The Day Kenney Bet $7.5 Billion on the US Election

In September 2019 Jason Kenney began negotiating with TC Energy to invest $7.5 billion in cash and loan guarantees in the Keystone XL pipeline.

In March 2020 Kenney announced negotiations were complete and the government had signed an agreement which he said had been rigorously vetted by the government and outside experts to ensure the success of KXL while also minimizing the risk to Alberta taxpayers.

This week the Joe Biden campaign announced Biden would rescind the KXL pipeline permit if he were elected president in November 2020.

The political risk became very real, but Kenney was unperturbed.   

He said “we entered into this, eyes wide open, recognizing that there was of course a political risk”. His energy minister, Sonya Savage, said “rather than speculating about the outcome of the US election, we will spend our time continuing to meet with our US allies and speak to Alberta’s role in supporting North American energy independence and security.”

Mr Kenney with his eyes wide open

Well of course there is no point in speculating about the outcome of the US election, Jason Kenney ran those odds in the fall of 2019 and concluded it was a safe bet Trump would win when he plunked $7.5 billion of taxpayers’ money on a single spin of the roulette wheel.

Now he’s responding to Biden’s campaign promise as he always does when one of his harebrained decisions threatens to blow up in his face: he’s filling the air waves with bafflegab and is lining up people (Obama, Trudeau, Gerry Butts) to blame if his bet goes sideways.

Bafflegab

Kenney told Albertans their $7.5 billion is safe because:

  • He’s organizing allies, ie pro-pipeline American governors and American unionized workers who are building KXL. What does he expect them to do, convince voters to vote for Trump, not Biden?
  • He might lodge a complaint with an international trade body. Like what with whom? The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in NAFTA 2.0 were scaled back and Canadian investors can no longer commence direct arbitration proceedings against the US government. Instead they can try to convince the Canadian government to make a claim against the US government (good luck with that) or bring a claim in a domestic (US) court and argue what? That a presidential order that gives the president “unreviewable authority” is in fact “reviewable” by the courts at the behest of Alberta?
  • He’ll use whatever legal means are available to protect Alberta’s fiscal and economic interests. Assuming the American courts are prepared to review the president’s “unreviewable authority”, litigation takes years to work its way through the judicial system, TC Energy’s obligation to repay Kenney’s $1.5 billion equity investment is not triggered until after construction is completed.  The $1.5 billion will be tied up for decades.     
  • He wants to get as much of KXL built as possible and he can’t imagine a U.S. president would require thousands of miles of pipe be pulled out of the ground eight or nine months from now. Two issues here: (1) the pace of construction is decided by TC Energy, not Jason Kenney (we’re still dealing with Covid-19, remember) and (2) the president’s “unreviewable authority” over pipelines crossing the Canada/US border applies to existing pipelines as well as new ones, so there’s nothing stopping Biden from requiring TC Energy to pull the pipe out of the ground.    
  • He fully expects “any United States’ president, regardless of party or platform, to tread very carefully before undermining the single most important bilateral economic project in which a Canadian company and a Canadian government are investing massively to create jobs in the United States as well as in Canada.” Yes, throwing around words like “bilateral” and “Canadian  government” creates the impression that this is bigger than it is, but there is nothing “bilateral” about a private sector pipeline company seeking regulatory approval from the US government to cross the Canada/US border. The only difference between KXL and other cross border pipelines like the Enbridge mainline, TC Energy Keystone, and Spectra Express is the other three managed to go it alone. Alberta’s $7.5 billion investment does not magically transform KXL into a bilateral blah blah blah that no president would dare to impede.
  • He said the $6 billion in loan guarantees won’t be triggered until the 2021 construction season. If Biden is elected, he won’t be sworn in until January 2021. What happens if Biden doesn’t revoke the permit right away (Trump didn’t get around to issuing the original permit until March 2017), does Kenney have the power to force TC Energy to delay the 2021 construction season?

