Kenney’s “Dead Letter” Coal Policy

Dead letter: something that has lost its force or authority without being formally abolished – Merriam Webster

On Feb 3, 2021 Jason Kenney said he rescinded Lougheed’s coal policy which blocked open-pit mining on the eastern slopes and the Rockies because it was “a dead letter.”

He said the eastern slopes and the Rockies would be protected under existing regulations and all this public outrage was fueled by condescending city-folk who had it in for rural folk who were simply trying to put food on the table.

Two days later his energy minister, Sonya Savage, was thrust into the limelight to clean up Mr Kenney’s mess. (This is becoming standard procedure in Kenneyland).

Ms Savage said the government would issue a new coal policy this week because her government had no intention of changing “any of the restrictions or any of the protections in the eastern slopes” when the Lougheed coal policy was rescinded.

Apparently the “dead letter” wasn’t so dead after all. It actually preserved our mountains and protected our environment and our water. All it took was thousands of Albertans protesting for months in the middle of the pandemic to convince Mr Kenney of this fact.  


Mr Kenney insists the Lougheed coal policy is unnecessary because the existing regulations will protect our mountains and environment.

Let’s borrow one of the regulator’s tools, a process known as Information Requests (IRs) test the rationale Mr Kenney has offered in support of his position.*

IR#1: Mr Kenney, you say coal mining is the “lifeblood of several Alberta communities and employs thousands of Alberta workers.” Please identify the “Alberta communities” referred to and confirm or correct Stats Canada data that says there were 2,985 coal mining jobs in Alberta at the peak of the industry and only 1,542 jobs today.   

IR#2: You indicate coal will be developed “responsibly under strict regulatory standards and processes” that protect “air, land, water, and wild species from harm.” Please identify which regulatory standards and processes you are referring to and explain how they prevent harm as effectively as the Lougheed coal policy which stopped open pit coal mining all together.       

IR#3: You indicate “scientists, not politicians, make the environmental decisions.” Please advise whether Cabinet can override the Regulator if the Regulator rejects a mining application for environmental reasons?

IR#4: You suggest the world is not moving away from coal. Please rationalize your position with the fact mining giants like Rio Tinto, BHP, Vale, and Teck have or are in the process of unloading their coal assets and Blackrock, the world’s largest financial manager ($8.7 trillion) warned that any company that fails to speed up its transition to a clean economy will be flagged for “potential exit” because they present risk to Blackrock’s clients’ returns.      

IR#5: Please explain how land reclamation and environmental regulations will protect mountain landscapes after they have been destroyed by decades of open-pit mining.  

IR#6: Please explain how you will enforce the regulations referred to in IR#5 if a coal mining company becomes insolvent.  

IR#7: Please explain why public consultation pursuant to the AER process is sufficient to ensure all Albertans have been consulted on opening up the eastern slopes and the Rockies to open-pit mining when not all Albertans meet the AER requirement that they be “directly affected” by a specific project. Will you amend the law to make province-wide consultation mandatory before any coal mining project may be filed with the regulator?

IR#8: Please explain why you said the Lougheed coal policy was a “dead letter” when the coal industry and investors in coal companies specifically highlighted the coal policy as a roadblock to open-pit mining and lauded your government for working to change the policy.

IR#9: Energy minister Savage said mountain top mining was a no-go. Please define “mountain top mining” and confirm it includes surface mining, strip mining, mountain top removal, and any other activity that touches those parts of the eastern slopes and the Rockies that were protected under the Lougheed coal policy.

IR#10: Please advise whether your government will engage in a province-wide consultation before it implements the new coal policy. Please confirm whether the government will reinstate the Lougheed coal policy until such consultation is complete.  

IR#11: Please comment on statements like the one made by Mantracker star, Terry Grant, who said the new coal policy would be a “stream of garbage” and “another distraction” to create the impression the government has addressed the public’s concerns.

Dead letter

These IRs are not as rigorous as real IRs, however they illustrate the point that Albertans deserve more than a hastily stitched together “replacement” policy and a quick pat on the head that everything will be okay.  

The right thing for Mr Kenney to do is to reinstate the Lougheed coal policy. Anything less demonstrates an appalling lack of respect for Albertans and the province they love.

So going back to the definition of “dead letter” – something that has lost its force or authority without being formally abolished – perhaps the real dead letter here isn’t the Lougheed coal policy but the Kenney government.

*Mr Kenney’s position is drawn from his public comments and the Coal Hard Facts brochure.    

