Who will fight a bear for you?

The forces at play in the upcoming 2019 provincial election are reflected in how you react to this banner.


The banner is a part of Calgary’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.  Some people loved its edgy, self-deprecating message, others didn’t get it…at all.

Okay, hold that thought while Ms Soapbox tells you about the future…

Economic Summit 2018

Mr and Ms Soapbox attended the annual economic summit luncheon last week and discovered that Alberta’s future is much brighter than Jason Kenney and the UCP would have you believe.

We learned:

  • Alberta is out of the recession. Growth is expected to be 4.2% this year and 1.9% next year.
  • We’re heading in the right direction, but–and this is a very important but–we need to break out of our old mind-set and recognize that the energy sector no longer drives Alberta’s economic growth.
  • Energy is still important, but it’s more like a backbone supporting other sectors like technology, agri-business, financial services, renewable and clean energy, travel and tourism, logistics, and transportation.
  • The biggest threat to our economy isn’t fluctuating global oil prices but the impact of a certain unpredictable American president on NAFTA.
  • The biggest uncertainty we face is technology. Technological progress unlike industrial progress is non-linear and moving at lightning speed through three spheres: the physical world (eg 3D printers), the digital world, and the virtual world (eg self driving cars).

Bottom line: we need to keep the backbone (energy) strong while we fan out and diversify.  We must adapt or we’ll be left behind.

Who is adaptable and who isn’t     

Rachel Notley strengthened Alberta’s energy sector by creating a regulatory framework, the Climate Leadership Plan, which was critical to getting federal approval of two interprovincial pipelines.  She continues to support the industry by advocating for it and intervening in applications to allow pipelines to go ahead without unwarranted interference from other jurisdictions.

Jason Kenney promises to scrap the Climate Leadership Plan, eliminate the carbon levy, and sue the feds when they replace the provincial carbon levy with a federal carbon tax, thereby creating uncertainty around the rules of the game.  The UCP responds to jurisdictions interfering with pipelines by threatening to cut off oil shipments (good luck trying to convince pipeline companies and oil producers that’s a good idea) or create new tariffs which will increase the commodity price and reduce industry profits which are already low.

Notley listened to economists who warned that big energy companies won’t be the big job creators of tomorrow and is working to diversifying the economy.

Kenney is oblivious to this warning.  He promises to “stand up” for the energy sector, including coal, by bringing back the Alberta Advantage (ie. lower taxes), but has yet to explain why the Alberta Advantage would incent energy companies to hire back the thousands of workers they laid off in 2014-15 when it failed to prevent these companies from undertaking massive layoffs from 1992 to 2006 when Ralph Klein, the father of the Alberta Advantage, was premier.

Notley understands that some Albertans have not yet recovered from the economic downturn.  She created retraining programs and strengthened the social safety net to support them and their families.  Kenney’s UCP tweets “We understand that in order to be a compassionate, caring province, we must be prosperous first.”  In other words, those left behind will just have to wait.

Who will fight a bear for you?

Are you still holding on to that thought about “fighting a bear for Amazon”?

The Amazon bid package included typical bid information about crime rates, fibre networks, office vacancies, schools, airline flights, and our strong STEM workforce.  It was wrapped in a Hudson’s Bay blanket (how traditional is that?), but it was supported by an edgy marketing campaign intended to impress Amazon executives and employees in the 25 to 35 year range because Calgary, once the centre of the energy industry, knew that it was competing for the jobs of the future.

Those who reacted positively to the banner understand the future is now.  Those who didn’t need to catch up.

While Jason Kenney is making meaningless threats to “protect” the energy sector, promising to cut taxes and revitalize the Conservative movement provincially and nationally, Rachel Notley is working to revitalize Alberta for all Albertans.

Or to put it in terms Calgarians would understand: Rachel Notley would totally fight a bear for you.

