Greta Visits Alberta

“So today is Friday and as always, we are on Climate Strike, young people all around the globe are today sacrificing their education to bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency.”—Greta Thunberg

On Friday my friend Elaine and I joined more than 10,000 Albertans to show our support for Greta Thunberg and Alberta’s climate activists in the climate strike at the Alberta Legislature because as Greta says, “nothing is impossible if enough people stand united and…never give up.”

I’m sure everyone who participated in this rally came away with different impressions.  Here are mine.

Credit @GretaThunberg

The Climate Strike

The event was extremely well organized despite the short notice—the date and time of Greta’s visit were announced on Wednesday.  We were reminded to march in “a good and kind way” and not to engage with counter-protesters.  (No problem there—the Rebel Media truck plastered with images of Greta and chirping her famous “how dare you” phrase could have been mistaken for an ad promoting the event). 

Before setting off for the Legislature we learned some new chants, talked to the Extinction Rebellion guy who was giving away cookies and watched the helicopters circling overhead (it was like the sixties all over again).      

Two images of the march will always stay with me. The first was an Indigenous drummer who sang as we moved down Jasper Avenue.  We didn’t understand the words, but when he was finished we burst into cheers and applause which he acknowledged with a small smile.  We’re all in this together.

The second was the feeling of awe as we streamed down Jasper Avenue and turned south towards the Legislative grounds, thousands of us flowing around the reflecting pool before finally coming to rest in front of the steps of the Legislature.  We are part of a global community united by a single purpose, to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change.    

Many Indigenous speakers took the microphone before Greta appeared on stage.  The one I found especially moving was the young woman who rejected the myth that Alberta produces “ethical oil.”  She said this myth obscures the fact that energy companies, with the support of provincial and federal governments, have committed “violence against the land” and against Indigenous peoples and their way of life. 

This is an extremely important point for two reasons.  First, Indigenous peoples have had to go to the Supreme Court of Canada time after time to enforce the rights they’ve been granted under section 35 of the Constitution Act and second, the “ethical oil” argument only works if Canada compares itself to the worst human rights violators and polluters on the planet.  (When was the last time parents told their kids they didn’t have to bring home As and Bs, because anything above an F would do?)

Greta’s speech

I was especially interested to hear what Greta would say given the flak she received from climate change deniers who don’t like her “bossing” them around and the United We Roll folks who drove a convoy of trucks to Edmonton to “show Greta we do not need her yelling at us.”   

Did she yell at us and boss us around?     

No, she thanked Albertans for “the wonderful reception” she’d received and acknowledged we were on Treaty 6 land.   Then she gave a thoughtful and articulate speech about the science of climate change and our role in mitigating its impact.        

She said young people around the globe sacrifice their education on Fridays to bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency.  They do so because they will not be bystanders in the climate crisis and “want the people in power to unite behind the science.” 

She referred to the IPCC SR 1.5 report that concluded the world has a 67% chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees. On Jan 1, 2018 we had 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget.  Today that number is less than 360 gigatons and at current emissions levels the remaining CO2 budget will be gone in less than 8.5 years. 

She discussed the suffering that will result from not addressing climate change, especially for “indigenous communities and people of the global south,” and reminded us that the Paris agreement requires equity so richer countries like Sweden and Canada will need to reach zero emissions faster than poorer countries to give poorer countries a chance to improve their standard of living by building necessary infrastructure to provide roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, and clean drinking water.

She said we can’t leave the responsibility to address climate change to “individuals, politicians, the market or other parts of the world.” This is not a partisan political question, “our main enemy right now is physics.” 

Not once did she mention Alberta’s oilsands, Jason Kenney, or the CEOs running oil and gas companies let alone those pathetic sods from the United We Roll convey who spent hours parked blocks away honking their horns. 

Another perspective

The 10,000 Albertans who attended Friday’s rally are not alone. 

In a recent ARC podcast, the respected economist and investment strategist Peter Tertzakian and his co-host Jackie Forrest discussed Greta Thunberg.  Mr Tertzakian said Greta was a “global icon”.  He welcomed her getting onstage and telling world leaders to wake up and create real solutions.  He praised Greta for bringing focus to the consumption side of the fossil fuels equation and for asking everyone to take personal responsibility for their energy consumption.