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72 Responses to Kenney’s “Dead Letter” Coal Policy

  1. Carl Hunt says:

    Premier Kenney should explain to Albertans, where he plans to find the ‘new’ water for washing & processing coal, since all water was previously allocated in the South Saskatchewan River Land Use Plan? Can Jason get ‘water out of a stone?

    • Mike in Edmonton says:

      Carl, somebody on a CBC comment section (can’t remember which one) heard about a plan for awater pipeline from Lake Winnipeg (?) to the Grassy Meadows mine. That’s too ridiculous for comment. But apparently the Two Jasons figure they can change the water allocations for the Oldman River without public fuss, because they’re “at the Minister’s discretion.” Details in the Narwhal, under the title “Alberta’s ‘back door’ plan to free up billions of litres of water for coal mines raises alarm”

      The article links to a review in the blog, giving the legal ins and outs of water allocation. It’s a slog, but the Twitter version is, yes the government can arbitrarily reassign water licences even in a “closed” river system–but they’d leave themselves open to court challenges.

    • Carl and Mike in Edmonton, the decision to rescind the coal policy was so shameful for this and so many other reasons, and yet Kenney did it anyway and his “illustrious” caucus supported it. What’s wrong with these people?

  2. Carlos says:

    Susan thank you for another intelligent post. In a time when the the Dead Letters in the UCP caucus cannot turn their backs to all of this, it is refreshing to know that we still have brains in this province. It is exhausting to try to protect this land from this attack on common sense and human dignity. I hope that somehow those who read your blog every week will be able to show the dead letters that is not late to kick this absurd out of government as soon as possible.
    I have no words anymore to express my disgust with people that are really stuck in a world of darkness, stupidity and ignorance. It does not take half a brain to make an effort to leave this cult and move forward to the bright future we can all achieve.

  3. lindamcfarlane says:

    Delightful.. love the questions 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • Linda and Avalon: Now that the 1976 Coal Policy has been temporarily reinstated to give the government the time to consult on a new coal policy I’ll actually have a chance to ask these questions and others. The big question is will they be answered.

  4. Avalon Roberts says:

    Susan you are so on it. Great questions. When should we expect the answers?

    Sent from my iPad


  5. Mare says:

    I second Avalon’s remarks and question! Thanks for yet another excellent soapbox, Susan!

  6. David Hay says:

    haha! nice job, Susan. And good luck on getting some info back on those IRs!

  7. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Again, when I post links, it says your comment is awaiting moderation, and it doesn’t get posted. This needs to be fixed. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the links Dwayne. They’re very helpful. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about the way WordPress holds comments with links “for moderation”. It’s part of their spam filter and like many things it’s something that just happens whether I like it or not.
      Anyway, thanks for sending them.

  8. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Here is yet another interesting link on the matter of coal. I don’t know why the UCP doesn’t understand this.

    • Dwayne, that’s the real question isn’t it: I think the UCP does understand the consequences of its decision to expand coal mining; it’s part of the UCP tradeoff. As we’ve seen so far, anything can be sacrificed if there’s a chance it will boost the economy. I guess Kenney’s new motto (now that KXL is dead) will be jobs, economy, coal mines.

  9. Gerard Sinanan says:

    I have worked in the coal mines for many years as a consultant. You are right. My last big coal mine was Fording Coal. It took years to develop the intricate plans for Eagle Mountain. How does the brilliant, Jason Kenny suddenly appropriated such skills, knowledge, and experience to make such uneducated decidions?

    • Excellent question Gerard. I suspect Jason Kenney thinks he knows all he needs to know to make these decisions. There’s nothing more dangerous than a leader who doesn’t recognize his own limitations and rules with such an iron fist that none of his subordinates dare challenge him.

      • Gerard Sinanan says:

        Btw, I’ve have broken up your quotes into small easily read memes and I post them
        Over time. In that way your content will have more impact amongst the masses. I did you give you credit in the memes. Keep up the great work!

      • That’s a good idea Gerard. Thank you!

  10. Verna Milligan says:

    Great Blog, Susan! As you know, Albertans feel Betrayed and Belittled by our elected officials. We painfully learned that the very people we elected (who “vowed” to act in our best interests) were secretly being ‘courted’ by foreign Billionaire Corporate owners – for six months — before quietly filing for a ‘divorce’ and tearing up our “long-serving and faithful” Coal Policy!

    Well, it seems, Susan, that other members of the UCP are being “courted” once again! An Agency whose President/Founder was a former chief of staff to our Premier, was contracted to convince Service Alberta and other government ministries about the benefits of “alternative service delivery and business models for our Land Registry, Corporate and Personal Property Registry.”

    Service Alberta issued a request for expressions of interest on January 18th, offering “an exclusive 35-year contract to operate an essential services business in the province.”
    The registries offer potential purchasers a “robust financial profile with highly stable cash flow streams,” the document said.

