What Does a “Free Enterprise” Leader Look Like?

Jason Kenney promises to return Alberta to prosperity if Albertans vote for his Wildrose/PC “free enterprise” party.

Given the paucity of information around what his “free enterprise” party stands for, we are left to assume Mr Kenney will emulate corporate “free enterprise” leaders if he ends up in the premier’s office.

What does a good “free enterprise” leader (also known as a CEO) look like?

Inspirational leadership

Free enterprise CEOs have vision.

Suncor’s CEO, Steve Williams, says Suncor strives to be a trusted steward of valuable natural resources which leads “the way to deliver economic prosperity, improved social well-being and a healthy environment for today and tomorrow.”

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg acts on his vision to give back to the community.  He will donate 99% of his wealth to charities that improve health and education and build stronger communities.

Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly acknowledged he was gay so people would understand a person is not defined solely by sexuality, race or gender.


Mr Jason Kenney prospective leader of the “Free Enterprise” Party

Mr Kenney has half a vision at best.  He promises to rid Alberta of its “accidental government” but unlike the corporate CEOs is silent on social issues.

This is a problem because an inspirational premier recognizes that he/she is responsible for the entire portfolio, not just the financial bits, and is prepared to address the challenge of managing social issues as well as economic ones.


Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet Inc, defines his job as ensuring everyone in the company has great opportunities, feel like they’re making a meaningful impact and contributing to the good of society.

Page strives to work with people, not against them.

Mr Kenney on the other hand has nothing but contempt for the NDP and the federal government.  His lack of respect for the Progressive Conservatives during the leadership race was “palpable”.  His willingness to “play nice” with the Wildrose will be sorely tested when he takes on Brian Jean in what will be a bruising leadership race.

A premier who understands the value of teamwork can accomplish much.  One whose path to victory starts with the destruction of one political party and the hostile takeover of another is doomed to fail.

Strategic leadership

A leader’s mettle is tested in times of hardship.

Murray Edwards, Chairman of CNRL, refused to panic in the face of low oil prices.  Instead of implementing massive layoffs, CNRL reduced costs, kept its teams together and its culture strong.  It focused on sharing knowledge so it would be ready to take advantage of future opportunities and recently acquired Shell’s oilsands assets for $12.7 billion.

Mr Kenney, on the other hand, says he’ll emulate Ralph Klein—balancing the budget by cutting staff.  This didn’t work when Klein tried it and it won’t work now because it’s impossible to deliver a balanced budget without slicing and dicing the “front lines” and creating an even deeper hole in public services.

Do the math:  The government employs 207,678 full time equivalent (FTEs) employees.  The bulk of these are in AHS (79,450), Education (62,317), Advanced Education (33,588), Justice (7,554) and Child and Community Services (5,907).*  That’s 188,816 FTEs in total.  Assume 25% of these are not front line workers and they earn $100,000/year, cutting them would save the government $4.7 billion.

That won’t balance the budget so let’s fire 50% of the remaining 18,862 FTEs who aren’t in health, education or child/community services.  That saves $943 million.  We’re still $4.6 billion short.  And we haven’t accounted for the drop in revenue that will result from lowering income and corporate taxes.

Mr Kenney’s strategy, while consistent with that Ralph Klein, shows no imagination, no foresight and very little humanity.


Securities laws require corporations to file documents describing how they’ve performed in the past and how they expect to perform in the future.  CEOs who riddle these documents with material misstatements or omissions violate securities laws and are punished.

Mr Kenney has not revealed his plan to bring Alberta back into prosperity but continues to describe Alberta’s economy as a disaster (it’s growing by 2.6%) and the NDP government’s policies as anti-growth policies (the climate leadership policy is responsible for two pipeline projects being approved).

Sadly, the securities laws do not apply in the political realm and politicians, even those who espouse “free enterprise” values, are free to say whatever they wish.

The “free enterprise” premier?

Challenging times require inspirational, visionary leaders who demonstrate creativity and compassion.

Mr Kenney’s promise to be the leader of the “free enterprise” party doesn’t cut it.

*Alberta Fiscal Plan 2017-20, p 121

Updated Mar 30, 2017 to correct math $1.9 billion savings for non health, education, child/community services employees should have been $943 million savings.

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30 Responses to What Does a “Free Enterprise” Leader Look Like?

  1. Robin says:

    You may want to consider producing short videos of you delivering your excellent columns for posting on YouTube and Facebook. Crossroads television system has a small green screen studio in downtown Calgary. It is reasonably priced and offers teleprompter and post production services. Suite 1008, 839 – 5th Avenue SW Calgary Alberta T2P 3C8. Phone number is (403) 263-3191. hsuk@ctstv.com http://www.ctstv.com.

