Promises Made, Promises Kept…or Not

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.

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28 Responses to Promises Made, Promises Kept…or Not

  1. Jim McPhail says:

    Well-written Susan! Pithy, solidly reasoned, perfect foil to mini-Trump government (mis)communications!

    • Thanks Jim. Given Mr Kenney’s belief that government should be run more like a business I thought it would be interesting to apply the same disclosure standards the securities commission applies to businesses to Mr Kenney’s public statements.
      As I said, he’d fail. .

      • Jerrymacgp says:

        This is a fascinating take on the UCP’s lies … since their notion is that we are all essentially shareholders in the State, not citizens, they should be held to the same standards of disclosure as the Board & executive suite of a publicly-traded Corporation.

  2. Desiree Bauer says:

    UCP = 🦕🦕🤥🤥🤥 Just like the Amerussians.

  3. Einar Davison says:

    Hi Susan. Funny how when the NDP didn’t meet fiscal targets, or when the bond ratings dropped, the Wild Rosers would go nuts…it’s almost karmic that now they are facing the same issues. How hypocritical that they won’t take responsibility for those issues when they demanded that the NDP do so. I always like to give a government or an elected official a year before I start thinking they need to own what is going off the tracks. However with all the crap they fired off in opposition, I’m thinking the UCP needs to own this all now. UCP, new name, all the Wild Rose crazy!

    • Carlos Beca says:

      I think things fall in place when you know the real name of the party

      I chose Peewee definition – group of song birds – because of their unbelievably synchronized poetic – cut taxes and impose austerity and then go beg for money to the federal government

      • Carlos, I like your version of the UCP name. They’re wonderfully synchronized because they don’t bother to think beyond the headlines. If Kenney says it’s true, then by golly it’s true and off we go and tell everyone else it’s true. And if anyone disagrees or introduces some facts or logic to the contrary they can be dismissed with the epithet “socialist!”

    • Einar, I agree. Instead of owning it, the UCP are making up lies to explain why they’re falling even further behind. On top of pretending their budget held the line when it actually made massive cuts across the board, they’re now saying the NDP inherited a budget surplus from the Prentice progressive conservatives when in actual fact Prentice was projecting a $5 billion deficit. These barefaced lies are worthy of Trump, no?

      • Einar Davison says:

        Susan, Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but once Albertans wake up and get tired of the UCP BS frenzy maybe Kenney will be a one hit wonder. Eventually the truth catches up to us all. I also wonder if he will help elect another weak Conservative leader until he’s ready to “return to Ottawa in triumph”? In the interim I guess the “rest of us” will need to remain hopeful and steadfast. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

      • Einar and Carlos, while I’m a perennial optimist I am troubled by the level of despair and hopelessness Kenney’s victimhood rhetoric has fostered in many Albertans. I heard it loud and clear at the Fair Deal panel last night. These people are suffering more than they should because Kenney is offering only one solution–a return to the golden age of oil and gas and one enemy, Trudeau who is blocking the industry. That means they have to get rid of Trudeau or firewall/separate. Some may realize in their heart of hearts that the oil boom is gone forever, but they simply can’t or won’t admit that they made a mistake voting for Kenney and should have stuck with Notley who had a Plan B which included diversification and a social security net that would ease the transition. As Carlos said Albertans have been up and down this cycle for 44 years and still haven’t learned a darned thing.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        If we did not learn in 44 years it is almost impossible for us to learn anything at all. We have dug our trenches of bully ism and so goes the story of this province

      • GoinFawr says:

        At the risk of being contrary I am going to go ahead and say that the oil boom is not ‘over’. Increasing world oil consumption is showing no signs of abating, regardless of dreams, wishes, and Tesla Trux. What is really happening is that, as you have pointed out before Susan, the price of oil is being manipulated by those with unlimited access to the US mint.

        Really, that is one of my fears (and, ironically, hopes): that ‘they’ will lose control over the price, and it will head for its REAL price worldwide; one which includes all the costs that are currently being externalized by, eg. Jason Kenney. Because if that happens, and the global price rises as a result, you KNOW who is going to take credit for it (and in all likelihood receive it from the woefully duped).

        “All I know is that under Jk’s leadership our economy got back on track” will be the facade obscuring the rotting structure behind it.

  4. CallmeHal2000 says:

    Perhaps someone could explain how unpaid labor can be counted at all in labor stats. Farm workers now have zero guarantee of pay, with that new legislation thingie. So if unpaid workers are counted in UCP job stats, does this mean that all the home-schoolers will be counted as “professional teachers”, and all the family members providing unpaid care to elderly and infirm relatives who no longer qualify for services under the UCP will be counted as “professional doctors and nurses”? That’s how doublespeak works. And don’t forget all those wee bairns who can be put to work for free on farms. They should be counted, too. And double points for their unpaid parents who home-school them. Oh, and while we’re at it, stay-at-home parents should be counted several times for all their different unpaid job titles…

    • CallmeHal: I think you’ve figured out how the UCP mind works. This is beyond Orwellian doublespeak at its best…I mean “worst”…no wait, maybe I mean “best”. See you’ve succeeded in confusing the heck of out me. And that’s the objective isn’t it.

  5. Public Servant says:

    Jason Kenney never misses an opportunity to make taxpayers pay for his campaigning does he?

    • Public servant: they say he’s the hardest working politician around, but it’s always easier to work hard, play hard when someone else is footing the bill for the chartered planes, hotels and limos.
      PS. I don’t believe he’s the hardest working politician around. Rachel Notley would run him into the ground, literally and figuratively speaking.

  6. Keith McClary says:

    IIRC, the “War Room” warriors were supposed to start their warring in mid-December, but I guess they will take a break for Xmas, Hanukkah and Ukrainian Xmas. Then they will charge into blaming the post-Solstice layoffs and credit card defaults on the NDP, Moodys, Greta and Justin.

