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If Premier Jason Kenney truly believes Alberta is in a battle with environmentalists, the enemy is at the gate.

Greta Thunberg, Swedish teen climate activist, is in Alberta and plans to march with protesters from downtown Edmonton to the legislature on Friday.

How the premier and his supporters greet this international celebrity will affect the reputation of Alberta far more than any efforts on the part of the provincial public relations war room, recently re-dubbed the Canadian Energy Centre.

Hostility and sarcasm will not be a good look on Friday night newscasts.

The situation is undoubtedly fraught with peril for the UCP government that has been making political hay out of its bellicose opposition to anti-pipeline and climate change activism.

The Alberta legislature does not sit on Fridays, so if the government sticks to its plan to not seek a meeting with Thunberg, the premier and his caucus have an excuse to be absent from the building.

Of course, then Kenney would risk the criticism that his archenemy Justin Trudeau met with Thunberg.  Thunberg didn't let Trudeau off the hook, saying after their Montreal meeting that she told him he isn't doing enough to halt climate change.

Thunberg has also tweeted that the federal government's purchase of the TransMountain pipeline was "shameful".

Kenney doesn't want to hear that message.  His government argues they want Thunberg to learn what a great job Alberta is doing to reduce its emissions, and to recognize that the world needs oil produced by a jurisdiction that respects human rights, as opposed to Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon told reporters, "I think when you look at some of Miss Thunberg's comments, she doesn't understand our province, that she doesn't understand the reality that to accomplish climate change goals worldwide, we need Alberta as part of that solution."

Tim McMillan at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers also would like to offer information on the oilpatch.

"If I have a concern, it's that — like Jane Fonda or like Neil Young — she is coming here with an agenda that is predetermined," he said in an interview with the Calgary Herald.

Well, yes she is in Alberta with a predetermined agenda.  That's the point.

It's the agenda she's been hammering away at outside the Swedish parliament, on a sail boat across the Atlantic, at the United Nations and now on a cross-North American tour.  Her message is heart-felt and urgent: What world leaders are doing to fight climate change is woefully inadequate and jeopardizes the future of her generation and generations to come.

She is not in Alberta on a fact finding mission or to be lectured on the relative merits of the provincial oil patch compared to some other place on the globe.

Her call to action seems to elicit overblown hostility.  Social media in Alberta is on fire.  Thunberg's  outrage during her United Nations speech was nothing compared to the outrage of Twitter trolls with the most antediluvian notions that children should be seen and not heard.

Cynicism about her motives abounds, infused with a dollop of the conspiracy theory mentality that the Kenney government has been promoting in its recent policy pronouncements.

That officially sanctioned polarization on the environment is now coming home to roost for the government as Thunberg brings her impassioned activism to the steps of the legislature.

Alberta's opposition leader Rachel Notley is urging the UCP government to meet with her.  Notley admits she doesn't agree with everything Thunberg has to say, but acknowledges the seriousness of the climate change crisis.  And she warns that the worst government reaction the Thunberg visit would be to continue polarizing the debate.

Protesters at the last major climate rally at the legislature were greeted with signs in government office windows declaring "I love Alberta oil and gas".

That sort of provocation and dismissiveness will look bad.

If Alberta is concerned about its international reputation, provincial reaction to Thunberg's Friday event should steer clear of climate change denial and lean more to respectful acknowledgment of her point of view.

Whether the premier or his ministers meet with Thunberg or not, they can't ignore the growing sentiment she represents.

Photo Credit: Spiked

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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Last week's Supreme Court of Canada decision in Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada (Governor General in Council) has sparked a great deal of conversation around the Section 35 duty to consult Indigenous people in the constitution, with many commentators asserting that the Supreme Court must have gotten it wrong when they asserted that the Duty to Consult didn't extend to the drafting of legislation.  What virtually all of these commentators get wrong and I've watched enough political and journalist panels on the political shows to demonstrate this is that they virtually all ignored the fundamental substance of the decision, which is that it respects the separation of powers, as well as parliamentary privilege, and that can't be ignored.

What is the doctrine of separation of powers?  It asserts that the executive, the legislature, and the courts should act separately, and that they shouldn't interfere with one another's business.  In the wake of this decision, there has been some misplaced commentary that Canada can't possibly have such a doctrine because our executive is drawn from the legislature, which is both specious and ignores the aspects of the judiciary also being separate.  While executive, legislative and judicial branches are separated in the 1867 Constitution, there are overlaps within executive and legislative branches owing to the practice of Responsible Government, but in no case is there any "fusion" between executive, legislative and judiciary, which needs to be kept in mind here.  As well, we need to remember that we also live by parliamentary privilege, where they are free from the interference of the courts in the execution of their duties.

When the Mikisew First Nation asked the Federal Court to assert the power to step into the legislative process in order to ensure that the duty to consult was being fulfilled, they were advocating for the courts to violate both the separation of powers and parliamentary privilege to meet their demands.  That the Federal Court initially agreed before being overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada is fairly alarming, because it shows that the lower courts were willing to engage in a direct overreach of their powers in order to assert powers that they should not have under our constitutional order, and that should be alarming.

Justice Brown, in his reasons in the Mikisew decision, pointed to this as breaching the scope of judicial review.  In paragraph 125 of the decision, Brown wrote that "Judicial review is 'the power to determine whether [a] particular law is valid or invalid'… It therefore contemplates review of enacted legislation for constitutional compliance and does not, as a general rule, contemplate the exposure of legislative processes to judicial scrutiny."  Brown emphasized the difference between laws and bills as part of that reasoning.