Eyes Wide Shut

Joe Biden entered the presidential race on April 25, 2019 almost a full year before Kenney announced his government’s investment in KXL. Kenney can say whatever he likes about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of Biden rescinding the presidential permit, but one thing he can’t say is that Biden’s position comes as a surprise.  

No one forced the man who holds the pen to sign away $7.5 billion in cash and loan guarantees on a project fraught with political risk over which he has no control or influence.

Kenney placed a heavy bet on the success of the Trump campaign team. In six months’ time we’ll find out whether it’s Kenney or Biden who gets to put KXL on their “promises made, promises delivered” list.

That may feel like eyes wide open to Mr Kenney, but it feels like eyes wide shut and fingers crossed to the rest of us.

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

When Jason Kenney Told Off China and It Backfired

Covid-19 upended everything.  

No one knows whether the world will snap back to “normal” like an elastic band or be gone forever. Economists, futurists, and historians are all over the map when it comes to what to expect in the future. Some, like conservative historian Niall Ferguson, suggest we should prepare for a world with Covid-19 because vaccines and treatments may be a long time coming.  

Given all this uncertainty, we look to our leaders for, well, leadership.

Instead in Alberta we get a premier taking pot shots at the Chinese government while at the same time expecting China to send us PPE and buy our bitumen when TMX is completed.

Premier Kenney

What he said

Last week Mr Kenney told the Canadian American Business Council “the Chinese government played a significant role in the devastating public health and economic damage that is being experienced by the entire world…and…there must be some kind of a reckoning, there must be some accountability.”

This comes on the heels of his earlier comment that “in a pandemic, you find out who your true friends are. After COVID, Canadians and Americans will remember that the Saudis and Russians tried to exploit our pain for their gain.” What’s interesting about this comment is Kenney’s naïve assumption that Trump’s America is Alberta’s friend.   

The response

Russia and Saudi Arabia took no notice of Kenney’s comments, but the Chinese Consulate General slammed back with a caustic letter telling the premier not to engage in “wolf-warrior diplomacy”* unless he’s prepared to be on the receiving end of a critique of his handling of covid-19 and indeed his policy decisions in general.

China also reminded Kenney that he’s “based in Edmonton not Ottawa” (ooh, that hurt) and Mr Trump and the American businesses which enjoy a profitable business relationship with China may not be pleased with his comments.

This entire exchange is lunacy.

Cooler heads prevail

To be clear, no one is suggesting China is blameless in the Covid outbreak.

We strongly agree with the Prime Minister who said “there are many questions for countries around the origins and behavior in early days around the Covid-19 situation, particularly questions for China”.

Mr Trudeau who is based in Ottawa did not receive a snarky reply from China, and as far as we can see he has the concern about China’s role in the spread of the virus covered, so why is Alberta’s premier waging “wolf-warrior diplomacy” with China in the middle of a pandemic?  

He’s come undone

Kenney, like many populist leaders, has a problem. He rode into office on a wave of fear and anger by manufacturing a crisis, make that crises, plural, and promising to fix them.  

He was going to return Alberta to prosperity by saving the energy sector. He created a $30 million/year war room to stamp out misinformation about the energy industry (it failed miserably) and set up a $2.5 million public inquiry to flush out foreign operatives who mounted anti-Alberta energy campaigns (we have yet to see the Commissioner’s report, let alone a horde of foreign operatives heading for the hills).  Meanwhile global oil prices plummeted and the industry tanked.

He was going to balance Alberta’s books by imposing draconian cuts on public services. Albertans grumbled and finally lost it when cuts to physician compensation resulted in doctors reducing services and leaving the province. He backtracked, a bit.    

He was going to redress Ottawa’s unfair treatment of the People of Destiny (or is it the Buffalo People) by creating the Fair Deal panel to force Trudeau to give Alberta a better deal with veiled threats of separation, only to see his agenda highjacked by the Wexiteers who launched a serious separatist movement.

