Ms Soapbox’s first round of New Year’s resolutions for a politician (Alison Redford) were ignored, but she’s a persistent soul and will try again. This time she’s prepared five resolutions for Premier Rachel Notley.
- Stay the course on your climate change policy (and all your energy related policies for that matter).
Ignore Wildrose leader Brian Jean who says your $3 billion carbon tax is a “back-door PST” which will not stop Albertans from polluting or result in more pipelines being built.
Mr Jean is spouting nonsense. The carbon tax is not an all-in sales tax. It applies to carbon, not clothing, hence the name. Economists disagree with Mr Jean; they say carbon taxes do indeed change people’s behavior and finally, the carbon tax will improve Alberta’s “green” reputation which increases the likelihood pipelines will be approved (that’s why Calgary’s major oil companies support it).
Mr Jean vows to kill the carbon tax if he wins the election in 2019. That’s a one heck of a big “if”—see Resolution #4 below.
Rachel, your climate change policy is sound. It will serve you well when you meet with your provincial and federal counterparts to hammer out how the two levels of government will work together to help Canada achieve the climate change goals it agreed to in Paris.
- Provide more clarity on how the government will repay the $6.1 billion debt forecast in the October 2015 budget.
Albertans get it. We need to borrow to fund infrastructure projects which are in a sorry state thanks to the PC government’s mismanagement.
But Albertans are justifiably skittish about borrowing money to fund operations because borrowing for the day-to-day running of the government is unsustainable.
Finance Minister Ceci hinted that certain campaign promises like child care benefits and improvements to seniors’ home care may be delayed. While this is unfortunate, it’s better to go slow and get it right than plunge the province so deeply into debt that even your die-hard supporters will wonder whether it was wise to vote NDP in May 2015.
- The media is not your friend
Local media is unsupportive. It will not provide context for your policies so you must provide the “big picture” yourself.
For example, when S&P downgraded the government’s credit rating from AAA to AA+, the media characterized it as a shocking blow. Only a few national papers put this story in the broader context—namely that the other two ratings agencies, DBRS and Moody’s, did not follow suit. They confirmed Alberta’s AAA rating.
The Wildrose and PCs will use these contextual gaps against you. Head them off at the pass by providing the media with a crisp outline of the “big picture” so that your announcements are reported in the right context.
- Do not underestimate the Progressive Conservatives
Brian Jean is positioning himself as Alberta’s next premier, but the real threat comes from the Progressive Conservatives, not the Wildrose.
Mr Jean is so divisive that he’s turned into a Donald Trump Mini-Me. He is trying to scare up rural support by vilifying the NDP as the socialist horde. He hopes to attract urban voters by creating a Wildrose/PC “consolidated conservative coalition”.
Rural scare mongering will consolidate the base but not expand it. Urban voters will not back a Wildrose/PC coalition (assuming it gets off the ground) because they’re too progressive to regress on social policy. If push comes to shove they’ll go back to the Progressive Conservatives…provided they ditch Ric McIver, joining anti-gay pastor Artur Pawlowski in the March for Jesus parade was not exactly Mr McIver’s finest hour.
If the PCs want to survive they will force Mr McIver to resign in favour of a leader like MLA Sandra Jansen who is socially progressive and appears to have integrity. Not only did she break ranks with the PCs to vote with the Liberals and NDs in favour of a motion to support gay-straight alliances in schools, she apologised for sponsoring Jim Prentice’s ill-conceived GSA rebuttal bill when the Liberals brought the matter back to the Legislature a few months later.
If the PC party elects a leader like Ms Jansen, it will be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.
- Never pull back on your high-wattage personality, but stay focused on what matters to Albertans
Rachel, you’re blessed with intelligence, political acumen and charisma.
You moved quickly in 2015 to pass legislation banning political contributions from corporations and unions, realigning the tax structure, addressing climate change and enhancing farm safety.
Your 2016 agenda is equally ambitious. One of the first things out of the chute will be the results of your royalty review. And while royalty restructuring is welcome, the energy sector will continue to languish due to factors beyond your control.
