Promises Made, Promises Kept…or Not

The UCP government continues to tell Albertans it’s delivering on its promise of jobs, economy, pipelines, when in fact it’s not.   

The latest example of this Orwellian doublespeak is the UCP government’s “promises made, promises kept” report.  This is the second PMPK report.  Like the first one it lists a bunch of actions to support the government’s assertion that it’s meeting its campaign promise to get Albertans back to work, to renew the economy and make life better for all Albertans. 

Like the first PMPK report it’s a misleading piece of puffery. 

The government says of the 375 campaign promises it made, 162 have been kept or are well underway.  The 94 promises it says it kept in this PMPK report are in addition to the 68 promises the UCP says it kept in the first PMPK report.    

This is all a little confusing because when the first PMPK report was issued Mr Kenney said the UCP had kept 58 not 68 promises, but you know, math is hard.      

In any event Mr Kenney gave us a simple metric.  He summed up the second PMPK report by saying he’s already delivered on 43% of his commitments.   

This bold statement caught Ms Soapbox’s eye.    

She’s worked for decades with the CEOs of publicly traded companies who loved to make bold statements about how well they were delivering on their promises to shareholders.  If they said they’d delivered on 43% of their commitments it was Ms Soapbox’s job to check the facts to make sure they’d delivered 43% and not 32% or 14%, because a CEO who makes a misrepresentation (lies about a material fact or omits a material fact) would be in violation of Canadian and American securities laws.   

Suffice it to say that if Mr Kenney were a corporate CEO he’d be in big trouble.    

Getting Albertans back to work

Mr Kenney’s PMPK report is divided into four parts.

Thirty-nine items are listed under the heading “getting Albertans back to work.”  They include The Carbon Tax Repeal Act, the Job Creation Tax Cut, the Red Tape Reduction Act, the Farm Freedom and Safety Act, and legislation that undermines unions, cuts employee benefits and the minimum wage for youth.    

The securities law question would be:  Did the 39 things Mr Kenney listed in the PMPK report actually get Albertans back to work?  Given that the latest Stats Can report shows Alberta’s unemployment rate jumped to 7.2% which is a full percentage point higher than it was in Nov 2018 (the total unemployed in Alberta is now 182,500), the answer is no.        

And while I recognize that turning the economy around takes time, Mr Kenney has been clear that it’s government policy, not the global price of oil, that’s responsible for Alberta’s economic downturn.  Since he’s loath to blame his own policies he’s blaming Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau.  The blame game might work in politics; but it wouldn’t work for the securities commission because he promised his policies would create jobs and they did not.          

Making life better for all Albertans

The 53 items listed in this section range from blatant misrepresentations to ridiculous throwaways (were Albertans worse off under the old regulation that made anyone holding a bottle of beer stay inside a fenced-in beer garden). 

The most egregious misrepresentation in this section is the assertion the UCP kept its promise to maintain or increase health and education spending by allotting $20.6B to health and $8.2B to education.  By failing to account for population growth and inflation, the health and education budgets were in fact cut not maintained.  Thousands of health professionals and teachers will be laid off and the province’s ability to care for its sick and educate its young will be negatively affected. 

The securities law question would be: Is it true that the UCP is maintaining health and education spending?  Answer: No; because it failed to account for population growth and inflation and that’s a material omission.  

Standing up for Alberta

This section contains 15 items, including filing lawsuits to challenge the federal carbon tax and Bill C-69, firewall items like lifting the cap on the fiscal stabilization fund, and launching the anti-Alberta energy public inquiry.   

But it’s the promise to build “an interprovincial coalition supporting jobs, pipelines and the energy industry” that would catch a securities lawyer’s eye. 

The UCP government says it’s met this promise by hosting the Stampede Premiers Meeting and engaging in something labelled “Ongoing”.  However this fails to acknowledge that Mr Kenney backed away from putting the item on the agenda at the recent Premiers Meeting.  He discussed things he knew the premiers would agree with, rather than taking the opportunity to build support for jobs, pipelines and the energy industry as he promised.    