He was going to increase Albertans’ freedoms but spooked everyone, including his staunchest supporters, by using the covid crisis to pass Bill 10 which gives his Cabinet the power to suspend laws and create new ones indefinitely. This one is going to court.

Then to add insult to injury, along comes covid-19 which drove Trudeau’s approval ratings up and Kenney’s approval ratings down. Funny how a little thing like generous social assistance from the federal government, and meh social assistance from the Alberta government will swing public sentiment.    

Kenney put himself squarely between a rock and a hard place.

The fake crises he created fizzled and the real crises created by the Saudi/Russia oil price war and covid-19 will not yield to his I-can-bully-my-way-through-this rhetoric.

So he upped the ante, he’s demonizing China, Russia and Saudi Arabia to demonstrate he’s still in charge.

A reckoning

Covid-19 exposed shortcomings in our global institutions like the WHO, which successfully controlled SARS and Ebola but fell short with the coronavirus, and the EU which responded in a haphazard fashion.

It exposed flaws in our own federal and provincial governments’ pandemic protocols and the fragility of global supply chains, demonstrating a need for greater self-reliance and larger inventories for critical products.

But there’s one thing covid-19 did not do.

It did not give Jason Kenney the authority to position himself as a wolf-warrior parroting Donald Trump, when he’s nothing more than the premier of a small province in a “middle power” country that’s trying not to get trampled in the new cold war emerging between China and the US.

If Jason Kenney doesn’t understand this simple fact, then yes, there will be a reckoning; but it’s not going to be with China, it’s going to be with Mr Kenney.

*Wolf-warrior diplomacy refers to China’s increasingly aggressive and hostile engagement with the West.  

Posted in Economy, General Health Care, Politics and Government, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

Kenney Rejects Notley’s Request for a Public Inquiry. Why?

At last count there have been 1,550 Covid-19 infections and three deaths connected with the Cargill, JBS and Harmony Beef meatpacking plants in Alberta.   

This is frightening in a province that prides itself on having the highest testing levels in the country and was so comfortable with its Covid-19 preparedness plan that it donated PPE to BC, Ont and Quebec last month.

The only way to understand why Alberta’s meatpacking plants turned into a national Covid-19 hotspot and to prevent a similar tragedy from reoccurring is to proceed with Rachel Notley’s call for a public inquiry.

Sadly, Jason Kenney rejected Notley’s proposal. He cited three reasons; all of which are ludicrous.   

Premier Jason Kenney

Partisanship

First Kenney reverted to his default position, rebuffing Notley’s call for a public inquiry by accusing her of “politicizing” the issue.

What?

Covid-19 is a virus. A virus has no political affiliation. The coronavirus infected and killed thousands of Canadians, and brought our economy to a standstill without regard for who is sitting in the premier’s office (or in the prime minister’s office for that matter).   

One would think both parties, the NDP and the UCP, would be equally concerned about spiking infection rates at the Cargill, JSB and Harmony Beef plants and the implications of these spikes on the surrounding communities of High River, Brooks, and Balzac.  

Unfortunately, that’s not how Kenney sees it.  

Experts’ advice  

Kenney said a public inquiry isn’t necessary because his government followed the best expert advice it received from Alberta Health, public health officers, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Deena Hinshaw, OH&S, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Alberta Agriculture, and “all of our expert officials”.

Bearing in mind that this is the man who cherry picks experts’ advice—he likes Janice MacKinnon on balancing the budget, he doesn’t like Mark Carney on curbing investment in fossil fuels—he’s missing the point.  

The issue is not whether the government received the best expert advice but whether it followed this advice in the most effective way.

A secondary question is: what advice, if any, did the government receive from executives running the Cargill, JBS, and Harmony Beef plants and how much weight it gave their advice compared to the weight it gave the advice it received from health experts.

We’ll never know because Kenney refuses to call a public inquiry.     

