Throne Speech: Whose Destiny Are We Talking About?

“I am your density…I mean your destiny.” — George McFly, Back to the Future (1985)

All eyes were riveted on Lois Mitchell, Her Honour the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor, last Wednesday as she delivered the Kenney government’s first Throne Speech…er…your eyes weren’t riveted on HHHLG? You were having coffee with a friend like I was, but you read it later online…right? No?

Never mind, you didn’t miss anything that you hadn’t already heard in one form or another on the UCP campaign trail.

166_lois20mitchell

Lois Mitchell, HHHLG 

Over the next few months we’ll have a chance to examine these promises in the cold light of day.

Today let’s compare how the Kenney government’s inaugural throne speech stacks up against the inaugural throne speeches of the Notley government (2015) and the Lougheed government (1972), both of which thundered on to the political stage out of nowhere.

But before we start, let’s address this silly preoccupation the media has with the “brevity” of the Kenney version—the media said at six pages it was a “welcome relief from typically windy Canadian speeches full of rhetorical gales and partisanship.”  Just to set the record straight, the Kenney version at 2065 words was longer than Notley’s inaugural throne speech (1487 words) and shorter than Lougheed’s inaugural throne speech (3388 words), but who cares.

Contrary to what the media thinks, in politics, like life, size doesn’t matter; it’s the ability to deliver on the promise, in this case the promise to drag the province back from the brink of disaster.

What really matters

Spoiler alert:  the Kenney government’s throne speech pales in comparison to the Lougheed and Notley governments’ throne speeches.

Both Lougheed and Notley acknowledged the accomplishments of the governments that had preceded them.  Lougheed confirmed that sound existing programs would be continued.  Notley promised to adhere to PC principles which fought to preserve provincial jurisdiction over energy resources and recognized that energy resources are a trust.  Apparently, Kenney’s government arrived like the Birth of Venus, complete and untouched by anything that had gone before.

Both Lougheed and Notley focused their legislative priorities on people.

Lougheed took immediate action to (1) protect human rights, (2) relieve seniors of the burden of medicare premiums, drug costs and optional medical services, (3) set up the Agricultural Farm Fund to help farmers, (4) prioritize facilities for disabled children and (5) accelerate mental health reform.

Notley’s priorities focused on restoring stability in funding health, education and human services.

Lougheed stressed the importance of “environmental control” and promised to strengthen and revamp the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Water Resources Act.  Notley promised to show leadership on the environment and climate change while creating conditions for a diversified, sustainable economy.

Kenney mentioned improving life for all Albertans, but focused on the economy and standing up for the province in the pipeline fight.  His concern for people was quickly overshadowed by talk about malevolent forces besetting Alberta which required the government to create agencies to tell the truth about the energy industry and conduct public inquiries into foreign funds campaigning against Alberta energy.

Lougheed’s Bill 1 introduced the Alberta Bill of Rights.  Notley’s Bill 1 advanced democratic renewal by banning corporate and union donations to political parties.  Kenney’s Bill 1 repealed the carbon tax, he promised to “protect Albertans” by suing the feds if they tried to impose a federal carbon tax.

Alberta’s destiny

Lougheed viewed change “not with fear and apprehension, but with optimism, with a sense of challenge and of opportunities to be grasped.”  He was convinced Albertans were up for new programs, policies, innovations and reforms.  Notley shared Lougheed’s view, describing Albertans as optimistic, hopeful, entrepreneurial, diverse and community-minded, people who share big dreams of a better life.

Kenney described Albertans as having unstoppable will, energy and talent, but always in the context of the economy.  He described Albertans as “stewards of a great tradition of ordered liberty” who “consistently applied the principles of free enterprise, free markets, equality of opportunity, and prudent stewardship to optimize our God-given gifts.”

The message to Albertans is they’re valued as part of the economic machine; not necessarily as individuals who dream of a meaningful life.

Kenney, or rather HHHLG on his behalf, closed the Throne Speech with a call to arms:  Albertans have overcome economic hardship, political enmity, and natural disasters.  Our success, resiliency and untapped potential will attract talented newcomers and we will defeat the “political forces standing in the way of this inevitable destiny”.  In fact, our economic growth “secures the wealth and prosperity of Confederation” and it is “our duty and our destiny to renew Alberta’s role as an economic and political leader within Canada.”