Now is the time to focus on problems you can control—healthcare wait times, public education that is variable in quality and cost, seniors’ care, etc. These public services are hamstrung by calcified PC thinking and need a fresh perspective. If you address the problems that have plagued Albertans for over a decade and the economy improves you’ll have an excellent shot at a second term in office.
May the Force be with you!
Well said Susan; I see Premier Notley as a “transformative” leader – in that context, I would only respectfully add for our Premier and her Government to deepen her relationship with a range of sectors and communities/people across the province, every step of the way to 2019, strengthening her personable bonds with the citizens, young and old, and certainly nurture meaningful rapports with the many new immigrants to Alberta, who will in time become Canadian citizens, thus, also voters …
Excellent suggestion Leo. I’ve attended a number of forums headlining politicians from many different parties. I can’t think of anyone who can match Rachel Notley (although Justin Trudeau comes close) when it comes to articulating her message and connecting with the people. I’m sure she’s run off her feet but she needs to strengthen her relationship with citizens right across the spectrum. Political pundits say that people vote for the party, the party leader and the local candidate in that order of priority. I’d say Notley and Trudeau just proved that wrong–it’s party leader first, then party, and finally local candidate.
However, they need to get their communications poop in a group… Both the mainstream media and the Twitterverse are implacably hostile to the NDP, and to progressive politics in general. The NDP Government needs to find a way to talk past them directly to Albertans, and fecal exhibitions like the initial roll-out of Bill 6 do not help.
Jerry, you’re bang on. The Bill 6 fiasco demonstrated just how much the NDP have to learn about consultation/communication prior to rolling out a difficult policy, and let’s face it, everything the NDP wants to do will meet with resistance from one quarter or another. It’s odd, the NDP were very adept at using social media during the election, but once they got into office their focus on maintaining an effective social media presence seemed to wane. They need to get their mojo back!
Susan you are correct and in my humble opinion here is why I agree…
On the climate/environment issue I believe that if we set challenging goals we will innovate our way to meeting them. I’m a big believer in “necessity is the mother of invention” and developing an environmental technologies industry will be a good way to diversify our economy. We could become world leaders if we choose to look at challenges as opportunities and not “the end of the freaking world as we know it” as the Wildrose likes to portray it.
I’ll admit to being worried about the deficit and what happens if things don’t turn around for a few years. On the other hand we do need to catch up for all the stuff the right wing of this province ignored so that they could pay taxes that didn’t truly reflect what it cost to run our province. The NDP really should try to deliver their message a whole lot better, but I do mark this up to…THEY HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN GOVERNMENT FOR A YEAR, (sorry for the yell) they spent most of their history as opposition, experience will come with difficulties. I still think they can be forgiven for missteps, the PC’s in their final years couldn’t walk two steps without having something happen. If we are still having this conversation in three years and the NDP hasn’t learned from the problems they have, then they won’t deserve to be re-elected, and I don’t believe they are that dumb.
Brian Jean, “Mr Jean” will need to have a brain transplant before anyone will trust that he can be different. The Wildrose had all sorts of fun pandering to their base, but I suspect it helped solidify urban and center voters seeing the Wildrose as the nut bars they are. I can’t see the PC’s coming back right away. Maybe Alberta won’t keep with tradition and relegate them to the trash heap of history as they did with the United Farmers party and the Social Credit. However they have a lot of stuff that will take more than 4 years to fix and I’d say the odds are more against than for. However dumping Ric McIver would be a good first start, the man was and still is out of touch with reality. The biggest threat to the NDP is if they lose the center. The center that was disappointed by Allison Redford and the center who in the last election had no one they felt comfortable with other than the NDP. If the center ever has another option, life may get more difficult for the NDP.
On the “credit rating” thing. Most people can’t remember that back in the 80’s we downgraded to I believe single AA without the plus and yes we survived. I guess I got tired of trying to convince people that things are rough but the end of the world they are not. Alberta will survive political parties as it always had and it will survive the nut bars too.
Keep on writing Susan, I love your blog and the thoughtful ideas you write.
Thanks for your kind comments Einar!