    • Robin, thank you for this excellent suggestion. As you know this is something I’ve been thinking about but I’m a little reluctant to branch out into videos, I’m not sure why. Perhaps because some of that space is occupied by groups like The Rebel.

      • Robin says:

        I understand and appreciate your reluctance, however the space is also occupied by Robert Reich, former Labour Secretary with President Clinton. Videos will broaden your audience and reach a wider demographic. A thoughtful and eloquent female political analyst will make a perfect foil to Ezra LeRant in both style of the presentation and the substance of the content. You can make a difference in the minds of more progressive minded Alberta a who feel orphaned by the demise of Lougheed’s PC Party. You can be a guiding light through videos. Millennials are more likely to watch and share then to read, IMHO. I will leave you with that and encourage you to give it a try. Whatever you decide, you are making a difference already.

      • Bob Raynard says:

        Your caution is wise, Susan. While I consider myself a progressive, I do find myself put off a bit by Press Progress, just because it has a Rebel feel.

  2. Robin says:

    Correction (update). It is now “Yestv”. Location and phone numbers are the same.

  3. Bill Dolman says:

    You said: “Do the math: The government employs 207,678 full time equivalent (FTEs) employees. The bulk of these are in AHS (79,450), Education (62,317), Advanced Education (33,588), Justice (7,554) and Child and Community Services (5,907).* That’s 188,816 FTEs in total. Assume 25% of these are not front line workers and they earn $100,000/year, cutting them would save the government $4.7 billion.

    That won’t balance the budget so let’s fire 50% of the remaining 18,862 FTEs. That saves $1.9 billion. We’re still $3.7 billion short. ”

    But the math doesn’t add up. 25% of 188,816 FTEs is 47,204. (That’s where you get your $4.7 Billion figure – 47,000 x $100,000 = $4.7 Billion.) But “the remaining 18,862 FTEs” is wrong. IT would be 141,612. After that, I don’t know how you get a saving of $1.9 Billion.

    But again, assuming you do “save an additional $1.9 Billion, saving that from a $4.7 Billion deficit would reduce the deficit to $2.8 Billion, not $3.7 Billion.

    I don’t disagree with your basic political stance, but the arithmetic doesn’t work (unless I’m really missing something here).

    Thank you.

    • Bill, thanks for checking my math. I did make an error but not the one you point out. The 18,862 FTEs refers to the FTEs who DON’T work in AHS, Education, Advanced Education, Justice and Child & Community Services. So the calculation is 207,678 FTE (in total) – 188,816 (who work in AHS, Ed, Ad Ed, Justice, Child & Com Services) = 18,862 x .50 = 9431 x $100,000 = $943 million. Where I made my error is I forgot to cut the 18,862 number in half. My $1.9 billion number should have been just under $1 billion.
      All of which shows that even if you fire 25% of the health, education and child services workers and 50% of everyone else you still can’t balance the budget.
      This is why Jason Kenney and the opposition parties should show their work. It’s easy to say you’ll cut “bureaucratic overhead” if you don’t have to show how you’d actually do it.

      • Bill Dolman says:

        Dear Susanon . . . . Thanks for the explanation. To quote a recently deceased former Premier of Alberta (in not one of his better moments), “math is hard”. And I do mean it as humour. Though not an arithmetician (or a mathematician), I’ve always had a facility for arithmetic (far more than for spoken English). So this just jumped out at me. Once again, thanks.

  4. Mitch Sharp says:

    Apparently a free enterprise leader looks like Randy from Trailerpark Boys.

  5. Peter says:

    As usual, you’ve hit the political nail on the head – with a sledge hammer! Thank you for providing such summary clarity and ammunition for me to use in discourse with my ‘politically blind’, ideologically focused, friends and neighbours.

    • Thanks Peter…hopefully your conservative friends will be like mine and grudgingly admit you may have a point (albeit small). I had a spirited discussion with a friend who supports Donald Trump, just when I was ready to pull out my hair she said she supported the idea of a guaranteed basic income and thought society should take care of those who can’t work and even those who refuse to work. Could have knocked me over with a feather.

  6. Don Sucha says:

    A friend of mine pointed out that Kenney is not free enterprise, he is pro corporate welfare.

