Steve Allan’s long-awaited report on the “anti-Alberta energy campaigns” finally achieved what no one could have predicted.
It bored us to tears.
The panicky narrative of the deceptive American puppeteers leading the Canadian opposition to the pipeline evaporated in the face of ordinary events. In more than 600 pages of almost impenetrable prose, there was nothing there.
The absurd conspiracy theory underlying this exercise in futility ended not with a bang, but with a groan.
The whole world can see what Alberta’s Prime Minister Jason Kenney can’t bear: He doesn’t have an answer for the end of oil. Once an undisputed industrial giant, oil is now pouring investment dollars. Divestment from fossil fuels, a much bigger threat to Alberta than the Tar Sands Campaign could hope to be, now exceeds $ 14 trillion. Exxon, the world’s largest company in 2013, was delisted from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2020.
Canadians have also turned the page. The urgency of climate action is widely accepted, while climate denial has become the territory of nuts and trolls.
However, before leaving behind the ignominious debacle of the Allan Investigation, let us remember how serious the abuse of government power was.
Tar Sands Campaign participants are not fooled by skilled outsiders and Hollywood stars, but law-abiding private citizens for whom grassroots organizing, activism and indigenous resistance is an identity and a way of life. The organizations through which they mobilized have been connected to the world’s leading and eminent scientific and environmental philanthropic organizations for decades.
And for the exercise of their freedom of expression and association, during the last ten years a succession of governments investigated, vilified and attacked. First through Stephen Harper and then through Jason Kenney.
In 2021, in Canada, was treated as normal for investigate private citizens for “anti-Alberta” activities. Not for criminal, illegal, or even inappropriate conduct, but for opposing the expansion of oil and gas during a climate crisis.
In 2021, in Canada, a government investigation was conducted powers of subpoena and the ability to compel private citizens to appear, testify, and produce your private records and communications.
“The whole world can see what Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney can’t take: he doesn’t have an answer by the end of oil.” @garossino writes for @natobserver #abpoli
This was treated in public discourse as a troubling development, but somehow within the confines of normal government.
It has been going on for a decade. The CRA, which should be scrupulously independent of political interference, was armed to attack people and organizations that were perceived as enemies of the government of the day.
The police and CSIS investigated and kept watch on many Canadians, especially the indigenous people who resist.
Public defamation of people by government leaders allowed others to shake off the normal constraints of civil society. And they did. Both private citizens and activists were subjected to years of threats, physical attacks and intimidation.
If there’s one thing we learned from the Trump years, it’s how much democracy depends on the agreement shared by those in power on unwritten conventions.
Amnesia is perhaps the most potent drug in politics. Over time, we can easily forget that the CRA should never be used as a weapon and that leaders should not order police searches of the houses and phone records of their opponents.
Or that private citizens should never be brought before an investigation to answer for who their friends are or what they say in public.
Before the mist comes and covers the Allan Investigation in haze, it’s important that we remember how and why it was so dangerous.
Because it could have been a lot worse.