Is This a Time for Hope?

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.

Rachel Notley with Irfan Sabir, Kathleen Ganley and Joe Ceci

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.

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29 Responses to Is This a Time for Hope?

  1. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. Sad that many Albertans do not get that Jason Kenney and the UCP are part of the problem for Alberta, and are not the solution. They are quite the fiscally incapable group, and are good at creating divisions, not just in Alberta, but in Canada. The Alberta PCs, with the exception of Peter Lougheed’s government, were also a fiscal trainwreck, and loved to create divisions. Then, the UCP is making a worse situation, by going after the most vulnerable, and our nurses and teachers, with Don Getty and Ralph Klein style austerity, and is also leaving infrastructure in a mess. Hopefully, the UCP will not last beyond 4 years. We will have to do what we can to help those affected by Jason Kenney’s big mistakes all year round. Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    • Thanks Dwayne. Rachel Notley delivered a good message at the NDP appreciation event last Monday. She talked about the damage the Kenney budget has caused and will cause in the future, then she moved on. She said Albertans are tired of being angry but Kenney hasn’t given them an action plan for anything but anger. Anger at the feds, at other provinces, at the unions, and at others who fall on the other side of the divisive rhetoric we hear from the UCP every day. She asked people to move beyond the anger and look at what Kenney has done with his budget.
      Notley said three important things. (1) the budget is a choice (every government knows that), (2) Kenney deliberately chose the budget that would deliver pain and suffering to Albertans in order to bring a $4.7 billion windfall to corporations, and (3) it didn’t have to be this way (see the Alternative Budget). She asked us to read her budget and talk to our friends, family and neighbours about it. The hope is that they’ll start to ask themselves whether Kenney’s choice was worth the pain and suffering it causes.

  2. Judy j. Johnson says:

    Love your clever satire Susan. Thanks for pointing out that many Albertans have shown the country it’s time to stop whining about the federal government and rightly place the blame for unconscionable hardship on Kenney and the UCP government. For me, that’s something to be hopeful about.
    All the best to you, Roy, Kelly and Eden for a happy, healthy holiday, and may 2020 be easy on us all!

  3. Dan Buss says:

    We could make a huge first step by making blinders illegal.

  4. Sam Gunsch says:

    re: ‘Mr Kenney will never concede his austerity policies are doing more harm than good. ‘

    To begin, I also agree that the UCP budget choices are ‘austerity’.

    But just want to flag that at least one of AB’s leading economists has been categorical in saying the UCP budget is *not* an austerity budget. That the cuts would have to be much deeper to qualify as austerity. I’ve been told this directly by one of them in the limited public discourse on #ableg #abpoli on Twitter.

    I just wanted to note this as evidence of how far toward the neoliberal (anti-Keynesian) side of the political spectrum that conventional economic ‘wisdom’ has been pulled.

    Another leading AB economist insists that Klein saying he’s not cutting health care spending is true (b/c of course it isn’t, in nominal terms!) while also conceding though that the people that say Kenney *is* cutting spending in ‘real’ terms, i.e. adjusted for inflation/popn, which is the relevant way to assess budgets, are also saying a true thing. And that both can be true at the same time.

    I kid you not. Big help fo AB political discourse, eh?

    And btw when I said that position was a ‘reach’ well, let’s the just say the response was unhappy with me.

    My point: It’s little wonder that the Kenney UCP just go for it and insist on their spin of ‘no cuts’ to health spending, given this kind of economic opinion leadership from even the most even-handed ostensibly public minded AB economists, i.e. not Jack Mintz/Fraser Institute.

    Just venting in exasperation mostly here. Like it’s not enough that AB newspapers are laden with RW columnists cheering UCP on by spewing outright economic fiction… sigh.


    • Thanks for this Sam. The discussion about the definition of an austerity budget and whether or not the Kenney government is cutting the healthcare budget reminds me of the time I returned home to discover that someone had made off with my VCR and some cash. I called the police and said I’d been robbed. The cop said were you home at the time of the incident. I said no. He said, then you’ve been burgled. I wanted to reach through the telephone receiver and smack him. It didn’t matter whether it was called a “robbery” or a “burglary” in either case someone had invaded my home and stole my stuff. I’m sure the people living with the consequences of the cuts to the health and education budgets and their families feel exactly the same way.

  5. Sylvia Krogh says:

    Susan, you are a beacon of hope during this sad political time in Alberta! Thanks for continuing to point out the disastrous United Corrupt Party policies.

