It’s hard to find hope when so many Albertans are hurting. It’s even more difficult when you realize Alberta’s own government is the source of their pain.
Nevertheless, there is cause for hope.
I saw that eye-roll. Let me tell you why I’m hopeful.
The Notley opposition
Alberta is blessed with an extremely capable and skilled Opposition that is holding the Kenney government to account.
Let’s take the budget as an example. Mr Kenney says the purpose of his austerity policies is to balance the budget. Well, Ms Notley has proposed an alternative budget that will get him there without pitting Albertans against each other and picking fights with other governments. Ms Notley would reverse Mr Kenney’s $4.7 billion corporate tax cut and ask the top one percent (those earning over $315,000/year) to increase personal income taxes by one percent. This would allow the government to maintain public services, invest in infrastructure, help diversify the economy and achieve a balanced budget by 2023/24 (one year later than Mr Kenney’s budget) with $1 billion less in accumulated deficit.
Fat lot of good the Notley budget will do us, you say. Mr Kenney will never concede his austerity policies are doing more harm than good. Perhaps, but Ms Notley’s point is the budget is a matter of choice. Mr Kenney could reverse these cuts but he chooses not to do so. Albertans forced to endure the consequences of his decision (and that’s all of us by the way) will remember this when they mark their ballots in the next election.
Admittedly, this ray of hope is like a light at the end of a long tunnel but it’s magnified by other signs of hope in the here and now.
Professionals are speaking out
Alberta’s professionals are standing by their professional ethics and calling out the Kenney government when it crosses the line.
U of C law professors raised serious concerns that the Alberta Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns violates the rule of law and procedural fairness as well as our constitutional right to freedom of expression. Political science profs continue to take the Kenney government to task for heavy handed behavior that labels critics as a group to be targeted.
Journalists at large and small papers (hello Medicine Hat News!) are covering everything the UCP does; including the government deploying its $30 million war room to single out and publicly denigrate the work of a young activist—he found the experience to be “intimidating” but shows no signs of backing down.
It’s critical for a healthy democracy that professionals publicly hold the government to account. The historian Timothy Snyder says this creates a form of “ethical conversation” that isn’t possible between an individual and a distant government.
If the UCP government refuses to participate in this conversation, so be it. The ethical conversation educates the public who are growing uneasy with a government that promised to fight for the people, but now appears more interested in running roughshod over their rights and freedoms.
Albertans are speaking up
In the old days Albertans were reluctant to criticize the conservative party. Not anymore.
This week alone I’ve met Albertans who are quick to express their anger and frustration with the UCP government. They include a young tech entrepreneur who’s shocked the UCP trashed NDP policies supporting the tech sector, a hairdresser whose life became more expensive under the Kenney government, a business owner concerned that Kenney’s divisive rhetoric has led some Albertans to believe Alberta will be better off without Canada, and nurses anxious about their futures.
Albertans are showing up in person to argue against Kenney’s fair deal. They’re filing submissions and signing petitions. They’re marching along side of teachers and healthcare workers outside the UCP AGM. They’re writing their MLAs and flooding the mainstream and social media with stories about personal hardship caused by Kenney’s austerity budget.
The polls show Mr Kenney is in trouble; if this continues nothing will save him.
Until that day comes, let us reach out in hope to those less fortunate and support them through these difficult times.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
PS The traditional Christmas blog complete with the dog under the Christmas tree will appear on Dec 25, 2019.