We forgive you for yelling because we need to be reminded that the NDP just got here and will need a little time to set the ministries and the government departments, agencies, boards and commissions on a new path. I’m sure the bureaucrats are no different than the employees of any big corporation undergoing a takeover–some are pleased but the majority are worried sick and employing every passive-aggressive tactic in the book.
You’re right that in the past when Albertans dumped the reigning party it disappeared. This time might be different because it was the NDP and not a centrist party that replaced the PCs. Having said that Notley’s agenda tracks pretty closely to Lougheed’s agenda–the people should be properly compensated for their natural resources, some upgrading is good, diversification of the economy is essential, the rich and corporations should pay higher taxes and social services matter–this should be attractive to the centre. If Notley makes headway on these items and the climate file, she’ll be in good shape in 2019, as long as she’s got a realistic plan to shrink the deficit.
Your brilliant and spot on as usual!!!
Why thank you Diana! Much appreciated!
Happy New Year SoapBoxers
I could not agree more with your analysis.
As I said before I do not believe that there will be another boom in the oil business as we are fast moving towards a new type of economy all over the so called developed world. I think there is enough oil available for the transition. The world economies are not going to boom any time soon and when they do, it will be within the new renewable resources context. This means that the 6.1 billion dollars deficit has to be grappled with whether the government likes it or not. Postponing it longer than this year is not a smart strategy especially for a party that already has the reputation for deficits. I think we should live within our means regardless of ideology. The reason I mention this is because Alberta taxation system is not in sync with reality. The reason for the deficits is because the Conservatives cut taxes to the point where it is no longer possible to pay for the services we have. We either have the taxation level we need to pay for the services or we cut the services. Thinking otherwise is naïve. The Wildrose idea of no taxes and great services is just a gimmick to get in power. So Rachel Notley has to carefully think about this because this is going to be the end of the NDP in government. Being dependent on oil royalties is of course what we have done in the last 40 years and we were never able to get it right and we never really saved any money either. Furthermore, like you mentioned, she will not have any help from the media because all of it is in the hands of Wildrose/PC supporters.
As far as the AA+ rating I am not sure why we even talk about it. All that means is that a group of thugs in the investment community decided we should be downgraded. Who are they? Just do some research and you will find that they are as legitimate as my dog’s knowledge on mortgages. They are all part of the Investment community that in 2008 created the biggest robbery of public money in world history. Only Iceland and now Switzerland are getting them to court where they should be tried and jailed as soon as possible. Switzerland is actually preparing for a referendum on stopping private banks from creating money – WOW someone has some brains.
Summarizing I do not think that Rachel Notley is in a good place and I think she will have to be extremely creative and careful if she is to survive the overwhelming media campaign against her and the government. Albertans will decide in the end but the fact is that if they do not allow Rachel Notley to gradually move this province to a smarter economy, we will be damaged beyond repair for years to come. Of that I have no doubts. A MacIver/ Brian Jean reunion is going to take us back decades with decisions that will hurt the transition to a new economy and new thinking on alternatives to one sector economy run from interests outside of our province. Without a doubt we need more local and more anti-fragile type economies run by Albertans. We do not need foreign brains, we have much better here.
Very well said Carlos. The opposition is trying to make a mountain out of the S&P downgrade, but Albertans need a reality check. S&P lowered Alberta’s credit rating to AA+. It’s rated Sask and BC’s credit at AAA. Fine, but what are we to make of the fact that DBRS rates Sask and BC lower than Alberta and Moody’s rates the three provinces the same. Furthermore, these credit ratings are a snapshot in time, they’re not a rock solid forecast of future economic health. In other words, there’s no need to get up in arms about this small downgrade, especially given your point about the world economy shifting and the urgent need for visionary governments (provincial and federal) to get in tune with what the future economies will look like.
Here’s the AB government link to provincial credit ratings if anyone is interested. http://finance.alberta.ca/business/borrowing/index.html
Here is something that people that read this blog will be interested to know
Carlos, that was a very interesting article. It’s good to see statistics that support our sense that Albertans are more progressive than we think. The trick is to get the progressives to vote as a block at election time. We did it last May, hopefully we’ll do it again.
Here is one CBC program that will interest anyone for sure
Interesting tables on ratings on the link you suggested !!