    • Thank you Sylvia. I figure if Rachel Notley and her tireless caucus aren’t prepared to give up, the least I can do is support them. And I’m by no means alone. The law profs and political scientists are doing an extremely important job in making sure we don’t accept the UCP’s abuses of power as normal. And kudos to the journalists who continue to hold the UCP to account. Not an easy task when a $30 million government agency (aka war room) comes gunning for you.

  6. Well, okay – here’s my reply by way of n open letter to Jason Kenney – hope that’s okay by you, Susan . . .
    Open Letter to Jason Kenney
    Your Fascist, Corporatist, nest-feathering, Trump-style approach to Alberta politics isn’t working out too well, is it, Jason? Your “trickle-down” B.S. backfired on you, didn’t it?
    $4.7 BILLION in UCP gifts to the corporate elite? At the expense of Albertans’ health care, seniors, education, and God knows what other poisonous plans are afoot in your twisted, anti-Alberta excuse for a mind? Just so “they” can take the money and run? (Which “they” already have done . . .)
    As your popularity (snicker) slides deeper and deeper into the Tar Pits you (pretend to) support (it’s crystal clear you support NOTHING Albertan – let alone any modicum of political or moral decency), you’d better come to the realization that if you can’t keep Alberta rednecks happy, your days are numbered, sonny.
    You have proven yourself to be anti-LGBTQ, anti-Senior, anti-healthcare, anti-education . . . anti EVERYTHING progressive, socially just and fair, economically diverse, environmentally responsible, human-caused climate change, and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera . . .
    I am a crippled senior on pension income only, a retired teacher, a supporter of energy and industrial diversification, VEHEMENTLY anti-Tar Pits, and will spend the rest of my days on this earth railing against charlatans and frauds such as you, Doug Ford, and Stephen Harper, Andrew Scheer and your ilk. YOU ARE BAD NEWS for Alberta, Canada, and everything decent. You are revered by Fascists, Racists, anti-LGBTQs, and old, white, thieving, morally bankrupt corporatists and Big Oil.
    You are done. Go back to Ottawa & see if you can get a job cleaning up after Scheer.
    My advice to MLA Roger Reid – as a Livingstone-Macleod constituent – is to spearhead a non-confidence initiative ASAP, if the UCP – a rag-tag bunch of near-dead, delusional Alberta PC’s, Reformers, Racists, Fascists, Harperites (the Northern foundation), Tar Babies, Corporatists and other undesirables supported by the likes of the Soldiers of Odin, the Yellow Vests, and what’s left of the Alberta KKK – has ANY hope of survival as a viable “party” – IF it can convert to a more traditional form of “conservatism” rather than the radical (yes, sport, it’s YOU who are the radicals) extremist right ideology you assume most Albertans esteem.
    And – BTW – keep your greedy fingers off my CPP, my ATRF pension, my disability benefits, my and my family’s health care, and my beloved Alberta children’s education. Or else.
    PLEASE, PLEASE, Jason – add my name to your unbelievably STUPID “War Room” S-list . . .
    Oh, how I’d LOVE to meet with you in my MLA’s Pincher Creek office in February . . . are you up for that?

    Robert J. Pisko

    • Wow, Robert, you really let him have it, and why not. Kenney uses anger to ignite his base, he doesn’t realize or care whether it will also ignite his opposition.
      As I read your letter I realized it illustrates a critical character flaw: Jason Kenney is not a good leader. Despite his protestations that he’s a nationalist, he hasn’t managed to dissuade a single separatist from their Wexit dreams. Despite his contention that the UCP is a big tent open to all, he hasn’t pushed out the Soldiers of Odin, the homophobes, the misogynist, the Islamophobes, and the racists. And despite his promise to reignite the conservatives as a political party he’s simply taken the Reform party and dressed it up into modern day clothing. He has yet to propose a single fresh new idea.
      This is not the kind of person Alberta needs to lead it into the 21st century.

  7. Sandy Clovechok says:

    Hopefully thete will be a miracle on 37th Street for Alberans this year!! That’s,what it will take to hold Jason Kenney ACCOUNTABLE for his actions!! All we can do is BELUEVE it will hspoen and it WILL !!

  8. Jerrymacgp says:

    I’ve been wondering, have Albertans ever felt buyer’s remorse so quickly after electing a new majority government? I think the real issue, is that Alberta voters expected a pragmatic, brokerage-style traditional conservative government, but what they got was a radically ideological, doctrinaire, neo-conservative Tea Party Government.

