The End of Protest in Alberta?

In the Alberta tradition when a new Legislative Session starts the first piece of legislation, BILL 1, is intended as a flagship statement to outline and define the ideals and flag-wave as to the essential character of the government of the day.

For the Kenney-controlled UCP majority government, that statement of character and ideals is captured in their BILL 1 the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.  It’s a five clause, a four-page manifesto of far-reaching Command and Control Top Down, Authoritarian government.  It’s a Through-the-Looking-Glass look into a darker Alberta that will now be Ruled by a Totalitarian Jason Kenney.

Essential infrastructure Is Extensive and Expandable 

It is aimed at the engaged, activated citizens who feel they need to protest peacefully against injustice, abuse of power, corruption, or just plain incompetence in the Alberta government.  The scope of what is “essential infrastructure,” that’s where protest is against the law, is extensive.

Take Section (1)(a) that defines “essential infrastructure” to include “highways” to mean “any thoroughfare, street, road, trail, avenue, parkway, driveway, viaduct, lane, alley, square, bridge, causeway, trestleway or other place or any part of any of them, whether publicly or privately owned, that the public is ordinarily entitled or permitted to use for the passage or parking of vehicles” and include sidewalks, boulevards, and adjacent

Pardon the silliness about such a serious topic.  The other day these Canada geese decided to be “wilfully obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the construction, maintenance, use or operation of any essential infrastructure in ways that make it dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective” as they strolled down Jasper Avenue in Edmonton on a summer evening.

Be Careful What You Tweet

Further, you can offend this legislation by simply suggesting someone else breach the Act, even if they don’t ever do what you suggest. The fines, in each incident, are calculated on a cumulative daily basis that a contravention continues to occur.

Absolute Power Goes Into the Kenney Cabinet

Even more disturbing is that the scope and application of this legislation can be expanded by Regulation.  That means, by the Kenney Cabinet, behind closed doors, whenever Cabinet meets, usually in secret with no required public disclosure of the agenda.  We get informed of decisions by Orders-in-Council of Ministerial Orders published in the Alberta Gazette, which 95-99% of citizens don’t even know it exists.  This absolute power could greatly expand the scope of BILL 1 at the whim of the UCP Majority Government Cabinet, and that really means at the whim of the Premier.  This is a textbook case study in potential political power abuses and corruption. 

The fines on individuals are huge, and they apply to officers, directors, even agents, of a corporation who directed, authorized, assented to, acquiesced in, or participated in the offense.  Too bad that same level of personal liability of corporate directors and officers does not apply to conventional oil and gas companies who are breaching the law and obligations on Abandoned Wells or those Orphaned due to bad management.

Why Do We Need This Law?

So what is the real purpose of this law, protection of critical infrastructure as the title suggests, or the persecution and stamping out of protests, as seems to be more than merely implied or something else or all of the above?  The authors of a great blog from the U of C Law School say “the purpose of BILL 1 is difficult to mak out for two reasons.  One is the absence of an expression of its purpose in the Bill itself, coupled with the contradictory and vague justifications made in the brief legislative debated on its substance. (Emphasis added).

There are serious concerns as to why BILL 1 is needed or justifiable since the offenses enumerated are already covered by existing legislation, including the Criminal Code.  Entering an unmarked property is an offense unto itself under BILL1.  In a Trespass Act offense, the person entering must first have had oral or written notice to stay off, hence the usual “No Trespassing” signs.

There is a lot more to be covered in just how bad and Authoritarian BILL 1 is but that’s for further posts.  If you are interested in a deeper dive, click here for an excellent ABLAWG post on this serious abuse of political power.  

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