Patriot Games

“Patriot:  the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.” Mark Twain

Last week Mr Kenney joined the patriot squad.  On August 4 and  August 7 he released two odious videos on social media.  Let’s call them “Patriot Games One” and “Patriot Games Two.”

Patriot Games One

The gist of Patriot Games One was that Mr Kenney is a Canadian patriot who comes from a long line of Canadian patriots and is descended from people who fought for Canada even before it became a country (um, wouldn’t that make them British patriots?).  Mr Kenney said Alberta is getting a raw deal from the other provinces and the feds, Alberta is paying the bills and getting no respect, but fear not Mr Kenney will not let Justin Trudeau “push us out of our country”.  Mr Kenney said instead of focusing on Alberta separating from Canada, Albertans should focus on “separating” Justin Trudeau from the prime minister’s office. 

Message:  Be a patriot.  Vote Conservative because Trudeau is trying to push Alberta out of Confederation.           

Patriot Games Two

Patriot Games Two came out three days later.  Apparently, Albertans continually ask Mr Kenney about separating.  He says he’s a Canadian federalist, always has been, always will be…but he understands Alberta’s angst.  Alberta contributed $600 billion to Canada over the last six decades and Trudeau “killed” and “surrendered to a veto” on Northern Gateway (I guess killing it wasn’t enough), he “killed” Energy East, he “bungled” Trans Mountain, he’s “threatening us with a punitive carbon tax,” he brought in the “no more pipelines” law, he attacked Alberta oil exports off the northwest coast and did other bad things to Alberta.  But Albertans are “proud Canadians”, we should fix the problems with the federation by electing a conservative federal government. 

Message: Be a patriot.  Vote Conservative because Trudeau is hurting Alberta.   

Here’s where Patriot Games Two got really interesting.  Kenney said, “I believe we Albertans are patriotic Canadians we believe in Canada even if we’re frustrated with how the current federal government has been injuring our economy and I’m trying to isolate the frustration on a series of federal government policies that have injured our economy, the only alternative is for me to pretend that this frustration doesn’t exist and when political leadership ignores that level of frustration, that’s where things can go in the wrong direction.   (Is he going to “isolate the frustration” by magnifying it? If he ignores the frustration what direction will it go? Car bombs and kidnapped politicians?)

The Patriot

He ends the clip by repeating his claim that he’s a proud Canadian patriot who wants Alberta “to be a key member” of federation, contributing to the rest of Canada. 

Message:  I’m not a separatist, I just sound like one because I’m isolating your frustration.    

Patriot or Nationalist

There is so much wrong with Patriot Games One and Two it’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start by defining terms.  Merriam Webster defines “patriot” as someone who loves and supports his/her country.

Mr Kenney says he’s a patriot, but his actions aren’t those of someone who loves and supports his country.     

A patriot does not spend years maligning federal institutions (like the equalization formula) or telling Albertans they’re getting a raw deal and “no respect” from other provincial governments and the federal government.

A patriot does not pretend the language of separatism is an effort to “isolate” frustration and he has no other alternative.  Mr Kenney could try working with Mr Trudeau to gain his support like Ms Notley did when she convinced Mr Trudeau to buy Trans Mountain and increase unemployment insurance benefits for Albertans, or Mr Lougheed did when he engaged with Pierre Trudeau on changes to the 1982 Constitution Act.  These fine premiers found an alternative that did not suggest the federal government was trying to throw Alberta out of the country. 

(As an aside, why would Mr Trudeau push Alberta out of Canada when he just spent $4.5 billion on a pipeline to transport Alberta bitumen to tide water?)    

Lastly, a patriot does not use the language of patriotism in a crass partisan pitch for the federal Conservatives coming to the people directly from the premier’s office and the lobby of the Alberta Legislature no less.  Does Mr Kenney seriously think Albertans will vote for anyone else?

The historian, Timothy Snyder, said a patriot sets a good example of what the country means for generations to come.       

George Orwell said a nationalist, “although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge” tends to be “uninterested in what happens in the real world.”