    Revenues for the three registries totalled $123.6 million in the last fiscal year.

    Albertans have lost trust in the UCP. How will a privatized Land Titles aid in “Transparency” with coal related contracts? And what right does a government have to sign such a contract with any company for 35 years?
    It’s vitally important that our elected reps hear loud and clear from us all once again!

    • Thanks for this Verna. As the article points out, these three registries provide stable cash flow streams, something you’d think the Kenney government would welcome. The strange thing is at the same time Kenney is selling off the furniture to pay down the debt he’s pouring millions into the War Room and the Anti-Alberta Public Inquiry and, let’s not forget, billions into loser projects like KXL.There’s no rhyme nor reason to this man, and certainly no long term vision or strategy.

  11. John McWilliams says:

    Great stuff, Susan!

    John McWilliams QC


  12. ronmac says:

    The letters U, C and P are dead letters.

  13. Carlos says:

    Well it looks the government blinked on coal policy.
    They should resign not just blink – get out and fast
    Get your dirty hands of the province period. You are unfit to govern.

    • Mike in Edmonton says:

      Thanks Carlos, I was astonished to find this on the CBC web site:

      This is not complete victory for sensible people, just a momentary setback for the Business Uber Alles crowd. They have to put a thick coating of sugar on this poison pill to make Albertans swallow it. Stay tuned….

      • carlosbeca says:

        Mike we all know that they will coat it with sugar and try to get us in their usual spin/propaganda vicious circle, but I think Jason Kenney prime time is over. We will be on guard for thee.
        The only way for him now is OUT.

      • Mike in Edmonton and Carlos: I watched the press conference and yes, this is just a temporary reprieve. I will be writing about it soon but it’s imperative all Albertans participate in the consultation process and make their views on the future of coal in Alberta crystal clear to this government.

  14. Catherine Nicol says:

    Excellent Questions.

  15. Brian Gibbon says:

    Susan: My father worked for many years in the “dead letter” office at the Post Office. Many of those letters were later delivered through the efforts of him and his co-workers. I think that the hundreds of thousands of Albertans who have written, called, signed petitions and became engaged on this issue have clearly managed to get this “dead letter” delivered forcefully too!

    • Brian, what a lovely story. It demonstrates the perseverance and hard work. As more and more Albertans figured out what the UCP were up to and spoke out against it, the pressure built and the government backtracked (temporarily). This gives us an opportunity to tell the government how we feel about expanding the coal industry.
      It’s a decision we get to make in the daylight, not one the government makes with the coal lobbyists behind closed doors.

  16. Mike in Edmonton says:

    Thanks for another thought-provoking and important blog. have you considered submitting your Information Requests to mainstream outlets for wider publication? These questions are vital to deciding whether the UCP are able to think beyond “sucking up to Big Business.”

    • Mike in Edmonton, now that the government is going to consult with Albertans I will be submitting these questions and others to the process. I don’t know if they’ll have in-person sessions but if they do, I will be there.
      It’s strange that Kenney consulted “tens of thousands of Albertans through in-person town hall meetings, an online survey, and stakeholder interviews to get input on how best to define and secure a fair deal for Alberta” but couldn’t be bothered to consult even one Albertan before the government eliminated the restrictions that protect our mountains, headwaters, foothills, ranching, farming and tourism industries to expand the coal industry.
      But then again, the FD panel was “bread and circuses” while killing the coal policy was Kenney’s neoliberal ideology in action (no need to get anyone’s permission for that).

      • Mike in Edmonton says:

        Thanks Susan. If the opportunity does arise, you’ll publish the replies (or non-replies, more likely) here, I trust.

        I’d almost forgotten the “Fair Deal” dog-and-pony show. The most memorable part was the way Albertans told the panel, “Hands off our CPP!” Next to no support for the old “firewall” ideas. Still, Jason never let mere public opinion stop him (unless it’s strong enough to threaten his position as Leader).

  17. It looks like you’re on to something here Susan. Do you think you might (gasp!) have a readership in the Cabinet?
    I think the kkkenney gov’t meets the Merriam Webster definition of dead letter. I wonder which I’ll see first this spring; tulips or a new Premier?

    • Political Ranger, who knows, but like you I wonder how much longer Kenney can hang on. He’s made one disastrous decision after another and he has no one to blame but himself.

    • Carlos says:

      My Goodness Political Ranger – what a gift that would be to have a new premier in the Spring. It would be as gratifying as Trump leaving the White House.

