Shannon Phillips (left), Minister of Environment and Parks, and Ed Whittingham, Pembina Institute executive director, speak about an update to Alberta’s carbon emissions regulations and the creation of an advisory panel to study the province’s climate change policy at the media room at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday June 25, 2015.
Calling himself Jason Kenney’s political “punching bag,” environmental adviser Ed Whittingham has resigned his post with the Alberta Energy Regulator ahead of being fired from it by the incoming premier.Whittingham said the UCP leader’s depiction of him as an eco-extremist trojan horse plaguing the energy industry is “a smear campaign without precedent in Alberta” and “red meat” tossed to his supporters.“I would use the term punching bag not du jour but for weeks,” said the man who was once executive director of the environmental think tank Pembina Institute.During the recent election campaign, Kenney repeatedly used Whittingham’s name to pummel foe Rachel Notley for appointing him to the AER last February, accusing the veteran energy industry adviser of “taking foreign money to commit economic sabotage against the working men and women of Alberta.”“Of all the people who qualify to be a director here, they pick someone who has opposed absolutely every pipeline, every oil and gas project, even LNG,” Kenney told Postmedia, vowing to fire Whittingham once in power.Whittingham’s presence on the AER, he said, was symptomatic of the treasonous drift of the Notley government that extended to her “alliance” with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.In a tweet Monday afternoon, Kenney mocked Whittingham for resigning a day before he’d fire him — on Tuesday, after he’s sworn in as premier.“Our government will never appoint people like him who are avowed opponents of Alberta jobs,” tweeted Kenney.It was gracious of Ed Whittingham to resign a day before we could fire him.Our government will never appoint people like him who are avowed opponents of Alberta jobs. And we will stop all funding to groups engaged in economic sabotage against Alberta. https://t.co/xuCpz0HiXs— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) April 29, 2019But Whittingham said it’s Kenney’s stated policies of rolling back environmental regulations like the emissions cap on oilsands operations that imperil the industry by darkening a global image that had made strides, adding its CEOs consistently agreed with him.It’s an approach he couldn’t be a party to, he said.“Those CEOs saw it was about performance challenges, not communications ones and I worry it’s going to be going in the wrong direction,” he said.“I want to see the oil and gas industry thrive in an environmentally sustainable way.”In a two-page resignation letter sent to AER chair Sheila O’Brien on Sunday, Whittingham also ridiculed Kenney’s contention he and the Pembina Institute were beholden to foreign money and interests intent on destroying Canada’s energy sector.Under his tenure, he said, 85 per cent of Pembina’s revenue came from Canadian providers while the rest “originated from international sources that share its clean energy goals,” he wrote.Whittingham said he’s worked closely with the biggest energy companies in the province, which led to a consensus among them to implement carbon pricing and emissions limits.In a statement Monday, the UCP said Whittingham’s anti-energy industry stances, particularly with the Pembina Institute, invited attacks on his record.“They support Justin Trudeau’s ‘no more pipelines’ law, Bill C-69,” the party said. “We reject the assertion that telling Albertans the truth about these facts amounts to a smear.”The departure might be for the best, said Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an organization Whittingham also worked alongside.“It’s important we have people on the board of the AER that want to see our industry advance and if he felt that’s something he couldn’t do for other factors, that’s the right thing for him to do,” said McMillan.Whittingham’s presence on the board “certainly inflamed a lot of discussion about the AER and it’s something we don’t want to see,” he added.Kenney’s vow to dismiss the entire AER board is a matter for the incoming UCP government, said McMillan.“We want a board at the AER that takes regulatory oversight extremely seriously and wants to see Alberta exceptional in that regard,” he saidThat move would be a blow to industry oversight, said Whittingham.“I think it’s a shame — all the board members are exceptional to a person,” he said.— With files from Chris VarcoeBKaufmann@postmedia.comon Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn