The United Conservative Party might be sorry if the infamous Bill C-69 is ever defeated or changed into something positive.
The Liberal bill, now in Senate committee, is a great fundraising flag for Alberta’s official opposition.
But a false flag, in several ways.
Jason Kenney’s party sent a super-heated letter to party members on Dec. 13, asking for donations to pressure Alberta senators to be chosen once again in provincial elections.
“Justin Trudeau’s recently appointed, unaccountable and entirely unelected senators ignored the overwhelming views of Albertans and actually voted in favour of Bill C-69,” the letter said.
This is false. Those senators voted second reading of the bill because that sends it to committee, where it will be the subject of extensive hearings and amendments.
Former Postmedia columnist Paula Simons, one of the newly-appointed senators, told radio host Rob Breakenridge: “I did not vote to pass this legislation. I would not vote in favour of C-69 as written, and I’ve said that literally from the first day I got here.
“I voted in a procedural motion to send the bill to committee because it’s at committee that bills get scrutinized, revised and amended, and that’s what needs to happen to Bill C-69.”
This is the choice of many opponents who are horrified by the project-blocking bias of the current Bill C-69.
They argue that killing the bill and rebuilding from scratch would take years. That would in turn create more investment uncertainty. Therefore, the best option is to fix the bill now.
The Liberals around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aren’t necessarily sorry about this. The Senate may yet winch them out of their own mess.
The very first words of the bill’s official summary focus on blocking, rather than approving.
Bill C-69 “prohibits proponents, subject to certain conditions, from carrying out a designated project if the designated project is likely to cause certain environmental, health, social or economic effects,” it says, setting the tone for the whole bill.
That’s a purpose-built target for UCP fundraisers. They don’t even have to fluff it up. But they can’t resist.
The UCP pitch for cash also says the bill could have been killed entirely and “Alberta’s elected senators tried to do just that by voting against C-69 in the Senate.”
That’s also false.
Only two of Alberta’s six senators, Doug Black and Scott Tannas, were endorsed in an Alberta election and later appointed by Ottawa.
Tannas did vote against the bill on second reading. Black wasn’t in the Senate for the vote — he was giving a speech elsewhere.
When I asked Black how he would have voted, he said the numbers weren’t there for killing the bill. (The tally was 56-29 to go to committee.)
Since the bill wasn’t about to vanish, Black prefers extensive hearings across the country — exactly like Simons.
We shouldn’t imagine perfect unity among Alberta senators. Former provincial Liberal Leader Grant Mitchell, introducing the bill to the Senate in September, sounded pretty much in favour of the bill as written.
But no Alberta senator, elected or unelected, is against improvements. And the Alberta NDP has consistently argued that the bill must be profoundly changed.
Some readers will know that Simons is a long-time friend and colleague of mine. She was a wonderful columnist whose advocacy for underdogs actually improved Alberta law.
Journalists don’t always make good senators, as recent years have shown us. But Simons shows every sign of high performance in her first weeks on the job.
She’s already a member of the committee that will study Bill C-69.
“This is not a rubber stamp committee,” she told Breakenridge. “This is a legitimate standing committee that is going to hold public hearings . . . some of those public hearings in Alberta, so people can actually see what we do.
“This is not a kangaroo court.”
Her attitude, and Black’s, is what Albertans need from their senators at a moment when the Red Chamber literally holds Canada’s future in its hands. Whether Alberta voters endorsed them or not has nothing to do with it.
That’s the truth, although it doesn’t make for much of a UCP fundraiser.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald
Facebook: Don Braid Politics
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