Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Mass Opposition Stops Alberta Coal Mining Expansion… For Now.

Mass opposition centered in the heart of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains has forced Alberta’s right-wing government to reverse their decision lifting a government policy that outlawed strip, open face, and other forms of coal mining.

Rob Lyons

February 10, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share

In an about face, the United Conservative Party (UCP), headed by former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney, has returned to a policy, in place since 1976, which declared large swaths of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains off limits to coal mining.

Massive opposition to the original change reversing the law, which would have directly affected the areas that form the heart of the UCP political base, was galvanized through social media campaigns around the rallying cry ‘Mountains Not Mines’, with the demand that the 1976 policy be reimplemented and expanded.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced that Alberta was going to re-institute the 1976 policy, for now, until a ‘major public consultation is carried out.”

The government, which very quietly changed the 1976 policy in May 2020, was acting on behest of the coal industry. Following several meetings with the coal companies and the Canadian Coal Association, the policy was rescinded without any public consultation. It was kept below the radar of public opinion until a coalition of ranchers, environmentalists, and alt-country band leader Corb Lund produced a video exposing the policy change and its potential effect on the headwaters of major Alberta River systems, which supply water to downstream communities, ranches, and major tourist destinations. 

Lead lobbyist for the coal policy change was former minister of the environment for Alberta, Robin Campbell, and the former president of the United Mine Workers local union at the Teck Corporation mine, who in May 2020 noted that the coal industry was ‘pleased’ by the policy change. Campbell is now head of the Coal Association of Canada, a lobby group which represents both Canadian-owned and offshore mining outfits.

A broad coalition, involving community mayors, town councils, First Nations, ranchers, environmental organizations, and most surprising to the Alberta government, 100s of thousands of Albertans, raised their voices in a letter writing, emailing, and social media campaign which even involved petitions to the federal government, demanding that the 1976 policy be reinstated and extended to cover a large area of the eastern slopes outside the original boundaries.

Most surprising to the Kenney government was the mass resistance which came from the heart of the conservative base in the territory which would be most affected by the new opening of the policy. People in the area were outraged by the manner in which the government changed the policy, which they saw as ‘sneaky.’

They demanded that the government end all coal mining in the area for varied reasons: in order to protect the beauty of the mountains as spiritual retreat, cultural and agricultural value, tourist draw, water source to 3 provinces and parts of the US supplying drinking water and irrigation, prevent destruction of aquatic life balance, cut CO2 emissions globally, and to put environmental stewardship first.

What the mass resistance to the government, whose unpopularity is at an all-time low, did was allow the ecosocialist movement to intervene in a real popular coalition, through sharing stories and information about similar struggles in other countries, like Australia and Argentina, against destructive mining practices.

Unity around the single aim of reinstating the former protective policy was attacked by bureaucrats and MLAs of the Alberta government attempting to divide the movement on partisan lines. This speaks to the underlying strength that a unified front with a common demand has amongst a broad sector of the population, and can form the method by which small but important victories can be won.

It is also a model for the ability to broaden demands around sectoral issues. The right of First Nations consultation, broadening the policy to include the protection of the entire eastern slope watershed, the question of the green transition, or the future of the mine workers, were all areas of potential disagreement which can now be discussed by people who see themselves as allies in the central struggle to protect the mountains.

Facebook Twitter Share

Rob Lyons

Rob Lyons joined the Canadian section of the USFI in 1971, after a stint as a journalist who covered the Prague Autumn of 1968, and as political organizer for the New Democratic Youth, the left wing youth group of the Canadian labour party based on the trade unions. Until recently, he was the International Coordinator for Socialist Action/Ligue pour lÁction Socialiste, a Canadian Trotskyist organization excluded from the EUSecFI, and in that capacity attended the founding conference of the Tendency for a Revolutionary International. He has been a wilderness and air ambulance pilot, a trade union organizer, and elected union leader, and for 10 years was an elected member of the Saskatchewan, Canada, provincial legislature representing a heavily unionized, working class constituency. He presently writes political commentary and organizes from a working class barrio in southern Costa Rica.

Guest Posts

Strikers at Rich Foods in the Los Angeles area pose with picket signs

Factory Workers Strike against Poverty Pay, Abuse by Management at Rich Products Plant in L.A. Area

Since November 3, the group of well over 100 strikers has been on the picket line at the Rich Products-owned Jon Donaire Desserts plant, demanding better wages, improved retirement benefits, and changes to the company’s abusive, punitive point system, which provides workers with only three days of sick leave per year.

Edgar Reyes

November 28, 2021
A burning building in Minnesota at night. A protester walks by with a flag.

Our Revolutionary Movement in the Twilight of Empire

The uncontested hegemony of U.S. imperialism on the world stage is slowly faltering. The United States needs a coherent revolutionary organization today — united around common answers to the most fundamental questions of the period.

Coco Smyth

November 27, 2021

Algorithms of Exploitation: Class Struggle in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, the pride of the modern tech industry, is built on the misery of the people that make it possible in the first place.

Ryan Stanton

November 11, 2021

1,000 West Virginia Hospital Workers Are Going on Strike Today

Hospital workers in West Virginia are set to join the more than 20,000 U.S. workers currently on strike.

Mike Elk

November 3, 2021

MOST RECENT

Photo of Biden In Chiaroscuro

Is The Honeymoon Over? Stability and Crisis in the Biden Era

On November 7, Left Voice held a plenary to discuss the national political situation in the United States. The following is a slightly edited transcript of the opening remarks that laid the groundwork for the discussion.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

December 1, 2021

France’s Openly Racist Presidential Candidate Makes It Official

Éric Zemmour officially declared his candidacy in next spring’s French presidential elections, in an online video replete with open racism and xenophobia aimed at “saving France.”

Scott Cooper

November 30, 2021

The IMF Is a Weapon Against Women — They Have the Power to Fight Against It

The International Monetary Fund, based in Washington, has a very particular gender perspective. The adjustment plans it negotiates with the governments of debtor countries fall on the backs of working people, and it is women from the poorest households who are most affected. These effects are universal across the globe. This article uses Argentina to make the case.

Andrea D'Atri

November 30, 2021
Three French soldiers deployed to Operation Barkhane in the Sahel

Another Attack on Protesters by French Troops in Africa, This Time Killing Three

Demonstrators demanding the departure of French troops from Operation Barkhane in the African Sahel region blocked a French army convoy last Saturday, and the soldiers and Nigerian police opened fire, killing three and injuring 17, 10 of them seriously.

Augustin Tagèl

November 30, 2021