Smith’s Sovereignty Act resolution on clean electricity regs enshittifies energy politics even more

Smith keeps telling us exactly what she’s doing and we keep pretending that she’s playing by normal political rules

She finally did it. Danielle Smith invoked her controversial Sovereignty Act. The move ostensibly counters the federal government’s clean electricity regulations, which the Premier claims threatens the integrity of the provincial power grid. Frankly, how she did it and why she said she did it matter not a whit. This manufactured controversy with Ottawa is simply another sordid step in her enshittification of national energy politics.

Technically, yesterday the UCP introduced the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act resolution to the Legislature. If passed, cabinet will be asked to “order all provincial entities not to recognize the constitutional validity of, enforce, nor cooperate in the implementation of the [clean electricity regulations] in any manner, to the extent legally permissible.” Since, according to legal experts, the Sovereignty Act would be illegal and unenforceable under federal law, and almost certain to be declared unconstitutional by the courts, the entire exercise is reduced to impossibly bad political theatre.

What other energy news might Canadians have paid attention to instead of Smith’s grandstanding?

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation calling for a desperately needed public review of the Alberta Energy Regulator. News that Smith has hired her unqualified old political buddy, writer and oil and gas services executive Dave Yager, for $70,000 on a sole-source contract to do a secret review of the regulator. 

If we venture further afield, revelations that China intends to build 225 desert-based wind and solar projects that will triple its renewables generating capacity to 3.9 terawatts by 2030. Then there’s the International Energy Agency report from last week that outlined how the rapidly accelerating energy transition is set to seriously disrupt oil and gas companies around the world. Alberta by itself is the eighth largest global oil producer. 

Internal issues like regulatory misadventures and external ones like the existential threat to the provincial oil and gas sector posed by peak oil and gas demand in 2030 demand attention. Instead, Albertans are reduced to scoffing at the obvious hypocrisy of Smith proposing a provincial crown corporation that would buy or build natural gas power plants in a silly attempt to circumvent the federal electricity regulations.

This is how a political magician like Smith enshittifies public discourse with misdirection.

The purpose of enshittification, as I’ve argued many times, is to shield the Alberta energy sector – both hydrocarbons extraction and the power sector – from disruption caused by Canadian climate policy and the energy transition. The Premier and energy CEOs have bought lock, stock, and barrel into the slow transition argument. They firmly believe that misguided policy, not technology and market change, is the primary driver of the transition. 

The more they push back, the greater the enshittification of energy politics, the better the chance Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government will be forced to compromise – again, I might add – and offer more money for fossil fuel-extending projects like carbon capture and storage. The Liberals are looking ever more hapless on this file. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was reportedly gobsmacked by Smith’s Sovereignty Act maneuver because federal-provincial energy discussions behind closed doors were quite amiable.

Wilkinson is a smart guy, it’s hard to believe he’s this naive, but here we are. 

In Smith’s ideal world, the climate policy-hating Pierre Poilievre and his Conservative Party of Canada form government in 2025 and pressure from Ottawa immediately disappears.

There is just no bottom to Smith’s enshittification efforts. 

What’s absolutely barmy is that Smith keeps telling us exactly what she’s doing and we keep pretending that she’s playing by normal political rules. So, let me spell it out.

The principal role of Danielle Smith energy strategy is to protect the industry status quo as long as possible. Political enshittification helps keep the federal government at bay. It also keeps Albertans, and increasingly many Canadians, distracted while she pursues her bigger goal of growing Alberta’s oil and gas markets, both domestically and internationally.

That’s it. That’s the game. May we please stop pretending that Smith is doing anything else?

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