Mr Kenney may say he’s a patriot, but his actions suggest otherwise. 

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

What Do They Want?

When Ms Soapbox read the “open letter” to Canadians published by three oil executives she was reminded of Sigmund Freud.  Freud spent 30 years asking himself: what do women want?   

After 70 years of riding the boom/bust roller coaster with the energy industry Canadians are wondering the same thing:  what do they want?          

The answer is contained in the “open letter”. 

Here’s the letter as it appeared in 30 newspapers.  (Ms Soapbox’s comments appear in italics).          

What do they want?

The Open Letter  

We have big decisions to make as a country, and there is an opportunity for each of you to influence the outcome.  (How will you vote in the federal election?)

Canadians want to know what the energy sector is doing to address the global climate change challenge while working to strengthen our economy. (True).

As energy company leaders, we believe Canada is ideally positioned to do its part to both positively impact climate change and ensure a strong and vibrant economy for the future. (Good).

This is not an ‘either’ ‘or’ conversation, it’s an ‘and’ conversation.  (Got it).

The world needs more energy to sustain a growing global economy that is expected to lift three billion people out of poverty in the decades ahead. We need more wind, solar and hydro, but oil and natural gas remain a large part of the mix too. This is true in even the most optimistic scenarios for the worldwide adoption of renewable energy. (Lifting three billion people out of poverty involves geopolitical and macroeconomic issues as well as climate change, but okay).

The world also needs to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But shutting down Canada’s oil industry will have little impact on global targets. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, with higher carbon fuels replacing our lower emissions products.  (This is not an excuse for doing nothing, Canada can set an example.  It’s called moral leadership).   

A healthy Canadian oil and natural gas industry is vital in leading the way to a lower carbon future.  (Not if “healthy” means “profitable” and “profitable” means minimal GHG reduction).

Made-in-Canada technologies that reduce emissions at our oil and natural gas operations could be adapted for sharing with other industries worldwide. We are already making meaningful progress developing those solutions.  (True).

We’ve reduced the emissions intensity in the oil sands by about 30% over the past two decades, and a number of oil sands operations are producing oil with a smaller greenhouse gas impact than the global average. We’re working to get those numbers even lower. 

(Actually, Suncor says it’s reduced emissions by 50%.  Is Suncor sharing its technologies with you, if so, why are you at 30%?)

And Canada’s energy companies are the country’s single largest investors in clean tech. Through organizations such as Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) and the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) we are continuing to work on – and share – breakthrough technologies.  (Good, but you don’t get brownie points for doing the right thing).

But we can’t do it alone.  (Here it comes…)  

And that’s why we are writing this letter.  (Wait for it…)  

As we head into the upcoming election, we are asking you to join us in urging Canada’s leaders of all political stripes to help our country thrive by supporting an innovative energy industry. One that can contribute to solving the global climate change challenge and play a significant role in creating future energy solutions by developing our resources in the cleanest most responsible way possible today. 

(So you want to elect a government that will support the industry.  According to 80% of the investors and industry executives who attended the 2019 ScotiaBank Conference, the biggest issue facing the industry is lack of egress/takeaway capacity—only 10% thought regulatory issues were the biggest challenge—the Trudeau Liberals bought Trans Mountain to fix the egress problem.  The holdup is Charter challenges in the courts.  A change of government won’t “fix” the courts. 

The Conservatives say they’ll repeal the carbon tax.  This will put more cash in your pocket.  How will you invest it?  85% of the ScotiaBank guys said they’d buy back shares or pay off debt (ie. give the money to shareholders or banks), 0% said they’d invest in growth (ie. more jobs).  So why should Canadians support the Conservatives?   

The choices we make will determine the quality of life we create for ourselves and future generations. These choices will impact our ability to fund schools, hospitals, parks and the social programs that we as Canadians so deeply value.  (Canadians also value the environment).

This isn’t about any particular pipeline, policy or province. This is about the future of Canada. 