The PMPK report omitted a material fact, that Mr Kenney failed to deliver on his promise to build a coalition when he had the opportunity.  Heck, he didn’t even say he had little side conversations on the subject.       

Commitments well under way

Under securities laws all that’s required of the 55 commitments in this section is that they be “under way”.  Obviously, if they’re “under way” they’re not a “promise kept” because they’re still in process.  But like many corporations, the government wants to give Albertans an idea of what it’s got in the hopper. 

Fine, but how does the government explain its backtracking around who or what is involved in the establishment of its $30M War Room.   

In the first PMPK report the War Room fell under the heading “Standing up for Alberta”.  The “promise kept” was substantiated by a press release dated June 7 that said the government was meeting with industry to discuss combining resources and creating a platform to combat misinformation about Alberta energy. 

In the second PMPK report this “promise kept” became a commitment “under way”, supported by a watered down announcement dated Oct 9 that said the government “started the process of creating the Canadian Energy Centre to fight for the oil and gas sector”.  

Apparently all that happened between June 7 (“promise kept”) and Oct 9 (“under way”) was a name change.    

A securities lawyer would ask what happened to the promise of industry participation?  And the promise to create a government/industry platform?  Did industry tell the government this was a stupid idea and refuse to participate?  Under securities law this would be a material change that must be disclosed under the obligation of continuous disclosure.  It wasn’t. 

We’re not surprised

The second PMPK report includes some good news—for example the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Act (TIER) has been accepted by the federal Liberal government—however it also demonstrates Mr Kenney has fallen short of his campaign promise to get Albertans back to work, to renew the economy and make life better for all Albertans. 

He may say he’s delivered 43% of his commitments, but no amount of Orwellian double speak will make it so.

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Fair Deal Panel Registration

The Fair Deal Panel is coming to Calgary on Dec 10. If you plan to attend you’ll need to register. Here’s the link: https://www.alberta.ca/fair-deal-panel.aspx

Hope to see you there!

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged | 11 Comments

The Day We Demonstrated Outside the UCP AGM

“Public services are under attack.  What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” – Protest cheer

Ms Soapbox, her husband and her good friend from Edmonton joined the public school teachers, healthcare workers, and deeply concerned Albertans at the huge rally outside the Westin Hotel where the UCP were holding their AGM.    

Over 1000 people showed up on a bitterly cold Saturday to protest the UCP’s budget cuts and loss of public sector jobs. 

While the UCP delegates debated the wording of various policy proposals*—should parents be the major stakeholder in a child’s education (yes), should Alberta uphold the principles of the Canada Health Act (no)—the protesters listened to speakers, shared their stories, and marched around the hotel taking care not to set foot on hotel property because heaven forbid they got too close to the UCP members gathered inside.

Jason Kenney blew off the demonstration, saying if people weren’t protesting, he wasn’t doing his job properly.  

Part of the huge crowd that showed up on a freezing cold Saturday

This was a dangerous mistake on his part because Albertans will not stand by while he bulldozes public services in the name of free market conservatism.

Every protester represents at least five like-minded Albertans who were unable to attend the rally.   These people will make their UCP MLAs’ lives a misery as the impact of these cuts are felt in their individual ridings. 

And these MLAs (who Mr Kenney described as the most talented and competent and impressive caucus and cabinet he’d ever had the honour of serving with) will have nothing to say in defence of Mr Kenney’s Grand Plan. 

