Principles vs Politics

The Wildrose Opposition spent the last three weeks berating the NDP government for not spending millions and millions of dollars fast enough.

Wait, what?

The Wildrose says farmers are being “held to ransom” because they’ve had to delay the 2017 planting season waiting around for AgriInsurance adjusters to declare their crops partially or completely destroyed.  The Wildrose is also peeved that some farmers received less than 100% reimbursement.

The Wildrose has a solution to this catastrophe:  simply instruct the insurer to do a “blanket assessment based on a nominal site visit and pay out what is owned to our hard-working Alberta families.”

This is an amazingly stupid solution.

No one is “owed” insurance payouts

The Wildrose is a proponent of efficient business practices.  Its mantra is privatize, privatize, privatize.

Nevertheless, it’s urging the government to turn the insurance business upside down by making payments based on an inspection of a “nominal site” and extrapolating the damage to what…?  The remainder of the farmer’s fields, every other farmer in the area, every farmer in the province?

Not only does this violate the legislative framework on which AgriInsurance is based; it may violate the fundamental principles of insurance including the principle of indemnity (an insured cannot be compensated for an amount exceeding his actual loss), the principle of proximate cause (an insured cannot be compensated for a loss caused by, say, poor farming practices, instead of inclement weather), and compromises the duty of utmost good faith (which prevents fraudulent claims and misrepresentation).

The Wildrose solution is predicated on its breathless assertion that Alberta farmers are in crisis.

But they’re not.

5% does not a crisis make  

Mr Carlier, the minister of Agriculture and Forestry, responded to the Wildrose hysteria with some facts:

  • AgriInsurance has 120 adjusters in the field
  • By March 24, they processed 95%, yes 95%, of the eligible unharvested acres benefit claims, only 4 claims remain to be processed
  • $32.3 million dollars have been paid out to farmers
  • If a farmer is unhappy with the way his claim has been handled he can contact the minister (NOTE: a disgruntled farmer can also appeal the adjuster’s decision to a commission made up of farmers and if he’s not satisfied with the commission’s decision take it to court).

So why is the Wildrose in a flap?  Is there something about the Wildrose’s devotion to conservative values that we’re missing?

Principles vs politics

Wildrose MLA Grant Hunter describes conservative values by invoking a definition provided by Ed Feulner, the founder of the Heritage Foundation.  Heritage Foundation promotes conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.


Wildrose MLA Grant Hunter

Feulner believed every government program ought to have limits for budgetary reasons and because governmental overreach would result in a loss of freedom.

He suggested the true value of conservative ideas lay in how they were applied to the problems of the day.

The Wildrose met this specific problem of the day by ignoring conservative values, creating a false crisis, and demanding the government rip up legislation and twist the principles of free enterprise.

Why?  To secure the support of their rural base.

In other words, notwithstanding all their talk about principles, the Wildrose is happy to take a page from the Progressive Conservative playbook in which rule number one is take care of your friends and supporters and they’ll take care of you.

Something worth remembering when 2019 rolls around.

Sources: Alberta Hansard, Apr 4, p 520; Apr 18, 644; Apr 19, p 666 and Apr 20, p 711

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19 Responses to Principles vs Politics

  1. Douglas Taylor says:

    You realize the crop insurance program is subsidized over 60% with public purse funds, for payouts over premiums paid into the insurance pool. Pretty good gig dontcha think? So the Posies are promoting even more spending of public dollars in contrast to their cut, cut, cut.
    The Posies are in a perpetual state of strategies to rile up those poor hard done by farmers in order to reel in the blind rage base. Carbon copy of the strategies for the oil and gas regular rage grumpsters.

  2. Ed says:

    It’s a pretty sad state when politicians of all parties use Albertan’s struggling to make a living to further their political agenda. If the grain farmers need their lost crops evaluated for insurance, the folks who are needed should be made available post haste!
    These kinds of problems develop when we, the voters, start voting for glitzy self centered political parties instead of good solid people who would make sure the government operates efficiently.

    • I agree Ed. Either the WR didn’t bother to get the facts or they had them and turned a blind eye. The WR raised this issue in the Legislature in early April. The NDP told them that 90% of the eligible claims had been processed by March 24 (that increased to 95% by Apr 20). Surely it would be better to spend Question Period asking questions about real issues instead of trying to whip up their rural base. Interestingly the one opposition MLA who’s been asking really good questions is PC MLA Wayne Drysdale. (see Hansard Apr 13, 627 for his question to Derek Bilious on the Canada Free Trade Agreement).

  3. Douglas, thanks for this information. I thought there was a public subsidy but I didn’t realize it was that high. You’re absolutely right that the WR is pushing for even more spending. It must get very confusing in the Legislature, one day the WR argues for cuts, the next day it argues for increased spending. Sadly the “blind rage base” doesn’t see it. Kind of like the Trumpites who thought he could lower taxes while at the same time increasing spending on The Wall, the military, etc.