Why does this matter?  Asking the courts to get involved at any stage of the legislative process is untenable for Parliament.  Imagine the chaos that would happen if at any point, someone could file an injunction with the Federal Court over a piece of legislation, and it being slowed down while the Court decided whether or not to hear the case, and if they did, allow them to dictate terms for bills that have not yet passed.  No bill could ever get passed, and the Federal Court would become clogged with such appeals.  And while it may only start with cases stemming from Section 35, how long would one imagine that it would take before they decided that other groups could file similar challenges to bills during the legislative process?

One of the core elements in this case is the problem of people who resort to the courts when they lose at politics.  I would also say that it was definitely an element of that in the Mikisew decision to challenge this in court, no matter how legitimate their grievance may be, and why the danger of contagion would be present if the courts decided to abrogate the separation of powers or the notion of parliamentary privilege as it relates to the courts staying out of the drafting process.

I also have questions about how the duty to consult would work in a legislative capacity.  Now, nothing is stopping a government from engaging the duty while in the drafting process, and trying to craft legislation that fully engages the interests of Indigenous communities, but if this were to be a codified requirement by the courts, what would that look like?  Would there be some kind of official checklist that the government could present to the courts when challenged?  Would they need to consult the more than six hundred individual First Nations, plus Métis and Inuit communities in advance of preparing any bill?  The Supreme Court also noted that if the reasoning presented by the Mikisew First Nation were valid, that only government bills would apply and not private members' bills, creating yet more incongruities.

Contrary to some of the commentary, which has focused narrowly on the duty to consult rather than the separation of powers and parliamentary privilege aspects of the decision, nothing in this decision weakens the Section 35 duty to consult.  In fact, it reinforces that the government still has the obligation to undertake it just that it must be undertaken by the government, and that it wasn't extended to the legislative process.  As Philippe Lagassé pointed out, in order to reconcile this with the separation of powers, it means that MPs and senators who want to step up and ensure that the duty to consult is fulfilled, they have to do the work and not pass it off to judges or bureaucrats and it is so easy for parliamentarians to do just that.  We often see governments and parliamentarians restrain themselves and wait for the courts to push them so that they can lay the blame on them when it comes to the next election, and when you look at how the duty to consult can get politicized with things like pipeline projects, you can imagine why they would rather lay the blame with the courts for their failures rather than looking at their own inaction.  Parliament and the courts each have their own jobs to do trying to confuse the two will only lead to bigger problems, which should be pointed out in talking about the Mikisew decision.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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Using the C-word is always risky on the campaign trail.  Talking about coalition should be a legitimate part of every campaign, yet since it is not really part of Canada's culture, you bring it up at your own risk.

Perhaps this explains why NDP leader Jagmeet Singh appeared to walkback from his coalition pitch made during the weekend, when he said he would "absolutely" form a coalition with other parties, including Justin Trudeau's Liberals, to stop Andrew Scheer from forming a Conservative government.

This pitch wasn't a surprise to me, since at the beginning of the campaign, Singh had already cast himself as the anti-Scheer candidate.  At first, this manoeuvre seems to be targeting primarily the Green Party, as Elizabeth May was musing openly about working with the Conservatives after the election, should they win the most seats but fall short of a majority.

She was following the common wisdom that in politics, you must keep your powder dry and your options open while you await the verdict from Canadians, especially in a political context conducive to the arrival of a minority government in the House of Commons.

In that, May was also following in the footsteps of the BC Greens, who played the Liberals and the NDP against each other as they negotiated their balance of power,

But May's willingness to work with Scheer doesn't seem to sit well with Green voters, something the New Democrats have exploited on the ground with good results.  The hopes of a major Green breakthrough are slowly dimming.

The logical next step for the anti-Scheer candidate was openly discussing forming a coalition to stop the Conservatives.  The pitch seemed to make some sense tactically.  The Liberals were moving forward with their typical fear campaign that a vote for the NDP was a vote for the Conservatives.  This polarization strategy has worked well in the past, so the old playbook was being used once again.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was put on the defensive, refusing to answer questions about his willingness to work with other parties to stop the Conservatives.  Voters were reminded that during the last minority government, it was the Liberal Party of Canada that kept the Conservative government afloat, voting confidence in Stephen Harper over 100 times in the House of Commons while getting very little in return.

By calling for a coalition with the Liberals, was Singh trying to inoculate the NDP against strategic voting?  Was he signalling that there was little risk to vote NDP, since he was the anti-Scheer candidate and would do anything to stop him, unlike Trudeau?

But then, Jagmeet Singh tried to put some of the toothpaste back in the tube on Monday: "My focus is not on a coalition, he said.  My focus is on this: If you vote New Democrat, you're going to get someone on your side."

The NDP might have realized that the coalition pitch was a little complicated and still a bit risky for most voters.  If the goal is to stop Scheer, at all cost, you might as well vote Liberal!

The NDP had also been gaining from the Conservatives during this campaign, especially in Ontario.  These voters are surely not keen to see Trudeau remain in power, if they jump from one opposition party to the other.

Not surprisingly, Scheer brought back the anti-coalition talking points of 2008, when Jack Layton convinced Stéphane Dion to make a deal, supported by the Bloc, to oust Stephen Harper.  Back then, the Conservatives' rhetoric eventually spooked Dion's successor Michael Ignatieff, who walked away from the deal and kept Stephen Harper in power for 7 more years.

Coalitions are a legitimate governance model.  Voters deserve to hear how each party will navigate the waters if no one returns to Parliament with a majority.  But the parties, and their leaders, need to keep in mind that voters may not like what they hear.

Photo Credit: CBC News

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.