  7. Paul says:

    Great post. An observation I have made over the years pertains to any politician’s “contempt for the NDP and the federal government.” In my opinion the ‘contemporary conservative’ has contempt for any government and the ‘lowly citizens.’ This has been exposed in ‘private’ statements and videos over the years.
    Some have been so arrogant that they have said it publicly. Tom DeLay, ex US house leader, convicted for illegal fund raising, etc, said he wanted ‘nearly all of the federal government services gone, just the military left.’ Wouldn’t that leave him w/o a job? Maybe he thought he would become part of the military junta.
    It is difficult for me to understand why anyone like Kenney (this covers most of the right) who hates government, work so hard to get into government and lead it. More to the point, why would anyone vote for such a person.

    • That’s a great question Paul, why would someone like Kenney who is so critical of what government does work so hard to get into it. What’s even more objectionable is that Kenney positions himself as the leader of the “free enterprise” party and yet he has absolutely no experience working in “free enterprise”. He went from university to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and to the federal government. I’m not saying every politician needs to serve a stint in the private sector but I do think a politician who says he’s going to cut taxes and recreate the Alberta Advantage for the benefit the private sector should have some idea how the private sector actually works.
      For example when I worked in the petrochemical industry we talked about the Alberta Advantage all the time, but we weren’t talking about Alberta’s tax regime, we were talking about the fact that Alberta’s natural gas was bottle-necked by having only one pipeline out of the basin and we paid very little for our feedstock. That’s why every petrochemical company operating in the province fought the Alliance pipeline–if it was built it would clear up the bottleneck and allow producers to charge more for the natural gas. Ralph Klein’s “Alberta Advantage” had nothing to do with it.

  8. Don, I agree, Kenney is certainly pro corporate welfare. His plan to recreate the “Alberta Advantage” by slashing corporate taxes supports that. But he’s also a slick opportunist. When it was pointed out to him that over 20 energy companies support the Climate Leadership Plan including the carbon tax he said “I am not a corporatist, and if I am forced to choose between the clever government relations and strategic play of CEOs in multinational energy companies who are multimillionaires, and ordinary people who are on fixed incomes, I will always choose the latter.” That’s quite a statement. First of all if Kenney is not a “corporatist” (someone who believes that society should be run by major interest groups like business) then what does the “free enterprise” party stand for? Secondly, pitting corporations that support climate change against “ordinary people” is divisive, and doesn’t give these corporations credit for finally getting on board with climate change. I think he’ll say anything to convince “ordinary people” that he’ll save them, very much like Trump down south.
    Here’s the link to the quote: http://business.financialpost.com/news/energy/claudia-cattaneo-jason-kenney-promises-to-restore-alberta-as-top-energy-investment-destination

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    I think that we are giving Jason Kenney way more intelligence and experience than he actually has. Has he ever run even a newspaper stand?
    Jason is just another ego pumped fundamentalist that thinks that the free enterprise was an idea that God gave those who can communicate with him. Remember the days when priests were the only ones who could talk to God? Well that group has been extended to pseudo-politicians.
    Your point is correct and of course as soon as they get in they will have to at least get a sales tax. They are hoping the NDP does it so they then do not have to have the reputation. We all know that. Look at Justin Trudeau. CANADA is back, CANADA is back. What Canada? The same neo-liberal one. He has basically failed 90% of his promises and he is as a dictator has Harper was. A great snake oil salesman without a doubt. Right now he is only popular abroad where he still talks as a progressive. What a joke this one was.
    Now I understand why him and Obama got along so darn well. They are exactly the same type – DREAMERS.

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    So here is the last one from our ‘Canada is back – sunny ways’ democrat prime minister
    He and his government voted against starting negotiations to ban nuclear weapons. They are even boycotting the meeting. The US pressed all NATO members to vote against it.
    Nice GO Justin, you are just about at the same level as Harper right now. It may even get worse than the most dictatorial prime minister of the last decades. Oh by the way, I heard you are going to talk to some group of role model women in the US. Do not forget your progressive lines on this one because you do not want to look bad abroad.

  11. Carlos you rightly point out Trudeau has reneged on many of his campaign promises. I’m not sure which broken promise rankles me the most but I’m certain when he backtracked on electoral reform he did himself serious damage. I attended a very interesting talk by Nik Nanos the pollster. He said politicians fail to understand that the number of people who voted for them on election day is not indicative of the support they’ll have when they move into government. We see that with Trudeau. His approval ratings were in the 57-64% range in late 2015, they’re less than 50% now and I think policies like the ones you’ve mentioned are the reason. Liberal MPs like mine were elected by a coalition of Liberal, NDP and Green voters. That coalition will not be there the next time around.