Why?  Because Mr Kenney offered nothing to alleviate the suffering and turmoil that will result from his austerity budget.   In his AGM speech Mr Kenney said:  

  • Let’s put the budget cuts into perspective.  It’s just a “modest 2.8% reduction” in operating costs over 4 years.  Mel McMillan, professor emeritus, Dept of Economics U of A says the real cut is 14.7% when you factor in inflation and population growth.   
  • The UCP is keeping its promise to protect healthcare and education; the healthcare budget is increasing and the education budget is flat.  How does he explain the loss of 500 FTE nursing jobs (this equates to 750 nurses), 1000 HSAA healthcare workers jobs, 300 public school teaching jobs in Calgary alone, 200 U of C jobs, and between 4,900 to 5,900 AUPE full time jobs lost by 2023
  • Mr Kenney will deploy every legal, economic and constitutional tool at his disposal to get a fair deal from Canada.  Fine, but any plan to wring more money out of the feds that involves amending the constitution requires the support of other provinces and any plan involving litigation triggers the judicial process.  Both will take years and are no help to an unemployed Albertan today.
  • The Fair Deal Panel will come up with solutions.  It’s considering opting out of federal programs and replacing federal services with Alberta’s own tax collection services, RCMP, and APP.  Not only does this duplicate existing federal services and increase our costs, it will take years to accomplish, once again doing nothing for the unemployed Albertan banging on his MLA’s door.
  • In 1905 when Alberta became a province someone produced a document entitled “The Province and People of Destiny.”  It said Alberta “is destined to become the brightest gem in great empire that encircles the world.”  A land of opportunity for “every kind of effort and enterprise.”  Mr Kenney said we’ll get through this because “we are and always will be that province and people of destiny.”  Flowery words, but of no use whatsoever to an unemployed oil worker and his unemployed partner, a nurse, and their children who’ve lost their teachers and are struggling to learn in overcrowded classrooms. 

When the UCP MLAs looked out the window and saw hundreds and hundreds of us streaming by they should have felt a shiver run down their spines because their leader has given them an impossible task: defend the austerity budget (which further increased unemployment by attacking the public sector) with a pipedream that depends on bullying the federal government and other provinces into bailing Alberta out until the oil boom returns.  And if that doesn’t cut it the MLAs can fall back on Mr Kenney’s platitude that Albertans are people of destiny who can get through this because Mr Kenney says they can.  

Given a choice between Jason Kenney’s UCP who imposed a brutal austerity budget and thinks it can fix the economy by bluffing the feds and provinces into bailing it out, and Rachel Notley’s NDP who implemented the sustainable economic policies and caring social programs we need to carry us into the future, who do you think we’ll vote for in 2023? 

*With thanks to @kieranleavitt and @MBellefontaine who provided live Tweet coverage of the UCP AGM

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 47 Comments

Bill 22: An Attack on Democracy

Someone once said, “The only thing worse than knowing where the bodies are buried, is watching your enemies dig them up.”  

In order to ensure the Elections Commissioner’s investigation into the UCP leadership race didn’t dig up any more bodies—heaven forbid, he’d find a trail of breadcrumbs leading directly to the premier’s office—the UCP government passed Bill 22.   

The UCP government says Bill 22 is an administrative bill which will result in significant savings by reducing duplication, eliminating needless spending and improving the efficiency and oversight of public agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs).   This will be accomplished by dissolving and merging a bunch of ABCs.     

Jason Kenney says “nothing to see here folks” or something similar

Buried in Bill 22 is the authority to eliminate the Elections Commission, effectively firing the Elections Commissioner, Mr Lorne Gibson.  Mr Gibson was investigating wrongdoing within the UCP, including claims that Jeff Callaway was a kamikaze candidate in the UCP leadership race on a mission to discredit Brian Jean (Mr Kenney’s only viable rival) and then drop out and endorse Mr Kenney.  Mr Gibson levied over $200,000 in fines. There were many complaints waiting to be investigated when he got the boot.

Nothing to see here folks, move along

Mr Kenney says Mr Gibson wasn’t “fired,” his role will continue under the Chief Electoral Officer at Elections Alberta; in fact the Chief Electoral Officer can hire Mr Gibson if he likes, and no matter what, the investigation will continue.    

Really?

