The fog of politics is like the fog of war. It’s hard to see what’s really going on.
Albertans are choking in UCP fog. We wonder why Mr Kenney who came to power on the Thatcher/Reagan ideology—small government, low taxes and less red tape—is wasting valuable time and resources on a $2.5M anti-Alberta inquiry, a $30M war room to smack down oilsands critics and a $650,000 Wexit-by-any-other-name panel that will further inflame separatist sentiment.
What do these have to do with Mr Kenney’s campaign promise of “jobs, economy, pipelines”?
Some say Mr Kenney wants to distract Albertans from a $4.7 billion corporate tax cut and the austerity budget that is on track to reduce system-wide spending by 10%. They’re right. However Mr Kenney’s comments in the Legislature reveal another reason, personal ambition.
One way to find out what Mr Kenney wants, what he really, really wants, is to listen to his (non) answers in Question Period. The exchanges on Nov 7, 2019 are enlightening.
Ms Notley asked Mr Kenney how he could justify spending $16,000 on the ”Premier’s pancake plane party” when people with disabilities, kids who used to get care, and kids in school will be forced to get by with less to offset his $4.7 billion corporate handout.
Mr Kenney replied he hosted “several Premiers, representing 60 percent of the population” and provided them with “logistical support” to get to the premiers meeting in Saskatoon.
He said that unlike Ms Notley who isolated Alberta, he’s built “alliances” with “like-minded provinces.” He said 9 out of 10 provinces agreed to fight Bill C-69 and support energy and resource corridors, including oil and gas pipelines and Quebec was joining Alberta in fighting the federal carbon tax. In a response to a puff ball question from a member of his caucus he added the “coalition” of like-minded provinces would stand up for Alberta’s vital economic interests.
The poor man is dreaming in technicolour. Let’s break down the reasons Mr Kenney gave for paying the cost of the premiers’ airfare:
Reason #1: standing up for Albertans? The premiers will “stand up” for their own provinces before they’ll stand up for Albertans if their policies conflict; the premier of Quebec, François Legault made this crystal clear.
Reason #2: Alliances increase likelihood of success in court? Alberta doesn’t need to be part of an “alliance” to fight Bill C-69 and the carbon tax. It can sue the Feds all by itself. Its success or failure depends on the law, not how many litigants are sitting at the appellants’ table.
Reason #3: Alliances make energy corridors happen? This is incredibly naïve. Not because inter-provincial cooperation can’t be bought for a pancake, but because premiers are notoriously fickle.
In 2015 Ms Notley, and the premiers of all 13 provinces and territories, signed on to the Canadian Energy Strategy which called for pan-Canadian collaboration to deliver renewable and nonrenewal energy from coast to coast in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Everything was grand until the premier of Quebec (then Philippe Couillard) objected to Energy East and BC Premier Horgan objected to TMX. So Ms Notley did the smart thing, she went directly to the man who could make TMX happen, Justin Trudeau. The federal Liberals bought TMX and continue to support it to this day.
If the Strategy hammered out by the premiers isn’t binding on the premiers, then good luck to Mr Kenney when he asks the premiers to honour the “coalition” and one of them balks, because Mr Kenney torched Plan B, asking the prime minster for help.
A coalition of the like-minded
Alberta can’t depend on a coalition of the like-minded to achieve its goals, so why has Mr Kenney turned himself into the coalition’s self-appointed spokesman?
Kenneth Whyte’s article in the Globe and Mail offers a clue. Mr Whyte described Mr Kenney as “the most important figure in contemporary Canadian conservatism.” This would please Mr Kenney who’s on record as saying he wants to reignite the conservative movement not just in Alberta but across Canada.
Presumably Mr Kenney will use his stature as the most powerful conservative premier in the country to drop bon mots in federal Conservatives’ ears. The question is whether he’ll be satisfied with this role or whether he’ll decide the best way to be a driving force in federal conservatism is to move into federal politics.
This is where it gets tricky for Mr Kenney. Leaving aside the question of when to jump ship, Mr Whyte says Mr Kenney’s actions to date—pushing the firewall, proposing referendums on CPP, the RCMP, entrenching property rights in the Constitution and equalization—make him less useful to the larger conservative movement.
A less useful Mr Kenney would be a very good thing for the rest of Canada.
What we can do
We may be in the fog of politics, but one thing has become crystal clear. Mr Kenney is riding two horses, one leads to separation, the other to 24 Sussex Street.
Either way, we pay the price.
So, we will continue to point out how Mr Kenney’s war rooms, panels, and inquiries violate fundamental rights. We will march against the austerity budget, the attack on LBGTQ rights, Bill 207 and any other horrible thing Mr Kenney has in store. And we’ll express our disgust at Mr Kenney picking up the tab for premiers who are more than capable of paying for their own transportation.
We will do it all because the fog of politics has lifted.
*Alberta Hansard, Nov 7, 2019, pp 2253, 2256