The UCP policy document opens with a letter from Jason Kenney which cribs Ronald Reagan’s well known question, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”
Kenney’s answer is no, and he lists a number of reasons why it’s time for a change.
The “time for a change” pitch is classic political rhetoric, Kenney can be forgiven for borrowing it, however we can’t forgive him for revamping the UCP policy document from top to bottom.
When asked about the revamp, Kenney replied Pffft! It was nothing, he’d only made some minor edits, nothing substantive had changed.
Who birthed them?
Take a look at page 8 where Kenney sets out the story of how the UCP was created.
Originally Kenney said the UCP was “born of the province-wide conservative unity movement [which] was created specifically for this purpose [of doing better than the NDP].”
Well, that’s certainly what we thought at the time, however in the revised document Kenney changed the story of who birthed them by saying the UCP was a party “born of the province-wide free enterprise unity movement, it is a broad coalition reflecting today’s Alberta that seeks to create a new Alberta Advantage.”
“Free enterprise” is an economic system not a political one, where businesses are free from government control. Synonyms for “free enterprise” include laissez-faire economy, market economy and private enterprise. Who birthed the UCP? Apparently, the U of C Economics Department.
Kenney holds the pen so he can do whatever he wants, but one wonders whether the Albertans who voted to merge the Wildrose and PC parties into a united conservative party to defeat Notley’s NDP were aware they would soon be members of a group loosely organized around laissez-faire economic principles, not true blue conservative ones.
We all know what conservatism looks like, but do we, or more importantly, does Jason Kenney know what “free enterprise-ism” looks like?
The UCP policy document is no help, in fact it’s a dog’s breakfast of everything from conspiracy theories to fun with numbers (yes, math is hard).
The free enterprise party policy
A free enterprise economic system demands small government and little to no regulatory oversight. Businesses sink or swim based on their own merits.
In fairness, the UCP policy document achieves the free enterpriser’s dream in a number of places. It calls for a reduction of red tape so more decisions can be made without regulatory oversight, and increased privatization in education and health care, the privatization of parts of the public service, and so on.
But it also abandons the sink or swim philosophy and promises to interfere in the business sector, big time.
Picking winners and losers
The UCP outlines a number of interventions in the energy sector.
It will pressure Enbridge and TCPL to restart Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines (who cares if the pipeline companies have committed their people and financial resources elsewhere, the government knows best).
It will adopt the “Kvisle report” which suggests the government should intervene in natural gas markets to prop up sagging natural gas prices. Intervention could take the form of royalty and investment credits to natural gas producers, meddling with complex commercial arrangements, becoming a shipper on a pipeline, providing financial backstops to smaller companies that can’t afford to sign up for long term shipping contracts, trying to influence pipeline tolling principles (this is dangerous given the toll impacts the company’s financial structure and credit ratings) and maybe even buying a stake in BC’s LNG plant.
The UCP doesn’t appear to understand that raising the price of natural gas will hurt the petrochemical companies it wants to support under the Petrochemical Diversification Program’s system of royalty tax credits—petrochemical companies use natural gas for feedstock, the cheaper the better.
The UCP will intervene in all NEB hearings affecting Alberta oil and gas interests; someone should tell them that most NEB hearings have a group of producers in favour of the project and a group of producers (and sometime competitor pipelines) against it, how will the UCP decide who to support?
The UCP criticized the NDP for spending $3.7 billion on rail cars to help oil companies transport crude to market—that was interfering with the free market—but it has no problem picking winners and losers in the natural gas or petrochemicals sector; it’s fine when it’s the UCP’s idea because the UCP is the free enterprise party…right?
Math is hard
Math is hard and statistics and accounting are even harder.
It’s unclear where UCP gets its statistics but there’s a disconnect in the stats in the old policy document and the revised version.
The old policy document reported a decline across 12 industry sectors, including a 61.3% decline in the “mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sector”. The revised document deleted references to six of the original 12 industry sectors but reported the same level of decline. Which set of statistics is wrong, the original set or the revised set?