Jackie Forrest said 50% of emissions are created by people (40% by industry).   She suggested ways to reduce our personal emissions including changing the cars we drive, changing how we heat our homes and becoming more energy efficient. 

Mr Tertzakian said he’s personally concerned about climate change and owns a Tesla Model 3 that will “beat the pants” off its Audi and BMW comparables.   Mr Tertzakian, like many of us, believes if you’re committed to addressing climate change there’s no excuse for not making renewable choices.    

Unstoppable    

In yet another display of childishness, Mr Kenney’s government drew the blinds and closed the windows of the Legislature so it wouldn’t have to see or hear Greta Thunberg speak.    

It doesn’t matter. 

When 10,000 Albertans come together from all over the province to support Greta’s Climate Strike and well respected economists welcome Greta to the stage, we’re unstoppable. 

Mr Kenney and his anti-climate change supporters just don’t know it yet.   

Posted in Climate Change, Disasters, Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Science | Tagged , , , | 39 Comments

Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Usually the thought of Thanksgiving invokes images of family and friends sitting around the dining room table enjoying good food, sparkling conversation and laughter…as well as reminiscing over past thanksgiving disasters like Ms Soapbox’s stuffing that was as dry as sand and Mr Soapbox’s failed experiment involving an oyster.    

However, this year on the eve of the federal election, my thoughts went to a letter written by Canada’s former governor general David Johnston in which he described Canada as “a nation for all nations”.   

To understand the relevance of Mr Johnston’s letter to the federal election we need to acknowledge that, much to our dismay, some Canadians are prepared to sink to the dangerous level of political lunacy we’ve witnessed every day since Donald Trump decided to run for the presidency—yesterday Justin Trudeau had to wear a bulletproof vest at a campaign event in Mississauga.  We’ve reached a tipping point; all Canadians need to stop and ask themselves what it means to be Canadian.         

Former governor general David Johnston

This is where Mr Johnston comes in.   

What is a Canadian?  

David Johnston served as Governor General from 2010 to 2017.  He witnessed the shift in Canadian political behavior and still remains inspired by his vision of Canada.  He sets out this vision in a letter to John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, Canada’s first governor general who died the year before Mr Johnston was born.*

This letter discusses the characteristics that have served Canadians well over time. 

As I list these characteristics consider how they’re reflected (or not) in the actions of politicians vying to become Canada’s next prime minister. 

The first governor general, Mr Buchan, believed Canadians tended to have a limited vision, they compartmentalized themselves and others in little boxes of region, language, religion or ancestry.  Decades later Mr Johnston has taken a more expansive view.  He believes being Canadian isn’t a matter of choosing which box to live in but choosing to stay open “to the world and all the complexity it represents” in order to overcome our differences and minimize the forces that would tear us apart. 

The first governor general believed Canada would “be home to all the peoples of the world”.  Seventy-five years later Mr Johnston says this is indeed the case. 

He says Canadians are inclusive and welcome the contributions of all who live here, we’re honourable, peaceful people who use our military power sparingly but with conviction when necessary.  We’re selfless, “our survival has been sustained by humility and acceptance of our mutual interdependence.”  We’re smart and caring, our concern “for the common good of our neighbours in each community makes us responsive.  We do not abandon our fellows to scrape by in times of distress or natural disaster” but come to their aid.    

Mr Johnston’s description of the nature of Canadians is a benchmark by which the political leaders vying for our votes in the upcoming election should be judged.   

Politicians who create a false narrative of victimhood and stoke anger to the point where a political leader is accused of treason and is forced to attend a political rally wearing a Kevlar vest, surrounded by uniformed security officers, are politicians who have fallen far short of Mr Johnston’s definition of a Canadian.   

A time to give thanks…and to think

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the privilege of living in Canada and to think about which federal party will lift Canadians up, not tear them apart, to satisfy their own political ambitions. 

While none of the federal political parties are perfect, some are significantly better than others.

Vote wisely Canada.

