’s take on Krause’s conspiracy theory, here is a recent Kenney tweet… now the ‘foreign dark money’ is apparently also funding groups pushing for proportional representation in BC… the evidence for Kenney/UCP being Trump-lite is piling up, IMHO.

        EXCERPT:
        Jason Kenney Verified account @jkenney
        19h19 hours ago

        Jason Kenney Retweeted Andrew Wilkinson

        Agreed, @Wilkinson4BC. The anti-Canadian energy campaign has been fuelled by foreign dark money. The same groups that are trying to change BC’s electoral system.

        We should all support @LindaFrum’s Bill S-239 to get foreign money out of Canadian politics http://www.lindafrum.com/senate-work/legislation/

        Jason Kenney added,
        Andrew Wilkinson
        Verified account @Wilkinson4BC
        It’s time for us to stand up for ourselves and get the foreign money out of our political sphere.
        55 replies 145 retweets 299 likes

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        ‘dark money’ Hilarious topsy-turvy use by Kenney of the phrase ‘dark money’ when it’s primarily known as a term applying to billionaires donations, e.g. Koch brothers, being able to fund, without transparency, all sorts of anti-democratic campaigns… Here:

        EXCERPT: ‘ US political financing
        Dark Money review: Nazi oil, the Koch brothers and a rightwing revolution

        New Yorker writer Jane Mayer examines the origins, rise and dominance of a billionaire class to whom money is no object when it comes to buying power’

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/17/dark-money-review-nazi-oil-the-koch-brothers-and-a-rightwing-revolution

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        I wonder if the Koch brothers have donated to PACs for Kenney/UCP? Koch companies have significant investments in Alberta’s oilsands, among their significant fossil fuel investments. The best research on Koch’s funding of climate denial is by Robert Brulle… USA donation rules enable/empower a lot of billionaire’s ‘dark money’.

        EXCERPT:
        Anonymous private funding of global warming sceptics, who have criticised climate scientists for their lack of transparency, is becoming increasingly common. The Kochs, for instance, have overtaken the corporate funding of climate denialism by oil companies such as ExxonMobil. One such organisation, Americans for Prosperity, which was established by David Koch, claimed that the “Climategate” emails illegally hacked from the University of East Anglia in 2009 proved that global warming was the “biggest hoax the world has ever seen”.

        Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, has estimated that over the past decade about $500m has been given to organisations devoted to undermining the science of climate change, with much of the money donated anonymously through third parties.

        https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/exclusive-billionaires-secretly-fund-attacks-on-climate-science-8466312.html

      • Sam Gunsch says:

        Ok… last one on Kenney conspiracy retweeting about foreign $$…

        Thomas Lukaszuk (below) noticed Kenney’s whack-a-doodle tweeting about ‘foreign dark money’ while also noting the Kenney hasn’t released his donors list from early UCP campaigning.

        EXCERPT: ‘
        Thomas A. Lukaszuk Verified account @LukaszukAB 4h4 hours ago

        .@jkenney someone must have hacked your Twitter account. But since on this topic, please release all sources of all donations that you’ve received. Albertans are still waiting… #AbLeg #cdnpoli
        ============
        Jason Kenney Verified account @jkenney

        Agreed, @Wilkinson4BC. The anti-Canadian energy campaign has been fuelled by foreign dark money. The same groups that are trying to change BC’s electoral system.…
        7 replies 56 retweets 135 likes

  8. Craig Gudlaugson says:

    I think that the title “Used Car Party” is apt. I do not think that the little tin pot Trump wannabe can recover from the new party name !

  9. Agreed! The Used Car Party is the perfect name for Kenney’s dilapidated old party. At this rate Kenney’s Used Car Party is going to blowup the radiator before it limps home.

  10. David says:

    Kenney’s so called strategy here seems a warmed over version of what the previous Alberta government and Harper tried and really didn’t work well for either. Well, I suppose Kenney does not get any points for originality here and as the saying goes the definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, so I am now also wondering more about the state of his mind.

    I might have been reassured if Kenney explained how he would do things differently than these previous two governments, but he seems particularly loathe to admit the Harper government made any mistakes here. As another saying goes, those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    Like #1- the war room, the previous Alberta government was very focused on national and international media coverage, although I don’t think they used the term war room. Not surprisingly, the rest of the world paid more attention to what they did about the environment (which was little), than what they and their numerous well paid media advisors said. I don’t think Kenney will be able to buy any credibility here either, especially if he gets rid of the carbon tax.

    The Harper government made quite a cottage industry out of harassing, antagonizing and putting up legal roadblocks against Canadian and foreign environmental groups. It did not make them go away or give up, if anything I think it made them more determined and radical. In any event, I think #2 falls mostly under Federal responsibility, so after his long political career perhaps Kenney has lost track of where he is running politically now – hint, it is Provincially, not Federally. I don’t see this as a promise he can possibly keep, unless he somehow can magically assume Federal powers,

    Unfortunately, I do not see too much scrutiny of this in the media. One gets the sense sometimes certain reporters just press record, leave the room and let Kenney talk into the microphone for about 10 minutes and then mostly print it verbatim the next day. Perhaps critical thinking and investigative reporting are a think of the past, probably not much room for that in the budgets of our hollowed out major newspapers now anyways. Hopefully others can step in to fill this current vacuum of political discussion.

  11. GoinFawr says:

    @ Sam Gunsch regarding lies:

    “It’s not a lie if you ‘believe’ it!” – George Costanza

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