For all its talk about balancing the budget in 2023, it’s hard to put any faith in the UCP’s claim that it will achieve balance without cutting front line services given the budget relies on a “plug” number ($48.8 billion) for operating expenses for the entire four year term and includes new UCP commitments but fails to account for inflation and population growth which is projected to increase costs by 13-14%.
The UCP says we can rely on its budget because Stokes Economics says it’s doable and Stokes advised the Saskatchewan Party in 2007 so they’re credible. This is hardly reassuring given that the Saskatchewan Party tabled 10 budgets, six of which were deficits and resulted in hikes in the provincial sales tax and cuts in services.
Having said that I suppose we should be grateful Kenney revised the UCP policy document to say the UCP would engage a Blue Ribbon Committee “to recommend a path to balance” because neither Stokes nor the UCP have much credibility at this point.
Monsters under the bed
Question: How many free enterprisers does it take to pull a monster out from under the bed?
Answer: None, free enterprisers don’t believe in monsters, but Jason Kenney does.
The UCP policy document reveals not one but three shadowy groups (excluding the Notley/Trudeau cabal) who are determined to bring Alberta to its knees; rest assured Kenney will sue each and every one of them.
First there’s the Vivian Krause conspiracy theory that foreign funded special interests are trying to landlock Alberta’s energy industry (even Ms Krause admits that she never tied her conspiracy back to “commercial interests”), then there’s the “well-funded special interests” attacking Alberta’s farmers and the “well-funded special interests” attacking Alberta’s forestry sector.
Kenney will roll all three sectors into his “fight back” strategy which will deploy a $30 million “war room” and millions more to pay for litigation to put these shadowy characters in their place once and for all. (Where’s the Green Lantern when you need him?)
The UCP policy document sets out some of the costs of the “fight back” strategy but fails to account for the time and money wasted by public servants overseeing stupid things like:
- Setting up useless referendums to change the equalization formula
- Trying to amend the Canadian Constitution to entrench property rights
- Launching a public inquiry into foreign funding of anti-Alberta groups
- Defunding Alberta charities that are anti-pipeline
- Collecting information on anti-pipeline charities and trying to get Canada Revenue to delist them as charities
- Trying to get energy companies to sue lord knows who for defamation
- Fighting the Feds when Alberta “reclassifies” carriers currently under federal jurisdiction as carriers under provincial jurisdiction
- Helping pro-pipeline First Nations sue the Feds over lack of consultation
- Creating laws to keep foreign funding out of Alberta politics
- Supporting a Senator’s bill (that’s federal, guys) banning foreign money from federal politics
- Boycotting anti-pipeline banks and finding other lenders to replace them, and
- Backing out of the $3.7B rail car deal and trying to avoid getting sued for breach of contract
To paraphrase another Ronald Reagan quote, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I am from the UCP government and I’m here to help”.
Is there no one who can save us from the UCP free enterprise party?
Oh, hello, Rachel!
“ …well-funded special interests” attacking Alberta’s farmers… “? Might that be the People’s Republic of China, and its state-owned IT corporation, Huawei, closing their markets to Canadian canola as retaliation for the extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzho? There’s no conspiracy, just a superpower throwing its weight around and bullying a smaller country.
Jerry I must admit I wondered the same thing. Perhaps Mr Kenney after all his years in federal politics still doesn’t know the difference between political gamesmanship and subterfuge. Pity.
Another well-researched critique of tired old political assertions from Jason Kenney without evidence. And how likely, with his poor relationship with both Ottawa and BC, is he able to move forward on the project with most chance of success – the Transmountain pipeline expansion?
David, your point about the importance of Alberta having a good relationship with other provincial governments and the Feds is a good one. Kenney’s policy document outlines a desire to work closely with the BC government in order to build projects that will boost low natural gas prices (another LNG plant and infrastructure needed to transport natural gas across the BC/AB border come to mind). At the same time Kenney says the first thing he’s going to do if he’s elected is enact Bill 12 and “turn off the taps” to BC. I thought it was a goof-ball idea when Notley introduced it and it’s an even goofier idea if Kenney enacts it. Incidentally, BC’s response is: “See you in court, chump”.