      • Colette says:

        We need a new party. I worry that if Kenney leaves, the UCP will have a greater chance to win again and we may end up with someone just as bad. Remember, Harper is still the one pulling all of the Conservative strings. God forbid we would end up with Jason Nixon – he’s as bad or worse if that’s possible.

      • Carlos, I read something on Facebook from a UCP insider who said there are at least 3 candidates sniffing around at the prospect of replaying Kenney. This could get very interesting.
        Colette My husband and I have the same discussion: if Kenney leaves will he be replaced by someone more odious. Frankly if someone like Jason Nixon or worse pops up they might pull the party so far right that it will fracture. Having said that I thought the same thing about Trump and the Republicans, it seems these conservative parties will put up with almost anyone as long as they stay in power.

  18. Jeff Lennard says:

    Thanks for this Susan, Listening to Minister Savage today, she tried to slide by that 6 coal mines are moving ahead with their applications in Category 2 lands. Minister Savage suggested that the Energy Regulator will be making the decision on the go ahead on the six mines. Curious when the ER can only address government policy and the only policy that is deemed valid today is from 1976. And I do wonder why in 2019 Ministers Fir economic development and tourism minister at the time and Jason Nixon minister of environment supported development in Category 2 lands when the 1976 policy was in place. The Valory Resources investor presentation is quite revealing.

    • Jeff, thanks for the link to Valory Resources, it was interesting to note that China plays a major role in in determining hard coking coal prices (not surprising given the size of that market). Also while Valory expects demand to rise sharply, it doesn’t expect prices to follow suit, in fact one chart shows HCC prices fell significantly since 2018 and are expected to stay flat into the forseeable future. If I were a Valory investor I’d be asking a lot of questions about that.
      I’m reposting the link because the first one I tried didn’t open properly.

      Click to access Valory_Resources_Inc_Investor_Presentation_102019.pdf

  19. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Here is yet another link on the coal matter.
    However, people shouldn’t be fooled by the UCP. The UCP are only pausing their decision on the coal issue. We all should be aware of this.

    • Thanks for these links Dwayne. I agree with your advice that we should not be fooled by the UCP “pausing” this decision. The pause is for show, they’ll tinker on the edges and then come back at it again full force. Their stubborn ideology is their Achilles Heel, it just might shove them right out of office.

  20. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I also forgot to post this other article on coal.
    It’s very interesting to see this matter come up so often, given what’s been happening in Alberta.

  21. Carlos says:

    I know that many people that read this blog are concerned not only with the state of politics in Alberta but also about climate change and the overall environmental crisis we are facing.
    A book came out in late 2020 that I believe it is extremely important and that I suggest to all of you to read

    It is titled ‘HOPE Matters’ and written by a Canadian Scholar named ELIN KELSEY

  22. Dave says:

    I agree, the only dead letter in this case is likely the letter K guy whistling, possibly towards the political graveyard. It seems Albertans were ok with the coal policy and it stood the test of time. The Kenney government, well it’s not looking so good for them.

    Even before this self inflicted debacle, their public support was waning due to mishandling COVID, travelling UCP MLAs ministers and staff, and lest we forget losing potentially billions on Keystone XL. I could go on, but some of the many other previous missteps have now faded a bit, being overwhelmed by more recent ones.

    So Ms. Savage had to go and try put out this political firestorm while showing a bit contrition and humility. Of course, Premier Kenney was no where in sight, which is probably best. He doesn’t do contrition or humility well, if at all. In any event, it is quite a turn around from the coal policy being proclaimed a dead letter, to it being revived within a week or so. I suspect this sort of turn around only happens when a government starts to realize the serious political damage it is inflicting on itself. Of course, at this point I believe the damage has mostly been done, as Kenney and the UCP do not pivot quickly or easily.

    • Dave, I loved your image of Kenney whistling as he walked toward the political graveyard. And yes, for the leader who holds the pen, he’s never around when he blots his copybook. I can’t remember whether Stephen Harper did this, standing up to take the credit and disappearing when it all blows up. Surely Kenney’s supporters, these stalwart people of destiny see his behavior for what it is: cowardice.
      What I’m waiting for now is TC Energy’s year end results and securities filings which will go into more detail on KXL and the Auditor-General’s audit of the government’s contributions to KXL. These two documents will shed light on one of Kenney’s biggest, most expensive blunders. We’ll have a lot of questions and poor little Sonya Savage will be shoved into the spot light to answer them.

