Here we are in the eye of the storm, a place of relative calm surrounded by a ring of thunderstorms (known as the eye wall). We passed through one eye wall to get here and we’ll have to pass through another eye wall to get out.
This won’t be easy given the man who put us here, Jason Kenney, will be in office for another three years and is determined to stay the course. He says he didn’t go through all the work of uniting the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives to “preside over a broken status quo.”
He spent the first nine months of his term ripping up Rachel Notley’s progressive agenda and replacing it with policies that reduced corporate taxes and increased costs on everything from car insurance to school fees; and to put the icing on the cake, he cut education, healthcare and social programs to the point where everyone is feeling helpless and confused.
But fear not, Mr Kenney predicts 2020 will be a “turnaround year” for Alberta, one in which he will make headway on his promise to deliver jobs, the economy and pipelines.
There’s just one catch: Jason Kenney has no idea how he’s going to do it.
What? Why? How? Huh?
He’s made it clear his focus isn’t on the “how” but the “why”.
In an year end interview Mr Kenney said his government needs to communicate not just “what” it’s doing—he campaigned on delivering a smaller, more effective public service and a balanced budget because a rising tide lifts all boats—but also communicating the “why”.
He says conservatives are notoriously bad at explaining the “why” to the public, but once they explain the “why” and the people see the benefits of reform, they’ll support it.
This raises a number of questions.
Albertans already know “why” Mr Kenney implemented an austerity budget, he said the MacKinnon Report demonstrates Alberta’s public services had to be cut to fall into line with those of other provinces in order to deliver a balanced budget in 2023.
If that’s not the “why” he’s talking about then please, enlighten us.
The real problem is that the people are not seeing the benefits of reform and Mr Kenney has no idea how his austerity budget will deliver these benefits given that the economy is driving by the energy sector and it’s impacted by global prices set by players and events outside of Alberta’s borders.
To further confuse things, in a recent interview Mr Kenney said the future of conservatism lies in embracing the growing “reform conservatism” movement. This is an American movement which says the market isn’t always right and a growing economy doesn’t necessarily benefit everyone.
Kenney says he’ll revisit “reform conservatism” after he’s got Alberta’s economy firing on all cylinders.
This makes no sense. How can Kenney fix the economy with old style conservatism (a rising tide lifts all boats) and then keep the economy going with reform conservatism (a rising tide does NOT lift all boats)?
But it does illustrate that Mr Kenney has no idea what he’s doing.
This also explains why he’s throwing distractions at us left, right and centre. In addition to the $30 million war room, the $2.5 million public inquiry into anti-Alberta activities, the Fair Deal Panels, and the budget panel, there are 7 open engagements covering everything from farmer-led agricultural research to photo radar, 6 expert panels to advise on everything from auto insurance to curriculum reform and 14 panels who’ve finished their work and submitted their recommendations to the government for review. This is on top of the 16 engagements that were completed in 2019.
(We’re reminded of the words of the Chinese philosopher Lin Yatang who said: “Those who are wise aren’t busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.”)
The UCP famously said “We understand that in order to be a compassionate, caring society, we must be prosperous first.” One can’t help but wonder what will happen when Kenney’s plan to move the needle on jobs, the economy and pipelines in 2020 comes up empty notwithstanding his $4.7 billion cut in corporate taxes and his promise to eliminate red tape—a promise described as hypocritical by the CEO of Prosper Petroleum who has taken the UCP government to court to force it to approve an oil sands project.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that we’ll have to fight our own way out of the eye of the storm; standing up for the public services that protect our families, our friends and our neighbours.
We won’t be able to sit around waiting for Jason Kenney to click his ruby slippers and magically whisk us back home.