Kenney’s pipeline strategy is litigation.
This will cost millions, I’ve worked as General Counsel in publicly traded companies, I know for a fact that top notch law firms charge millions to represent you on complex files and at the end of the day, they still can’t guarantee a win. Talk about a waste of money.
You missed his non-interventionist slush fund, which will be lucrative for his donors and cronies:
“One thing I’ve said is we would be comfortable, probably, going back to what we had as a levy — a tax — on major emitters, where the companies that produce the emissions actually paid into a research fund,” Kenney said.
A government agency doles out grants from the fund, on a project-by-project basis. Grant recipients have included municipalities, universities and major players in the oil and gas industry.
Keith, excellent point. The article you attached and the links contained in it demonstrate how complex these issues are, this allows Kenney to “simply” things for us, trotting out experts who support his position and ignoring them when they don’t. Kenney quotes economist Jack Mintz whenever he can, but even Mintz said getting rid of the NDP’s CCI and reverting back to SGER isn’t a great idea. Mintz, like most sane conservatives, prefers a small universal carbon tax on everyone one, large and small, corporate and individual. Sadly the T-word is anathema to Kenney’s free enterprise party so that’s not happening, ever.
Susan: Thanks for another great blog. I saw the provincial election debate. It was really pathetic how Jason Kenney was conducting himself. Lie after lie. He was so rude. Why did he have to keep on interrupting everyone else? First of all, he blames Rachel Notley for Alberta’s finances being bad. Oil prices took a big nosedive in 2014. They are not bouncing back. He also failed to mention that the Alberta PCs were fiscally reckless, starting when Peter Lougheed was not the premier of Alberta. They accepted very bad oil royalty rates for Alberta’s oil (the resource that Peter Lougheed said belonged to us), drained Alberta’s rainy day, Heritage Fund to practically nothing wasted millions and billions of dollars on so many bad scandals, repeatedly, (even Ralph Klein did very big scandals too), privatized and deregulated essential services, like utilities, making their costs rise exponentially, put in a flat tax failure, and left a very large infrastructure repair bill, from failing to maintain and upkeep it for decades. Despite this, I have heard that Saskatchewan has a larger debt on a per capita basis than Alberta has. I recall hearing that the Saskatchewan government has put in strong austerity measures, and even raised taxes, but this did not mitigate the problem. Jason Kenney then blames Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau for not doing anything on the pipeline front. He was in the CPC, and they had a majority government for more than just one term, and when this was so, oil prices were at record high levels, that we have not seen in 5 years. What pipeline did he help get built, that went to the B.C coast? Nothing. The other pipelines were extensions to existing pipelines, and were built under minority coalition governments. Jason Kenney claims the carbon tax that Rachel Notley put in is hurting things. Fact is, Ed Stelmach was the one who gave Alberta a carbon tax. Oil companies were supporting the carbon tax, at a point in time that predates Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau being in power. I heard that Shell now supports the carbon tax. Jason Kenney has made it clear that he supports the carbon tax. He is using another term for it to cover up that he supports it. Why is he trying to fight Ottawa, from a provincial level, instead of remaining in the federal government to do something? He also thinks he can change the equalization payment formula. No pipeline, no equalization payments from Alberta. He was in the CPC and played a role in creating the equalization payment formula we now have. The equalization payment formula is administered by Ottawa, not by the provinces, and not with natural resource revenues. Jason Kenney wants to pursue clean coal for Alberta. There is no such thing as clean coal. He was also in the CPC, when his fellow cabinet minister Jim Prentice, was the Environment