On May 21, 2019 Jason Kenney’s UCP government will officially be “open for business” in every sense of the word.
Mr Kenney’s government will kick off with a Throne Speech which will outline how Mr Kenney intends to deliver on his promise to pull Alberta out of its state of abject misery and victimhood and restore it to its rightful place as the most important province in Confederation.
What will make this feat even more impressive is Mr Kenney will perform it blindfolded and with one hand tied behind his back.
Welcome to a front row seat under the Big Top.
(The houselights dim as Mr Kenney steps into the centre ring).
Like any savvy showman, Mr Kenney has a trick up his sleeve, notwithstanding the desperate picture he painted of Alberta’s precarious economic condition, in comparison to the rest of Canada Alberta is doing well. Its GDP per worker is second only to Newfoundland and Labrador (NF&L’s economy is based on offshore oil and gas production which uses fewer workers and yields a higher GDP) and its debt to GDP ratio is 8% which is significantly lower than the rest of the provinces.
It’s not hard to come out on top when you’re already there.
Look! He’s got one hand tied behind his back!
Mr Kenney appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel to do a “deep dive into Alberta’s finances and economy”* but prevented the Panel from considering the tax side of the fiscal equation (with no sales tax Alberta is the lowest tax jurisdiction in Canada).
So, with one hand tied behind their backs, the Panel (and Mr Kenney) will tell Albertans that to “get our fiscal house in order” it will be necessary to implement an austerity program based on brutal cuts to public services supplemented with increased privatization.
On the upside, perhaps this means Mr Kenney will finally abandon the ridiculous Ma-and-Pa-balancing-the-household-budget-around-the-kitchen-table analogy, a small mercy for those of us who understand that a government budget bears no resemblance to a family budget.
Look! He’s wearing a blindfold!
The climax of Mr Kenney’s performance will occur when he dons a blindfold and lays out his plan to bring back oil jobs by killing the Notley government’s carbon tax on consumers, removing the cap on oil sands emissions and erasing regulations aimed at reducing methane emissions.
Unfortunately, this will backfire big-time given the public’s growing concern about climate change and the environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) policies that are sweeping the corporate world.
It’s one thing for the Kenney government to ignore little Swedish girls with pigtails, it’s quite another to blow off HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, and other investors like pension funds, post secondary institutions, insurance companies and countries like Ireland, which refuse to invest in oil and gas companies or limit their investments to companies like Shell, BP, Suncor and Cenovus, which have carbon deintensification and renewable energy strategies.
The threat of global divestment in response to rising concerns about climate change is real, however it’s one Mr Kenney is prepared to ignore.
To ensure we can’t compare Alberta’s performance on climate change mitigation under the UCP government with its performance under the NDP government, Mr Kenney purged the government website of all climate change information, data and policy analysis before he set foot in centre ring.
Luckily, Katie Cuyler, a University of Alberta librarian, archived every NDP government document she could find before Mr Kenney, like a certain US president, took office and deleted them.
Look! There’s a conspirator!
We can expect the Throne Speech to flesh out Mr Kenney’s promise to set up a war room to pursue those who, in his opinion, are telling lies about the energy industry.
Given the challenge of consistent messaging among energy companies, let alone between these companies and the government, this will be as effective as a circus cannon blasting out confetti.
The public inquiry into foreign funded protestors will be equally useless given that the Harper government audited the status of many of these groups and found nothing amiss. But never mind, it’s a side show and what the audience expects when the circus comes to town.
The end of the ‘War on Fun’
Last week the Kenney government pushed back on “the excesses of the nanny state and the ‘War on Fun’” by lifting the liquor ban on provincial parks just in time for the May long weekend. Mr Kenney described the move as part of his plan to “take Alberta from being the most over-regulated to the freest economy in Canada.”
Like Doug Ford who promised buck-a-beer if he was elected, the Kenney government appears to be convinced that free flowing booze is what it takes to make Albertans happy.
It’s unlikely the Throne Speech will slip into low comedy, but if the Kenney government is sincere about attacking the ‘War on Fun’ may I suggest a plan to issue every taxpaying Albertan a red clown nose to perk us up as we struggle through the next four years under the Big Top.
