Alberta government considering immigration changes during pandemic

Will be interesting to see what changes he proposes with respect to Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program as well as how he informs the overall debate around post-pandemic immigration policy:

Premier Jason Kenney says changes are coming to Alberta’s immigration practices as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the government won’t yet release details, the premier said the province can accommodate fewer newcomers as a result of global travel restrictions and Alberta’s economic crisis. He made the comments during a Facebook live video question and answer session on Wednesday night.

He said the government will push Alberta employers to “do everything they possibly can to look within Alberta to the huge and growing number of unemployed people” when hiring.

A formal policy announcement should come within weeks, a government spokesperson said Thursday.

However, immigration lawyers cautioned any rapid changes to immigration rules could have unintended consequences.

Although business prospects are rough right now, Calgary lawyer Evelyn Ackah said they will bounce back. When they do, they’re going to need immigrants to do the jobs Canadians just won’t do, she said.

Few Canadians apply for jobs in slaughterhouses or at fast-food restaurants, lawyers say.

Ackah said as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, prospective immigrants are contacting her from China and India. They’re interested in buying and running businesses in Canada. Those job creators are who the province should be attracting, she said.

“Quick changes, boom boom boom, they have long repercussions and it takes a long time to resolve, and so, I really want to not let this crisis change the direction and the trajectory of immigration’s process,” she said.

Limited provincial control

With immigration being federal jurisdiction, there are limited steps Alberta’s government could take to curtail newcomers, said Megan Dawson, a partner at McCuaig Durocher in Edmonton.

The Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program allows the provincial government to select immigrants who are already working temporarily in Alberta to apply for permanent resident status if their skills and education fill an economic need in the province.

It’s a joint program with the federal and provincial government. In 2019, the province sponsored 6,000 immigrants through the program. From January 2015 to March 2020, nearly 50,000 people came to Alberta through the program, said Adrienne South, press secretary to the minister of labour and immigration.

The nominated immigrants are a fraction of the more than 232,000 people who became Canadian permanent residents during the same time period and intended to live in Alberta.

The federal government controls the admission of temporary foreign workers, refugees and other express entry newcomers, Dawson said.

Employers must often recruit workers with specialized knowledge and skills when people with the right training can’t be found in the province, she said.

Those economic immigrants often train Albertans and help companies create new jobs for locals, she said.

Alberta has a list of workers it doesn’t need, including teachers, actors, athletes and real estate agents. Dawson said the province could potentially expand that list of categories.

“There already are safeguards in place to show, that we did our best to hire Canadians for this job first,” she said.

“I think the ramifications could be potentially unintended or unexpected in a negative sense for some Alberta businesses if they’re not able to staff their business with foreign workers.”

Source: Alberta government considering immigration changes during pandemic

Saudi Arabia is buying shares of Alberta’s oil sands companies. The ‘ethical oil’ argument is dead.

As I worked with a number of those mentioned in the article, couldn’t resist reposting this. Alykhan Velshi, a really bright guy, has of course in a further irony, ended up shilling for Huawei despite the overall Conservative suspicion of China:

When Norway’s massive pension fund announced that it had sold its positions in major Canadian energy companies like Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources, Alberta’s premier came out swinging. “To be blunt,” Kenney told reporters last week, “I find that incredibly hypocritical.” After all, he said, Norway continues to develop its own oil and gas resources, including the 2.7 billion barrels that are contained in the new Johan Sverdrup field that is already producing 430,000 barrels of oil per day.

For those of a less pugilistic orientation, Norway’s decision might be seen as a prudent act of financial diversification; one that Alberta could easily emulate if it wanted to. If Norway is already producing oil and benefitting from the tax revenue and jobs it creates, there’s no need for them to double down by also investing their one-trillion-dollar nest egg in companies that also depend on the price of oil. This isn’t a philosophy that’s particularly popular in Alberta, mind you, given Alberta Investment Management Corporation’s well-documented history of being more heavily exposed to the energy sector than other pension funds.

But while Kenney was quick to call out Norway’s alleged hypocrisy in selling their shares of oil sands companies, he has so far remained silent about the news that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was busy buying them. As Bloomberg reported last week, it now owns 2.6 per cent of Canadian Natural Resources, and two per cent of Suncor, which makes it the eighth and 14th largest shareholder in the two companies respectively. Ironically, it also added to its position in Equinor, the Norwegian company that’s developing the Johan Sverdrup field.

As Premier, Kenney has been at the forefront of recent efforts to paint Canadian oil and gas as more “ethical” and therefore more worthy of investment. This narrative, which was first advanced by Ezra Levant, has been deployed most visibly in the conversation about the Energy East pipeline and the decision by New Brunswick’s Irving Refinery to buy its oil from Saudi Arabia rather than Canada. But Kenney’s affiliation with it goes back much further than that. It was his former director of communications and parliamentary affairs, Alykhan Velshi, who created the “Ethical Oil Institute” in July 2011, and his former executive assistant, Jamie Ellerton, served as its executive director between January 2012 and April 2013.