If Mr Gibson wasn’t “fired” why is he getting six-months severance?  If the Chief Electoral Officer rehires him, then Bill 22’s objective of eliminating needless spending goes out the window because the government will be paying Mr Gibson remuneration plus six-months severance.   If the Chief Electoral Officer fills the role with someone else, this just shifts the Election Commissioner’s budget to the Elections Alberta budget.  No cost savings there.   

As to the UCP’s commitment to continue Mr Gibson’s investigations, UPC MLA Jason Nixon says the process is this:  the Chief Electoral Officer and the Election Commissioner (assuming one is hired anytime soon) will go ahead with the investigations if they deem it’s necessary.  In other words, if they don’t deem it’s necessary, the investigations are over.     

What’s really going on here

Bill 22 is about many things, but when it comes to Mr Gibson, it is not about saving the cost of his salary and benefits (estimated to be less than $200,000/year), eliminating needless spending and or improving efficiency. 

But that’s Mr Kenney’s story and his government is sticking to it.

As Ms Notley said in Question Period, “the Government House leader is misleading the House.”  The Premier is rewriting the rules to allow a cover-up.  “He’s firing the Election Commissioner, asking his cabinet to play along in this abuse of power, and then displaying a cowardly refusal to answer for his own actions.”  She wondered what he’s trying to hide.

The Speaker of the House asked Ms Notley to apologize and withdraw the sentence “the Government House Leader is misleading the House.” She refused. (Apparently, accusing the premier of being involved in a cover-up, abusing his power and displaying cowardliness is okay, but saying something is “misleading” is not). 

Ms Notley refused to back down because the convention that MLAs can’t call each other liars pales in comparison to the greater “existential threat to the integrity of our democratic system…we must be able to call it what it is.”    

Ms Notley is on record saying Bill 22 is a clear example of legislative interference with the administration of justice and legislative intimidation of someone tasked with job of keeping the premier and his associates aligned with the law. 

Ms Notley is not alone in her interpretation of Bill 22.  Political scientists agree.  Duane Bratt of Mount Royal University calls it a cover-up, plain and simple.  Melanee Thomas of U of C says it’s an abuse of power.*    

This appalling week in Alberta politics doesn’t end there. 

What’s ethics got to do with it?

In Question Period Ms Notley asked Mr Schweitzer, the Justice Minister and Attorney General how he could support Bill 22 which “goes against the very spirit of the Attorney General’s own profession and his sworn duty, as Attorney General, to prevent the Executive Council from breaking the law.”   

Mr Schweitzer did not reply.  He let Mr Nixon speak on his behalf. Mr Nixon responded with the usual complaint that the NDP were engaging in “fake outrage” and “fear and smear.”

At the end of the week, the Ethics Commissioner weighed in.  She said those being investigated by the Elections Commissioner or the RCMP would be in breach of s 2(1) of the Conflicts of Interest Act if they discussed the portions of Bill 22 pertaining to the Office of the Elections Commissioner or voted on it. 

The UCP MLAs paid no heed to this warning.  Every UCP MLA in the House voted in favour of Bill 22.  Admittedly not every UCP MLA is “under investigation” but some of them are and they should have abstained from the vote. 

Mr Kenney steered clear of the Legislature while Bill 22 was debated and voted upon.  He went to Texas to drum up investment in Alberta (rather like carrying coals to Newcastle).  By running away, he avoided a potential conflict of interest violation…and left his MLAs holding the bag. 

Mr Schweitzer on the other hand took to Twitter to attack anyone suggesting he may have been in a conflict of interest position, eventually reducing his tweets to a Trump-like NO CONFLICT.  All that was missing were three exclamation points and a typo. 

Fall out    

The UCP government passed Bill 22 under the guise of cost savings and efficiency, but the effect of Bill 22 is to undermine democracy in Alberta.

In his book The Road to Unfreedom, historian Timothy Snyder warns that democracies die when people cease to believe voting matters.  The question is not whether elections are held, but whether they are free and fair.  How can Alberta’s elections be free and fair when government shuts down an independent parliamentary watchdog’s investigation into illegal campaign contributions and a kamikaze campaign in a leadership race that ultimately led to the party’s leader becoming premier.