(Whoopie cushion noises erupt from the crowd).
*All quotes are taken from Alberta government press releases.
“No clowns were funny. That was the whole purpose of a clown. People laughed at clowns, but only out of nervousness. The point of clowns was that, after watching them, anything else that happened seemed enjoyable.” ― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
And Coulrophobia – a fear of clowns … and not as irrational as one might at first think, as we are about to see in this province … under the Big Tent. Indeed … the Circus is coming to town.
Terry thanks for the information about clowns and coulrophobia. When I was looking for a photo for this post I googled “clowns” and got a bunch of photos of the creepy clown in the Stephen King horror movie IT. It may have been more appropriate, yes? 😦
You left out the part where he is going to get Northern Gateway and Energy East back on track. Oh wait, their CEO’s said that’s not going to happen. They must have been too busy to tell us that during the election.
You’re right Joe, it’s utterly irresponsible for the Conservatives to continue to push the myth that they will magically make Northern Gateway and Energy East happen. What do they plan to do, put a gun to the heads of the CEOs of Enbridge and TCPL?
Scheer is now tweeting we should “put an end to all foreign oil imports” to make Canada energy independent, but he doesn’t say how he would accomplish that. If the oil companies thought there was money to be made by making Canada energy independent they would have done so a long time ago.
Scheer may not realize this but he’s beginning to sound like Fidel Castro.
Great analogy Susan. Yes, wondered how the tale will be spun when the investment community gives us a failing grade on the lack of a climate change policy/plan after he cleverly eliminates the carbon tax, removes the cap on oil sands emissions and erases regulations aimed at reducing methane emissions. More unemployment to follow..Divestment is really and growing daily so best to join the parade around the circus tent or go home. I wonder how his followers will feel in a years time when nothing has changed and the circus is really in full gear ….
Indeed Bota28. My concern about the impact of the UCP’s promise to “cut red tape” as part of their plan to create jobs was exacerbated this weekend when I read an article about federal/provincial plans to relax regulations to allow oilsands companies to release treated effluent into the Athabasca River, even though the industry has not yet shown it can “effectively clean the toxin-laced water on a commercial scale.” The two levels of government are heading in this direction because they’re concerned the toxic tailings ponds will leak.
It’s troubling that we allowed the industry to store 1.3 trillion litres of liquid tailings (a mixture of sand, silt, clay and residual bitumen and solvents) in tailings ponds covering 220 square kilometres of northeastern Alberta without insisting industry have a better solution to potential leakage into our drinking water supply than “we’ll worry about that later”.
Here’s the link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ottawa-and-alberta-to-set-rules-for-releasing-treated-water-by-oil/
This is nothing but preparing us to accept the dumping of this water as being acceptable because the oil companies do not want to clean up. The government will close their eyes one more time and soon we will have just like in the Indian Reserves up North, babies born with 2 heads and missing limbs……etc.
I alone cannot do much to stop clown Jason from accepting this but I will leave Alberta for sure. Those who support the oilsands can drink their own water.
I am sure Jason Kenney will not be here to enjoy it.
Love your columns, but something amiss in NL [correct abbreviation] and GDP stats. You might have meant growth in GDP… Later on you write that Kenny may drop family household budgeting analogy. This is hardly likely when Janice McKinnon’s austerity editorial in Post newspapers referred to the ‘family budget’ and impossiblity of a province running a deficit for too long a time. The forces from Mordor are lined up on that one Ms S. on the Soapbox. We will be in for hard times with this dog whistle provincial government.
Douglas, you’re right, I got the GDP stat from a speech given by economist Jim Stanford, what I should have said was the only province with a better GDP per worker is NL. Thanks for catching that. (I used the abbreviations Stanford used on his graphs, but I agree that NL is more commonly used). I’m sad to hear that McKinnon uses the same inappropriate “family budget” analogy as Kenney and the other Conservatives. Stanford trashes that analogy (using his best John Diefenbaker voice) and points out that the average family is carrying a debt load which is more than 170% of their disposable income. I don’t imagine McKinnon will consider that little tidbit when she conducts her analysis of Alberta’s fiscal situation.