*This blog incorporates comments made by Mary Moran, CEO of Calgary Economic Development, Glen Hodgson, senior fellow Conference Board of Canada, Todd Hirsch, ATB Financial chief economist and Mayor Naheed Nenshi at the 2018 Economic Summit held in Calgary on Oct 30, 2017.  Political commentary is mine alone. 

This entry was posted in Economy, Employment, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Who will fight a bear for you?

  1. mikepriaro says:

    “…getting federal approval of two interprovincial pipelines..” is not the same as getting them built – especially when Justin Trudeau’s approval for Energy East was disingenuous and then torpedoed by his insistence that downstream emissions were to be considered by the NEB.

    That of course protected the Liberal seats in Quebec – and the Liberals recently won a Conservative seat in a by-election in Quebec.

    • Mike, Notley has been crystal clear on her position re: downstream emissions. Here’s what she said in the Legislature in response to the UCP motion demanding Trudeau remove upstream and downstream emissions from pipeline assessments: “As I’ve said a number of times now in response to this question, the reality is that our government has indicated to the federal government that we don’t believe that it is fair for downstream emissions to be part of the calculation, and we are working furiously on means of ensuring that it does not end up being a key part of the calculation. But…upstream emissions do matter. That’s how we say to the world that we are a responsible energy producer. That’s how we make sure that we have more markets, not fewer, and that’s how we got a pipeline to tidewater…” (Nov 1, 1676/77). When she says she’s “working furiously” on this I believe her.

  2. mikepriaro says:

    “Rachel Notley would totally fight a bear for you.”

    I disagree – her reaction to the cancellation of Energy East was limited to an expression of disappointment – there has nothing resembling any fight whatsoever since.

    • Dwayne says:

      mikepriaro The Canadian governments do not control oil prices. Low oil prices made Energy East a no go.

      • Dwayne, you make a very good point. I’ve spent years in the pipeline industry and know from personal experience that the driver for any go/no go decision is return on investment. ROI is impacted by many factors including global oil prices and regulatory risk. No one knows how TCPL weighed these and other factors in reaching its ultimate decision to cancel Energy East.
        Interestingly there are reports that TCPL has asked the Alberta government to make the same 100,000 bbl/day commitment to Keystone XL as it made for Energy East. I’m not sure this is a good idea, it’s one thing the provincial government to support a “nation building” pipeline to the East Coast, it’s quite another for it to commit to becoming even more reliant on the USA which is our biggest customer.

    • Mike, I was drawing an analogy between Calgary’s Amazon bid (witty, edgy, and intended to court the jobs of the future) and Notley’s efforts to support STEM education and diversify our economy in order to attract the jobs of the future.
      I wasn’t suggesting that Notley should pick a fight with the Feds, or Quebec over TCPL’s decision not to proceed with Energy East. In my opinion Notley demonstrated her government’s support in the most meaningful way possible when the government committed $5 billion, the cost of transporting up to 100,000 bbl/day for 20 years to the project. I suspect the fact that TCPL got the green light from Trump on Keystone XL had a lot to do with its decision not to proceed with Energy East.

    • carlosbeca says:

      Well I wonder what kind of reaction you would expect from anyone? Get a gun and commit suicide? People react in different ways and I much prefer nothing rather than the theatrics we get from politicians that were told to react that way to look as if they are actually concerned.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Not sure how this showed up at this location on the post but I was replying to Mikepriaro comment on Rachel Notley’s non hysterical reaction and not having dresses in black the following day.

      • Indeed Carlos. The thing I’ve noticed about the criticism of women leaders is it doesn’t matter what they do, it’s wrong. If they’re strenuously object they’re dismissed as “too emotional”, if they’re measured and logical, they’re criticized for not taking the fight to the enemy. I think Notley reacted appropriately to the federal NDP party when they proposed LEAP, to the new federal NDP leader who she said was impractical and irrelevant, and to the BC premier and Burnaby mayor who she said are hurting their own people. She’s talking with the feds about the inappropriateness of downstream climate emissions. She’s intervened in support of Kinder Morgan at the NEB and she’s touring Canada to advocate for pipelines. What more can/should she do?