This matter is far from over. 

Bill 22 did two things.  It showed the UCP government will abuse its power to benefit the UCP party and it confirmed our worst fears:  the good old boys are back.   

It took Albertans decades to get rid of the last batch of good old boys; it won’t take them that long to do it again.  Because regardless of how deep the bodies are buried, they will float up to the surface sooner or later. 

You can bet on it.   

*See Markham Hislop’s interview with Dr Thomas https://youtu.be/ottP7XV6fMo

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Argggh!

Ms Soapbox spent most of Saturday in ER so her blog on Bill 22 won’t appear until Monday.  On the upside, the doctors, nurses and healthcare staff at Foothills were wonderful.  I applaud their professionalism in the world of uncertainty resulting from the UCP budget and pension initiatives. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

The Fog of Politics

The fog of politics is like the fog of war.  It’s hard to see what’s really going on.    

Albertans are choking in UCP fog.  We wonder why Mr Kenney who came to power on the Thatcher/Reagan ideology—small government, low taxes and less red tape—is wasting valuable time and resources on a $2.5M anti-Alberta inquiry, a $30M war room to smack down oilsands critics and a $650,000 Wexit-by-any-other-name panel that will further inflame separatist sentiment.    

What do these have to do with Mr Kenney’s campaign promise of “jobs, economy, pipelines”?

Some say Mr Kenney wants to distract Albertans from a $4.7 billion corporate tax cut and the austerity budget that is on track to reduce system-wide spending by 10%.  They’re right. However Mr Kenney’s comments in the Legislature reveal another reason, personal ambition.

 “Wannabe”

One way to find out what Mr Kenney wants, what he really, really wants, is to listen to his (non) answers in Question Period.  The exchanges on Nov 7, 2019 are enlightening. 

Ms Notley asked Mr Kenney how he could justify spending $16,000 on the ”Premier’s pancake plane party” when people with disabilities, kids who used to get care, and kids in school will be forced to get by with less to offset his $4.7 billion corporate handout. 

Jason Kenney: What does he really really want?

Mr Kenney replied he hosted “several Premiers, representing 60 percent of the population” and provided them with “logistical support” to get to the premiers meeting in Saskatoon.

He said that unlike Ms Notley who isolated Alberta, he’s built “alliances” with “like-minded provinces.”  He said 9 out of 10 provinces agreed to fight Bill C-69 and support energy and resource corridors, including oil and gas pipelines and Quebec was joining Alberta in fighting the federal carbon tax.  In a response to a puff ball question from a member of his caucus he added the “coalition” of like-minded provinces would stand up for Alberta’s vital economic interests.

The poor man is dreaming in technicolour.  Let’s break down the reasons Mr Kenney gave for paying the cost of the premiers’ airfare:     

Reason #1: standing up for Albertans?  The premiers will “stand up” for their own provinces before they’ll stand up for Albertans if their policies conflict; the premier of Quebec, François Legault made this crystal clear.   

Reason #2: Alliances increase likelihood of success in court?  Alberta doesn’t need to be part of an “alliance” to fight Bill C-69 and the carbon tax.  It can sue the Feds all by itself.  Its success or failure depends on the law, not how many litigants are sitting at the appellants’ table.  

Reason #3: Alliances make energy corridors happen?  This is incredibly naïve. Not because inter-provincial cooperation can’t be bought for a pancake, but because premiers are notoriously fickle.       

In 2015 Ms Notley, and the premiers of all 13 provinces and territories, signed on to the Canadian Energy Strategy which called for pan-Canadian collaboration to deliver renewable and nonrenewal energy from coast to coast in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.  Everything was grand until the premier of Quebec (then Philippe Couillard) objected to Energy East and BC Premier Horgan objected to TMX.  So Ms Notley did the smart thing, she went directly to the man who could make TMX happen, Justin Trudeau.  The federal Liberals bought TMX and continue to support it to this day. 