Susan: Thanks for another great blog. I basically think that what Jason Kenney wants to achieve and what the facts dictate are possible, are two different realities. What Jason Kenney is going to do, will not be free from consequences. The reality will kick in sooner than he thinks. He thinks he can mesmerize people, and when they fall for what he proposes, all will be good. It worked in getting him and the UCP elected. When it fails, what will he say? Who will he blame? What will his support base say? His policies are like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It’s a mismatch. Everything from lowering the corporate tax rate even further, to cancelling the provincial carbon tax, to pursuing P3s, to squabbling with other provinces, and the federal government, to costly court challenges, among other things, will not solve anything, but make things worse. Alberta’s one big revenue stream, oil, has been hit with an oil price crash, that happened 5 years ago. It is doubtful that triple digit oil prices will return. The ill conceived policies that Jason Kenney wants to do, (which probably had some other influence behind them, such as the Ralph Klein days, far right think tanks, like the Fraser Institute, or other neoliberal think tanks), will come with a cost. A really big cost. Who will foot this cost? It will not be the wealthy corporate executives, and not Jason Kenney himself, (as he has a hefty political pension to cushion him), but ordinary Albertans, who only have a Lamborghini in their dreams, and where Hawaii is something they see in a recycled magazine on a table, while they wait in a room at their doctor’s office. Doug Ford was able to mesmerize people too. Enough people fell for it, and it got him and the Ontario PCs elected. Again, it’s not even a year later, and regret has sunk in, due to Doug Ford’s very poorly thought out policies. What might look good on the outside, can be the exact opposite on the inside. Since majority governments can remain in power for 4 years, can Albertans fully withstand the policies of Jason Kenney?
Will Albertans get away unscathed? I doubt it very much. I enjoy reading your blogs, because they have perspectives that are hardly seen anywhere else. I hope you have a great long weekend.
Dwayne, I think you’re on to something when you say there’s a disconnect between what Jason Kenney wants to achieve and what is factually possible. He talks about reigniting the Alberta economy by lowering the corporate tax and cutting regulations, both of which are supposed to bring investment back to the energy sector. However we lived under just such a regime with the Ralph Klein PCs and the plan didn’t deliver as promised.
So far Alberta has gone through 5 painful economic busts because we continue to put all our eggs in one basket. The economist Jim Stanford points out that in all five of these busts the politicians and the CEOs blame someone other than themselves. In 1981 they blamed Pierre Trudeau’s NEP, in 1986 they blamed OPEC’s lack of discipline, in 1999 it was El Nino, in 2014 it was the Alberta NDP (who weren’t elected yet but people said the prospect of them being elected caused uncertainty in the market) and in 2018 it was a bunch of things–the carbon tax, environmentalists, BC NDP, equalization system, and immigrants.
The blame game lets politicians and CEOs off the hook, they don’t need to be honest about the fact that Alberta’s resources belong to Albertans, the government is responsible for representing Albertans in its negotiations with the CEOs who want to exploit these resources and it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure we get a good “rent” or royalty for them while at the same time building a rainy day fund and preparing for the day when these resources are less valuable because we’re transitioning to a low carbon world. Investors and the big oil companies like Shell and BP are preparing for just such a day, it’s a crying shame Kenney and the conservatives are not–but that’s what happens when politicians act in the best interests of the CEOs, not the people.
I don’t think the UCP under kenney will be a complete disaster. Some of their policies will likely eventually piss off a chunk of their voter base. I think they will be a largely forgettable government compared to their predecessor that will lose power in a few election cycles as people in Alberta look for a new shiny toy as they slowly get disappointed with the UCP. At the moment I don’t think that new shiny toy will be the Alberta Party because I don’t think they will get out of the shadow of the two big parties in Alberta provincially for at least a decade or until the UCP loses a significant amount of their support. I think that shiny toy will be the ABNDP.
Mohamed, my worry with the UCP is that as they fail to deliver on the promise of jobs they will trot out scapegoats for the public to blame (far be it from Kenney to admit he promised something he can’t deliver). The scapegoats will include unions, immigrants, women and members of the LBGTQ community because they’re easy targets. That will make for an unpleasant 4 years.