Minister and wanted coal fired power plants in Canada, gone in 2020. Jason Kenney supported that. Why is he backtracking? Also, I read there was another big lie Jason Kenney told in the debate. He blamed Rachel Notley for his dad’s death, and said that hospital wait times were the culprit. This is simply not true. From what I read, his dad died, at a time when Rachel Notley was not the premier of Alberta, and hospital wait times were not the factor, but a very deadly illness was. I did not know when Jason Kenney’s dad died, until I read these things. Many watching the election debate would be tricked by this very easily. Jason Kenney wants to balance Alberta’s budget in 4 years. How will he do this? He wants bigger corporate tax cuts, despite the fact that Alberta’s tax rate is already the lowest in Canada. Oil prices are still not that great. I do not see any more oil booms, based on what Saudi Arabia and America have, that Alberta simply can’t compete with. This means austerity has to happen, at a very strong level. Who will suffer? The needy, lower income folks, seniors, nurses and teachers, and infrastructure will not be maintained. This will not get Alberta out of debt. Ralph Klein did that, and the effects are still with us. It did not get Alberta out of debt, neither will what Jason Kenney will do, accomplish that. I also heard about his role in the kamikaze scandal. Now, the R.C.M.P are investigating this, despite Jason Kenney and Jeff Callaway wanting the criminal investigation delayed. This does not bode well for the UCP. If it’s not one bad thing with the UCP, it’s another. Even former UCP MLAs have issues with Jason Kenney. I would be very cautious in voting for the UCP. Conservative governments in Alberta changed for the worse, since Peter Lougheed was not the premier of Alberta. To me, the UCP is bad news.
According to a news item in a postmedia newspaper:
Apart from the policy issues, Kenney has a deeply personal reason for reforming the system.
At an Edmonton news conference, he talked about how his father died in 2010 after a 14-hour wait at Rockyview General Hospital’s emergency room without treatment.
Kenney said his dad sat in a waiting room chair for many hours without being seen, diagnosed or tested.
A relative arrived and managed to get him into a hallway bed. The next day, his father was admitted but suddenly died — “and the tests hadn’t even come back yet.”
The report does not mention whether Jason Kenney was actually present.
Mickey: Jason Kenney’s dad died from a fatal illness. He blamed Rachel Notley and hospital wait times for this in the provincial election debate. Neither was the culprit. His dad died way before Rachel Notley was in power. It was a very cunning and classless political stunt to score points with the electorate. It was a lie.
Mickey and Dwayne, thanks for the additional information about Kenney’s dad’s death. I agree it was a cheap shot intended to mislead the audience into thinking his father’s death was the fault of the Notley government. There appears to be no limits to how low Kenney will stoop. On the one hand he tries to evoke sympathy by bringing up his father’s death, on the other hand, he boasts about preventing gay men from visiting their dying partners in hospital. It’s sickening.
Dwayne, excellent points. Many people speculate that Kenney is running in Alberta to mark time until he returns to federal politics. Certainly all of the federal issues he keeps raising indicate a desire to stay relevant on the federal political scene. To succeed Kenney would have to take out Scheer as CPC leader (this wouldn’t be difficult given Kenney’s willingness to run strawman candidates in leadership races), but this ignores the fact that if Kenney thinks he can become PM, then Doug Ford will think the same thing too. Ford is premier of Ontario which has 38.3% of Canada’s population. Kenney is premier of Alberta which has only 11.6% of Canada’s population. There is nothing to say when push comes to shove Ford will bend to Kenney’s will either as two provincial premiers competing for a bigger share of the federal pie or as a contender for the big prize, the PM office.
I’d really like to knock Kenney out of the running in this round but if he makes it through I’m sure Ford will knock him out of the next round.