Carlos, I loved the link and was about to post a relevant reply but I got distracted. I’m visiting my Dad who has CNN on 24/7. Between Trump saying other countries should pay the US for protection and implying that Ted Cruz is a not a “natural born American” and therefore is ineligible to be President…it’s enough to make you weep.
I almost have seizures – you are doing well with just weeping.
We know we have a problem when Americans themselves think it is a bit too much.
I think of ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon when I think of a world with Putin versus Donald Trump
ah yes.. Mr Brian… I have teenagers in my home.. They are drama induced, mountainous mole hill creators, teeny narcissists that exaggerate and bend truth to gain followers, bully and get their way on each and every topic. The only hope for us parents is that THIS TOO SHALL PASS!!! Well written!
Ginny, what a fitting description, particularly when you consider that for all their huffing and puffing, Mr Brian and his merry band of WRers offer no solutions other than cut taxes and cut services, forgetting that that, plus the PC’s refusal to diversify our economy is what got us here in the first place.
Diversifying the economy is great except when you use it to help out your friends in ventures that don’t have a viable business case. As the former government is famous for.
I do like the idea of letting the ATB, the Credit Unions, and Alberta based “banks” and the AFSC be the outlet for diversification funds. Ensuring that business ventures have access to easier capital, but they still need to have viable plans. It also depends on how much risk the government wants to carry to diversify the economy. Venture Capital generally invest in 10 opportunities in the hopes that one will work out well and pay for the nine that didn’t. At any rate there should be an arms length and a bit more between government and where the money is actually invested.
We can’t have any more Swan Hills (Bovar) or that magnesium processing plant near High River or even how much money got put into West Edmonton Mall. That is what stopped diversification and Ralph Klein’s famous saying “we are out of the business of being in business”. Which of course they weren’t, as they still invested in their friends businesses.
Imagine though what would happen if we even invested $1 billion towards new ventures, creating new technologies that are viable in our economy. I believe if it is invested wisely in 20 years oil and gas would still play an important role in Alberta’s economy not the only one. Not to mention Alberta would be earning royalties and dividends and of course tax revenues on that investment.
Einer, I like your argument. Government investment should go to those who have a solid business strategy and have logged the time to demonstrate the venture has some chance of success…political connections shouldn’t be part of the equation. The US Dept of Energy waited years before it decided to loan (not invest) $465 million to Tesla. It wanted to see whether Musk could actually deliver the electric car. Meanwhile Musk was hustling to drum up support from players like Daimler who paid $50 million for a 10% stake and gave Tesla a huge boost in credibility. Surely we have a few innovative business leaders who haven’t become so fat and flabby after 40 years of PC rule that they’ve forgotten how to put together a solid business case for government support.
Do you suppose the Wildrose have found a copy of the Stephen Harper playbook, and are expecting something different to happen?
Could be John, but isn’t that Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity? Oh wait, we’re talking about the Wildrose aren’t we.
When are the NDP going to help Jane and John Doe Albertan they should be a priority over what she is doing now, 75,000 or so jobs were lost in Alberta in 2015. The way Notley is going she doesn’t care. A lot have lost everything and some have had to move into the street. Not a word has been said about improving healthcare (its facilities and lack of staff), education (bad system, overcrowding or cost to send your kid to school above and beyond the school taxes everyone pays) seniors lodging (that has become a slum lords area), Covenant health especially. These are just a few things she promised to repair or totally revamp, but all her party seems to care about is unionizing everyone and (greening) up Alberta. They care about Alberta (to gain brownie points) but not Albertans.
There are no phone numbers or email addresses, for your MLA’s or departments so you can’t ask or voice a concern, so it looks like they don’t care what you think.
Jackie. I think Notley is going in the right direction when it comes to the economy, however I share your frustration with respect to healthcare, education, and seniors care. A number of advocacy groups are pressing the NDP government on these issues because we haven’t seen much improvement, if any. Now that the climate leadership policy and royalty review are out of the way it’s right that we put pressure on Notley’s government to deliver on these fronts as well.
with respect to contacting the government ministers and local MLAs I usually go to the Leg Assembly contact site. Here’s the general link: http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=mla_home and have received responses relatively quickly.