Extended debate     

Kenney’s third reason for rejecting a public inquiry is the government will bring forward a motion to allow an “extended debate” on Alberta’s Covid-19 response. If Kenney is suggesting an extended debate in the Legislature is an adequate substitute for an independent public inquiry, he’s mistaken.    

A public inquiry is heard by an impartial commissioner, often a retired judge, who has the power to subpoena witnesses, compel them to give evidence under oath and provide documentation to support their testimony. Witnesses may bring lawyers and may be subject to cross examination. The process of collecting and analysing evidence takes months. At the end of the inquiry the commissioner writes a report describing his findings and setting out his recommendations so the government will be in a better position to protect the public the next time a pandemic rolls around.  

Compare the public inquiry process to the legislative debate process.

The time for debate is compressed into days (not months). Politicians (not witnesses) make statements (which are not under oath and not subject to cross-examination) based on what they believe happened. The members’ statements are recorded in Hansard (there is no written report setting out recommendations based on the evidence). The press picks up the debate (assuming there aren’t more pressing things going on, like relaunching the economy or a precipitous drop in the price of oil). Columnists write about it for a few days and everybody moves on.   

Real question

Kenney is not opposed to public inquiries on principle. He happily forked over $2.5 million for a public inquiry into foreign funded anti-Alberta energy campaigns, a “problem” significantly less pressing than a global pandemic that wreaked havoc at three Alberta meatpacking plants infecting hundreds of people, killing three, while also devastating Alberta’s beef industry and disrupting 85% of Canada’s beef supply.

So what’s Kenney’s problem?  

Either he’s right and his government did everything it could to ensure the safety of Albertans working at the meatpacking plants and it still wasn’t enough; or he’s wrong and his government failed to do everything it could to keep Albertans safe. In either case a public inquiry would expose these shortcomings and provide recommendations that would make it safer for all employees working in close proximity in the future.

Given Kenney’s refusal to call a public inquiry let me save you the bother of waiting for the extended debate to appear in Hansard. Here’s a summary of how it will go:

NDP: the government should have acted sooner and done more.

UCP: the government did everything right, and if we didn’t, blame the experts  

NDP: public officials give advice; cabinet makes decisions

UCP: there you go again, going partisan on us

We’re fighting for our lives, our health and our economy in the face of a global pandemic. We deserve a premier who will act in the public interest by calling a public inquiry into the failures at Cargill, JSB and Harmony Beef, instead of defaulting to political rhetoric.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Leadership in the Post-Pandemic World

It’s been two and a half months since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic; infections and deaths will continue until a vaccine is found. Economists and global thinkers may disagree on what the new world will look like, but they’re aligned on one thing: it’s not too soon for us to start thinking about the world we hope to live in when we finally reach the other side of this crisis.   

We’ve learned some important lessons already.  

The quality of government, particularly its leader, is critical  

Covid-19 gave Albertans the opportunity to compare two very different governments, the provincial government led by Jason Kenney and the federal government led by Justin Trudeau.

Kenney’s government hung back waiting for the feds to step into the breach with social programs to ease the suffering of Albertans. It also doubled down on its pre-Covid agenda, attacking social services, particularly public education and healthcare, while the pandemic gained purchase. Particularly odious was the health minister’s refusal to reverse his decision to cut physician compensation until it became obvious the UCP would lose rural seats.  

Premier Kenney

While the Alberta government was creating havoc and heartache, the federal government delivered a dizzying array of social programs to help Canadians weather the economic upheaval caused by the virus. (It goes without saying that the Notley government’s response would be more akin to that of the federal government, than Kenney’s government).

As we move through the pandemic, we need to consider what kind of leader would be best suited to navigating the rapidly changing, and often dangerous, new world—one who is dogmatic and inflexible or one who grasps the issues and responds quickly and effectively.  