On a related topic, I listened to a Peter Tertzakian podcast about Kenney’s promises yesterday. Tertzakian is an energy economist who’s worked with provincial and federal governments for 15 to 20 years. He expressed (muted) concern about Kenney’s aggressive stance on cutting regulations and setting up the War Room, saying Kenney is going to have to tone it down or risk alienating a lot of people. His co-host, Jackie Forrest, seemed confident Kenney would tone down the rhetoric, but I don’t see how he can without ticking off his base.
PS I think you’re right about the Alberta Party, they’re done.
Kenney has a big issue connecting to Albertans despite the UCP’s popularity. This is a big difference between Kenney and other former Alberta premiers like Loughheed, Klein and to a lesser extent Notley.Albertans might be more willing to be harsher to Kenney and the UCP if they feel like they are not being listened to because they feel like they have little or no connection to Kenney currently. This is backed up by polling people like Janet Brown have done on Alberta politics. The UCP can find scapegoats to deflect from their failures but it’s not going to work to well for them. Also the issues of the day might change in future elections and if voters feel like the UCP can not address these issues they will be kicked out.
Excellent point Mohamed. Thanks.
Despite all the houpla and dire warnings, the oil sands companies seem to be doing wonderfully well. Follow this thread
Ronmac, I’m listening to this podcast, very interesting comments, many of which really resonated with me, including the comment that Albertans “debased” themselves when they elected Kenney because they showed they were prepared to accept character flaws in a leader that they wouldn’t normally accept (Ned was referring to the questions around Kenney’s leadership race).
The other comment that resonated was the the question about why getting an export pipeline to tidewater will automatically result in an increase in the price of oil.
Jim Stanford makes this same point using the example of the Australian natural gas industry. Stanford said Australians were mad that natural gas was selling for $3 in Australia but $10 in Japan. To get the higher price they built 7 LNG plants (at a $2B cost overrun by the way, so much for the “efficiency” of the private sector) so they could export natural gas to Japan and guess what, natural gas is now selling for $3 in Japan and $5 in Australia–the price in Japan went down due to increased supply and the price in Australia went up due to constrained supply because it was now being diverted to Japan. Brilliant, eh.
Ronmac: I just saw a chart published by ARC Energy for global natural gas prices. Japanese LNG peaked at $US16MMBtu in 2014, dropped to ~$US4.50 in May 2016 and is now sitting ~$US5. The chart includes this droll comment: “International natural gas prices strongly impact the economics of proposed LNG projects”. The same could be said for proposed pipeline projects, particularly since ARC Energy forecasts the US WTI price to drop from ~$64 at the end of Dec 2019 to ~$56 by the end of Dec 2021 (right around the time TMX may be coming on stream).
On Sun., May 19, 2019, 7:36 p.m. Susan on the Soapbox, wrote:
> susanonthesoapbox posted: “On May 21, 2019 Jason Kenney’s UCP government > will officially be “open for business” in every sense of the word. Mr > Kenney’s government will kick off with a Throne Speech which will outline > how Mr Kenney intends to deliver on his promise to pull Alberta ” >
With the expansion of the Vista Coal mine project many more tonnes of coal will be exported from Canada using low manpower models. According to Ab Govt source’s the current coal royalty rate is .0045% on the value of coal. As a near 100% carbon product currently trading at 83 USD or 111 CAD per Tonne means about 50cents per tonne royalty. It may be important to have a carbon export levy of 10% or $11.10 a tonne. Based on 2017 production of 1,660,000,000.00 this export levy could be put into a trust account to pay for the environmental climate change damages fund. Just imagine how funding for the war room will require unlimited funds. 166,000,000. would help pay for the court and enforcement and penitentiary require ments. Vista mine is also in the cancelled Bighorn Provincial watershed protection region…..selenium and mercury from washing coal will enhance the quality of the solution Albertans currently call water from the eastern slopes. Seems like Alberta is getting into really big business ventures. Seems the US penitentiary system is a 3P Partnership model. Perhaps you and your readers will come visit. Just amazed at the progress Ab is about to imbark on.