    Canadian politics have never been particularly ideological. The two mainstream parties that have dominated politics in this country throughout its history, the Conservatives — in their varying guises — and the Liberals, by & large have always been what political scientists call “brokerage” parties: rather than being sharply ideological, their underlying message to voters was, “elect us and we’ll listen to you more than the other guys”. Yes there were policy distinctions, for sure; for example, in the country’s early years, the Conservatives were protectionist and the Liberals free traders, and after the Second World War the Liberals were a bit more to the left of the Progressive Conservatives wham it came to the social safety net, and they also had different approaches to federal-provincial relations. But in broad strokes, there has rarely been much to distinguish Liberal governments from Conservative ones. As for the NDP, that is a more ideological party than either of the other two — but they have usually been relegated to third place or lower at the federal level, have never held power in Ottawa, and only rarely done so provincially.

    Here in Alberta, the SoCreds under Aberhart were highly ideological, but they had to dilute their ideology and were eventually defeated by a new, more pragmatic form of conservatism put forward by Peter Lougheed’s PCs in 1971. Later, in the early 90s came a sharp shift to the right and an experiment with “trickle-down economics” under Ralph Klein, as government spending was slashed and the 10% flat tax was first introduced. Later on in King Ralph’s reign, however, the purse strings were loosened with the windfall in natural resource revenues, showing that Klein wasn’t particularly ideological after all. Post-Ralph, the PCs shifted again, to a more traditionally patronage-based party, encouraging anyone and everyone who wanted the ear of government that the route to being listened to was to be a member or contributor to the governing PC party. This led to public agencies like school boards, municipalities and college & universities buying tables at Tory fundraisers.

    The NDP election victory of 2015 was in large part the result of a rejection of too many years of this sort of petty corruption in the PC Party, a split on the right between the PCs and the more doctrinaire Wildrose, and a pragmatic, non-ideological campaign from the New Democrats. But, really, from Day One of their government, the NDP never really stood a chance. They were assailed right from the get-go as the “accidental government”, and the forces of the right began a concerted campaign to defeat them in 2019. But, make no mistake, for anyone paying attention, the now “United Conservatives” had been telegraphing their intentions the whole time, and those intentions were not the sort of pragmatism the voting public were looking for. No, the UCP is as doctrinaire and ideological as the Wildrose before them, just as the modern Conservative Party of Canada has become just Reform by another name.

    • Bob Raynard says:

      As usual, Jerry, I agree with your thoughts. In the recent federal election Mr. Trudeau deserved a spanking, and I would have seriously considered voting for a Progressive conservative like Joe Clark. The party of Stephen Harper, however? Never.

    • Excellent analysis Jerry. As you point out the United Conservatives have been telegraphing their intentions the whole time. What I wonder is whether Kenney has learned anything from Scheer’s ignoble defeat in October.
      As Bob points out the CPC had a real shot at winning a majority this time around given Trudeau’s mistakes, but failed to do so because voters couldn’t stomach the idea of a Scheer government. This includes many who would have voted Green or NDP but parked their votes with the Liberals in order to avoid the possibility that splitting the vote would push Scheer into power.
      In a year end interview Kenney said the future of conservatism lies in moving away from laissez-faire caplitalism and embracing the “reform conservatism” movement. The article is replete with buzz words like “common good capitalism” and cites David Cameron and Mario Rubio as champions of the cause.
      Something tells me this won’t end well.

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    Despite the fact that the UCP policies are basically austerity for everyone except corporations and the political elites, there is a strong ideology behind it that seems to be escaping scrutiny. Cutting on Education and making teachers the enemy of the state like they frequently do is extremely dangerous. Ralph Klein despised teachers and so does Jason Kenney – two drop outs. If you think this is a coincidence, think again. It is fundamental to Jason Kenney’s success that shallow critical thinking is dominant. The reason he never welcomed Greta Thunberg is clear. He could not debate climate change. Can he debate anything other than the imprinted cut taxes to the rich and torture the rest of us? I doubt it. He did not accept debate on health care with Rachel Notley because he knows he cannot stand a chance. It is called fascism – destroy those that can intellectually oppose you. The attack on the young activist, which is barely mentioned anywhere, is a clear sign of where we are heading. I am surprised that this has not caused much reaction. We seem to be getting used to a new normal and that is what the UCP is hoping for.
    This is a direct attack on democratic values. Of course the War Room would go after a defenseless millennial. That is the reflection of their cowardice.

    • Barb Germann says:

      Agreed Carlos. Overall Canadians, with Albertan’s taking the lead, have our collective heads in the sand with respect to the contributions our industries are making towards the destruction of the planet. We (Albertan’s) are waiting with great anticipation for Captain Kenney to make oil and gas great again – its nothing sort of embarrassing. We haven’t even started to talk about the fact that beef production – a huge industry here – is the next to go…or should I say, the next industry to get caught not paying attention. The more we resist change, the greater the possibility that we will fail.