We need visionaries   

The economist, Mohamed El-Erian, is concerned governments are defaulting to remedies (like bailouts for airlines and oil companies) that worked in the past, when they should be exploring new remedies for crises we’ve never experienced before. Instead of financial models that keep zombie companies alive in zombie markets, El-Erian says governments should consider an economic model that relies on productivity and people.

He argues for a more thoughtful approach and suggests we investigate economic theories like universal basic income and modern monetary theory (MMT) that were once considered impractical.

Given Kenney’s demand that the federal government bailout the energy industry to the tune of $20 to $30 billion, it’s unlikely he or his government and its advisors have the imagination necessary to consider any remedy other than one that props up Alberta’s one-trick pony fossil fuel economy.  

As Alberta moves into the new world, we will need leaders who are willing to pressure-test old economic assumptions, instead of defaulting to the path that brought us to this economic cul-de-sac in the first place.  

The economy does not take precedence over society

Remember when the UCP said we must be prosperous before we can be a compassionate caring society? Covid-19 showed us the opposite is true. When the economy ground to a halt, the social safety net and the community reaching out to its members helped us survive.

And yet, Kenney’s faith in the preeminence of economic prosperity is unshaken.

Despite the fact Alberta has not flattened the curve, the Kenney government is reopening the economy starting May 4. This means workers with legitimate concerns about catching the virus will have to report to work.

Nowhere is this more unconscionable than at Alberta’s meat packing plants. The Cargill plant and the JBS plant together are responsible for 42% of all of Alberta’s covid cases, including two deaths. And yet the Kenney government is allowing them to operate.  

We need to decide what kind of government we want: one that puts the economy above society or one that recognizes the importance of life as well as livelihood?

What we can do now

The pandemic exposed the stark reality of inequality, underfunded public programs and the importance of a social safety net in calamitous times.

We will overcome the Covid-19 crisis, but looming on the horizon is an even bigger crisis, that of climate change.

Yes, it feels overwhelming, but as Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the UN, said: when we think the problems are too big and we’re too small to do anything about them, we can make a difference by “shrinking the change”, by picking a manageable piece of the bigger problem and working on it.

In this case we can work with Rachel Notley’s NDP to ensure Jason Kenney’s UCP do not form government in 2023.

We need leaders and governments who are ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges, not the battles of yesteryear.  

*Comments by Mohamed El-Erian and Samantha Power are from the Munk Dialogues: World After Covid19 https://munkdebates.com/dialogues  

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Climate Change, Economy, Employment, Energy & Natural Resources, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Jason Kenney’s Fight with Alberta’s Doctors

“The crisis we have in health care, rural included, is a void of leadership by the UCP government. They were voted in with a majority government, but do not seem to understand the difference between leadership and power.” —  Dr Ed Aasman

The Greeks defined hubris is a character flaw, a combination of pride and ambition so great they offend the gods and lead to one’s downfall.   

What level of hubris led Jason Kenney and his health minister, Tyler Shandro, to believe they could get away with passing legislation giving them the power to rip up the Master Agreement with Alberta’s doctors, violate the doctors’ right to fair negotiation and binding arbitration, and unilaterally impose a new fee structure that would dramatically cut physician compensation, without any pushback?   

Then when the doctors begged Kenney and Shandro to hold off implementing the fee changes until after the pandemic passed, why did Kenney and Shandro double down?  

The Kenney government’s draconian behavior is inexcusable and Alberta’s doctors, with the support of their patients, fought back.   

It was a tough slog.

It took hundreds of doctors telling Kenney and Shandro that over 400 community clinics would close or lay off staff, and countless doctors announcing they would leave Alberta after the pandemic was over, and thousands of Albertans flooding their MLAs with letters demanding the government reverse course, before the government paid attention.

Health Minister Shandro

Not my fault (again)

On Apr 24, Shandro gave a press conference. He was flanked by some rural MLAs (but no doctors) when he unveiled a $81 million package to support rural doctors.