  3. Elaine Fleming says:

    Thorough and interesting analysis, Susan, and I appreciate your information about the Economic Summit. This is so important, given how quickly the world is changing regarding the production of energy. If anyone has been paying attention to what is happening in Europe, or China, or even in the U.S., we should have some anxiety about falling behind in this sector. I would like to think Alberta is in a good position to get ahead on this- so many of our young people are ready, willing, and able to get on with it. They are seeing the opportunities and are keen. They see promise in Notley, that’s for sure.

    • I agree Elaine. Todd Hirsch is one of the most interesting economists I know. He illustrated the importance of adapting to change with the story of Esmerelda the spider. NASA sent Esmerelda into space to test how spiders spin webs at zero gravity. At first Esmerelda’s webs were messy and disorganized but she quickly figured out that she needed to thicken her threads and use a side to side windshield wiper motion to create a web. Todd said what Esmerelda didn’t do was crawl back into her tube and demand to be taken home. It was a humorous story which underlined his point that when confronted with change most of us want to run back to what we know, but that won’t cut it anymore.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Speaking of adapting, what’s Todd’s position on Esmerelda’s continuing to borrow pell-mell from private international banquing interests, rather than the Bank Of Canada, to finance her species’ web building, thereby effectively and literally debt-enslaving Cdn. taxpayers for generations to come? (I confess those were ‘lawyer’s’ questions, in that I already know the answer- And as you might guess, I don’t find interesting any economist who dodges/ignores such keystone economic issues)

      • Fair comment GoinFawr. You mention you already know the answers, but I’ll ask Todd the next time I see him and let you know. Perhaps there’s an economist’s answer and a politician’s answer. We’ll see.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I fully agree with GoinFawr. I wished economists would be taught that ethics are more important than all the economic theories they learn which in many cases are a dismal failure. Adaptation is of course a very important issue and it has always been but fairness is the real issue that most economists do not like to talk about. When they do, it is horrifying to realize what they mean by it. This is what GoinFawr is talking about.
        We are in one of the worst crisis of the modern times and we know some of the causes. Privatization of the commons being the number one. When is the Bank of Canada take back what is rightly ours as citizens of this country? The capability of running our own affairs as a society that we are. It is ok that the Conservatives do not believe in society and they privatize everything including their own families, but the rest of us do not want that. They can create their own communes and coliseum their lives as they see fit.
        Thank you GoinFawr.

      • An economist friend of mine attended an economics conference and heard something remarkable. The presenter, an economist, said the trouble with economics is it’s based on two false assumptions: (1) efficiency is always better (this ignores consequences) and (2) there will always be scarcity (why?). It reminds me of Alan Greenspan’s comment that he made a mistake when he assumed that organizations, specifically banks, would not act against their own self-interest and as such could be trusted to operate in a deregulated world. He was wrong and we plunged into the 2008 global financial crisis. Gee, thanks Alan.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Economics is a strange beast but they managed to gain full control over our lives and create many of the problems we are going through, creating immense fortunes in the process.
        What is amazing to me is how we all accepted this change and did not even notice. The 2008 bust was created by the banks and the Financial Services greed and feeling of invincibility and they got out of it no problem, while the rest of us are working hard not to sink. Governments colluded with them when they did not have to. They could have finally nationalized the failing banks and bring back to the Bank of Canada what it was created to do. Instead, we bailed them out without permission from the citizens and made sure they continue in their race to oblivion.
        Ask any person in the know and they will tell you that we are marching full speed to the next bigger disaster. Probably the one that will do it for the current capitalist supremacy.