    • Well said Carlos. Kenney often says getting a trade certificate is just as good as a university education. I’m not sure what he hopes to achieve with that comment other than to signal to students the elite thinks you’re stupid because you don’t have a university degree. Kenney praises the German model where employers hire 16 and 17 year olds right out of school. He says he’s going to pressure Alberta employers to do the same here. He also said the most important aspect of the German model is what they call “parity of esteem” where they believe trades and professions have equal status.
      Actually I don’t think that’s what parity of esteem is all about. David Sainsbury writing in the New Statesman talks about the concept from the perspective of providing technical education of the same quality as an academic education, allowing 16 and 17 year olds to choose whether to go down the technical or academic track, and allowing kids who choose the technical track to switch over to the academic track if there aren’t any jobs. The focus is on quality of education, not status of the person. Once again Kenney has simplified a concept to support his ideology which as you said seems to be directed at pushing more kids into the trades as opposed to improving the quality of education for kids who choose a trade.
      As you point out, the real question is why.
      Here’s the Sainsbury article:
      Here’s Kenney’s video re: parity of esteem

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I am not surprised Jason Kenney simplified the concept. I do not believe he understands it at all. Instead of pushing the kids into the trades he should get himself any kind of education rather than just be repeating the same slogan for the rest of his life.
        He lives in a world where those who cheat the smartest are the bosses that then just create chaos through bullying so that no one ever questions them. This use to be called Mafia, but now it is an actual government.
        By the way, Jason Kenney came back from the UK with his royal entourage and there has not been a word about it. Does this mean he basically accomplished nothing? Did anybody even noticed he was there?
        As far as His attack on Melanie Thomas credentials, again typical of those who have none. and want to look smart.
        Short of a Miracle similar to what happened to Ralph Klein, he will be toast and soon remembered for what he is worth – another brick in the firewall.

      • CallmeHal2000 says:

        @Carlos Beca:

        Well, JK did retweet Boris Johnson, so I expect we’ll see more of that in 2020, along with a suitcase full of BJ’s catchphrases, at least what could be crammed in between all the holiday shopping. If we’re really lucky, we might learn of the benefits of vitamin C in the shower (A: to counteract chlorine). An exciting year ahead, so exciting I can hardly stand it.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes I am having also a hard time just thinking of another year with the fluff coming from Jason Kenney.
        The latest is his photo in his office at the Legislature saying that he wants ‘ Cooperation not Confrontation…’ what a disgusting human being. Insults everyone, is aggressive and then he expects less confrontation. Well I personally hope we have a general strike that will paralyze his government. I will write a letter a week to help paralyze his demented brain.

  10. Dave says:

    My greatest hope is that Mr. Kenney might pick up his carpet bag and go back to his real home in Ottawa, and that not everyone in the UCP is quite as mean spirited as him, but that might be too much to hope for. Also, it wouldn’t immediately get rid of him, just inflict him elsewhere.

    On a brighter note, I agree the opposition to Kenney’s agenda has been more broad based than the UCP probably wanted or expected. I don’t think his campaign to portray opposition to it as being by just a few groups is going as well as the UCP expected. With his popularity falling a lot, I wonder if Kenney might pull a Doug Ford some time next year, adopt a lower profile (ie. go into hiding for a while) and then come out and try to appear as less mean spirited.

  11. Dave, my friends and I are debating how long Kenney is going to be happy being a big fish in a small conservative pond. We figure sooner or later he’s going to take the plunge back into the CPC world. As one friend put it, the only reason Kenney is supporting Rona Ambrose for CPC leader is he doesn’t think the CPC will support a woman for long.
    I hadn’t thought about the scenario that Kenney might pull a Doug Ford and emerge as a kinder, gentler man. Frankly I don’t think he’s got it in him. This is the man who impugned the academic credentials of political scientist, Dr Melanee Thomas in the Legislature when she said his behavior verged on authoritarianism. The fact he stooped to an ad hominem attack rather that addressing the substance of her statement tell us all we need to know about the man. By the way over 600 academics from across Canada signed an open letter to defend Dr Thomas’ qualifications and integrity.

  12. CallmeHal2000 says:

    From Robert Altinger: The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle.

    From me: Be the candle.

  13. Jim McPhail says:

    mini-Trump attended The Christmas Carol yesterday. The play carries such a message of hope and redemption. What odds the roly-poly premier took to heart Marley’s message, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”?

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