The UCP government continues to tell Albertans it’s delivering on its promise of jobs, economy, pipelines, when in fact it’s not.
The latest example of this Orwellian doublespeak is the UCP government’s “promises made, promises kept” report. This is the second PMPK report. Like the first one it lists a bunch of actions to support the government’s assertion that it’s meeting its campaign promise to get Albertans back to work, to renew the economy and make life better for all Albertans.
Like the first PMPK report it’s a misleading piece of puffery.
The government says of the 375 campaign promises it made, 162 have been kept or are well underway. The 94 promises it says it kept in this PMPK report are in addition to the 68 promises the UCP says it kept in the first PMPK report.
This is all a little confusing because when the first PMPK report was issued Mr Kenney said the UCP had kept 58 not 68 promises, but you know, math is hard.
In any event Mr Kenney gave us a simple metric. He summed up the second PMPK report by saying he’s already delivered on 43% of his commitments.
This bold statement caught Ms Soapbox’s eye.
She’s worked for decades with the CEOs of publicly traded companies who loved to make bold statements about how well they were delivering on their promises to shareholders. If they said they’d delivered on 43% of their commitments it was Ms Soapbox’s job to check the facts to make sure they’d delivered 43% and not 32% or 14%, because a CEO who makes a misrepresentation (lies about a material fact or omits a material fact) would be in violation of Canadian and American securities laws.
Suffice it to say that if Mr Kenney were a corporate CEO he’d be in big trouble.
Getting Albertans back to work
Mr Kenney’s PMPK report is divided into four parts.
Thirty-nine items are listed under the heading “getting Albertans back to work.” They include The Carbon Tax Repeal Act, the Job Creation Tax Cut, the Red Tape Reduction Act, the Farm Freedom and Safety Act, and legislation that undermines unions, cuts employee benefits and the minimum wage for youth.
The securities law question would be: Did the 39 things Mr Kenney listed in the PMPK report actually get Albertans back to work? Given that the latest Stats Can report shows Alberta’s unemployment rate jumped to 7.2% which is a full percentage point higher than it was in Nov 2018 (the total unemployed in Alberta is now 182,500), the answer is no.
And while I recognize that turning the economy around takes time, Mr Kenney has been clear that it’s government policy, not the global price of oil, that’s responsible for Alberta’s economic downturn. Since he’s loath to blame his own policies he’s blaming Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau. The blame game might work in politics; but it wouldn’t work for the securities commission because he promised his policies would create jobs and they did not.
Making life better for all Albertans
The 53 items listed in this section range from blatant misrepresentations to ridiculous throwaways (were Albertans worse off under the old regulation that made anyone holding a bottle of beer stay inside a fenced-in beer garden).
The most egregious misrepresentation in this section is the assertion the UCP kept its promise to maintain or increase health and education spending by allotting $20.6B to health and $8.2B to education. By failing to account for population growth and inflation, the health and education budgets were in fact cut not maintained. Thousands of health professionals and teachers will be laid off and the province’s ability to care for its sick and educate its young will be negatively affected.
The securities law question would be: Is it true that the UCP is maintaining health and education spending? Answer: No; because it failed to account for population growth and inflation and that’s a material omission.
Standing up for Alberta
This section contains 15 items, including filing lawsuits to challenge the federal carbon tax and Bill C-69, firewall items like lifting the cap on the fiscal stabilization fund, and launching the anti-Alberta energy public inquiry.
But it’s the promise to build “an interprovincial coalition supporting jobs, pipelines and the energy industry” that would catch a securities lawyer’s eye.
The UCP government says it’s met this promise by hosting the Stampede Premiers Meeting and engaging in something labelled “Ongoing”. However this fails to acknowledge that Mr Kenney backed away from putting the item on the agenda at the recent Premiers Meeting. He discussed things he knew the premiers would agree with, rather than taking the opportunity to build support for jobs, pipelines and the energy industry as he promised.
The PMPK report omitted a material fact, that Mr Kenney failed to deliver on his promise to build a coalition when he had the opportunity. Heck, he didn’t even say he had little side conversations on the subject.
Commitments well under way
Under securities laws all that’s required of the 55 commitments in this section is that they be “under way”. Obviously, if they’re “under way” they’re not a “promise kept” because they’re still in process. But like many corporations, the government wants to give Albertans an idea of what it’s got in the hopper.
Fine, but how does the government explain its backtracking around who or what is involved in the establishment of its $30M War Room.
In the first PMPK report the War Room fell under the heading “Standing up for Alberta”. The “promise kept” was substantiated by a press release dated June 7 that said the government was meeting with industry to discuss combining resources and creating a platform to combat misinformation about Alberta energy.
In the second PMPK report this “promise kept” became a commitment “under way”, supported by a watered down announcement dated Oct 9 that said the government “started the process of creating the Canadian Energy Centre to fight for the oil and gas sector”.
Apparently all that happened between June 7 (“promise kept”) and Oct 9 (“under way”) was a name change.
A securities lawyer would ask what happened to the promise of industry participation? And the promise to create a government/industry platform? Did industry tell the government this was a stupid idea and refuse to participate? Under securities law this would be a material change that must be disclosed under the obligation of continuous disclosure. It wasn’t.
We’re not surprised
The second PMPK report includes some good news—for example the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Act (TIER) has been accepted by the federal Liberal government—however it also demonstrates Mr Kenney has fallen short of his campaign promise to get Albertans back to work, to renew the economy and make life better for all Albertans.
He may say he’s delivered 43% of his commitments, but no amount of Orwellian double speak will make it so.