  23. Carlos says:

    “An important part of being a responsible government is to admit when you’ve made a mistake, and to fix it, and that’s what we are doing here today,”

    This is what Savage said during her press conference.
    So declaring the policy a ‘Dead Letter’ was a simple mistake. Trying to open up a very sensitive area to open pit coal mining was just a simple mistake. Nothing to do with the fact that the UCP does not have an environmental policy at all.
    Do they even understand what environmental protection means or are they more aligned with the Indonesian minister of the environment that said that he was going to clean up all existing rainforest in his country because it is preferable to have the money in the bank?

    • Carlos, this is what a former boss of my would call the “I’m stupid” defence. He also said you never want to rely on it because it totally undermines everyone’s confidence in you. What we’re learning now from people like law prof Nigel Bankes is that (1) the UCP knew there would be gaps in protection if they rescinded the 1976 Coal Policy and (2) they did it anyway. The fact they’re now relying on the “I’m stupid” defence means they think we’re too stupid to figure out they tried to play us.
      And they wonder why we don’t trust them!

  24. Carlos says:

    We should start a petition to recall Jason Kenney

    • GoinFawr says:

      20,000 eligible voters in Calgary-Lougheed (Kenny’s riding).

      About 11,000 of them bothered to register their mandate last election, so by that standard a recall should only need about 6k or so Calgary-Lougheed signatures to flap in Kenney’s smarmy little face.

      Yes, I agree completely, Calgary-Lougheed should start a petition to recall Jason Kenny

      • Carlos says:

        I meant more in general terms – forget his constituency – we can initiate a petition in and see what happens

      • Thanks for the stats GowinFawr. Given Mr Kenney’s behavior (when the going gets tough, he disappears) I’d be amazed if he went ahead with the recall legislation. Interestingly, I read something on Facebook by a UCP insider who was livid with Kenney’s leadership and said at least 3 other people are sending out feelers to see if the time is right for a leadership review. Given how poorly Kenney is polling I would say: Is there any question? Of course it’s time for a leadership review!

  25. .. One of the key aspects or premises
    of Lateral Thinking and problem solving is..
    That by stating the question / problem flawlessly
    the answer will be obvious & embedded

    Your questions are most excellent..
    Edward DeBono might help sculpture them..

    This is such a Great Albertan Indy Blog !
    And a real Canadian standout.. so obvious !

  26. Mike in Edmonton says:

    This just in, thanks to Ms. Soapbox’s fellow-blogger David Climenhega ( ) and commenter Sam Gunsch–a review of the legal implications of the “reinstatement” of the 1976 Coal Development Policy:

    It’s sobering reading. Very briefly, the UCP said they put it all back–except for the stuff they’ve done in between rescinding the CDP and then resurrecting it, zombielike, with some pieces missing. Susan, you were right–we have to plan on showing up at the consultations with lots of pointed questions!

    • Mike in Edmonton: Thanks for passing along these links. I really enjoy David’s column and follow Sam on Twitter. Nigel Bankes was one of my profs in first year law school. Brilliant then and brilliant now. There are so many of us out here keeping an eye on the UCP. Together with you we’ll hold them to account. The biggest challenge is keeping up with the barrage of garbage Kenney throws at us every day!

  27. Carlos says:

    Well they just keep coming we have to make them public for those Jason Kenney supporters that read this blog and send information to the spies in the War Room

    • Carlos, so many politicians, especially at the municipal level have come out guns blazing against Kenney’s decision to rescind the 1976 Coal Policy. Like I said elsewhere this just might be Kenney’s Waterloo. (I just got a mental image of Kenney proudly standing next to the wreakage that is the UCP like a puffed up Napoleon…it brought a smile to my lips).

  28. Carlos says:

    Somehow it seems that Jason Kenney and his gang just enjoys sinking deeper and deeper and I for one am enjoying the show – the more of these acts the better the chances of new elections – time to get the circus moving somewhere else.

  29. John Clark says:

    All coal mines surface or otherwise give off Selenium in quantity which kills fish and wildlife!

    • John, it seems pretty clear, doesn’t it. I wonder why Kenney et al didn’t get the memo. (Let’s face it, they did, but they have a different agenda, bring back coal mining to make it look like they’re reviving the economy because it’s all about jobs, who cares about that other stuff.)

  30. aratureis says:

    Your work is so valuable to public understanding and to effective discourse. This column is particularly useful right now.

    Thank you so much for your consistently intelligent analysis of vital issues.

    Yvonne Spies Calgary

    On Sun, Feb 7, 2021, 7:48 PM Susan on the Soapbox, wrote:

    > susanonthesoapbox posted: ” Dead letter: something that has lost its force > or authority without being formally abolished – Merriam Webster On Feb 3, > 2021 Jason Kenney said he rescinded Lougheed’s coal policy which blocked > open-pit mining on the eastern slopes and the Rockies bec” >

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