“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.
Susan: I really enjoy reading your weekly blogs. This one is showing exactly what is wrong with Jason Kenney and the UCP. He is full of contradictions. First of all, Alberta’s economy is at the top in Canada, and is going to get better. (B.C’s economy is the second best province in Canada for economic growth). I recall Jason Kenney making it clear that he supports the carbon tax. I also recall that the oil companies saying that they favour the carbon tax. Furthermore, Alberta already has a carbon tax, because the Alberta PCs put one in, around a decade ago. Even with all the taxes (most of which were put there by the Alberta PCs), Alberta is still the lowest taxed province in Canada. If the minimum wage is causing harm, how come restauraunt sales are up? I have also seen news reports about businesses coming to Alberta. Why does Jason Kenney think that regulations are making things worse? If he thinks that deregulating things, such as safety policies will make things better, he is mistaken. That is going backwards and is a very dangerous move. That will not help anybody. What exactly is Jason Kenney going to do to help Alberta’s oil industry? Is he going to tell Saudi Arabia to stop flooding the world market with their cheaper to extract oil? Is he going to tell the U.S.A to stop their shale oil productions? Things like these are undermining (no pun intended) Alberta’s oil industry. Oil prices went in the gutter 4 years ago, and are predicted to go lower once again. Jason Kenney was in the federal government, as part of the CPC. I do recall the CPC having a majority government and greater oil prices, and they did nothing to help get a pipeline built, that went to B.C’s coast. I am also aware that the people appointed on the NEB panel were put there by Stephen Harper. Economic factors are what quashed Energy East. That has already been established. That is not the fault of Rachel Notley or Justin Trudeau. It is sad, but not surprising, how there are people who are being tricked by what Jason Kenney is saying. It would be even sadder to see Alberta returm to the period of the Alberta PCs, from the mid to late 1980s, on down, with more cuts, more privatization and deregulation, and more mismanagement of Alberta’s finances, including the biggest scandals, the flat tax failure and bad oil royalty rates. The UCP will go down that road. I recall looking at the platforms of politicians before, such as the Alberta PCs and the Wildrose. I did not buy into it. I look at what Jason Kenney has to say, and I am not buying it. People need to wake up, before it is too late.
Thanks Dwayne. Great summary. As you said Albertans need to wake up. It’s not difficult to check the facts to see whether Kenney (or any politician for that matter) is reporting them to you correctly.
Reasonable people can disagree on policy. For example I support publicly funded, publicly delivered healthcare but that doesn’t mean I can’t follow the arguments people who support publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare. In the end we usually agree to disagree.
But to turn a blind eye to the human cost of Ralph Klein’s austerity/privatization program because you always vote blue is an emotional reaction that blots out the ability to consider the facts rationally. Sadly, that’s where many Albertans are today.
An extraordinary and insightful effort Ms Soapbox—well done!
When highlights of this Chamber speech by Jason Kenney finally broke in a Postmedia publication after a week had passed, Kenney took umbrage with the scribe who penned the piece calling it, in Trumpian terms, “old news.” He was disturbed that it had been uncovered and further that the speech was being excoriated on Twitter by commenters on both the left and right. Here’s hoping he reads “Susan on the Soapbox” to further add to his political discomfort.
Looking forward to Part II.
Thank you J.E. I became interested in the Chamber speech precisely because Kenney flipped out when Emma Graney of the Edmonton Journal reported it. His exchange with Emma was priceless. As you said, he couldn’t complain about the content which was 100% accurate so he focused on it being “old news”. Perhaps Kenney realized he’d said some pretty silly things and hoped the whole thing would disappear, but attacking a journalist for accurately reporting the news is not a good look for the man who would be premier.
Attacking journalists for accurately reporting the news seems to quite in vogue these days. One needs to look no further than just south of the 49th parallel, or if you want, closer to home, by listening to recent comments from Andrew Scheer and how he’d gonna “stand up to the media”. Stay tuned, folks. The radical right is coming to Canada too.
I’m sending you these websites to provide additional context to your article. I whole heartedly concur with your premise and offer these as support. Viewed together with the context of your article, motivations develop clarity for UCP, OCP, CPC.
Sunni I’m working my way through all the links. Thanks.
Thanks for your weekly blogs
You’re very welcome Derek. Thank you for reading them!
Well this a tough one. Your point is great and you are right but the key principle here is the Rule of Law.
‘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.’
will not apply if Jason Kenney gets elected. It did not apply with Stephen Harper or Ralph Klein. Jason Kenney is more than well versed on how to do it subtly and at the same time openly in front of all to see. He will violate the rule of law and his support will grow. People in general do not know the rules of law and if someone offers them an avenue to bully the Federal Government or the courts for that matter they will support it. People are done with the existing political system and a Justice system that very few people think works properly.
With all due respect Susan you do not have a clear picture of the anger out there with the status quo. Jason Kenney knows that and just like Harper that openly challenged free speech and even the Judicial branch, just like Donald Trump and now Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and others he will be fine doing it. At least for a while anyway.
I know you will not agree with me and that is fine, but time will tell. Ralph Klein did not have much trouble with the Rule of Law and he even publicly despised the Legislature.
It is time to think differently – with your arguments you will not change what seems inevitable.
I do hope people listen to you though,
Carlos, you’ve raised a very important point which is that some politicians refuse to accept limits on their behavior (political norms) or respect the Rule of Law because all that matters to them is power. We’ve seen it happen in the US and it’s starting to happen in Ontario under Rob Ford who was quick to declare he’d use the “notwithstanding clause” to circumvent any court ruling that went against his decision to reduce the size of Toronto city council.
I don’t know how we can educate people to the importance of these rules and norms when unscrupulous politicians manipulate the public’s anger to win elections. I suspect some of these people are beyond redemption and all we can do is fight as hard as we can to protect civil society and the minorities who stand to lose the most if Alberta follows in the footsteps of Ontario and the US.
Some people say we won’t learn until Jason Kenney burns the place down with cuts to health, education, etc, and dog whistles that embolden the xenophobes, homophobes, and misogynists; and only then will we turn to a government that cares for all people, not just those who fund PACs in return for favours.
I hope it doesn’t come to that.
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Excellent article – thank you!
You’re very welcome Carol!