*The Idea of Canada: Letters to a Nation, p 297 

Posted in Crime and Justice, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments

An Interview with Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada

I was delighted when Shelley Youngblut, CEO & Creative Ringleader of Wordfest, asked if I would like to interview Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, on stage before a live audience about her new book Truth Be Told: My Journey through Life and the Law. 

Before we talk about the interview, let me tell you that Beverley McLachlin is not only an icon of Canadian jurisprudence; she’s also brilliant, warm, witty, and thoughtful.    

Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada

After we’d arrived and introduced ourselves, Shelley and her team left us in the Green Room.  We chatted about her first novel Full Disclosure.  She started the book in the 1980s but put it aside because of she was “busy at work”.  No kidding!  She returned to it when she was about to retire.  She said the process of updating it was fascinating because so much of what we take for granted, (eg cell phones) didn’t exist back then.  She made her main character, a defence lawyer, grittier and added elements reflecting her love for Vancouver and West Coast art.  The novel was completed in a year and instantly became a national best seller.  You should read it. 

Soon it was time for us to take our places on stage under the bright lights with a low coffee table between us and begin what felt to me like a private conversation in front of a sold out audience sitting quietly in the dark. 

The interview

We started where the book starts, with her childhood.  The former Chief Justice, oh let’s just call her Beverley, was a “free range” child born and raised in Pincher Creek, Alberta.  Her mother told her “school will teach you everything you need to know.”  Beverley needed to know everything, so she augmented her public school education with books from the local library which she credits with saving her from a “premature intellectual death.”

Her education was supposed to prepare her for the future, however the only occupations deemed suitable for a woman at that time—teacher, nurse, secretary, telephone operator, and waitress—didn’t interest her.  Besides she’d been told that due to her “low alertness score” she would not be a very good telephone operator or waitress.  She did have an extremely high reading retention score but what good was that to a woman.  (A lot of good as it turned out!)

Beverley studied philosophy and law at the University of Alberta.  Women made up 10% of her law class.    She was a brilliant student (my words, not hers) and was the Gold Medalist in her year.  Every law firm in Edmonton should have been clamouring for her to join them as an articling student, however in her first interview she was asked “why do you want to work?”   The question perplexed her until she discovered the unwritten rule that a woman, once married, should give up her career and become a full time wife and mother.  So much for seven years of education.     

She worked in private practice before joining the faculty at the UBC law school where she taught evidence.

She was appointed to the County Court in Vancouver in 1981 and nine years later was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.  She spent 28 years at the Supreme Court, 17 of them as the Chief Justice—she said the position hands you the reins of power, it’s only later that you discover the reins aren’t attached to anything.  Her goal was to do everything possible to help each judge be the best he or she could be.

Along the way she married Rory McLachlin and had a son, Angus.  Rory developed cancer and died at 47, her son Angus was 12.  When Brian Mulroney called to offer her a position on the Supreme Court of Canada she was reluctant to take it given all that her little family had gone through, but Angus encouraged her to accept the offer. 

Eventually Beverly remarried, this time to Frank McArdle, who proposed on an airline flight over the plane’s PA system. 

Beverley is adept at weaving stories about her personal life with observations about justice and fairness.    

Discrimination

Discrimination can be overt or subtle.  In her book Beverley said the world is divided into two realms, one of men and one of women.  “Women were occasionally allowed to venture into the realm of men, but only to the extent required to accomplish what the men wanted or needed.”   She describes her obsession with perfection (which she says is a uniquely female preoccupation) as flowing from the feeling that women were allowed into a man’s world by grace, but to keep their place they had to be perfect.    

Discrimination can be brutally overt.  In her book Beverley describes the injustices experienced by Indigenous peoples—when she was growing up public washrooms still displayed “No Indians” signs—and credits her family for not preaching inclusion but living it.   

The Cases

When asked which of her cases was the most memorable, Beverley said there were many but highlighted the cases brought by Indigenous peoples struggling to protect the rights that have been guaranteed to them under Section 35 of The Constitution Act. 

She said if she had to pick a single case it would be the Reference re: Secession of Quebec which held that Quebec could not unilaterally secede from Canada but if a reference produced a clear majority in favour of secession, then the federal government would need to meet with Quebec to determine the terms of separation. 