He said the government:

  • would cancel rural fee changes because they didn’t realize an unintended consequence was a reduction in access to healthcare in rural areas (if they’d listened to the doctors, they might have had a clue),
  • was permanently reversing the fee changes for rural areas (that promise is as binding as the Master Agreement they ripped up in February)
  • would pause the fee changes in urban areas, pending further review (what’s to review? An appendectomy is an appendectomy regardless of where it’s performed; if the government wants to incentivize rural practice provide incentives, don’t mess with the urban fee)
  • was adding $57 million to top-up rural service (because if rural doctors distrust Kenney so much they leave, Kenney’s rural base will desert him in 2023)

Shandro stated repeatedly that the $81 million plan was the result of concrete proposals from the rural MLAs and was not, repeat, not, the result of consultation with the AMA. Furthermore the plan proceeded on an expedited basis because his government ripped up the AMA Master Agreement, and (here’s the icing on the cake), the government would not take responsibility for causing “anxiety” in the middle of the pandemic, it was the AMA’s fault, they spread “misinformation” to the doctors.   

The entire press conference felt like an effort to sweeten the pot for rural doctors, pit them against urban doctors, weaken the AMA and shore up Kenney’s rural base.

Doctors are unimpressed

This is shameful and Alberta’s doctors are not buying it.

The rural physicians (represented by the Rural Sustainability Group) issued a letter saying they appreciated the government’s support of rural medicine, but the government still wasn’t listening. What the rural doctors want is an agreement that allows for arbitration, thereby avoiding unilateral decision making by the government.  

The president of the Section for Rural Medicine is squarely behind the AMA, noting the AMA is the “venue for physician leadership and the vehicle through which Alberta’s physicians have worked with the government for 114 years.”  

The AMA said the temporary suspension of fee changes during the pandemic is a positive step, but if the government wants to find long term solutions to healthcare challenges it should work with doctors, not rip up their contract, continually misrepresent their compensation and take away their right to binding arbitration.  

Kenney’s attempt to pit rural doctors against urban doctors did not succeed, but it does raise the question: Why did Kenney do it?

What drove him to pass legislation allowing him to rip up the AMA Master Agreement and impose his own fee structure on Alberta’s doctors? What caused him to ram this ill-conceived plan down the doctors’ throats in the middle of a global pandemic?

Was it a desire to teach the doctors a lesson after the AMA refused to bow to Kenney’s demands for cuts? Was it resentment that Rachel Notley was able to negotiate doctors’ fees without a ripple of discontent?  

Was it plain old hubris?

One thing is clear, if the Kenney government is prepared to go after our doctors in the middle of a pandemic, then none of us are safe.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Economy, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 63 Comments

Gaslighting 101: Mr Kenney Responds to Mr Trudeau’s Aid Package

Gaslighting: abusive behavior where an abuser manipulates information to make his victim question their sanity by using denial, misdirection, contradiction and misinformation to destabilize the victim and delegitimize their beliefs. – Wikipedia

Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau announced $2.4 billion aid package for laid-off energy workers. It includes $1.7 billion to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells and $750 million to stop the leakage of methane gas.

Given that Premier Kenney has been pounding the table for months demanding $20 to $30 billion from the Feds to save the energy sector, his response to the $2.4 billion package was surprisingly bland. Why?

Because Mr Kenney discovered that he can’t bully Mr Trudeau or the rest of Canada, consequently instead of flying into a rage he issued a press release full of statements that were (a) contradicted by the facts, (b) contradicted by his own government’s policy, and (c) a masterful piece of gaslighting.

Mr Kenney

None of which goes far to engender trust in this government.

Mr Kenney’s response

Mr Kenney said Alberta was grateful for the Fed’s $2.4 billion package, but Alberta needs and deserves much more because:

  • 800,000 Canadian jobs depend on Alberta’s energy sector making it Canada’s largest industry
  • Alberta’s energy sector is the largest subsector of Canada’s economy
  • Alberta’s energy sector is one of the biggest employers in Canada
  • If the Feds don’t bail out Alberta’s energy sector it may not survive “the next couple of years”

Okay, let’s take it from the top.

