Brian Mason (NDP) is right. The only way to find out what’s going on in Alison Redford’s head is to pay to attend a function in her honour.
So on Monday night, Mr Soapbox and I were milling about at the Glenbow Museum, debating about whether to sneak off to see the A Y Jackson exhibit or parade dutifully into the lecture hall to hear Premier Redford expound on her vision for “Building Alberta”.
We’d paid $65 each for the privilege so we opted for the lecture hall and spent an hour watching Dylan Jones, president of the Canada West Foundation, lob puffball questions to Ms Redford on issues that concern us all. Her responses were shocking.
Ms Redford was relaxed and confident as she set out her vision for Alberta. Alberta would be a prosperous province with a diversified economy, a knowledge-based work force and a reduced reliance on oil and gas which is not sustainable. So far so good.
However this vision quickly melted into an incoherent mishmash of meaningless clichés—we need to change our values and expectations, we need innovation and a global perspective on dealing with our natural resources, the federal government isn’t playing nice, etc.
None of it hung together…until she described the advice she gave to Christy Clark—we can have it all if we just trust industry.
Apparently Ms Redford cajoled the stubborn BC Premier into supporting the Northern Gateway pipeline by explaining to Ms Clark that BC’s “Fifth Condition” (the one that requires a share of the benefits to flow to BC) would be satisfied by industry. All Ms Clark had to do was trust industry, and like the field of dreams, industry would deliver munificence to her and her people.
Ms Redford said she trusts industry and it’s worked out very well for Albertans because, in her words, it’s a “complete circle”, if you open markets you can live within your means and focus on families.
Alberta’s Vision: Through the lens of industry
The penny dropped. Everything she said that evening started to make sense (in a perverse kind of way).
Ms Redford trusts industry. Consequently all government policy must take its cue from industry. She gave a number of examples:
- Education: We need to reshape education. Don’t push kids to go to university because academic programs don’t lead to jobs. Send them to technical schools like NAIT and SAIT so they can find a job in industry (and thereby solve industry’s labour shortage).
- Healthcare: Be innovative by selling our healthcare data to global investors.
- Oilsands: Get rid of Harper’s ridiculous cap on temporary foreign workers. Industry is suffering from a labour shortage and needs more foreign workers to reduce high labour costs.
- Sales tax? Forget it. We can fund education and healthcare through the innovative use of P3s (ie. partnering with industry).
An Alternative Vision
Ms Redford’s “Building Alberta” vision is code for “Trust Industry”. The “Trust Industry” vision leads to this: harvest Alberta’s raw materials, be they fossil fuels or human health data, and sell them to global investors and hope that the global market makers will take care of us in return.
I propose an alternative vision: “Trust Albertans”. Consult with us on energy, healthcare, education and care for the vulnerable. Consult with us on the budget and infrastructure needs. Strive for balance between conflicting priorities so that all Albertans, not just industry CEOs, are faithfully served by their government.
The media tag line says it all
One last point to consider. Prior to Nov 5, 2013, every major press release from Ms Redford’s government described her vision as containing two elements—opening new markets and living within our means. Then some bright light in the Premier’s office discovered that the vision did not include people. Voilà, a new element—a focus on family and community—was created to complete the vision.
Nicely timed on the Premier’s part. The most critical element of her vision for Alberta made it into the press releases a mere 17 days before her leadership review. I wonder if the PC delegates voting to confirm her as leader will notice.