The Nadon/Harper incident

As a rule, judges do not respond to public criticism, however when Prime Minister Harper publicly accused Ms McLachlin of interfering with the appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court, Ms McLaclin was forced to respond.  She issued a press release saying she’d done nothing wrong and setting out the facts.  She invited Mr Harper to respond with additional facts if he had any.  He did not.  The International Commission of Jurists (and the legal community as a whole) examined the facts and concluded Ms McLachlin had not acted improperly.  It called upon Mr Harper to apologize.  When I asked whether Mr Harper apologized, Beverley said no, but he always gives her a big hug when he sees her. 

The morning of our interview the Globe quoted Mr Nadon as saying he had more respect for the US Supreme Court than the Canadian Supreme Court and that Canadian “activist” judges should be more like American “originalist” judges who interpret statutes in the way the original drafters intended.  (An originalist interpretation would have killed legislation allowing physician assisted dying, decriminalizing abortion and recognizing Charter protections for the LBGTQ community). 

Beverley said people who support originalism don’t understand that such an interpretation of our Constitution would turn our world upside down because the Constitution as originally framed gave tremendous power to the federal government at the expense of the provinces.  She also said the complaint against “activist” judges is often used by someone who just doesn’t like a court’s decision. 

The perks of power

The Chief Justice is the third highest ranking official in Canada, after the Governor General and the Prime Minister.  Consequently, Beverley and Frank attended many ceremonial dinners.  She described attending a Golden Jubilee dinner for the Queen and discovering at the last minute that she was to be seated right next to Her Majesty.   Had she known she would have prepared a number of conversational gambits, luckily as a child she was obsessed with Princess Elizabeth and drew upon this knowledge to ask the Queen about her dogs and her education and where her horse was buried.  The two of them hit it off and every time someone tried to interject the Queen responded politely and then returned to their conversation with a regal “Now Beverley…” (Beverley does an amazingly good impression of the Queen).

All too quickly it was time to wrap it up.  I closed with a quote from Beverley’s book where she said, “Canada’s justice system is not perfect, but it is among the best in the world.”  

I thanked Beverley McLachlin then and I’d like to thank her again now for having the tenacity, courage and intelligence to make it so. 

Posted in Crime and Justice, Feminism, Law, Rich and/or Famous | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Justin Trudeau in Blackface

Ms Soapbox just returned from Italy with a miserable head cold, jet lag and no luggage.  In this pathetic state she is trying to make sense of the Trudeau/blackface stories that have dominated the news for the last week. 

Trudeau apologized twice and acknowledged that “layers of privilege” as a wealthy white man blinded him to the racism behind his actions.  He appears to be truly remorseful.  This is enough for some people and not enough for others.  Meanwhile the media continues to churn the story with irrelevant questions like “who is the real Trudeau” and assertions that the real problem is Trudeau “expects” forgiveness.  (Since the only one who knows who the “real” Trudeau is or whether he “expects” forgiveness is Trudeau, this is mindless speculation).    

A repentant Mr Trudeau

The only thing that matters now is whether Trudeau’s behavior almost 20 years ago is enough to derail the Liberals in this election. 

Given the Liberals’ progress on immigration, indigenous issues and climate change and their efforts to improve the quality of life for children and the elderly as well as those who happen not to be in the top one percent it would be sad if Trudeau’s lack of judgement so many years ago tanked the party’s chance of re-election. 

However, given the Liberals failure to deliver on the promise of proportional representation and their shoddy handling of the JWR/SNC file, this could be the last straw. 

Which leads Ms Soapbox to what’s truly bothering her about this mess—the feeling that we must vote for Trudeau because Scheer’s conservatives are so much worse.           

Only once did Ms Soapbox hit the trifecta in an election where she respected the party leader, she supported the party’s policies and she liked her local candidate.  That was with Rachel Notley’s NDP in 2015. 

Given the prospect of a Scheer conservative government, two out of three isn’t bad… 

…but surely, it’s not too much to ask for political parties to allow us to vote for a candidate with the best policies to face an uncertain future instead of against candidates who by comparison are less worthy of our support.        