Is Alberta’s energy sector (with 800,000 employees) Canada’s largest industry?

No. Economists define an industry as a sector that produces goods or services. There are at least 10 sectors that employ more Canadians than Alberta’s energy sector, including the wholesale and retail sector which employs 2.8 million, manufacturing which employs 1.7 million, and construction which employs 1.5 million.

Is Alberta’s energy sector the largest subsector of Canada’s economy?

No. The energy sector’s share of taxes paid by all industry sectors was 7.7% between 2013 and 2017. The sector’s contribution to Canada’s nominal GDP is just over 10%; the manufacturing and real estate/leasing sectors contribute more.

Is Alberta’s energy sector one of the biggest employers in Canada?

Nope. See above.

Bottom line: the first three reasons Mr Kenney relies on to support his argument that the Feds should contribute a whole lot more to prop up Alberta’s energy sector are contradicted by the facts.

Is there a chance Alberta’s energy sector may not survive the next couple of years?

Mr Kenney said these were unprecedented times and the energy sector was facing its biggest challenges ever with threats from both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Saudi-Russia price war. He said world energy markets will improve and there would be better times ahead “but only if the industry survives the next couple of years.”   

Which raises the question: If there is a chance Alberta’s energy sector will not survive the next couple of years, then Mr Kenney’s decision to invest $7.5 billion in TC Energy and to allow AIMCo to invest billions more the Northern Courier and Coastal GasLink pipelines was utterly irresponsible. 

Bottom line: Mr Kenny’s rationale that Alberta’s energy sector is in danger of collapse unless the Feds contribute significantly more is contradicted by his policy decision to invest Alberta taxpayers’ money in the energy sector.

Trust?

What are we to make of this bizarre press release? Either Mr Kenney doesn’t care about the facts or he’s comfortable betting Alberta taxpayers’ money on a dicey future, either way he’s gaslighting us to get what he wants out of the Feds.

Which leads me to wonder, if you can’t trust your government in the middle of a pandemic, who can you trust?

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 79 Comments

Checking In

How are you? Are you okay?  

The Soapbox family is fine. We’re the lucky ones, we’re doing reasonably well under the circumstances. We check in with each other every day. We go for walks and play more board games than we’ve ever played before (I still suck at Rummikub).  Emails, texts and phone calls keep us connected with friends and family.  We’ve discovered Facetime is perfect for Scatagories or simply catching up over coffee.

But it’s not enough. We need our community.

When my sister in BC spends her free time sewing masks for my family and says she’ll leave the house for the first time in two weeks to take the package down to the local post office instead of leaving it in her rural mail box for pickup and delivery so we’ll get it quicker, I tear up.  

When I walk the dog and meet someone coming the other way with his dog and we scramble to get away from each other, I understand but am saddened.    

When I attend a board meeting by conference call and our chairman starts the meeting by saying it’s so nice to hear our voices, I’m moved.  

Something has happened. Time slowed down. And we’ve learned a few things.

First and foremost, we now recognize the importance of every single member of our society, regardless of their position in the economic and social hierarchy.

Second, we know our local, provincial, and federal governments can move mountains in a very short space of time if they have to. It turns out there’s always enough money to do what’s right and decent.

Third, we understand that when this is over, we cannot go back to the old way of doing things. As the economist Armine Yalnizyan said, COVID-19 fast tracked the discussion of economic policies like universal basic income and modern monetary theory into the mainstream. The pandemic is changing the way we think about economic policy and how we implement it.

If we can tackle the fallout from a pandemic, then nothing is too big or too difficult to contemplate.

And you know what, the politicians can and will get it done…if they get a big push from the community.  That must be our focus when we reached the other side of this tunnel.  

Until then, how are you? Are you okay?

Posted in Economy, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , | 57 Comments