If the Strategy hammered out by the premiers isn’t binding on the premiers, then good luck to Mr Kenney when he asks the premiers to honour the “coalition” and one of them balks, because Mr Kenney torched Plan B, asking the prime minster for help.    

A coalition of the like-minded 

Alberta can’t depend on a coalition of the like-minded to achieve its goals, so why has Mr Kenney turned himself into the coalition’s self-appointed spokesman?     

Kenneth Whyte’s article in the Globe and Mail offers a clue.  Mr Whyte described Mr Kenney as “the most important figure in contemporary Canadian conservatism.”  This would please Mr Kenney who’s on record as saying he wants to reignite the conservative movement not just in Alberta but across Canada. 

Presumably Mr Kenney will use his stature as the most powerful conservative premier in the country to drop bon mots in federal Conservatives’ ears.  The question is whether he’ll be satisfied with this role or whether he’ll decide the best way to be a driving force in federal conservatism is to move into federal politics.   

This is where it gets tricky for Mr Kenney.  Leaving aside the question of when to jump ship, Mr Whyte says Mr Kenney’s actions to date—pushing the firewall, proposing referendums on CPP, the RCMP, entrenching property rights in the Constitution and equalization—make him less useful to the larger conservative movement.

A less useful Mr Kenney would be a very good thing for the rest of Canada. 

What we can do

We may be in the fog of politics, but one thing has become crystal clear.  Mr Kenney is riding two horses, one leads to separation, the other to 24 Sussex Street. 

Either way, we pay the price. 

So, we will continue to point out how Mr Kenney’s war rooms, panels, and inquiries violate fundamental rights.  We will march against the austerity budget, the attack on LBGTQ rights, Bill 207 and any other horrible thing Mr Kenney has in store.  And we’ll express our disgust at Mr Kenney picking up the tab for premiers who are more than capable of paying for their own transportation.       

We will do it all because the fog of politics has lifted.      

*Alberta Hansard, Nov 7, 2019, pp 2253, 2256

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 87 Comments

Mr Kenney’s Fair Deal Panel

They just keep coming, fast and furious, like water gushing from a firehose.   

Yesterday Mr Kenney announced the formation of the Fair Deal Panel, the latest in a suite of things Mr Kenney says we need to protect ourselves from those who prey on us.  So far, he’s created:           

  • The $30 million War Room which has done nothing but hire a retired journalist to consult on strategy, hire a failed UCP candidate to head it up, and changed its name…twice.    
  • The $2.5 million public inquiry into “anti-Alberta” energy campaigns which paid over $900,000 in legal fees under a sole-source contract to the Justice Minister’s former law firm, and interviewed people behind closed doors.  An interim report (not public) is due at the end of January 2020.  The second phase of the inquiry (which may or may not be public) will end on July 2, 2020 when the commissioner presents his final report to the government.   This report will be published (fingers crossed) within 90 days.  Not exactly a “public inquiry” in the ordinary sense of the word.
  • The Fair Deal Panel which will focus on ways to strengthen Alberta’s economy, give it a bigger voice within Confederation or increase provincial power over institutions and funding within its jurisdiction.  The Panel will conduct 7 open houses between Nov 16 and Jan 30 and submit a report to the government by Mar 31, 2020.  It will hire people to set up “more structured citizens reference panels,” get public input, maybe hire pollsters, and consult with individuals and organizations that may offer “useful information or knowledge” (Project Confederation, the “firewall” people, have already received their invitation).  Budget: $650,000.   

Let’s take a closer look at the Fair Deal Panel’s mandate bearing in mind the threshold question: why is Mr Kenney doing this?