  4. J.E.Molnar says:

    Jason Kenney, when asked recently if he would put out a UCP shadow budget, responded by saying shadow budgets are “ridiculous gimmicks”. This from a man who posted a frivolous, gimmicky “Grassroots Guarantee” on his website and signed a 3’ X 4’ cardboard cutout of a proposed “Carbon Levy Repeal Promise” with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in front of a media scrum. The man is a master of gimmickry.

    When he sailed through both unite-the-right leadership campaigns (PC and UCP races) he had no platform of any kind, yet brazenly criticizes the NDP for having economic plans that have been growing the economy. How is that having Albertans backs?

    When the rubber hits the road, Kenney and company will default to their traditional anti-NDP smear and misinformation campaign. If that isn’t a gimmick, I don’t know what is. Jason Kenney’s unwillingness to reveal a vision for Alberta, other than rehashed conservative dogma, indicates that Rachel Notley’s common sense revolution has the conservatives tied up in political knots. Albertans can only hope they never untangled themselves.

    • I agree J.E. The next year and a half will be nothing but nonstop campaigning by Kenney and the UCP. It started today with Kenney announcing that the UCP would oppose Bill 24 which makes it illegal for teachers to tell parents their kids joined a GSA unless the kid consents. He says “Teachers, not politicians, should decide when it makes sense to engage parents.” One would think that kids who know their parents better than anyone would be in the best position to decide whether to “engage” their parents, but not so in Kenney’s world.
      Kenney said Notley was engaging in divisive, wedge politics by bringing this Bill to the Legislature, but the only divisiveness he should be worried about is the impact his stance will have on the UCP itself. Many conservatives will support him but many others will start to wonder about whether he’s as neutral on the LBGTQ+ issues as he professes to be.

      • jerrymacgp says:

        Don’t you think that a young person whose sexuality is in flux, or who is anything else but traditional hetero, is the best person to judge how this news might be received by their parents? If they live with open, welcoming, understanding parents who will accept their children regardless of any such developments, they will tell them themselves.

        If they don’t, if they’re at risk of being evicted, or hauled off to one of those deprogramming camps, or even murdered, then what business does the State or one of its agents, such as a teacher, have telling those same parents this news? Nope, none. If kids need clubs such as a GSA to deal with the pressures of home, or bullying, or whatever, then that should be nobody’s business but theirs. Then, of course, there are the allies, who may also be greeted by homophobic attacks for even associating with “those people”.

        Parental rights don’t trump those of their children… such a stance would sanction all manner of abuse. (For the record, married, straight, proud parent of three awesome adults, and grandparent of two under 5… ).

      • Jerry, excellent comments. Kenney tied himself into knots trying to rationalize his position. He says teachers are supremely qualified to make the decision to tell parents their children have joined GSAs even if the kids don’t want their parents to know (the Alberta Teachers Association which represents 40,000 teachers disagrees and issued a statement asking the government not to foist this decision on to them).

        Here’s what’s really ironic. Kenney says kids shouldn’t have the right to keep this information from their parents, however he had no issues with kids as young as 14 becoming UCP members and casting a vote in the leadership race (remember those busloads of kids showing up at Kenney’s venues). Smack of political opportunism, doesn’t it.

