Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alberta spied on Montanans

Environmental groups in Canada have long complained the Government of Alberta has illegally wiretapped their offices. While nothing has ever been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, there's little doubt these plucky people have been fighting an uphill battle just to get attention. During an oil conference in Calgary, for instance, the private television stations made absolutely no mention of counter-demonstrations by green activists -- and of course they're the ones most sympathetic to one party rule in the province. They're not going to bite the hand that feeds them, even if that hand is engaged in funny business.

Spying on fellow Canadians is one thing. Spying on people from the States is quite another. Yet now the Montana state government is investigating whether the utility board in Alberta spied on people from Big Sky Country. What was their sin? Protesting the construction of a power line that would deliver surplus electricity to the States. True the line -- a 500 kV high tension line -- is presently intended only for the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, but it can easily be extended and the US is hungry for that power.

According to the Alberta NDP which got the word via an Access to Information Request, the board hired a spy to infiltrate a group of landowners who oppose the development. Frankly, I think it's despicable.

It's heartening in a way that the very farmers we often misconstrue as "rednecks" are often the most passionate defenders of what's left of the Prairie way of life. One only has to think of the Oldman River Dam project, which still has questionable benefits if at all -- while it was eventually relocated after massive protests it was still built, in an area where wind power would made much more sense.

All that is reasonably called for is an environmental assessment hearing. When it's Montana of all places that's asking questions, even if it stands to benefit from all that power, there's a problem. If the Alberta government suspects their perceived enemies of wrong-doing then they should go before a judge and get a wiretap warrant. Otherwise, they should heed the rising voices of those -- on both sides of the border -- who fear the Wild Rose is starting to wilt.

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