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 66 Comments

When Goliath Thinks He’s David

Ms Soapbox and her daughter were admiring the statues in the Borghese Gallery in Rome when Amnesty International published an open letter expressing its concern that Mr Kenney’s decision to fund a $30 million war room and a $2.5 million public inquiry into foreign funding of environmental groups undermines and violates Canadian and international human rights.

Mr Kenney fired back with a mendacious diatribe that failed to address the issue (violation of human rights) and spewed nonsense intended to convince everyone that environmentalists were bullies and the energy sector and Albertans dependent on it were their victims. He’d promised to protect these “victims” and by golly he’d deploy the full power of the state to punish those who got in his way.

His supporters lapped it up; the rest of us were disgusted.

Which brings me back to the statues in the Borghese Gallery, specifically Bernini’s magnificent statue of David.

Bernini’s David

So here’s Mr Kenney’s problem. He’s got it backwards. He’s not David taking on Goliath, he’s Goliath taking on David and we all know how that turned out.

Those who oppose Mr Kenney’s policies on climate change, heck his policies in general, are like David, determined and unafraid. We’re gathering strength and refining our focus and one day that stone will fly and Goliath, the champion of the Philistines will fall.*

Mr Kenney’s cavalier response to a legitimate concern expressed by Amnesty International all but guarantees it.

*Ms Soapbox is not for one moment suggesting someone slingshot Mr Kenney. Like Mr Kenney’s use of the Putin/Greenpeace off-to-Siberia example, Mr Soapbox’s reference to David and Goliath is meant to be instructive, simply instructive.

Posted in Climate Change, Crime and Justice, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments

The Magical Ms M and the Blue Ribbon Panel on Finances

When Jason Kenney asked former finance minister Janice MacKinnon “to conduct a deep dive into Alberta’s fiscal situation” he told her to deliver recommendations to balance the budget by 2023 and develop a plan to retire the province’s debt without considering the revenue side of the equation.   

Ms M accepted this cock-eyed mandate and worked her magic.   

There’s been a lot of talk about Ms M’s recommendations, but very little discussion about whether her data support those recommendations or indeed whether the Blue Ribbon Panel lost all credibility when she agreed to Mr Kenney’s wonky mandate in the first place.  

Ms MacKinnon

Half a budget

For a government that prides itself on being willing to use “all of the tools in its toolbox”, the fact Kenney prevented Ms M from considering the revenue side of the budgeting process confirms he was looking for a political report, not one based on economic logic.    

Ms M started by reassuring Albertans she understood the importance of revenues.  She defined a budget as a plan “outlining anticipated revenues and expenditures” and warned that to manage Alberta’s finances it would be necessary “to increase stable sources of revenue and decrease reliance on volatile non-renewable resource revenues”. 

That said, she began to spread the pixie dust.          

She selected three comparator provinces, BC, Ontario and Quebec—all of which have a provincial sales tax and higher personal income taxes than Alberta and factor them into the revenue side of their budget deliberations—and concluded Alberta had to cut $600 million in spending and radically change its approach to capital investment or face disaster.    

No one, not even Ms Notley’s NDP, disputes the idea that Alberta’s economy is facing “crisis” given its unsustainable reliance on volatile non-renewable resource revenues to balance the budget;  where we part company with Ms M and Mr Kenney is on how best to address it.

The magic rule:  cheapest is best, always  

Throughout the report Ms M’s tries to justify her recommendations with evidence but when the evidence isn’t in her favour she simply defaults to the magic rule: Alberta must match the cheapest province in the comparator group; and when Alberta is the cheapest province she sets the bar even lower by expanding the comparator group.          

Healthcare

Ms M said Alberta’s healthcare spending per capita ($5077) is higher than BC ($4267), Ontario ($4080) and Quebec ($4370).  She noted Alberta’s healthcare spending increased by 26% over the last 10 years but the rate of increase slowed to 3.2% (in line with the other provinces) under the NDP.  Ah, so the NDP’s plan to “bend the cost curve” was working.   

Ms M said one would expect higher spending to produce better health outcomes but Alberta’s “outcomes are no better and are often worse than comparable provinces.”  This is not entirely true. 