(So let’s talk politics.  The ScotiaBank guys were asked who’d win in the fall election:  11% predicted a Conservative majority, 5% predicted a Liberal majority and 75% predicted a minority government of some sort.  A CBC poll showed 35% of Canadians support the Conservatives, 31% support the Liberals, 13% support the NDP and 11% support the Greens—this foreshadows a non-Conservative minority government).   

Signed by the Presidents of CNRL, Cenovus, MEG Energy 

(And not signed by the presidents of industry giants like Suncor, Husky and Imperial and mega pipelines like Enbridge and Trans Canada). 

Instead of publishing an open letter asking Canadians to elect a government that won’t push the industry on GHG emissions and supports less regulation, these three executives should have paid attention to economist Peter Tertzakian who told the ScotiaBank crowd in order to succeed the industry must: (1) lower its costs, (2) pay more attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and (3) do the best job it can to get the highest value markets because politics in Canada and the world are unpredictable.

To paraphrase Freud’s question:  What do these industry executives want?  Answer: a government that gives them everything.  

Is this what Canadians want?  We’ll find out in October.

Posted in Climate Change, Economics, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Calgary Flames Arena–Have We Got A Deal For You!!!

To paraphrase Jane Jacobs, the majority of Calgary City Council regard Calgarians as “empty-headed young ladies whose main duties were to see that their nails were clean, their curves properly distributed and their behavior seemly.”

These councillors refuse to allow adequate public consultation on their decision to spend $275 million on the new Flames hockey arena while at the same time raising property taxes, wiping out small businesses and cutting $60 million in public services including police and fire.         

Only four city councillors, Evan Woolley, Jeremy Farkas, Druh Farrell and Peter Demong, didn’t rubberstamp the Flames deal, which is described by the Canadian Tax Federation as an example of “corporate welfare.”  (Ms Soapbox and the CTF agree, did Hell just freeze over?)     

Flames CEO Ken King and Mayor Nenshi

The deal’s benefits

Mayor Nenshi and most councillors say investing $275 million in public money will create $400 million in public benefit.    

Really?

Let’s review the benefits set out on page 24 of the Facilities Update document:      

  • Ticket tax revenues:  Calgary will get $155 million over 35 years through a ticket tax of 2%.  If it had negotiated the same 9.5% ticket tax deal Edmonton negotiated with the Oilers, it would have gotten $736 million in revenue.  To add insult to injury, Calgary agreed to cap its share of ticket tax revenue at $3 million for the first 5 years, this represents a loss of $1.4 million/year for five years.          
  • Local community sports payments: $75 million over 35 years.  Okay, that’s nice.  The $2 million/year will come in handy when we cut $60 million in public services.   
  • Naming rights: $2.5 million/year for 10 years.  Ditto.
  • Retail property tax: $19.4 million over 35 years.  It’s unclear where this number comes from given that it’s dependent on development that has not yet taken place and would be sensitive to economic downturns which depress business tax revenue.    
  • Indirect Rivers District Development:  This pie in the sky number accounts for $138.7 million and is contingent on many things including whether the Flames exercise two options to buy unspecified Rivers District Lands.  If all goes well, this revenue yields a 1.4% return on investment.  If it goes pear shaped, the City suffers a .6% loss.

The Facilities Update document also lists a number of soft benefits including Calgary remaining committed to economic recovery (well, I certainly hope so!), and the arena being a “catalyst” for future development and an “anchor” for arts, culture and entertainment. 

Sigh, all these benefits are enough to make a girl swoon so I’ll turn to economist Trevor Tombe who said the $400 million in benefits is “misleading” and the real cost of the deal is a $47 million loss.  Loss????   