Mr Kenney announcing the Fair Deal Panel

Fair Deal Panel

The Panel will consider whether any of the following changes will advance Alberta’s interests:

  • Replacing the federal revenue agency with an Alberta revenue agency to collect provincial and maybe federal taxes.  Estimated cost around $500 million/year according to economist Trevor Tombe.   
  • Replacing CPP with an Alberta Pension Plan.  Cost?
  • Replacing RCMP with a provincial police force.  Cost?
  • Being represented in international treaty negotiations affecting Alberta’s interests.   Sure, let’s get all the provinces and territories around the table, it’s not as if these treaties take years to negotiate or anything. 
  • Preventing public bodies (eg municipalities and school boards) from entering into agreements with the feds unless they get prior approval from the Alberta government.  That will cut Mayor Iveson and Mayor Nenshi down to size. 
  • Using Alberta’s existing provincial power to appoint the Chief Firearms Office for Alberta.  If you have the power to do it and you want to do it, just do it.  Cost? 
  • Opting out of federal cost share programs.  Mr Kenney mentioned the proposed pharmacare program, what about existing federal cost share programs relating to roads, infrastructure, disaster relief and heritage sites?     
  • Exchanging tax points for federal cash transfers under Canada Health and Social Transfers. Like most Albertans, I have no idea what this means.       
  • Setting up a provincial constitution. Will it have a notwithstanding clause exempting Alberta from constitutionally guaranteed rights?     

And if this isn’t enough, the Panel is free to consult on other ideas including Kenney’s platform promises  

Panel members

The Panel is made up of Preston Manning, founder of the Reform Party, Stephen Lougheed (Peter Lougheed’s son), Moin Yahya, economist and U of A law prof, Jason Goodstriker, member of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot people, Oryssia Lennie, former DM of Western Economic Diversification, now a director with Canada West Foundation, Donna Kennedy-Glans, lawyer and former PC MLA, and three current UCP MLAs, Drew Barnes, Miranda Rosin, and Tany Yao.

It’s good to have diversity on the Panel, but we’d have more confidence in the Panel’s impartiality had the UCP ideology not been overrepresented by Mr Manning and the UCP MLA contingent.   

Why?

The big question is why?

Why would Mr Kenney create a panel to consider changes that will duplicate services available at the federal level, increase the size of the public service, increase red tape and cost millions?        

Mr Kenney says he wants to acknowledge that some Western Canadians no longer feel at home in their country.  He suggests “Laurentian elites” have benefited from Alberta’s wealth and abandoned it in its time of need.  He says it’s perverse to “blame the victim” when Alberta’s done so much to share its wealth with the rest of Canada.    

I see, we’re asking Albertans whether they want to firewall themselves from the rest of Canada because they feel like victims and don’t feel welcome in Canada. 

In his book The Road to Unfreedom, historian Timothy Snyder identifies this strategy as nothing more than spectacle intended to inflame the emotions of both supporters and distractors and strengthen polarization.  It’s about friends and enemies, not policy that might improve the lives of citizens. 

Snyder says, “If citizens can be kept uncertain by the regular manufacture of crisis, their emotions can be managed and directed.”  This strategy is effective in the hands of someone like Donald Trump who governs like he ran for office:  by producing outrage rather than formulated policy. 

Mr Snyder’s comment applies equally well to Mr Kenney.  While in opposition he said it was all Notley and Trudeau’s fault, now that he’s in power it’s all Trudeau’s fault.  Meanwhile Mr Kenney sits around waiting for oil prices to come back.     

A Patriot?

Mr Kenney rejects the suggestion he’s a separatist.  He says, “I am and always will be a Canadian patriot.  I believe that in their heart of hearts the vast majority of Albertans are Canadian patriots.”  In the next breath he says he wants Albertans to know Trudeau’s government is “a danger” to the federation.   

This just doesn’t cut it. 

A patriot does not create war rooms and closed-door inquiries and panels that feed the myth of victimhood.  A patriot knows Canada is a great country and does everything in his power to ensure Alberta’s place in Confederation is not jeopardized.    

Perhaps Mr Kenney could give this some thought tomorrow when he lays a wreath at a cenotaph to honour the Albertans who fought and died for Canada.    

Posted in Crime and Justice, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 68 Comments