“When it comes to politics, all I can offer is emotion.” — David Sedaris, author of numerous books including “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls”
If we didn’t know any better we’d think David Sedaris was talking about Jason Kenney.
Mr Kenney is campaigning hard to become Alberta’s next premier. His stump speeches hit all the right buttons (in every sense of the word).
Take for example his Grande Prairie speech.
Mr Kenney tells his supporters that the NDP is an “accidental government” which tripped into power by mistake, rather like the time Ms Soapbox boarded a plane to Sarnia and ended up in Sudbury (long story).
Mr Kenney says the NDP’s accidental victory was the result of two things: Albertans didn’t bother to show up at the last election and those who did split the vote between the Wildrose and the PCs.
He’s wrong on both counts.
Voter turnout in the 2015 election was 57%, the highest in 22 years. The NDP won 54 seats, the Wildrose took 21 and the PCs took nine. Even combined, the WR/PC total seat count would have left the conservatives 14 seats short of a majority.
The fact is there was nothing accidental about Albertans giving the NDP a majority in 2015; and if Mr Kenney continues with his nasty polarizing campaign Albertans may be inclined to re-elect the NDP for a second term.
The NDP is repeating the PC government’s mistakes
Mr Kenney castigates the NDP for raising taxes like Don Getty instead of reducing services like Ralph Klein.
Implicit in this statement is the promise that Mr Kenney will bring back Klein’s 10% flat tax and slash the public sector to ribbons if he wins in 2019.
This promise obscures the fact that while a 10% flat tax sounds enticing, only 7% of Albertans will get a tax cut. The remaining 93% will continue to pay the same taxes they pay now.
Mr Kenney is spinning the same hocus pocus we heard from Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher—cut taxes for the rich and jobs will magically create themselves. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Cutting taxes for the rich simply dumps the pain of service cuts onto middle and lower income earners.
Alberta’s damaged economy
Mr Kenney trots out the gloom and doom statistics—200,000 Albertans out of work, Albertans losing their homes and businesses, and god help us, we’re in a recession!—but he never puts them into context.
The impact of this recession on labour markets is milder than in past recessions (Alberta’s unemployment rate was 10% until almost 1990) and Alberta’s GDP per capita will be much higher than that of any other province ($77,000 versus $53,000).
Finally, the NDP government did not create the oil crisis, but they’re working very hard to keep the wheels on because past conservative governments failed to create an economic/fiscal structure that would carry the province through the downturns.
Alberta families are under siege
Mr Kenney implies the NDP are targeting hearth and home. He characterizes the NDP’s education policies, particularly its support for gay-straight alliances, as undermining parental authority, and hints that the NDP will make “fundamental changes to who we are and what we value” if they’re re-elected.
After raising the spectre of a socialist Big Brother he doesn’t pursue the point because, well, what more could he say without sounding like a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist?
The Alberta Dream
Mr Kenney says “Alberta is an idea.” An idea? Yes, if you work hard in the spirit of economic freedom, you will prosper.
You won’t need a socialist safety net to catch up you if you fall on hard times because your family, your faith community and volunteer organizations will lift you up. Presumably if you have no family, faith community or volunteer organizations near by, you’re toast.
Mr Kenney says “we want our province back” leaving Ms Soapbox to wonder what he intends to do if Team Orange refuses to give it back in 2019. Will he whip up his supporters, urging them to storm the ramparts?
Of course not.
Instead of engaging in polarizing rhetoric Mr Kenney should dial back the emotion and outline exactly how he intends to eliminate the debt and bring budgets into balance while at the same time ensuring that all Albertans, not just the top 7%, are living the Alberta dream.