      • Carlos, I read the article at the link. What’s not clear to me is what the protester was protesting about. The protester said he was a member of the “world alternative media”. He said “shame on you and your globalist counterparts,” and called Trudeau “an absolute scumbag.” This doesn’t tell us what his issue is. The Indivisible group tells Americans fighting Trump’s agenda to attend rallies and town hall meetings and state a specific grievance, for example, “you’re my congressman, save Obamacare”. If this protestor said “scrap CETA” or “every reservation should have clean water” he would have been more effective.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan I did not even care about what the issue is because my point is to show how Canadians in general are becoming way more aggressive due to their dissatisfaction with status quo politics. This has been escalating for decades now and it will get worse because the Canadian Government is in bed with the corruption that has taken over politics and society and it is not interested in fixing anything unless of course the ‘abusers’ are not the people that they are comfortable with. This is now almost daily news and nothing or very little gets done.


        Neoliberalism became neo-corruption and people that belong to these groups think that the problem of course are those social programs that we all enjoy but do not deserve. This is not a new problem but it is new for a society where more than 50% have never seen any better because they come from failed countries or because they are a new generation and do not know the past because their concern is Facebook and Tweeter. Furthermore the media in the hands of the same elites, makes sure that we are as educated as the beluga whale in the aquarium.

      • Carlos I understand where you’re coming from. The reason I prefer protestors to provide some detail beyond calling a politician a “globalist” is that otherwise they’re too easily dismissed. Perhaps that’s not possible when protesting at a town hall meeting, but it couldn’t hurt.
        That money laundering link was a real eye-opener. It doesn’t sound like Canada has the right laws in place to put a stop to it. I was talking to a real estate lawyer recently who said his staff are trained to spot a money laundering scheme. For example, a new “client” may ask a lawyer to do a house deal. The “client” sends the lawyer a retainer of $5000, then a week later the client” says, oops the deal fell through, please return my $5000. The money is returned (now laundered) and the file is closed.

  12. James Carter says:

    When he says “Free enterprise”,he’s actually talking about “private enterprise.”
    Big difference.
    But that’s Kenny, the “man” who wants to be right of Harper.
    The shilt who wants to see children physically hurt because they may think they are gay or have friends who are gay.
    The “man” who thinks a child-victim of rape should bear the spawn of the rapist’s attack.
    The “man” who doesn’t believe in government wants to be the leader of a government.
    The “man” who’d sell his soul to…oh,he already has.
    Disclaimer: I’m not a big fan.

    • James, your clarification prompted me to google the definition of “free enterprise” and “private enterprise”. “Free” enterprise is defined as private businesses operating in competition and largely free of state control. “Private” enterprise is business/industry managed by independent companies not the state. While these two definitions sound the same note that the definition of “free” enterprise includes the requirement that companies compete with each other whereas the definition of “private” enterprise does not.
      This confirms your point: If we’ve learned anything from 44 years of conservative rule it’s that the conservatives (and I’d lump Kenney in there) tout “free enterprise” but when push comes to shove will bail out their friends when the free market renders them uncompetitive. The PC’s $10 million grant to Pure North (a private enterprise run by the former head of CNRL) is just one example of the government making Albertans subsidize the private sector. Here’s the link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/pure-north-unproven-benefits-1.4053866

  13. Pingback: Capitalism Needs Some Idealism | A Place for Progressive Albertans

  14. The best example of what a free enterprise government looks like is the current Republican congress. Every Executive Order from Trump plus his budget and every bill proposed or passed by the House not only favours the corporate world but in every way possible is needlessly and unthinkingly cruel to the middle class, the poor, the sick, POC and anyone who is non straight white (male) Evangelical Christians. This is what Jason Kenny subscribes to and most of the conservative leadership candidates.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      You got that very right.
      The reality is that they are very successful selling this free enterprise image based on the fact that private companies know it all. I wonder where those companies are?

      When the welfare state era stalled 30 years ago there were some problems. When this Neo-liberal Free Enterprise one ends there will nothing left but billionaires and slums.
      Unfortunately it is hard to get people to understand that even when reality is already so obvious. The problem is that we were extremely successful creating the belief that no one is poor, we are all millionaires in waiting. Hard to believe this is possible but we just have to look around.

  15. I agree Blog Fodder and Carlos. I don’t know what it will take for people to realize that the skills required to run a corporation are not the same as the skills required to run a government. We’ve got Kevin O’Leary saying he’ll get rid of Rachel Notley because she’s inept (as if it were as simple as O’Leary calling Notley and saying “you’re fired”). We’ve got Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare going up in smoke because a President isn’t a CEO and can’t fire senators and congressmen who refuse to what he wants. And then there’s Rex Tillerson who took things to a whole new level by issuing a “no comment” press release in response to North Korea launching another missile. It’s pathetic.

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