    • Ken Larsen says:

      Crop insurance is a Tri-partite program with Ottawa, Edmonton, and farmers each paying one-third of the cost. The program is administered by each province. For many years the surplus from this program has gone back into general revenues in Alberta. So the subsidy to farmers is more apparent than real.

      The days when there was any sort of free market place in agriculture are long gone. I was invited to present an update to the Alberta NDP Party’s rural caucus AGM last month. I annotated the slides I used and your readers can review the presentation here:

      Click to access NDP-Rural-AGM-Ag-issues-03-25_17-FINAL-Published.pdf

      In my view neither the NDP nor the Wildrose are addressing the real factors affecting agriculture on the prairies. The idea we will become some sort of agricultural super-power are even more optimistic than the Harper Government’s hopes about becoming an energy superpower.

      • Ken, thank you for sharing your excellent presentation with us. Your point that we will never become an agricultural super-power came through loud and clear.
        I urge all readers to review your slides. Here are some takeaways:
        – When the Canadian Wheat Board existed prairie farmers got 80 to 88% of world prices; when the CWB was dismantled this dropped to 40 to 58% of world prices and is projected to fall even lower (20%) in the future.
        – Other countries continue to make strategic investments in food sovereignty, while Canada backs away.
        – Privatization has drastically increased the cost of plant breeding and conflicts of interest and ineffectual “check off” groups are making things much worse.
        This is a devastating example of the impact of privatization on what was once a viable public enterprise.

  4. Linda Pushor says:

    It is not just crop insurance that provides publicly funded payouts to farmers, the PC’s introduced guaranteed selling prices for livestock. Haven’t had a chance to look into that program yet and hope that somebody does.

    • Douglas says:

      It’s not that simple. ” guaranteed prices ” refers to only some commodities. In Canada the provincial and federal governments of the day in the 60’s, brought in a monopoly system called supply management. It only applies to dairy (milk, cheese and ice cream), meat chickens , eggs, and turkeys. It controls prices by a rigid system of production quotas and prices are set by government decree including profit levels. All other commodities operate in more or less free markets. Beef, pork, grains and oil-seeds, vegetables, etc. Canada is the pnly country still practicing supply management, all others have abolished it

      • Linda Pushor says:

        Thanks Douglas. I am familiar with supply management. However I was referring to an insurance program in Alberta specifically for beef and pork. It was introduced sometime before 2012 and after Klein.

  5. Linda and Douglas: you raise an important point, I expect this issue will move to centre stage as Trump pushes ahead with rewriting-NAFTA agenda.
    What troubles me is it’s difficult for voters to know what their elected representatives will do once they get into office, and while it’s naive to say so, one would hope that they’d stick to the policies they campaigned on or at least tell us why they’re being forced to compromise. The WR can’t laud Ed Feulner’s free enterprise principles and then turn around and advocate for ripping up contracts in the insurance industry. It’s like Trump campaigning on NATO being “obsolete” only to turn around and say NATO is not “obsolete” because…why? Because he says so.

  6. jane walker says:

    Thanks Susan, for your usual well-advised perspective on such issues as this.

    Alternative facts to raise the ire of conservative electorate .. for now. Months later these same supporters (who will not have bothered with any aspect of ‘due diligence’) will only recall the visceral aspect of their response to ‘something’ the WR pointed out against the government. It’s the pattern. Grrrr ….. I used to expect it to make sense but …. sigh!

    • Jane you’ve put your finger on the problem, many citizens react to political rhetoric with nothing more than emotion, probably because it takes much less effort than actually thinking through a party’s political position and deciding whether it’s factual and sensible in the short and long term.
      Here’s a case in point: Jason Kenney was all over the media when he was seeking the PC leadership, then he tripped by advocating that schools should out kids who join gay-straight alliances, so he went quiet for a bit and now he’s back. His latest earth-shattering issue….wait for it…photo radar. With all the things he could be talking about (Trump’s attack on NAFTA and its implications for Alberta would be a start) he’s whipping people into a lather over photo-radar.
      Good lord.

  7. david says:

    Wildrose often criticize the ND government for being ‘ideological’ – acting on the basis of rigid belief rather than evidence; unable to see their own ideology and fundamental aspiration to power.

    • Ian Gray says:

      Thanks, Susan – many good points. To take up David’s last point, I find it especially hypocritical that WR is more than willing to call on the government to abandon due process (i.e. collective bargaining) when it comes to the livelihoods of public sector workers, by imposing a wage freeze ( while literally on the same day doubles down on it’s call for extraordinary measures to protect the livelihood of farmers. (

      And while it’s right and proper to point out the inconsistencies of Wildrose, much more troubling to me are the politics of exclusion and division that WR continues to practice.
      Inherent in these two positions is the fallacy that work done by public servants (and others) is somehow inferior when compared to that of farmers. They argue we don’t even have to listen to the arguments from the public sector unions concerning their members, we can just rip up contracts and impose a settlement.