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    First of all I do not agree with entering these processes. A race to the bottom which ends up creating conditions that are completely unwanted. So many concessions are given to the companies that I doubt in the end if the deal is actually of real value to us. In the Klein reign he just gave away basically everything in order to look good and create fast jobs, but the consequences are now on display. This idea of no royalties until the investment was paid for is to me unbelievable especially when we are talking about oil. I also doubt the numbers claimed by Amazon and subsequently by the city. It is published right on the main newspapers so that the ‘consumers’ can get hungry enough to accept any deal. They claim 50 thousand jobs average 100 thousand a year!! Excuse me – can anyone in the know repeat this claim? Unless of course the averages are from 100 million dollars for the CEO and 15 dollars an hour for the rest of them.
    I do not even believe that the city or the province should close deals of this magnitude without the approval from someone like the provincial auditor or the full consent of the legislature. Some of these deals just sound to me like money under the table or accounts in the Bahamas for people involved in it.
    Unfortunately without the proper checks I do not trust no one in any of our governments in a deal of this magnitude.
    Knowing Jason Kenney, if he gets involved, Amazon will move it here and we will get foreign workers at a special deal which will pay them 20% less than regular Canadian Wages. He was involved in the 15% less solution so taking inflation into consideration he will increase it to 20%.
    I will end saying that knowing the places that are running to the bottom with this deal, if we get it, we know for a fact it is a bad one with or without Jason Kenney. I am certainly not one of the excited citizens.
    Better less apparently wealthy but with a proud and healthy population. Being one of the richest locations on Earth has not brought us a lot. It has certainly made the Oil companies exceedingly rich and trying to figure out what to do with all the money we donated to them.
    We always manage to be the perfect capitalists. We are good at it. In the meantime the Norwegians will have enough money to run their education system for free forever. Darn Socialists. If only we could let them know our secrets we would save them so much grief. 🙂

    • Carlos, while I’m not as critical of this deal as you are I think you raise some valid points. I hadn’t heard the statistic that the average compensation for these jobs would be $100,000 and agree that unless the executives are making millions this seems high. Having said that Amazon’s 2016 proxy statement shows the lowest paid Amazon executive, a senior VP and CFO, earned $4.5 million last year. I would be surprised if the Canadian Head Office paid the same high salaries to its executives but you never know, it’s quite common for companies to send their executive teams or up-and-coming managers to the new head office because they know and trust them.
      One thing I liked about Calgary’s bid was it didn’t include tax incentives, partly because they’re illegal but primarily because (as the Econ Dev CEO said) when tax incentives run out so does the company. Instead they used built-in incentives like the lower cost of labour (estimated to be a savings of $1.5 billion/year and public healthcare (an additional $600 million/year savings). Assuming these numbers are correct, one would wonder why any corporation with a choice to set up shop in Canada would move to the US.
      I do agree with you that we could learn a lot from the Norwegians and the rest of those darn socialists. 🙂

  6. Ernie S. says:

    Nothing is to be learned from the Norwegians and the rest of those darn socialists unless you want to pile up debt, have high unemployment, and to take us back to the days of the USSR. People have moved on from this and are ready to elect a true conservative leader like Jason Kenney and reject phony red tories like Jim Prentice and Joe Clark.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      To me it is hard to believe that anyone can say this but you have your opinion and I have mine and I do not agree at all with you. I also do not agree that Jason Kenney is a true conservative.

      • Brian says:

        I do agree with that last statement. Kenney is a bit left wing for me but he can work on this.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Judging from your last two posts I do realize where you are coming from.
        Unfortunately I do not have the IQ levels required to understand true Jason Kenney’ s and yours of course, political philosophy. I apologize.
        You may have noticed that he even avoids discussing them with us because he realizes our difficulties. He actually said that it is a waste of time having political objectives. Just brilliant really.

  7. GoinFawr says:

    “Nothing is to be learned from the Norwegians and the rest of those darn socialists unless you want to pile up debt, have high unemployment, and to take us back to the days of the USSR”
    Hahaha!, Ok ok, ‘good one’ Ernie!

    a) Norway’s national books are so deep in the black they wouldn’t see red for three decades if they stopped adding to them yesterday.
    b) Their private debt IS more per capita, but the average Norge also earns about twice what your average Cdn. does; meaning they can sustain it.
    c) 4.1% unemployment is higher than Canada’s?

    Go on Ernie, pull the other one!

  8. helluva66 says:

    “Who will fight a bear for you?”

    HAHA! Well done, madam…well done, indeed!

    You now have a new subscriber

  9. helluva66 says:

    Errm,.. I believe Ernie was being facetious. just sayin’

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