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.