Kenney is hardly alone in his fondness for Levant’s narrative, though. Its core tenets—namely, that Canada’s legal, environmental and regulatory standards make our oil more inherently virtuous—are practically articles of faith in the oil and gas industry. In an interview with the Calgary Herald, Nancy Southern, the CEO of Atco and a founding member of the Business Council of Alberta, was quick to invoke it: “I think it is time for people to stand up and demonstrate true moral leadership about the fact that the world is better because of petroleum products,” she said.

But if Saudi Arabia’s oil is a conduit for its anti-democratic and values, as ethical oilers like to argue, then what about its money? That money comes from the sale of its own ethically-challenged oil. Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources can’t prevent Mohammed bin Salman or the Saudi Public Investment Fund from buying their shares, but those who have been more than happy to bang the drum about Saudi Arabia’s moral and ethical failings could speak up here.

So far, though, they’ve been conspicuously silent. Take Eric Nuttall, a fund manager with Ninepoint Investments and a frequent purveyor of the ethical oil narrative. In a recent tweet, he sounded positively delighted by the development, and made no mention of the ethical dimensions of Saudi Arabia’s money. “So much for Canadian oil companies not being attractive to foreign investors!” He wrote. “We are 100 per cent invested in Canada given highly attractive valuations and improving takeaway capacity and it’s interesting that Saudi Arabia agrees with us.”

In fairness to the industry, it’s hardly alone in speaking out of both sides of its mouth about Saudi Arabia. The federal government recently renegotiated a $14 billion deal that will allow the sale of Canadian-made light-armoured vehicles to the kingdom (a deal that was originally struck by the Harper government back in 2014). And MBS hasn’t been shy about using Saudi Arabia’s wealth to buy its way into companies and communities throughout the west, including a recent bid to buy the English Premier League’s Newcastle United football club.

But if Canadian oil and gas companies are going to accept Saudi Arabia’s money, it’s probably time for their proxies to retire arguments about the immorality of their oil. After all, as Jason Kenney will tell you, nobody likes a hypocrite.

Source: Saudi Arabia is buying shares of Alberta’s oil sands companies. The ‘ethical oil’ argument is dead.

Delacourt: Canadians aren’t rebelling against Dr. Theresa Tam’s orders, but they might be starting to bristle

Couldn’t resist posting given its reference to my Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism with respect to Alberta Premier Kenney’s critique of Dr. Tam:

Sooner or later, someone was going to say it: Who made Dr. Theresa Tam the boss of all Canadians?

The fact that it was Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is not surprising, historically or politically.

But Kenney’s words on Monday were a crack in a wall of remarkable deference to the authority of Canada’s chief medical officer over a month of national lockdown. As we now head into month two, the question is whether Canadians more generally are starting to bristle at the doctor’s orders.

The federal government issued an emphatic “no” on Tuesday.

“Canadians have demonstrated that they have a tremendous level of trust and confidence in our public health officials and in our medical system,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “And we are going to continue work with top medical officials like Dr. Theresa Tam to make sure that we’re doing everything we need to do.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that Tam and other provincial public health officers have been conferred with the authority of “rock stars” in this crisis.

But Kenney’s remarks on Monday broke a united front of assent to Tam’s advice — not just as it applies to the future, but to the past as well.

The premier said that Alberta was going to seek out tests and medication to fight the pandemic without waiting for approval from federal Health bureaucrats. Then, in a bit of a drive-by swipe at Tam personally, he also threw doubt on the advice the doctor had already given in the early days of the virus outbreak.

“This is the same Dr. Tam who is telling us that we shouldn’t close our borders to countries with high levels of infection and who in January was repeating talking points out of the (People’s Republic of China)about the no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” Kenney said in an interview on CBC’s Power and Politics program.

There’s an old joke about how you get 50 Canadians out of a pool. You say: “Canadians, get out of the pool.” This pandemic, by and large, has made that joke feel a little too close to home, as a whole nation has put life as we know it on hold to comply with medical orders to contain the COVID-19 virus.

Deferential as we are, we likely wouldn’t have gone to these extraordinary lengths on the basis of political advice alone.

The federal government spent $30-million on a wave of ads with Dr. Tam as the sole spokesperson. (And no, that’s not the voice of Trudeau at the end of the ad, though it does sound an awful lot like him. I asked and the answer was no.)

