Paging Ms Redford…Ms Redford…? I’ve been looking for Ms Redford since the day she was elected as Premier of Alberta. My Ms Redford said “The strongest leaders are the ones that can be authentic…so that you’re truly saying to people during the campaign, ‘this is who I am. If you elect me, this is who I’ll be’”*. My Ms Redford promised change, transparency and democratic renewal.
Unfortunately my Ms Redford is missing in action. Taking her place is Premier Redford, who stacked her cabinet with the same “old boys” she disparaged during her campaign; Premier Redford who ignored comments made by her Finance Minister and her Health Minister which conflict with her campaign promise of a judicial healthcare inquiry and, perhaps most egregious of all; Premier Redford who trashed the principles of democratic renewal by hi-jacking the business of the Legislature on the first day of the Fall Session and calling for (get this) a Standing Order 30.
Every organization should have a Standing Order 30 which can be pulled out at the drop of a hat to bring business to a grinding halt while the powers-that-be spend the day addressing “…a matter of urgent public importance…”**
Don’t get me wrong, invoking Standing Order 30 to address critical and time sensitive matters of urgent public importance is a vital legislative mechanism. It’s been invoked to address excessive ER wait times, inadequate preparations for the H1N1 pandemic, tailings pond management and the PC’s refusal to provide information in support of the 2009-10 budget. The need for a timely resolution of these problems is obvious.
However on Oct 24, the PCs invoked Standing Order 30 because “…Nothing could be more important at this moment in time to Albertans than to hear from their leadership, the Premier and the leaders of the opposition parties in this House, about issues that concern them because Alberta trades out into the world…and the world markets are in an incredible state of disarray.”** I beg your pardon?
Once the Premier grabbed control of the agenda and she launched into oratory. It was based on the premise that “debt is the trap” which brought Europe to its knees and could soon topple Alberta. But not to worry, the PCs will save Alberta. Premier Redford conceded that Albertans have no debt, but warned us not to be complacent. “We can stay safe from these threats…We will make the tough decisions…We will introduce the necessary reforms to make sure that this province keeps growing. There is no other way.”***
Wow…I had no idea we were on the brink of financial extinction and was all agog to hear how the PCs would save Alberta from the perils of global economic volatility.
What followed next was a mishmash of lofty promises and banal statements of the obvious. The PCs will maintain our quality of life, support public healthcare, protect the environment, create jobs and support the arts. Asian markets are important, the energy industry must grow, energy revenues are key, and small businesses and entrepreneurship are valued. If this sounds like the typical hodge-podge you’d hear off the back of the “Go Alison” bus on the eve of an election, you’re right, it is.
But here’s the best part. The one thing that will protect Albertans and keep us safe (Ms Redford’s words, not mine) is the budget.
Cue the Finance Minister. For those of you who get a bit antsy whenever Mr Liepert steps on to the stage, take heart, Premier Redford promised to engage in a public consultation process in November and offered round-tables with ministers, a public survey and requests for submissions. The 2012 budget will reflect Albertans’ priorities and morph into a balanced budget by 2013-14.
Many of us who participated in Fred Horne’s public consultation on healthcare are tickled pink to be given a second chance to see our suggestions end up on the flip chart labeled “parking lot”.
The Opposition thought it would be responding to a speech about international opportunities in a volatile global economy. They did a brilliant job of switching gears to respond to what Mr Mason called a “faux Throne Speech”. (Nice turn of phrase by the way).
Their response to the veiled threat of a harsh budget was most illuminating. Let’s focus on just one item on Premier Redford’s laundry list—resource revenue that makes up 30% of revenue. The Opposition pointed out that corporate taxes and royalties could increase by $11 billion and Alberta would still be the lowest taxed province in Canada. Add to that the upgrading of oil sands crude oil in Alberta and you’d create a sustainable long term economic driver that would serve future generations.
Unfortunately neither of these options was included in the Premier’s “Save Alberta” list. It will be interesting to see whether they surface in the ministers’ round-table consultations and make it to the final feedback briefing document.
Stripping away the partisan rhetoric, Standing Order 30 was all about preparing the public for another round of budget cuts. Which brings me back to where I started—paging Ms Redford. Just once I’d like to page Ms Redford and not have Mr Liepert answer.
* Calgary Herald Oct 29, 2011, A4
** Hansard, Oct 24, 2011, 1152
***Hansard, Oct 24, 2011, 1154
Susan, what a powerful essay. You are capturing very well the mood of many Albertans and with your clear strokes of the pen, are painting the picture of what is going on with the “new” Alberta government. Your humour makes the bitter pill of our new reality check a little easier to swallow. Your reference to Fred Horne’s citizens’ “consultations” on the Alberta Health Act truly made me chuckle. I hope you send this to Ms. Redford’s office. The battle for votes at the upcoming provincial election won’t be with Wildrose supporters, it will be for the people who believed (or wished to believe) her promises of integrity, openness and doing the best for the people of this province. Thank-you for your candour and sharing your knowledge and insights.
Elaine, I was talking to an Alberta Party member yesterday who said exactly the same thing. The battle for votes in the next election won’t be for Wildrose supporters…they’re gone for good, but rather for all the non-voters who stayed home because they thought their votes wouldn’t make a difference. The non-PC’s may have helped put Ms Redford into the Premier’s seat, but they have no intention of keeping her there.