      To see that this pernicious tactic is effective we just have to look at the discussion on this thread. Farm subsidies are clearly a complex public policy issue, deserving of informed debate. I’d argue it still makes sense to continue the long standing strategic goal of insulating our food supply from foreign or corporate domination. Emotional arguments such as “protecting a way of life” are less convincing to me, but clearly sway many others and should not be dismissed out of hand. However, weighing the public benefit versus public cost of farm subsidies or special exemptions is something a government has an ongoing duty to perform. Problems arise when WR portrays this duty as an attack on something sacred.

      WR need to called out, yet again, on its cynical strategy of trying to divide Albertans amongst themselves to further its cheap ends.

      • Excellent, excellent point Ian. The debate around Bill 6 (farm safety) was the first time I noticed the WR pitting decent, hard working farmers against useless, know-nothing government bureaucrats who were bent on destroying the farmers’ sacred “way of life”. I worry that this strategy might succeed. Someone once told me that a political party needs to capture two out of three constituencies if it hopes to form government–the rural vote, the Edmonton vote and the Calgary vote. The WR has the rural vote sewn up, it will never get the Edmonton vote so it has to capture Calgary. The pitch to save the agricultural way of life won’t work here, but characterizing the NDP as socialists who want to “steal” your hard earned money may get some traction.

    • David, well said! What bothers me more than anything is this: all parties have an ideology and a set of principles which is how they sell themselves to the voters. Once elected we expect them to act in accordance with this ideology and set of principles.
      My issue with the Wildrose is that they’re wildly inconsistent. One day they’re arguing for less government intervention and an unfettered free market and the next day they’re arguing the opposite. Frankly, I don’t think the Wildrose has any ideology or principles beyond the one you’ve identified–a “fundamental aspiration to power”.

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan you are a very nice and kind person. I am not. I am more of a pragmatic realist. Some people call it an aggressive nut. I seriously do not mind because in my view if I was a worker picking up garbage, I would rather be called a ‘Garbage Picker’ then a ‘Crap Engineer’.

    Having said that I agree with you that some parties have ideologies but in the end it is money that runs the government. If that money comes from private donors than you have the semi-disgrace happening around the world. No one trusts politicians anymore. This has brought us Trump and could bring us Marine le Pen in France and more. In my view Canada is not immune and Justin Trudeau has more than proven that as far as progressive politics it is all in talk but no walk. No one has the courage to confront the money wall created in the last 30 years. They all have ideologies but once in there they forget they have a brain. This is called opportunism.

    Anyway I am not done. I just went off the tracks again.

    As far as Brian Jean there are no principles – it is all slogans. That is why he goes from supporting something one day and be against the other. The slogans just like lies do not always match the story. I doubt if Bryan Jean has any ideology. He like Trump just believes whatever is the hot issue of the day. To me they are useless, but they have one characteristic that profoundly annoys other politicians – they are street wise. They know how to survive in a hostile world.

    • Carlos, your assessment of Brian Jean and the comparison with Trump is perfect. I was reading something Fareed Zakaria said about Trump in the Globe today. He said: We are witnessing a freak show in the presidency of the United States. We’ve never seen anything like it before. Trump does not regard political rhetoric as a mechanism to communicate an articulated sense of ideas. It’s performance art. It’s what makes sense in the moment. It could change tomorrow. Sounds like an apt description of Jean and Kenney, doesn’t it.
      Zakaria suggests that the day of the populist politician may be over and points to the fact that Holland didn’t elect a far-right populist and France likely won’t either, but I don’t see it the same way. Even when they lose, populist politicians have a negative impact on government because they pull the “winners” further to the right (Merkel toughened her stance on immigrants as an example). So I don’t think populism is dead by a long shot and certainly not in Alberta where so many people are convinced someone is trying to rip them off (eg the equalization payment debate and the backlash to the progressive tax and the carbon tax).
      Oh and thanks for saying I’m kind. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to let ‘er rip on the Soapbox but then I’d be dismissed as another looney lefty, wouldn’t I. 🙂
      Here’s the link to the Zakaria interview

      • Carlos Beca says:

        LOL you made me laugh. I understand your position and I think that anyone that blogs like you, has to have courage and brains at the same time. Not a common human being!!
        I like Zakaria’s comment and I agree with you that this is not over yet and that has moved the whole political spectrum to the right. That was the purpose though. Kevin O’Leary did the same. Now that he left we will have a more right wing Conservative party. I do not think they mind it. It seems to be ‘in’ to be outrageously different.

        I confess that I do not think that you can escape that ‘Looney Left’ label anyway, not in Alberta. The last time someone labeled me, I prefer not to type it here. 🙂

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