Day after day, premiers and political leaders line up at podiums to give public briefings, backed by the latest information from the doctors in charge. Whenever a question is asked about what’s going to happen next, the unfailing answer is that governments will be heeding the instructions of the top doctors.

This in itself is evidence that we’re living in unusual times. We don’t always listen to doctors and medical experts, on matters of smoking, obesity, exercise or even climate science, for instance. Statistics aren’t always as persuasive as they are these days, when we’re all scouring charts for flattened curves.

Kenney, as mentioned earlier, has a long history of skepticism about stats and evidence as they’re used in the federal government. One of his own former bureaucrats in the citizenship and multiculturalism department, Andrew Griffith, has written some compelling work about how Kenney forced the public service to rebalance evidence and political considerations while he was minister.

The idea was that politicians are in government to weigh all kinds of public interests against the weight of impersonal numbers and charts, including the intelligence the political types gain from mixing with people outside the corridors of the civil service. So as I said, it’s not that surprising to see Kenney balking again at blind subservience to public servants’ advice, even from Canada’s top doctor.

Is that such a bad thing? Reasonable people might well agree, in fact, that while the medical health of Canadians has to be a priority in this pandemic, the economic health of citizens is owed some due deference too, especially as the financial devastation deepens.

Dr. Tam, for her part, stayed right out of the dispute on Tuesday when asked about Kenney’s remarks, saying only that it’s her job to take many things into consideration, including advice and insights from other countries.

It would be grossly unfair and probably unproductive to make Tam a target, even if Canadians are increasingly bristling at life under doctor’s orders.

But deference to authority in general is a fragile commodity, especially in a nation undergoing an endurance test of indefinite length. Canadians aren’t rebelling, at least not yet, but their deference has time limits.

Source: Susan Delacourt: Canadians aren’t rebelling against Dr. Theresa Tam’s orders, but they might be starting to bristle

You don’t stop a virus by bleeding democracy

Why is it that governments, no matter their political stripe, cannot resist the temptation to over-reach and reduce oversight, whether with respect to bloated omnibus budget bills or during the current COVID-19 pandemic?

And while the federal Conservatives, supported by the NDP, correctly forced the Liberals to back down given a minority government, in Alberta, there is no such check on the UCP government as this Globe editorial details.

Even more shameful than the attempted federal Liberal element given the UCP’s majority and its disregard for parliament (ironic, given that Premier Kenney was an effective parliamentarian at the federal level).

Hopefully, the same conservative-leaning pundits that rightly condemned the Liberal attempted power grab will also call out the Alberta UCP power grab (the first one to do so, John Carpay: Alberta’s Bill 10 is an affront to the rule of law):

Three weeks ago, the Trudeau government tried to use the cover of the coronavirus crisis to give itself unchecked powers once enjoyed by 17th-century European monarchs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had recalled the House of Commons on March 23 to debate and pass emergency measures to shore up the economy and help Canadians who were losing their jobs.

The opposition were willing to back the minority government’s economic measures, but once they saw the draft bill, they realized the Liberals had something more in mind.

Along with tens of billions of dollars in aid for Canadians in need, the bailout legislation also included clauses that would have given the government the power to raise or lower taxes, and to spend money, without going through Parliament. These extraordinary powers were to last until Dec. 31, 2021.

The opposition, along with many in the media, this page included, were having none of it. By the end of the day on March 23, the government relented. It removed the offending clauses, the opposition offered its backing and, the next day, the bill became law.

Team Trudeau has not explained its attempted end run around democracy, probably because it can’t. There is never any reason to usurp Parliament’s critical role as overseer of government and keeper of the public purse. Every Canadian government, provincial or federal, should get that.

And yet, barely a week later, it happened again.

In Alberta, the United Conservative Party of Premier Jason Kenney used its overwhelming majority to push through a bill on April 2 that gives cabinet ministers unilateral power to write and enact new laws in public health emergencies, with zero oversight by the provincial legislature.

Under Bill 10, the only requirement for enacting a new law is that the relevant minister “is satisfied that doing so is in the public interest.” The only limit on that power is that a new offence cannot be applied retroactively.

It is utterly wrong for democratic governments to seek unilateral powers under the cover of an emergency. It is also unnecessary. There is no justification for it – especially not the one that says governments need to move quickly in a crisis.

Alberta passed Bill 10 in less than 48 hours; the Trudeau government, having secured the support of the opposition, passed its original bailout measures in the same short period. Last weekend, it took less than a day for Parliament to adopt a wage subsidy package. The government shared the legislation with the opposition in advance and made changes to ensure it would pass.

Giving legislators the chance to study, debate and vote on bills doesn’t result in unacceptable delays – if anything, as shown time and again, it improves legislation. More importantly, the transparency and accountability that comes from having to pass a bill through Parliament is the foundation of our system of government.