Some of Alberta’s outcomes lag the comparator provinces, but others are better (eg. general mortality rates and the treatment of kidney disease) or on par with the other provinces (eg. hospital sepsis, patient readmittance to hospital, the number of family practitioners and specialists per 100,000 and wait times). 

Alberta’s supposedly poorer health outcomes do not justify reduced spending…and it doesn’t need to because the magic rule is Alberta’s spending must be as low or lower than the rest of the comparators.   Period.   

There’s no doubt Alberta needs to improve its health outcomes (all provinces do) but Ms M provided no evidence to support her recommendation that the solution lies in more privatization and picking fights with doctors and other medical professionals over compensation.    

Education

Guess what, Alberta’s K – 12 teachers are not the highest paid in the land.  They make less than Ontario teachers, and more than BC teachers, there is no comparative information for Quebec.   

The same is true for Alberta’s spending per student and the split between program spending versus administrative spending—Alberta spends more than BC but less than Ontario and Quebec.     

Nevertheless, the magic rule dictates Alberta’s education budget be reduced to match BC with no consideration of the fact that Alberta has two education systems (public and separate) while BC only has one (public).  This is so easy when you don’t have to think about it.   

The most troubling part of Ms M’s analysis is she fails to distinguish between public and private education.  By blurring the lines, she obscures the impact of her recommendation that the funding formula move away from one based solely on enrolment to one that considers outcomes including a school’s success at delivering “strategic outcomes desired by the ministry”. 

Leaving aside the uncertainty around what “strategic outcomes” means and how it would be measured, this recommendation paves the way for private schools to get more public funding than public schools whose outcomes are impacted by fewer resources and the fact they can’t screen out higher needs students.      

With respect to post secondary institutions, Ms M found Alberta spends $$36,510 per full time student, this is more than BC ($31,299), Ontario ($21,536) and Quebec ($25, 822), and less on administration than Quebec but more than BC and Ontario. 

What’s not clear is why.  (Ms Soapbox found the bubble charts and bar graphs incredibly unhelpful).   

In any event Ms M’s recommendation is clear:  some institutional aren’t as financially viable as others and should be on the chopping block.  One suspects institutions with strong UCP supporters on their boards of governors will be just fine.  The rest are on their own.  

Public sector

This is where Ms M’s logic went right out the window.

Ms M says the government grew in size from 2014 to 2019 despite the recession and growing deficit and debt.  What’s that got to do with it?  A caring government strengthens the social safety net in tough times, it doesn’t rip it apart.  (Incidentally, the increase over those five years was small, only 5.4%).

Ms M says the government is too big, but the metric she uses (# of employees per 100,000 population) shows it’s just right.  Alberta’s public service is similar in size to BC, higher than Ontario but much lower than Quebec.  It’s in the sweet spot and arguably should be left alone…but for the magic rule, cheapest is best.           

Ms M acknowledges the unions exercised “restraint” in past years but suggests a 2.5% pay hike in 2016/17 and 0% and 0% in the next two years wasn’t enough “restraint” because union employees are well paid and get other benefits.  This ignores the fact that they did not get sky high salaries and bonuses in the good times;  if they can’t take advantage of the “boom” why should they be penalized for the “bust”?

Then Ms M does an about face and recommends the pay freeze on government non-union employees be lifted.  The only distinction between these two groups is one is unionized and the other is not.        

She wants to overhaul collective bargaining by tying pay raises to salary levels in comparator provinces. This recommendation undermines the role of unions which is to negotiate the best deal for their members here in Alberta.  Furthermore, it’s inconsistent with the practice in the private sector where compensation is based on annual surveys performed by Towers Perrin and Mercers who compare salaries and benefits across the employers’ peer group in a specific marketplace.  What an oil company’s peer group pays its engineers in Calgary sets the benchmark for Calgary, no one cares what a company pays its engineers in Ontario.     

Ms M recommends the government reduce the size of the public service by attrition (good), eliminating lower priority services and programs (let’s talk) and alternative delivery options (oh you mean privatization, we really need to talk!).   

Capital Spending

This one had poor Ms M scrambling. 