Whoa!

What exactly is our duty and destiny?

How are we going to ascend to our rightful position as an economic leader within Canada when our economy is firmly tethered to fluctuating global oil prices?  How will we achieve our destiny as a political leader in Canada when that requires increasing our population by five-fold to neutralize the combined population of Ontario and Quebec?

Oh, wait a minute.  Maybe the throne speech isn’t about Alberta’s destiny after all. Maybe it’s about Mr Kenney’s destiny, in which case all these concerns are irrelevant.

All this talk about “destiny” reminds me of that delightful scene in Back to the Future where George McFly tries to impress Lorraine (Marty McFly’s soon-to-be mom) by saying:  I am your “density”.  She says: What?  He says: I’m your “density”…I mean, your destiny.

Albertans have the potential to live meaningful lives…assuming they aren’t so dense they let themselves get ambushed by a premier intent on fulfilling his destiny at their expense.

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28 Responses to Throne Speech: Whose Destiny Are We Talking About?

  1. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Once again, thank you for another great blog. Jason Kenney’s throne speech was just meaningless babble, trying to appease his loyal base, who does not know any better. Reality has set in. Alberta’s economy is largely tied to the oil sector. Oil prices still have not recovered, and again have went below $60.00. It is unlikely that an oil boom will return. Jason Kenney cannot change that fact. He cannot blame other provinces, the Prime Minister, or environmental groups for that. Amid the corporate tax cuts, combined with decreased revenue from falling, or constantly low oil prices, what will Jason Kenney do to get revenue for Alberta? We know who is going to suffer. It will be those on lower incomes, the middle class and the seniors. Also, the oil industry and environmental control has to go hand in hand. Peter Lougheed realized this. When he was no longer the premier, all of that went out the window. I recall him calling Fort McMurray a mess. What is Jason Kenney going to do about the $260 billion bill that is now upon Alberta to deal with for cleaning up tailings ponds, and oil wells that are no longer in use, etc? I saw a video on YouTube about that, fairly recently. That is quite an issue, and quite the cost. Peter Lougheed and Rachel Notley were identical. They led with balance and were thinking of the future. They thought of all Albertans, as part of Canada. Jason Kenney seems to only care about himself. There was a panel created by Jason Kenney that looked at Alberta’s current fiscal situation. I believe it is called the Blue Ribhon panel, with people from other governments, that dealt with their financial situations. This panel misses how the Alberta PCs were very fiscally reckless, since Peter Lougheed was not the premier. I doubt they would address the poor oil royalty rates for Alberta’s oil, the diminished Heritage Savings Trust Fund, the repeated amounts of the most costliest debacles, that flushed millions and billions of dollars down the drain, the flat tax failure, the very large infrastructure repair bill, and the previously mentioned costs of cleaning up the messes made from the oil industry. This panel wants no tax increases, but they want to reign in spending. They do not see the fact that oil booms are not going to return anymore. How will they deal with the other issues I mentioned, like the infrastructure repair bill, and paying for cleaning up the things the oil companies never dealt with? Ignoring those issues will not make them go away. I think Albertans have another Doug Ford. What they (not all) wished for, is what they got. I hope they can live with their choice, when reality sets in. I doubt many in Alberta will be able to live with this. In closing, let’s see how the R.C.M.P investigation involving Jason Kenney works out. What if the UCP collapsed and we did not have to deal with them anymore?

    • Dwayne, you raise many great points. Let me address a couple.
      I was very impressed by the Lougheed government’s first Throne Speech. It was clear Lougheed believed the role of government was to act in the best interests of the people. In addition to the things I mentioned above, Lougheed stressed the need for government to be open to the people (as opposed to Alberta being open for business). Lougheed gave us Hansard so we could keep a permanent written record of the Assembly’s deliberations, he allowed TV and radio to cover Legislative sessions, and added the Fall Session so important issues would receive timely public scrutiny. He also increased MLAs’ responsibilities to their constituents.
      As we all know one of his first nonlegislative actions was to put the energy industry on notice that he was going to review the royalty structure (much to the chagrin of the industry, royalties went up).
      People criticized Notley for moving too fast; clearly they’ve forgotten (or didn’t know) that Lougheed moved much much faster.