The Liberals and the opposition parties are now arguing about how often the House of Commons should sit during the remainder of the crisis, and whether sessions should be held in person with a skeleton crew of members, or with all MPs, via teleconferencing.

However it does so, Parliament must sit. Committees, too. And Question Period must happen, so that the government remains answerable to the House and to Canadians. That holds in Ottawa and in each of the provinces. It goes for both minority and majority governments.

Under no circumstances should any government see this emergency as an excuse to sideline the elected representatives of the people.

Thanks to their daily crisis briefings, government leaders are dominating the news coverage. Opposition voices have been sidelined, but they must be given their due in order for our democracy to function properly. That happens best in Parliament.

This crisis is demanding a lot of Canadians. They are self-isolating at home with their families. Many have lost their jobs, or are watching their businesses teeter on the precipice.

They will be able to decide for themselves whether federal and provincial opposition parties have helped the situation, or simply been a partisan nuisance. But Canadians must not come out the other end of this only to discover that their institutions and rights have been compromised by governments that grabbed for powers they were not entitled to.

Source:    You don’t stop a virus by bleeding democracy Editorial <img src=”https://www.theglobeandmail.com/resizer/p5aED50QGxv9DJSWx6332Wy7vT0=/163×0:4746×3055/600×0/filters:quality(80)/arc-anglerfish-tgam-prod-tgam.s3.amazonaws.com/public/5D7WOGR7DNNH3AJ33H42OZMKTU.jpg” alt=””>     

Jason Kenney denounces ‘useful idiots’ amid uproar over university lecturer’s Holodomor denial

A very Kenney comment, and warranted:

A day after Ukrainian students vented their fury at a University of Alberta lecturer who called the Holodomor famine “a lie,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney slammed the “useful idiots” who engage in genocide denial.

Dougal MacDonald, who is listed as a lecturer in the university’s education department, said on Facebook that the Holodomor was a myth perpetuated by the Nazis. His comments led the Ukrainian Students’ Society to call them “harmful and false beliefs” that are unacceptable for an employee of the university.

“Sad to see some in Canada still engaged in this genocide denial,” Kenney said on Twitter on Thursday morning although he didn’t mention MacDonald by name.

Kenney also posted a video of a speech he gave about Holodomor, which was a fierce condemnation of “Western, supposedly-progressive voices who were complicit in one of history’s great cover-ups.”

“These were the useful idiots of whom Lenin wrote. Westerners who purposefully lied about one of the great acts of mass murder in human history,” said Kenney.

The speech was delivered last week at a Holodomor commemoration in Calgary and the video was posted in full on Thursday morning as the scandal around MacDonald erupted.

MacDonald’s comments were originally reported by The Gateway, the student newspaper at the U of A, and MacDonald responded to the paper’s story with a statement decrying the “irrational assertions” and “defamation” directed at him.

The term Holodomor means “to kill by starvation” and refers to the famine in Ukraine that killed millions of people in 1932–33. The genocide has been recognized by the Canadian Parliament and provincial legislatures, including in Alberta.

In his Facebook post, which was archived online by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, MacDonald describes the Holodomor as a myth perpetuated by the Nazis to discredit the Soviet Union.

“In Canada, former Nazi collaborators and their spawn have long led the phony Holodomor campaign,” wrote MacDonald.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress urged its members to contact the university and demand the dismissal of MacDonald, even providing suggested text for an email to the school’s president.

“This is a stark reminder that, even in 2019, we cannot afford complacency in Holodomor education and awareness,” the organization’s website reads.

MacDonald was a candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election in the Edmonton-Strathcona riding, which NDP candidate Heather McPherson won. MacDonald tallied 77 votes. His banner photo on Facebook is an advertisement to subscribe to the Marxist-Leninist Party’s online bulletin and his profile picture is a photo of Fidel Castro. His photos on Facebook are a collection of historical leftist leaders, like former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, Che Guevara and former North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung, who MacDonald describes as a “great leader of the Korean people.”

Although the university did not respond to a request for comment before press time, it said in a statement to the Gateway that the university is “balancing many interests and obligations” while it is “carefully monitoring this matter.”

The university has a commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom for its staff, which includes “the right to comment (and) to criticize without deference to prescribed doctrine.”

In responding to the Gateway’s questions, deputy provost Wendy Rogers noted that MacDonald was making the comments as a private citizen and that they did not reflect the university’s views.

“The University of Alberta actively fosters an inclusive culture committed to the expression of, exposure to, and debate of diverse points of view,” a draft statement on freedom of expression on the school’s website reads. “Our campuses are forums for rigorous debate.”

Source: Jason Kenney denounces ‘useful idiots’ amid uproar over university lecturer’s Holodomor denial