It turns out Alberta’s capital spending is low when compared to BC, Ontario and Quebec.  No problem, Ms M simply ditched the conventional way of measuring capital spending (it’s used across Canada and internationally) and replaced it with a metric that compared Alberta’s capital spending on a per capita basis with the 10-province average.  And voila, Alberta’s spending was above average for the last 20 years. 

She wants Alberta to decrease capital spending to align with the 10-province average.  Furthermore, she’s against borrowing to finance capital spending.  She wants the government to implement a long term capital plan that finances capital spending out of current revenues. 

This is contrary to David Dodge’s advice that the government should borrow to finance capital spending in times of slow growth.  He believes “attempting to maintain a balanced budget each and every year will exaggerate cyclical economic volatility and have a perverse impact on long run growth.”

So, who do we trust:  Ms M or David Dodge, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, and the national and international community?   

The magic continues

Ms M expects Alberta to increase its revenues by growing the economy.  She applauds the corporate tax cut as one way to get there.  Given the fact Alberta was already the lowest tax jurisdiction in Canada it’s questionable whether the $4.5 billion gift to corporations will make a significant difference.  However, any moves on Mr Kenney’s part that damage publicly funded and publicly delivered healthcare, education and other public services will negatively impact Alberta’s reputation for offering a good quality of life.   

And no amount of pixie dust will change that. 

Posted in Economics, Education, Employment, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 50 Comments

Albertans: “People of Destiny”

On Sept 1 Premier Kenney wished Alberta a happy birthday.   Not once in his video message did he mention Canada.  It was as if Alberta became a province in 1905 only to float around in No Mans Land for the next 114 years. 

He did, however, acknowledge Alberta’s connection to Canada in the official press release by noting Alberta became “a full and equal partner in the Dominion of Canada”, “Albertans have built a province that is the engine of Canada’s prosperity (actually it’s not the engine, it’s one of three engines, Ontario and Quebec both contribute more to Canada’s GDP than we do), and Alberta is “the best place in Canada to live, work, play and raise a family.” 

Both the video and the press release repeat the message that Albertans are “people of destiny”.  Given the ambiguity of the phrase (it can refer to anything from evangelical groups to pop stars) it’s important to note how Mr Kenney characterized the phrase. 

Mr Kenney said a “program” entitled “A People of Destiny” was printed to mark the day Alberta became a province in 1905.  He doesn’t tell us what the “program” said.  He does tell us that he believes generations of Albertans have lived up to the “notion of being people of destiny, that we have created something exceptional here, a culture of enterprise, of personal responsibility and strong communities.”  He asked us to remember those who helped build Alberta “while rededicating ourselves to live by the values of community enterprise and freedom in an Alberta that in the future will continue to be strong and free.”

Perhaps this is just feel good talk Alberta-style, but it’s troubling in the context of Mr Kenney’s misleading rhetoric that the feds are using the equalization formula to unfairly benefit other provinces at Alberta’s expense and his contradictory campaign promises about the purpose of a referendum—the UCP policy document says it’s to (a) remove equalization from the Constitution, and (b) use the threat of the referendum to demand changes to the equalization formula (do we want it removed from the Constitution or not?) if there isn’t substantial progress on a coastal pipeline and if Bill C-69 isn’t repealed, (so we’re okay with the equalization formula if we get Trans Mountain and Mr Scheer becomes prime minister and repeals Bill C-69?).

Mr Kenney’s sloppy language has led many Albertans to conclude that Mr Kenney will call a referendum on equalization and if the majority of Albertans say the feds should restructure the formula and the feds refuse that gives Mr Kenney the mandate to start working on Alberta’s independence.

Mr Kenney attempted to disabuse Albertans of this notion with an angry press release upbraiding Quebec Premier Legault for saying Mr Kenney was “starting to become a separatist” and reminding Albertans that it was he who insisted the UCP merger agreement include a principle of loyalty to a “united Canada” and for him “that loyalty is non-negotiable”. 

But it’s too late.

His supporters firmly believe that Mr Kenney will lead them to the promised land if the federal government fails to come to heel.

And goofy happy birthday greetings telling Albertans they are “people of destiny” without acknowledging how fortunate we are to be part of a diverse and wealthy nation called Canada only add to the confusion. 

Posted in Celebrations, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 62 Comments