    • Keith, how right you are, they remind me of children, lots of whining and it’s always someone else’s fault. Too bad we can’t send them to their room, or better yet, throw them out of power. The next 3.5 years will be such a grind.

  7. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. The UCP is getting more absurd, desperate and pathetic by the day. Everything they do turns out to be a financial disaster, with no benefits to Albertans at all. No job creation, nothing. Also, Jason Kenney wants to waste money on a trip to Ottawa, to ask Justin Trudeau for money, that he thinks is owed to Alberta. This is a smokescreen that many Albertans will foolishly believe, and it will be used to cover up the the rampant and rising fiscal ineptitude of the UCP. All their missteps are at least $15 billion or more. There are no more oil booms. Triple digit oil prices are ancient history, like telegraph lines and punch card computers are. Jason Kenney’s corporate tax cuts have not done anything to create jobs, (as he was “concerned” about Edmonton’s jobless rate, recently), but have siphoned nearly $5 billion from Alberta’s coffers. Who is going to suffer? The lower and middle income earners, including seniors on limited incomes. How is laying off nurses and teachers going to help? How is infrastructure maintenance getting ignored going to help? It won’t. The sting of Ralph Klein’s austerity, has not gone away. In that department, as well as the wasting money on corporate welfare, Ralph Klein upped what Don Getty started, tremendously. The Alberta PCs were an utter failure, on a fiscal level, and on a moral level, when Peter Lougheed stopped being our premier. What we have is a carbon copy of that, with the UCP. What a crying shame. Will it ever sink in to the die hard UCP fanatics, that the UCP are not a benefit to Alberta, but a detriment?

    • CallmeHal2000 says:

      I hope so, but I doubt it. The traditional view here in Alberta has been that if any donkey in a conservative suit has proven himself or herself incompetent, the best solution is to vote them in again and again for a few more decades, to give them the chance to get it right. Perhaps that is because electoral boundaries were always skewed to give farmers and ranchers more than their share of representation. Let’s not forget that favor has rewarded this go-round with farm slave legislation, aka the workers have no rights act.

      The only thing that might make it different this time is the looming threat of massive public sector job losses. Surely even farmers and ranchers will get fed up if they can’t get medical care anywhere near the old hacienda. Maybe.

      • CallmeHal2000: I hope you’re right about the impact of the threat of massive public sector jobs losses. The mantra I’ve heard from UCP supporters is these cuts are Trudeau’s fault (isn’t everything?). This is based on the illogical argument that Trudeau has killed pipeline access to tidewater, no access means no increase in oil revenues, this means less money in Alberta’s treasury, which results in less money to spend on teachers and nurses, and poor Kenney is forced to make cuts in order to get the budget to balance. These people are so beholden to the petrostate they’d rather die defending it, than consider the alternatives.
        The only thing worse than the incompetent donkey in a conservative suit is the idiotic donkey who votes for him/her.
        PS I exercised great restraint there in using the word donkey rather than its less flattering synonym.

    • Dwayne, you’re absolutely right. Just to pick up on your point about the smokescreen obscuring what Kenney is doing in Ottawa. He’s made a big deal about his 5 demands of Trudeau. These are: (1) getting Trudeau to guarantee a fixed date for the completion of TMX, (2) lift the cap on the Fiscal Stabilization program, (3) repeal C-48 and substantially amend C-69, (4) expand the use of flow through shares to encourage investment, and (5) accept Alberta’s methane reduction regs.
      He’s gone into full smoke and mirrors mode with demand #2 and #3. In the UCP platform he said call a referendum to remove equalization from the Constitution if Trudeau didn’t repeal C-69, make substantial progress on a pipeline to the coast and “reform” the equalization formula. Now he’s asking Trudeau to amend, not repeal, C-69 and he’s deliberately mischaracterizing any payment under the Fiscal Stabilization formula as an “equalization rebate” when it has absolutely on nothing to do with the equalization formula. He’s doing all this so he can say he’s delivered on his campaign promises when a quick read of p 94 of the UCP platform shows all he’s done is move the goalposts.
      Here’s the link to the story about his 5 point plan

  8. Dave says:

    What a good evaluation Mr. Kenney has of his so far brief tenure (it only feels so much longer for some reason), in his own humble, unbiased opinion no doubt.

    Many students would love to grade themselves and would probably give themselves better marks than their teachers. Maybe with the expected cut backs in education, the UCP could look at this idea as a cost saving idea. I don’t think so!

    I suppose self evaluation is sometimes one of the perks of being the boss, but that doesn’t necessarily make it accurate. Although to be fair to Mr. Kenney, he is not the first politician to try give his record (short as it is at this point) a more glowing result than independent sources would. Politicians often seem not to be able to resist doing this, although it generally does nothing but further hurt their credibility. Of course, its also easier to say you’ve delivered by keeping promises vague as possible in the campaign and by not making too many ambitious promises, as such an experienced politician like Kenney probably well knows.

    Maybe we should get some professional firm to “audit” Kenney’s generous self evaluation, although probably not the firm the UCP is going to have look at the Education Board’s finances. They apparently had temerity to publicly challenge the governnment’s claim their funding changes would not result in teaching staff reductions. They seem a bit quieter now.

    A good audit might also just be what is needed to quiet down our boastful Premier for a bit, don’t you think? He seems to be becoming a bit too full of himself. As the saying goes, pride comes before a fall.

  9. CallmeHal2000 says:

    Kenney cuts farmers loose to figure it out on their own. That didn’t take long. After all, farming is a thing of the past. Oil is where it’s at now, and climate change doesn’t exist.

    Now all he needs to do is make sure those rural doctors leave, showing rural voters what he really thinks of them.

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