  2. Graham McFarlane says:

    However, Kenny will create lots of new jobs- mainly for lawyers to fight the upcoming court battles! Susan, you should reenter the profession!

    • Graham you gave me a chuckle. The Kenney government will certainly keep the lawyers busy. He reminds me of some of my nightmare clients who insisted they’d go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary. They usually toned down the rhetoric when they realized how senseless (and expensive) their position was. I’m particularly interested in seeing what Kenney is going to do about the $3.7B crude-by-rail deal. He says if he can’t get other parties to step into the shoes of the government he’ll enact legislation to get out of the deal. Passing legislation to avoid contractual obligations is what dictators do, it’s not the go-to position of a conservative free market politician, but then again Kenney is more like Trump, an opportunistic politician not one who adheres to a clear ideology.

      • Midge Lambert says:

        There will also be a lot of jobs as wildfire fighters, first responders, flood mitigators and others needed to respond to natural disasters, (good jobs for the under 17 crowd, because they will be cheaper) as he continues to see the climate crisis as “the flavour of the day”.

      • Midge, I was blown away when Kenney said that. If we wanted proof that Kenney is a climate change denier (notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary) we got it in that statement. Unbelievable.

  3. Elaine Fleming says:

    Susan, I was in a fast food restaurant in Spruce Grove, Alberta, just west of Edmonton last Thursday and across from me were two tables of elderly ladies having their lunch. At a table of three, one woman facing me was holding up and reading out loud to her friends an Edmonton Sun newspaper (you know, part of Jason Kenney’s propaganda machine and aspirant for public funding as part of his “war room”?) Oops! senior moment … I digress ….

    I don’t know what article she was reading …because of my hearing and all… but the headlines of the Sun blared out, “TOUGH DECISIONS!” in the front page coverage of the Throne Speech. This lady and her friends seemed so blissfully content, having their little lunch, and probably not concerned whatsoever about what “tough decisions” might be down the road shortly for them.

    For instance, will Kenney’s Blue Ribbon Panel decide Alberta’s Seniors’ Benefits are too expensive to maintain? Like, the maximum charges for prescriptions being $25? Or the $900 subsidy for a hearing aid? Or the charges for an eye exam where the senior only pays 35% of the optometrist’s fee?

    I was speaking with an audiologist a few months ago about the likelihood of a change in government, and she of course, well aware of how fortunate Alberta seniors are to have their benefits, told me she has senior clients who can’t afford to leave the province (to go live with their families for instance) because no other province is as generous.

    This isn’t, however, because of recent PC governments’ largesse. It is because in 2014 Noel Somerville, Carol Wodak, Baldwin Reichwein and others from Public Interest Alberta’s “Seniors Task Force” occupied the constituency office of Fred Horne, who was the Minister of Health. He and Premier Alison Redford had both promised (in writing) not to touch seniors’ benefits. They said, “the government has no intention to change the current Seniors Drug Plan and, in fact, plans to enhance it”. But less than a year later in their budget, the PC’s announced the Seniors Drug Plan would be eliminated and replaced with an income-based plan.

    The Seniors Task Force group did not take kindly to being deceived. They had been requesting a meeting with both Horne and Redford for months to discuss the changes in seniors benefits but were ignored. After hours of “occupation” in Horne’s office, along with their walkers and afghans (they were prepared to stay the night) the police were called in to escort them out. Then, voila! the Redford government decided they would leave Seniors Benefits alone.

    Spruce Grove has a shiny new UCP MLA to replace the NDP’s Erin Babcock. I wonder how receptive he will be when the little old ladies show up on his doorstep complaining about their benefits being taken away? According to Jason Kenney, not very, and I’m pretty sure he will be calling all the shots on these encounters, not his MLA’s.

    I was talking with someone who works with autistic children and he said over the years Alberta has developed exceptional programming and support for autistic children and their families- and he said families from other provinces actually pack up and move here to have access to them. Will those programs get the axe?

    Jason Kenney was quoted, regarding the Throne Speech” and pushback on his program cuts, “There will be protests outside and all the usual interest groups will say all the usual things. We’ve seen this before.”
    Then, “Kenney said a silent majority of voters understands the need to return to balanced budgets. He said past governments that practised such restraint were re-elected.” Um, no, and no.