The deal’s downside  

What the Facilities Update document doesn’t provide is an analysis of the deal’s costs and risks.  These include: 

  • Risk of demolition cost overruns: Demolition is expected to cost $12.4 million.  Calgary and the Flames will share this cost 90/10, but the Flame’s 10% is capped at $1.4 million.  Some estimates show the cost of demolition and reclamation at $25 million.  This means Calgarians could be on the hook for $23 million.         
  • Cost overruns:  The Saddledome was completed in 1983, eight months late and $16 million (about 20%) over budget.  A 20% overrun on this project will cost $110 million.  Council says each party is responsible for the changes it requests.  Good luck with that.  It’s easy to request a change order during construction, it’s much harder to figure out who should pay for it after the fact.  The operative phrase here is “See you in court, buster!”     
  • Free options:  The City gave the Flames two no-cost options on River District Lands.  One lets the Flames buy prime real estate in 2024 at 2018 prices; the other lets them buy prime real estate at fair market value any time up to 2034.  Because hey, why shouldn’t Calgarians subsidize the Flames’ desire to become real estate moguls if the spirit moves them.  
  • Liability: The City will own the arena.  This means Calgarians are on the hook for major structural improvements, the cost of City services, insurance, and any flood mitigation costs in excess of $2 million (does “2013 Flood” ring a bell?) and by 2054 when the lease is up, the arena will be ready for demolition and we’ll start all over again.     

Stop carping

Of all the stupid reasons I’ve heard against public consultation, these take the cake: 

  • Councillors had 14 months to get public input:  Excuse me???  The financial strategy and negotiation mandate weren’t approved until March 4, 2019.  What were councillors supposed to discuss with their constituents…free rides on the zamboni?
  • Woolley and Farkas want to run for mayor:   This fails to account for Farrell and Demong who also refused to rubber stamp the deal.  Besides, who cares.  Running a mayoral campaign on the promise that you’ll listen to the people is more convincing when you actually listen to the people.
  • It gives Calgary a shot in the arm:  This reminds me of a couple I knew who were so depressed about maxing out their credit cards they bought themselves new skis (on credit) for Christmas.  Good public services will enhance the quality of life for all Calgarians.  Draining Calgary’s emergency fund down to 5% will not. 

Don’t worry, be happy

Mayor Nenshi said public consultations is only necessary in two cases: (1) changes are possible and politicians want to hear from their constituents and (2) politicians haven’t made up their minds and they want to hear from their constituents.  He said neither of these reasons apply here.

In other words, we’ve made up our minds and there will be no more changes.    

Silly Calgarians, clean your nails, make sure your curves are properly distributed and your behavior is seemly.  No one wants to hear from you.

Posted in Culture, Economics, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 39 Comments

A Letter to My Councillor About the Flames Deal

Dear Councillor Woolley,

I am a constituent living in your riding.  Thank you for bringing forward a motion to extend the time available for public consultation on the proposed deal with the Calgary Flames.  I am deeply disappointed that the Mayor and most of Council rejected your motion.       

The fundamental issue here is not whether this project is good or bad—I don’t know, I haven’t been given enough time to make a reasoned decision—it’s whether Council has the right to make this decision in the absence of a fulsome public engagement process. 

Councillor Jeff Davison says there’s been ample time for consultation with Calgarians, over 14 months.  The Facilities Update document dated July 22, 2019 indicates otherwise.  The Event Centre Exploration Committee was created and its mandate was approved on May 28, 2018.  Its workplan was approved on Feb 20, 2019.   The timeline ends on July 4, 2019.  There is no record of any public consultation at any time between May 28, 2018 and July 4, 2019.          

Councillor Evan Wooley

This is even more egregious considering the Committee’s mandate which requires it to “identify, consult and collaborate with key internal and external stakeholders.” Surely Calgarians who are being asked to foot the $275 million bill and trade off other public services in exchange for an arena would be considered “key external stakeholders.”  

The Committee is required to conduct itself in accordance with certain “principles” including “engagement with the public throughout the process whenever possible to ensure transparency.”    Councillor Davison telling me to send a form to a City website by noon Friday does not satisfy the principle of “engagement.”

Councillor Woolley, you moved a motion in March 2019 (unanimously adopted) directing city administration to work with the Committee to develop a public engagement plan.  The Committee failed to act on your motion.   