Papajaxn: Thank you for this eye opening comment. I did not realize the Vista mine is located in the cancelled Bighorn protection area. The UCP justified cancelling that project with the comment that we needed to balance the environment with recreation in the Bighorn…I thought this was a stupid comment, we can’t find the “balance” between the environment and industry, the last thing we need to do is throw another variable (recreation) into the mix.
Well, since Kenney is now premier, at least this wholly-unrelated-to-human-activity-climate-changey Albertan wildfire season will be fought by the inherently benevolent but invisible hand of the free market, saving tax payers millions by placing the costs firmly on the shoulders of those silly enough to live where fire can burn… and the taxpayers need those millions so that the oil companies can have their virtually royalty free cake, and eat it too.
I love it
Well GoinFawr you are not reading the unbiased daily newspapers in Alberta.
Lorne Gunter is very happy that the energy portfolio is finally in the hands of adults.
The same adult that is being investigated by the RCMP.
I would love to know how much they are paying these journalists to be so darn loyal to their masters.
Well said GoinFawr. Recently I heard Colin Jackson give a speech about the importance of the arts in society. He said the economy is the means to an end but not the end in and of itself. The “end” is a meaningful life.
Carlos, your point is very well taken. It’s interesting watching the media flip flop. They’re giving Kenney the benefit of the doubt for all the things they blamed on Notley. They’re now falling all over themselves saying Kenney is doing a great job controlling things within his jurisdiction but has no control over things outside his jurisdiction like the approval of TMX. Yes we get that. Our issue is how Kenney intends to “control” the things within his jurisdiction. From what I’ve seen so far he’s simply rehashing old conservative ideas (cutting corporate taxes and “red tape”) and is offering nothing on how Alberta’s economy can prepare for the low carbon, high tech future.
This is not a promising start to “fixing the economy” so we can all enjoy a more meaningful life.
Carlos, I can’t help you with the ‘how much’ question, but I can suggest a ‘who’. I read an article in the Guardian a few weeks ago describing how the climate change denial industry is a multi-million dollar industry, financed by the Koch brothers, oil companies etc.
Ever since I read it, I have wondered if Danielle Smith and/or Postmedia are paid for the climate change denial stories they run. Why else would Ms. Smith write about why Canada doesn’t need to do anything about climate change since we have trees?
Bob, I like how you’ve turned this around on Ms Smith. The climate deniers have consistently said the protesters are being paid by foreigners, because surely they wouldn’t go out there and picket for free. This says a lot about what drives them, namely if you’re not going to pay me to do it, I’m not doing it. This tells us all we need to know about their morality.
Wow Susan – Rick Mercer has nothing on you!! Climate chaos denial and short term political gain are the watchwords of UCP and will be challenged from grassroots to boardrooms by honest, science-based people.
Thanks David. You summed up what we’ll be doing over the next four years very well. It’s incumbent upon all “honest, science-based people” to step up their participation in the democratic process. In his book “Too Dumb for Democracy?” David Moscrop says citizen participation is critical if democracy is to survive. Participation ranges from voting, attending town halls, writing or calling your representatives, learning about and discussing issues, and trusting institutions.
We have our work cut out for us here in Alberta because I don’t think we’ve ever seen a government like this one. But we have to start somewhere. I’m starting with getting a meeting with my MLA, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Right on Susan – the circus has started and of course he is burning the older tent. So we go slash and burning to our own diminished future.
Coincidently I was reading the latest Prospect magazine from the UK and this paragraph alone depicts the bigger circus and leaves wondering where this all is going to end.
The article is written by Steve Bloomfield
‘We are living in a dangerous moment. We have a white nationalist president in the US; a deputy prime minister in Italy who promises a census of people of Roma descent and stirs up hatred towards immigrants; anti-Semitic leaders in Poland and Hungary; a deputy leader in Austria warning about migration by using the far-right term “population replacement;” ministers in Estonia flashing a “white power” sign while being sworn in; a fascist senator in Australia talking about a “final solution” for Muslims; and success for prominent far-right politicians in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France and most recently Spain.’
Even a not very positive person like me finds this all AMAZING. The consequences of 30 years of Neo-liberal politics left the world in taters. These are the same people who blame the welfare state for economic stagnation. Seriously? What they created is a rotten unequal and profoundly disgusting market dump in every way and do not call me communist because I know who I am.