Thank you for your comments and your ongoing work with WCPH. I saw your facebook post indicating that WCPH wrote a letter to the Premier. It will be very interested to see if she has the courage to write back.
The use of Standing Order 30 to address critical and time sensitive matters has been used appropriately in the past by our government. The addressing of world economic issues could be a valid reason to enact this sort of Order, but it should only be issued by a government that has the ability to address such issues. I am not sure how the province of Alberta can actively resolve the European crisis, or assist the United States in sorting out high unemployment rates. There have no concrete actions coming out of “emergency” debate, nor have there been any changes in strategy that can help the global calamity since October 24.
The United States often has been accusing of wading into foreign affairs to take the minds of its citizens off domestic problems. While it might not resolve domestic issues, at least that government may have a chance to shift international events through peace keeping efforts, significant funding of new economic endeavours or other accords. I do not see Alberta doing any of the above, other than distracting us from the pressing issues of health care, of depleting our Heritage Fund and devastating our environment. The United States also developed a political strategy after 9/11 whereby a colour chart would indicate the severity of potential terrorist attack, and the colour always seemed to go up to orange or red just before elections so that Mr. Bush and company could save the country by not changing course with new politicians. We should be especially careful if Alison introduces some colour coded economic chart, because all she is doing is to try to scare us.
My last comment, somewhat tongue in cheek, relates to the notion of how the Standing Order 30 managed to get its name. Reporters in the print media used to finish their stories with the “….30… “ notation at the bottom, meaning the story is complete. If the Progressive Conservatives continue down this path of playing Chicken Little with the Standing Order, does this mean that its 40 year reign is complete and is finished?
Roy, you’re absolutely right about Ms Redford’s government’s inability to make a major impact on the global economy or to insulate Albertans from the back draft caused by the European financial crisis. Oil futures jumped 3% last week on the strength of the EU’s agreement with private lenders to accept a 50% loss on their Greek government bonds.
Oil companies doing business in Alberta benefit from this uptick and as a result the Alberta economy improves. How Ms Redford and Mr Liepert think they can save us from macro-scale economic forces is beyond me!
What a witty observation on Standing Order 30. I do hope your prediction that we can put “…30…” to the PC dynasty in the next election is correct!
Thanks for your comments. Your research capabilities and your ability to form elegant arguments helps the rest of us see through a lot of the media hype, political hyperbole and the general spreading of animal waste. It is sometimes a little too easy to take what we read as face value and not go through the analysis of how all these pieces of the puzzle fit together. Your efforts make those steps a lot easier in deciphering the longer term political agenda of the Progressive Conservatives.
Thank you kindly Mr Wright…such heady praise, you’re making me blush!
All kidding aside, you’re right about the need to think about what we’re being told and determine for ourselves whether it makes any sense at all. I’m sure we’ll have an awful lot to think about over the coming months!
Great post Susan. I am still recovering from this coup and the total lack of integrity and what it means to be authentic. Just the thought that this person was actually a Justice Minister and a consultant in South Africa to Nelson Mandela, makes me sick.
Alberta’s deficits are created by our own governments. Just changing the flat tax to a fairer progressive tax system would cover the deficit we have right now. The problem is that neo conservatives have to constantly find reasons to destroy anything to do with the common good and social programs even if needed and so they cut taxes and implement silly changes that cause deficits so that they justify the dismantling of our safety net. What is even crazier is that they offer no alternative other than the fact that we all are going to have more money (the so called millionaires in waiting in the US) and so we will be able to afford everything.
In Europe they are making this big deal that the banks are going to have to take 50% of the Greek deficit. These banks are alive because they got public money so what do they care. The reality is that again the people in Europe are paying for it.
Yes Susan how is Mr. Liepert and our premier going to protect us from international pressures. I will be happy if he does not destroy our finances, never mind the global issues.
Carlos, once again you’ve identified a number of critical issues. You made a very good point in your comment about the European banks getting credit for a bailout which is in fact funded by the public. This is certainly what happened in the US when the government spent trillions in taxpayers dollars to bailout the banks and other institutions after the sub-prime mortgage melt down.
I also agree with your comments about authenticity. Ms Redford is clearly very smart and has done great humanitarian work in the past. She has a unique opportunity to accomplish great things if she’d just use those skills in her present role. I wish she’d shake off the constraints of party politics and govern in the true sense of the word.
Much appreciated Carlos.
Susan I do not know how to contact privately so I hope it is alright to ask this out of context here about International law.
I know the US does not support the International Court and I know that they give themselves special rights because of their superpower status, but how can someone take, for example George Bush to court. He was in Canada recently and there were moves by Amnesty International to influence the Canadian Government to arrest him. Is it only governments that can do that? I appreciate your help. You are a lawyer and I am sure you know the answer.
Carlos, I practice corporate law and don’t have the specialized expertise required to answer your question (which raises some complex legal issues). Have you tried the internet? I find it is a good starting point for almost any kind of search. You may not find the answer right away, but it could lead you to some people who specialize in the area.
ok Susan thank you very much. I will certainly try the Internet, never thought about it.