That’s the sound of Jason Kenney’s recovery plan as it sputters and lands like a limp balloon in the corner of the room.
Mr Kenney promised Albertans a “bold and ambitious plan,” a “game-changer” that will send a clear message to the world that Alberta is the best place to invest…then he delivered the same old, same old.
The plan offered $10 billion in infrastructure funding, however all but $1B of it was already spoken for in the Feb 2020 budget and the $1.5B equity investment and $6B loan guarantee for Keystone XL. Tsk tsk, it’s not really part of the recovery plan if you were going to do it anyway.
Then there was the drop in the corporate tax rate to 8%. Again, this isn’t new, it’s simply an acceleration of a tax cut scheduled to go into effect a year and a half from now. We all know how well the first one worked out: corporations used it to buy back shares, pay down debt, pay out dividends, or pocket the savings and hightail it to Denver. The one thing they didn’t do was create new jobs.
The promise to diversify the economy is short on specifics and relies to some degree on the diversification policies implemented by the Notley government which were subsequently chopped by Kenney when he came into power. So we’re making up for lost ground?
The verbiage around advancing Alberta’s position as a leader in ESG (environmental, social, and governance criteria) is nice but there’s nothing concrete about how to do it. The one thing that does come through is Alberta’s enduring persecution complex: two of the four pillars of the ESG strategy promise to correct “mischaracterizations” and the inappropriate “targeting” of Alberta’s energy sector. Can we talk about the industry just once without whining?
The most disingenuous commitment is the government’s promise to “continue to invest heavily in our most important resource—our people.” This is not a promise to increase investment in affordable daycare, affordable housing, or the healthcare and education sectors; it’s a promise to create an “investment promotion agency” called Invest Alberta to identify prospective investors and provide them with “concierge service” to help them navigate regulatory hurdles.
What can I say: Trickle down economics is alive and well in Alberta.
If Kenney really wanted to deliver a true game-changer, he would have given serious consideration to advice from people like Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan who said now is the time to go for the “moonshot” and develop a vision and a strategy to transition to a low carbon economy without leaving anyone behind,* and to “follow the money” which people like Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, and Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, say is being invested in companies and jurisdictions committed to net-zero by 2050.
Lastly, Kenney would stop clinging to the pre-Covid status quo and recognize the world is changing fast. The post-Covid normal is being driven by people who demand a more equitable and prosperous future for everyone not just the top one-percent; people whose conviction in the importance of addressing climate change has not wavered.
We didn’t need the New York rating agency, Fitch, to downgrade Alberta because Kenney’s recovery plan lacks details, continues to rely on volatile natural resource revenues, and fails to put forward a planned path toward economic recovery, we can see that for ourselves.
*ARC Podcast interview : Peter Tertzakian and Jackie Forrest with Mr O’Regan