If this is as good a project as Councillor Davison says it is and it makes sense on its own merits as Mayor Nenshi says it does, then it will withstand public scrutiny in the form of a public engagement process that outlines the benefits it will bring to Calgarians.

If Council approves this proposal on Tuesday July 30, 2019, in the absence of meaningful public consultation it will violate our democratic rights as citizens to participate in material decisions that affect our wellbeing.  We will not forget this breach of trust when we cast our ballots in the next municipal election.    

I urge you to vote against this proposal.        

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Trump’s “Go Home” Tweet

Ms Soapbox found herself organizing the sock drawer this morning.

She blames this burst of domesticity on Donald Trump. 

She’ll explain how this ties back to Alberta politics in a moment, but first a quick recap of the most recent Trump blowout.    

The Tweet

Last week Mr Trump tweeted that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other congresswomen should go back to where they came from, or words to that effect.  All four are American citizens, three were “born and bred” Americans (why does everyone use that phrase, it makes us sound like cattle), one immigrated to the US as a child.

The mainstream media and social media went nuts.

They debated three issues:    

  • This proves/doesn’t prove Trump is a racist.  Does it matter?  His base and many swing voters don’t care if he’s racist or just plain nasty. 
  • This demonstrates Trump is a savvy politician; he’s painting the Democratic Party as AOC “social democrats” in order to recapture the swing districts he lost in the mid-term elections.  All the more reason for the Democrats to figure out who they are before Trump does it for them.         
  • AOC should pipe down because she’s undermining Nancy Pelosi who’s done more for progressive causes than anyone.   One journalist asked:  where was AOC when Ms Pelosi was fighting to get Obamacare through Congress in 2010?  Oh please, in 2010 AOC was in university completing a degree in economics and international relations.  Furthermore, Ms Pelosi’s past achievements do not justify silencing AOC and other fresh thinkers who are in short supply in the Democratic Party at the moment.          

AOC responded to Mr Trump with this: “Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy.”

This is why the Trump tweet and the ensuing media brouhaha are important in the context of Alberta politics where the UCP continue to demonize Rachel Notley, the NDP and their supporters as “social democrats” bent on destroying our way of life by undermining our capitalistic economy.       

If the UCP and their supporters want to discuss capitalism, it would help if they understood the meaning of the word and its history.          

Capitalism

In his book, Economics for Everyone, Jim Stanford explains that capitalism is just one form of economy.  He says homo sapiens have been around for approximately 100,000 years and had an economy the entire time.  Capitalism has existed for 250 years.  To put this into context, if the history of man is represented by a 24-hour day, then capitalism has been around for three-and-a-half seconds. 

Three-and-a-half seconds.

Capitalism is defined by two crucial features: profit-seeking investment by private corporations and wage labour. Capitalism comes in many varieties.

Mr Stanford compares the key economic and social indicators of four capitalistic countries, the US, Germany, Japan and Sweden and demonstrates that the country with the highest GDP (US) performs much worse than the other countries on other important indicators including poverty rates, inequality, pollution, incarceration and premature death–leaving one to question the assumption that GDP is a good indicator of quality of life.

Mr Stanford points out “the strategy of incrementally reforming capitalism, while preserving the system’s defining features, has traditionally been the ideological core of the social-democratic movement.”  

Or to put it another way, social democrats are trying to make capitalism better.

Now that we’ve cleared that up  

So, the next time someone tries to smear the NDP by calling them social democrats, tell them the NDP is working hard to make capitalism better and ask them what they and their UCP government are doing to achieve the same goal.  After they’ve listed all their efforts to improve capitalism (not corporatism), feel free to engage in a healthy debate on the respective merits of their policy choices compared to yours.

Because whether weak leaders like it or not, we’re going to debate policy.  We’re going to challenge the suitability of old economic policies that failed to address the problems of the last decade (does the financial crash of 2008 ring a bell?) and are now being touted by unimaginative conservatives as our economic salvation.    

There is honour in being a social democrat.

I’ll take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rachel Notley over Donald Trump and Jason Kenney any day.     