    The groups he proposes to ignore may not be the “usual” he is anticipating. Lately I have seen women’s groups springing up who are preparing to do battle with him, and are pretty steamed about changes to public education programming and funding, women’s reproductive rights, human rights, affordable day care, economic and environmental regression, just to name a few issues he is rolling back progress on. I don’t think any of his MLA’s are prepared to deal with the blowback. People here are not used to being ignored anymore. Kenney has made it abundantly clear that he is not into women or their concerns. The fact only ¼ of his caucus are women should be an indicator, but he dismisses them at his peril. He need only look down East to see Rob Ford’s popularity taking a nosedive and having to scoot back from his most ridiculous funding cuts.

    Regarding Kenney’s speaking about governments of “restraint” getting re-elected- if he is channelling Ralph Klein, this province still hasn’t recovered from the damage of that PC government’s slash-and-burn approach to “restraint”, which actually was the beginning of the end for the PC party and culminated in the election of Rachel Notley’s NDP government.

    The Throne Speech may have seemed benign but, as Jason Kenney has himself indicated, it will be followed by very unpopular policies that will have real-life effects on Albertans lives, and everything else that lives in this province. If he won’t listen to any protest about them in the Legislature or in constituency offices, and even if he has Postmedia onside broadcasting for him, there will still be resistance- and it might from the most unlikely places. Maybe even the coffee shops of Spruce Grove!

    • Elaine, thanks for reminding us of the power of protest! I remember the sit-in at Fred Horne’s office. It was all over social media. It was a wonderful event and as you say there will be more to come.
      I can’t understand Albertans who believe they’ll be unaffected by Kenney’s cuts. The health budget is a big ticket budget item, it will undergo serious cuts. These cuts will be manifest in reduced services and programs. Those with money will off-set the reductions by purchasing private health care. Those without money or on fixed incomes will suffer. That’s why Peter Lougheed said “…our senior citizens are usually trapped on fixed pension incomes with a very tight budget, and in these inflationary times deserve special consideration.” That was in 1972. Perhaps these ladies weren’t seniors then but if they had an ounce of brains they would understand that a “freeze” on spending translates to a 14% cut in spending when you factor in inflation.
      It will take every fiber of my being not to say “I told you so!”

      • Elaine Fleming says:

        It’s a weird mentality Susan, I guess a naive one, that Albertans don’t realize any grievance they have now with their government will deem them part of a “special interest group” that will be summarily dismissed by Jason Kenney and the UCP’s, and not only that , there might be no empathy from their fellow citizens. There is a lot of selfish thinking in our province, where people don’t realize we are all in this together and need to help each other out. For instance, the folks who say, well I’m not a senior, so who cares if they can’t afford their medicine or home care? Or the seniors who say, my kids aren’t in school anymore, so who cares about class size or laid off teachers? Or people who say Indigenous people have always been screwed over, so whatever? Or the families whose kids have moved into school age saying, I don’t need affordable day care now so who cares? Divide and conquer. It works.

  4. 54% of Albertans – at least according to voting statistics – are this province’s density. And – unfortunately for those of us who aren’t dense – our destiny. {Please God – save us from the stupids that voted UCP (Unimaginably Chickenbrained Party).

    • Rockymountain: I just finished reading that bit in Hansard where our Premier sets out all the reasons why he needs to repeal the carbon tax and can confirm that your definition of the UCP (Unimaginably Chickenbrained Party) is bang on. Kenney started by objectively (in his words) setting out 4 principles that support an effective carbon tax and then tore them to shreds. It helped that he restated the 4 principles so as to create a straw man argument that he could cleverly defeat. What was bizarre was watching as he worked himself up into a lather. I don’t know what his problem is given that the UCP have a majority and the Bill was going to pass regardless of what the NDP had to say about it. I suspect he’s thin skinned and still angry at being labeled a climate change denier.
      You know what they say: if the shoe fits…

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    I think you missed something extremely important

    ‘Manifest Destiny, a phrase coined in 1845, expressed the philosophy that drove 19th-century U.S. territorial expansion. Manifest Destiny held that the United States was destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent.’