I share your concern Carlos. Coincidentally I just started reading a book, fiction, about a police detective working in Germany between the first and second world wars. It draws on historical accounts and includes a speech by a police commissioner who says he’s a conservative nationalist, not a Nazi, but he believes only a strongman like Hitler can save the country from the “degenerates” who are undermining the “moral heart” of society.
It’s eerie to see similar language used by politicians today. It’s even more alarming that such comments are accepted without question by segments of the population.
It is alarming indeed and if you remember back in the Harper days, our circus number 1 member was front and center in the hijab controversy. At that time Harper did not have the guts to move forward with any of those issues including abortion because the country in general was not yet ‘READY’ for it. Conservatives have been slowly getting us used to bring these issues back to the agenda. I will bet anything that Sheers will move more to the right than he shows to be because Canada today is far more right wing than in the Harper years and it is of course fascist compared to the Mulroney years.
He will be also empowered by Jason Kenney and Doug Ford and the fact that the Liberal party is weakened by Justin Trudeau’s sunny ways that were nothing but just an ego trip.
So the situation is in fact alarming.
Fortunately there are signs that Doug Ford is starting to go down to where he deserves to go and I think that Jason Kenney, with some luck on our side, will have a short honeymoon and if his clients, the CEOs of the major oil companies do not come to his help as he expects, he will be toast. I hope that he will for good.
On the other hand if this right wing hysteria does not subside we could be in for a major disturbance to use kind words.
Its important to recall that Hitler rose to power in a period of intense political ferment, when more class-based, landowning, corporatist, monarchist conservatives like Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher were doing everything in their power to undermine German democracy in the Weimar Republic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic.
Hitler simply took advantage of that ferment to hijack the electoral process, by violent street-based voter suppression, and excluding left-wing Deputies from taking their seats in the Reichstag, to get himself “elected” Chancellor in January 1933. His first Cabinet was only minority Nazi, with non-Nazi Ministers from other conservative parties in the majority. He didn’t fully consolidate his iron grip on power and declare himself “Führer” (Leader) until after the death of President von Hindenburg in August 1934. (Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains the definitive text on this period, IMHO).
Any resemblance to current events is purely coincidental (*wink*).
Jerry, I thought about this comment when I saw the references to “destiny” in Kenney’s Throne Speech. Here’s what he said: “The political forces standing in the way of this inevitable destiny today are external and temporary. Her Majesty’s government has a strong mandate to stand up for Alberta against those forces, powered by the unstoppable will, energy, and talent of Albertans. Few places on earth provide such freedom of opportunity to achieve so much upward social and economic mobility. This in turn fuels our economic growth and generates wealth that spills far beyond our borders and secures the prosperity and welfare of Confederation. It is our duty and our destiny to renew Alberta’s role as an economic and political leader within Canada.” If he’s spouting off like this as a provincial premier can you imagine what he’d say if he were Canada’s Prime Minister. Oddly enough his supporters in the main stream media are applauding him for avoiding the usual “hopes and dreams” language. I don’t know what they thought this “duty and destiny” talk was.
I love ‘taters’ Carlos! And if we’re not careful that may be all we can afford to eat.
Today’s conservative ideology is not traditionally conservative at all but rather just simply anti-liberal. At it’s core it is just corporatist and monarchist, a winner takes all, zero-sum competition that relegates the losers to irrelevance.
In today’s world we simply cannot ignore the billions of ‘others’. Sometimes those others are our customers or buyers of our debt; without them our economy collapses. Sometimes those others are fleeing war or famine or corruption in such numbers that it affects our national interests. Sometimes those others are sitting on something so valuable our not having access to it or allowing enemies to have preferential access is tantamount to our destruction.
In a world of a few billion people most of this is just an intellectual curiosity. In a world of 7 or 8 or 9 billion there is no rational justification for not taking account of everybody everywhere. That is the Liberal ideology. We must plan, we must prepare, we must negotiate and we must conciliate. Or we all die.
Or we all eat potatoes.
LOL I apologize I used the wrong word 🙂
Carlos, I think we got your drift. 🙂