Posted in Economy, Politics, Politics and Government, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Cowboys and Politicians

It’s the last day of the Calgary Stampede. 

It’s also the last day for politicians to dress up as cowboys for one last photo-op before getting back to business of politics.   

The issue we have with this photo isn’t that these men aren’t real cowboys but that they’re not real conservatives.        

Premier Kenney with premiers of NWT, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Ontario

Yes, Mr Kenney says he’s leading the charge to renew conservatism but unfortunately for conservatives he doesn’t represent traditional conservatism.  He represents something The Economist calls the New Right, a movement created by a bunch of aggrieved pessimists and reactionaries who are shredding traditional conservatism to gain power.

Conservatism then and now   

Traditional conservatives are cautious by nature.  They expect the authority imbued in the family, church, and tradition to control and slow down change.  Mr Kenney on the other hand promises to move with great haste because “speed creates its own momentum” and is more difficult to oppose.    

Traditional conservatives are pragmatists, not zealots who play fast and loose with the truth.  They don’t enflame wild-eyed western separatists with misinformation about the equalization formula, they don’t double down on allegations that the deficit was a billion dollars higher than the NDP said, when in fact it was $2 billion lower than the NDP had projected;  or to put it another way $3 billion less than Mr Kenney alleged.   

Traditional conservatives cherish institutions, they don’t abuse them.  They don’t create $30 million taxpayer funded propaganda centres and call them “war rooms”.  They don’t set up $2.5 million taxpayer funded witch hunts and call them public inquiries into foreign-funded conspiracies to kill the energy industry.  They don’t disregard the rule of law by promising to rip up billion dollar contracts before they’ve laid eyes on them.  They don’t make a mockery of democracy by running roughshod over the Opposition and plugging their ears and jumping into reflecting pools because no stunt is too juvenile for our elected representatives.                

Most importantly, they don’t manipulate the population with the promise of prosperity to gain power.     

Wealth and prosperity

Mr Kenney described his Stampede breakfast as an “…informal get-together of some like-minded premiers to talk about jobs, growth and prosperity.”   Mr Ford said it was the first time in a long time that “like-minded premiers that want their provinces to thrive” had a chance to get together.  Mr. Moe said it wasn’t an ideological gathering but one of “mutual interest on how we can continue to create wealth in the communities we represent.”

In case you missed it, the common thread there was wealth not ideology.  Prosperity in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but under Mr Kenney’s New Right government it takes precedence over absolutely everything else.    

Mr Kenney’s government moved quickly to ensure corporations were happy even if this required underfunding public services to prop up failing businesses.  The government just announced a one-time 35% cut in property taxes for selected shallow gas companies.  This translates into a $23 million hit to revenue earmarked for education and is in addition to corporate tax cuts that will reduce business taxes from 12% to 8% over the next four years.

All government ministries understand the “economy first” priority.      

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says increasing employment and restoring Alberta’s reputation as a place to do business will be a big part of his ministry’s “fight-back strategy”. If economic development is part of the Justice Minister’s mandate what are the premier and the ministers of economic development & trade, energy, natural gas, labour and treasury & finance doing…justice?  

Traditional conservatives have always been small government, pro-business types, but the progressive ones like Peter Lougheed understood the need to balance economic development with funding public services through taxation.    

Sadly, the Lougheed conservatives have been outflanked by New Right politicians like Mr Kenney and his cowboy cronies.  They’ve discovered a two-pronged path to power:  (1) fan the fear and insecurity created in the aftermath of 9/11 and the financial crisis and (2) promise prosperity through austerity (why that one works is beyond me).      

Rhinestone cowboys are fun, but New Right politicians masquerading as traditional conservatives are dangerous. 

Five “like-minded” premiers showed up for the Stampede this year, if a “like-minded” prime minister joins them next year we’re in big trouble.    

Posted in Economy, Employment, Energy & Natural Resources, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 41 Comments

Mr Kenney’s Laundry List

In a manner befitting the serious business of governing, the Alberta UCP caucus celebrated the end of the spring session by jumping into the reflecting pool in front of the Legislature.    