    This was the American way of avoiding being called Imperialist. They were destined by God.
    Whatever their God is. Well Jason Kenney’s Destiny garbage comes from the same thinking and he hopes no one notices. He is not smart enough to create anything on his own.
    While the forest is burning close to High Prairie he just decided to go campaign for the Conservatives in Ontario. The old school ‘let me get away from trouble while I have an excuse’.
    I am sure he will come back all excited about Doug Ford cuts and start the war on people.
    I think that we should start a campaign to reduce his salary when he is not on business.
    In my company I do not get paid if I go campaigning to Ontario, why should the premier have that choice? He is my employee.
    His first democratic renewal change was to stop the children in the Legislature from banging their desks. Wow can you imagine the improvement? Democracy is going to finally make it in Alberta.
    Wow are we not just so proud of our leaders. This is overwhelming.

    • Thank you. An intelligent, thoughtful Albertan who can express thoughts and facts clearly and succinctly. Wow.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Thank you – I try very hard
        Alberta is our province – that is what we have to remember and it is being offered to foreign interests for bank accounts we do not have access to.

      • Thanks for this Carlos. I suspect Mr Kenney believes he’s been put on this earth to fulfill his destiny which no doubt is entangled with Manifest Destiny as you’ve described it. In his speech about why he’s going to repeal the carbon tax Kenney talked about how it was immoral for Canada to insist people in the so-called Third World countries reduce their GHG emissions and that it was our duty to lift the people in third world countries out of energy poverty. I’ve heard this argument before and agree that those of us in so-called First World countries have a moral and ethical obligation to help those less well off, however I have yet to see conservatives who choke at the idea of paying higher taxes to help their own neighbours jump on the band wagon to help people in the Third World. If anything the opposite is true and they’re busy agitating to close our borders to keep them out. It’s the height of hypocrisy.

    • Jerrymacgp says:

      Actually, the forest isn’t really burning near High Prairie at all … it’s burning near High Level, far to the North. The nearest fires to High Prairie are a couple of smaller ones northeast of Lesser Slave Lake. There have been no large-scale evacuations as a result of those two fires, one of which is listed as Being Held, and the other as Out of Control.

      Check your map again, Sir.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes you are right and I meant High Level – I know where the fire is burning I just mixed up the names. Thank you for the correction

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Jerry just so you know the point of the post was not to report a fire in Alberta.
        The location of the fire is actually irrelevant
        The point is that while we have a serious situation in the province, our employee the premier is campaigning in Ontario. I wonder if he took a vacation day just like we would have to do.

      • Upvote . . .

        On Wed., May 29, 2019, 1:20 p.m. Susan on the Soapbox, wrote:

        > Carlos Beca commented: “Jerry just so you know the point of the post was > not to report a fire in Alberta. The location of the fire is actually > irrelevant The point is that while we have a serious situation in the > province, our employee the premier is campaigning in Ontario. I ” >

      • Jerrymacgp says:

        Sorry, Mr Beca, but I live in the North, and have in fact lived in Fort Vermilion—one ‘l’ only, please—and despite not being a native Albertan, and in fact despite not even accepting that label as it carries far too much baggage, I do get annoyed at other Alberta residents who: confuse High Level, High Prairie & High River; who put two ‘l’s in Vermilion, writing it as “Fort Vermillion”, or confuse Fort Vermilion with Vermilion; or fail to put the ‘e’ in a Grande Prairie—where I now live—calling our city Grand Prairie, which is in fact a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

        It’s just a pet peeve, and I do indeed take your point about the substantive issue in your post.

  6. GoinFawr says:

    It is so weird, lately, more than once I have felt like I should put the following question to Used Car Party voters I speak with,

    “So let me get this straight… You think Rachel Notely has been doing a good job, despite her “politics”…Even though that good job she’s doing is, literally, her “Politics”(.) Whereas you don’t really like Jason Kenney, because of his exaggerating, or the Brian Jean vpn ploy…So you don’t trust him at all, but you’re gonna (sic) vote for him anyway?”

