“Give ‘em the old Razzle Dazzle…how can they see with sequins in their eyes?” —Richard Gere as a corrupt criminal lawyer in the musical Chicago
Prepare to be razzle dazzled!
Jason Kenney spoke at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and the Energy Relaunch conference recently. This post will cover the Chamber speech, tomorrow we’ll consider the Energy Relaunch speech—both were chock a block with razzle dazzle.
Kenney started the Chamber speech with a litany of all that’s wrong with Alberta’s economy, blaming NDP policies like the carbon tax, increased personal and business taxes, the increased minimum wage and “massive new regulations” for making the economy worse.
Kenney said these policies created a “crisis of investor confidence” and reduced investment in the energy sector, citing the cancellation of Northern Gateway, the “killing of Energy East”, the “surrender to President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL, and the failure of the feds to assert jurisdiction over Trans Mountain as examples. NOTE: none of these were caused by the NDP.
But here’s where it got interesting. Kenney said these were not “isolated incidents” but rather “the culmination of a long and largely foreign funded campaign of defamation of Canadian energy.”
Wait, what? The “crisis in investor confidence” is the result of a plot by fake US charities to destroy Canada’s energy industry?
Cue Alex Jones…
Kenney supported his conspiracy theory by referring to a meeting cohosted by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Hewlett Packard Foundation 10 years ago with two dozen NGOs. The purpose of the meeting was to plot the “tar sands campaign” to bottleneck Alberta’s resources.
Kenney cited “independent researcher” Vivian Krause as a source for his allegation that hedge fund billionaires and fake charities like the Tides Foundation are undermining Canadian energy. (Vivian Krause is a nutritionist cum spokesperson for the energy industry. She’s been discredited by tax and charity law expert Mark Blumberg. Also, a significant part of the $425 million that US foundations donated to Canada over the last 15 years went to the Great Bear Rainforest, a project in partnership with the Harper government).
Kenney said the plotters chose Canada, (“a soft target”), because they knew they couldn’t stop oil production in the US, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russian, Qatar, and Iran. By keeping Canadian oil landlocked it would sell at a discount.
The logic is hard to follow but I think it’s this: Tides funds protesters; regulators and the courts ignore the law and cave to protesters; oil companies move their investments to other jurisdictions like the US, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russian, Qatar, and Iran and oil production continues apace.
Razzle Dazzle ‘em!
Having exposed the conspiracy to bring Alberta’s energy sector to its knees, Kenney then turned to his solution.
First, he reminded the audience of his messianic mission to recreate a “common sense, broad, mainstream free enterprise coalition” (translation: join the UCP).
Second, he promised the UCP would deliver on the following broad commitments if elected. They would:
- “hit the ground running”. Kenney will convene a summer session of the Legislature to repeal the carbon tax, reduce business and personal taxes and restructure and/or reduce the minimum wage hike.
- “untie the regulatory knot/lightening regulatory red tape”. Kenney will appoint a minister to reduce the regulatory burden by one-third and hire people to help draft Orders in Council to eliminate/replace regulations across all sectors, not just energy. Cabinet will adopt these OICs in the week they’re sworn into office. He cautioned that his government would be “constrained” with respect to fiscal stimulus and will “overcompensate” for this constraint “on the regulatory side” (ie scrap regulations, unleash the free market!)
- engage in a “fight-back strategy” to address the international conspiracy to landlock Alberta energy. We’ll explore this in greater detail in Razzle Dazzle ‘Em: Part 2
Rule of Law
Kenney is taking advice from Sir Roger Douglas, New Zealand’s (Labour) Minister of Finance from 1984 to 1988. Sir Roger urges speed in order to make structural change in the public sector because speed creates momentum and makes it harder for opponents of reform to obstruct it.
Okay, hold that thought while we take a quick look at the Rule of Law.
The World Justice Project says the Rule of Law is founded on four universal principles:
- Accountability: the law applies to the government as well as private actors
- Just laws: laws are just, clear, publicized, and stable. They’re evenly applied and protect fundamental rights
- Open government: the processes by which laws are enacted, administered, and enforced are accessible, fair, and efficient
- Accessible and impartial dispute resolution: justice is timely. Delivered by competent, ethical, neutral and independent representatives who are accessible, have adequate resources, and reflect the communities they serve
The principle that is relevant here is Open Government.
Government is made up of three branches. The Legislative branch, the Executive branch, and the Judicial branch. The Legislative branch makes the laws and the Executive branch (Cabinet) implements them.
Kenney says he has no time for consultation, so he’ll hire people who’ll beaver away behind closed doors drafting Orders-in-Council to eliminate or replace regulations across all sectors. These OICs will be adopted by Cabinet in the week the cabinet ministers are sworn into office. Any laws that cannot be quietly erased or circumvented by OICs will be repealed in the summer session of the Legislature (assuming the UCP has a majority) and voila, this will send a message to global and domestic capital markets that the UCP government is a government of action, not one paralyzed by process.
Sadly, it will also send a message to Albertans that the UCP government is a government that does not believe in the Rule of Law because he’s prepared to violate the principle of Open Government.
OICs change the law. They are not published before they’re adopted by Cabinet, they appear after the fact in the Alberta Gazette. The public won’t know which laws are changed or how they’ve been changed until it’s too late to do anything about it.
The Open Government principle requires the process of law making to be accessible, fair and efficient. While it’s “efficient” to change laws behind closed doors by drafting OICs to be rubberstamped by clueless Cabinet ministers with very little understanding of their own ministries let alone the ministries of their fellow cabinet ministers; and it’s “efficient” to jam laws through the Legislature in the summer when no one is paying attention, this is neither “fair” nor “accessible”.
The need for speed
Kenney met Sir Roger in 1993 when Sir Roger came to Alberta to meet with the Klein government. He described Sir Roger as spearheading the most ambitious and successful reforms of any modern government.
According to Murray Dobbin, after four years of “Rogernomics” New Zealand’s agricultural sector was in ruins: farm income dropped 40%, farm land value dropped by 50%, and a policy paying 3,000 farmers a $45,000 incentive to leave was in place. Unemployment shot up from 4% before Douglas’s reforms to over 12% a year later.
Kenney may venerate Sir Roger but it’s difficult to see why Albertans should do so.
In his Chamber of Commerce speech Kenney told Albertans he believes in conspiracy theories and his government will not observe the Open Government principle of the Rule of Law.
And he told us all this in a blaze of razzle dazzle.
Which brings us back to Richard Gere who said, “What if your hinges all are rusting? What if in fact you’re just disgusting? Razzle dazzle ‘em. And they’ll never catch wise!”
Maybe, but most Albertans don’t have sequins in their eyes.