Perhaps it was the strain of being held to account by the NDP Opposition for seven whole weeks or maybe it was the joy of enacting legislation that makes outing gay kids in schools optional, in any event it was an unseemly start to the summer recess. 

The laundry list  

For a party that was quick to denounce the NDP government for moving too fast, Mr Kenney made a big deal about passing 13 bills and fully or partially implementing 55 platform commitments.            

He described this effort in Trumpian terms.  By repealing the carbon tax and cutting corporate taxes he’d set the record for the most tax relief provided to Albertans and businesses in a single legislative session.  Another perspective would be he traded the Alberta carbon tax for the federal carbon tax and blew the biggest hole in Alberta’s budget ($4.5 billion) in a single legislative session.    

But hey, let’s not quibble, more jobs and investment dollars are just around the corner, right?      

Of the 55 commitments 24% are real (repealing the carbon tax, cutting corporate taxes, ending subsidies for renewables projects) and 11% damage the government’s relationship with business and/or Albertans by rolling back protections for LGBTQ students, unions and workers under 18, killing jobs by cancelling infrastructure projects, or revisiting settled issues like farm safety, the structure of electricity markets, supervised consumption sites and crude by rail leasing agreements.    

The remaining 65% are a mishmash of:

  • public relations stunts—the public inquiry into foreign funding for “anti-Alberta energy campaigns”, legislation to restrict exports to BC and elect senatorial nominees and a referendum on equalization,   
  • pre-emptive moves—the Blue Ribbon panel to review Alberta’s fiscal framework will provide air cover when Mr Kenney cuts public services in the fall,
  • organizational moves—appointing three new associate ministers and one new minister and creating a new ministry to reduce red tape       
  • self-congratulatory pats on the back for retaining NDP legislation relating to essential services,  charitable tax credits, the 2% small business tax and the $15/hr minimum wage,  
  • brownie points for complying with the laws, specifically the constitutional right to separate schools and compliance with environmental impact assessments,
  • litigation—challenging the fed’s carbon tax after the courts upheld it twice, and    
  • doing what premiers and governments are supposed to do like sitting in the Legislature (commitment #2), talking about the energy industry (commitment #44), talking to the energy industry (commitment #24) and talking to the other provinces (commitments #25 and #54). 

Mr Kenney also introduced some small changes which are legitimate but raise questions about why they were top priority and had to be addressed in the first session (who knew the reclassification of service rigs as off road vehicles was a burning issue for Albertans). 

Is it enough?

Mr Kenney presented the laundry list as evidence Alberta was “on track to become the most tax competitive jurisdiction for businesses and among the most attractive investment destinations in North America.”

The business sector supports Mr Kenney’s laundry list, well at least the tax reduction part, but thinks the premier could use more help.      

Last week a new non-profit, non-partisan industry association, the Business Council of Alberta, was founded to “create the right conditions where Albertans, the economy and the environment can thrive without leaving anyone behind.” 

Hal Kvisle, the chair of BCA said its objective was “to improve prosperity for all Albertans … not just economic prosperity, not just companies getting richer, but employees doing better, improvements on the social side of things and, of course, very careful attention to the environment.”  

The BCA is a group of more than 40 CEOs and senior executives representing top Alberta companies in every sector of the economy.  It employs over 200,000 Albertans and invests tens of billions annually in the economy.

It wholeheartedly endorsed Mr Kenney’s corporate tax cut which “in combination with the predictable reductions coming over the next 3 years, has a high potential to result in new projects and investments, and more Albertans working”.

Sadly it failed to mention whether its member companies would embark on a hiring spree or invest more capital in the economy any time soon.

The future

Between Mr Kenney’s 55 commitments and the BCA’s desire to improve prosperity for all Albertans not just companies, we’ve got nothing to worry about. 

Excuse me while I take a celebratory dip in the goldfish pond. 

Sources: https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=64169A93BB78D-E988-AAFF-C531FB39F4E11E15

https://www.businesscouncilab.com/

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 31 Comments