    “Guess I am just wondering who you’re going to blame when he turns out exactly like you expected…” – Bill Benson

    • GoinFawr: Agreed. So far the silliest reason I’ve heard for electing a UCP candidate is “the guy I voted for will keep Jason Kenney in line.” No one will be able to keep Jason Kenney in line. He’s already put in place a number of standing orders to curtail everything from desk thumping (they don’t do that in Ottawa you know), prohibiting individual MLAs from introducing guests (only the Speaker can do it, which means the Speaker can control who gets introduced–heaven forbid it’s someone who might embarrass Mr Kenney) and curtailing MLAs’ ability to propose private member’s bills (this applies to both sides of the house). And of course he’s got Jason Nixon running the place when he’s traipsing around in Ontario stumping for Scheer, so he’s got it covered every way to Sunday.
      This is going to be a bizarre 4 years.

      • GoinFawr says:

        The “thumping” decree I have heard about, but until just now I hadn’t seen anything of the two other (far worse in my opinion) democracy eviscerating policies being implemented. Thank you for mentioning them, I’ll be passing them along, and from now on I will make a point of paying more attention to exactly what this gov’t is up to.

        Perhaps I am too cynical, but to me actions like this don’t seem bizarre or at all surprising, coming as they do from our RandyFromTrailerParkBoys Premier. Affronts like this are just more of his usual disgusting, inappropriate, entirely self-serving, and outright devious behavior.

        Used Car Party voters are going to get exactly what they deserve, unfortunately their type is prone to deriving pleasure from taking everyone else down with them, so somehow they still seem to get a kind of twisted kick out of it.

        They’ve cut off their noses to spite their own faces, the fools.

  7. David says:

    Apparently Mr. Kenney feels he has a date with destiny and he brought Ms. Mitchell along to tell us all about it, or at least as much as he wants us to know, which is not that much.

    We don’t know exactly who Kenney is planning on having the date with, but I am guessing it is not a woman. Out of the blue, I’d say – Canada, or rather I think Mr. Kenney views his destiny as advancing his political career even further.

    Kenney seems to be a master of high sounding rhetoric, which does little to illuminate or address our real problems and concerns. How will he get a pipeline built? Prayer, perhaps? He seems good at messaging that mobilizes or motivates his base, but is also polarizing so could it also mobilize opponents of pipelines? In a world increasingly concerned about climate change and the environment, there could eventually be more of them and not as many of his base. I am sure he will be fundraising bonanza for Greenpeace and other environmental organizations, maybe that’s his destiny – bringing Canadians together otherwise, I doubt it.

    • David, you’ve nailed the very real problem Kenney has. Notwithstanding his rhetoric there’s not much he can do to “reignite” the economy and he knows it. I think this worries him because his speeches in the Legislature are much more incendiary than they have to be considering he has a majority and will be able to push through every piece of legislation his government proposes. For someone who stressed the need for civility in the Legislature he lost no time slamming the NDP as members of “Socialist International” right up there with Venezula every chance he got.

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    While the Investigation on what happened in the election of the UCP leader seems to be going the way it always does when a top official is involved and has the power to control the process, here is what is truly happening already

    https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2019/05/30/Accelerate-New-Oil-Wells/

    So count on soon have slightly treated tailing ponds water dumped in the river and the beginning of the last phase from where we will not be able to recover from.

  9. Carlos, I heard an interview today with Chris Slubicki, a former investment banker who is now the president and CEO of Modern Resources. He said we should expect even more companies to follow in the footsteps of Trident, the natural gas company that declared bankruptcy and abandoned 4700 wells. He said it’s tough for natural gas companies to survive because of extremely low natural gas prices, delays in getting pipelines built, and the fact small to mid-sized companies don’t have the financial means to commit to a 15 year term on a pipeline and provide a a $50 million letter of credit to the pipeline company to guarantee they’ll follow through on their contractual committments. I found this interesting because the UCP government can’t do a thing about natural gas prices, it can’t do a thing about interprovincial pipelines and it can’t do a thing about helping a small/mid-sized company come up with the cash to provide a $50 million letter of credit. Slubicki suggested the government could “backstop” a company’s letter of credit, but if the UCP is truly the free market party it says it is, it won’t do this because it’s against “picking winners and losers” or handing out corporate welfare.
    I suspect it’s going to be a long hot summer for the UCP and not just because the wildfires are burning out of control!

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