Susan: Despite what I just mentioned, I will add that Jason Kenney does want more privatization. That’s not going to save money. His fund to defend Alberta’s oil from outside interference, like activists, is nonsense. Another waste of money. It is low oil prices that are a factor, caused by Saudi Arabia and the U.S, with their cheaper oil, that is the issue. He can’t do anything about this. He claims the oil by rail deal was Alberta’s biggest scandal. It’s not a scandal. What the Alberta PCs did, since Peter Lougheed was not the premier, were scandals. There were so many of them. Two examples are wasting well over $30 billion on electricity deregulation, and wasting $35 billion on a petrochemical (bitumen) upgrader. Jason Kenney was a member of the CPC. I recall people’s life savings vanishing instantly, on an income trust fiasco, that was around $35 billion. Those were scandals. Despite the obvious, in this election debate, there are people, including political pundits, or columnists, like Rick Bell, and letters to the Edmonton and Calgary Sun, claiming Jason Kenney as the winner. Given what he has said before and during the provincial election debate, this makes no sense to me at all.
Dwayne, I agree with you that Kenney will push for more privatization in health care. The policy document refers to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Chaoulli case. In that case the majority of the SCC ruled that Quebec’s ban on private health insurance for publicly insured (funded) health care violated the Quebec Charter of Rights. Some said it also violated the Canadian Charter. Lawyers point out that the Chaolulli case has limited application. Nevertheless Kenney says a UCP government will apply the Chaoulli decision “in spirit” in Alberta. This means he intends to bring two tier health care to the province which will give preferential treatment to those who can afford to pay for it. Kenney will have one heck of a fight on his hands if he goes ahead and implements a Chaoulli style two-tier system her in Alberta. Here’s a link to the case http://www.canadiandoctorsformedicare.ca/the-chaoulli-decision.html
Meanwhile back at the ranch in Norway, it seems they’re falling out of love with oil.
Oh well, they’re not greedy socialists I guess, just very very successful ones:
What Canada wouldn’t do for a state owned enterprise with results like that, amirite?
GoinFawr: I love this graph. I will reprint it and give it to every UCP supporter I know. Having said that I only know two…so you’ll have to post it on Twitter. They’ll go insane. They ripped Charles Adler (a conservative radio host) to shreds after his interview with Jason Kenney where he called Kenney’s extreme supporters a bunch of homophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic “knuckledraggers”. They felt they’d been betrayed by one of their own. Adler’s point was one of their own (Kenney) had betrayed the conservative movement. He has a point.
Adler has one single organ that is missing in Jason Kenney – a functioning brain
Carlos, some of my friends and I are beginning to wonder whether Kenney is just using this “economy/pipelines” thing as a Trojan Horse to sneak his extreme religious agenda into government. He was given three opportunities to apologize for his despicable behaviour in San Francisco and failed. When Charles Adler thinks a fellow “conservative” tilts too far right we’ve got a problem.
Wow ronmac! That’s a fascinating story. The Labor government says no to exploration around the sensitive Lofotum islands and maybe eventually the Barents Sea. The industry is stunned. Labour unions don’t like the decision and are at logger heads with the Labor government, but they’re also pushing to make operations entirely emissions free. This tells me two things: (1) money doesn’t trump everything in the Scandinavian countries and (2) we just might be able to turn global warming around before we destroy the planet.
“Creating laws to keep foreign funding out of Alberta politics”
GoinFawr, if the UCP follows through with half of its loony policies it will create more public service jobs than any of us ever dreamed of. Maybe Kenney is a closet socialist 🙂
A closet something anyway.
Bob, you made me laugh 🙂
It’s now December 2021.
The costs of reducting red tape should be on the minds of all Albertans who pay utility bills. One wonders how the AUC will deal with Atco having given a sole source contract, knowingly violating the code of conduct, and then seeking to pass the inflated costs on to consumers. The publicly available paper trail indicates this contract was given in order to secure future contracts for Atco.
In May 2019, not long before the creation of Alberta’s Ministry of Red Tape Reduction, Atco’s CEO, Nancy Southern, bemoaned the ‘burden’ of regulatory red tape facing businesses like hers. She also serves on Alberta’s Economic Recovery Council.
It must be awkward for Atco to now be facing an investigation which revolves around not following the regulations in place. Apparently, whistleblowers provide a public service in ‘red tape reduction land’. Atco say ‘mistakes were made’ but to this reader, they don’t appear to have been mistakes at all.