“Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” — Gordon Gekko in the movie ‘Wall Street’
Our Covid numbers are rising, GDP is falling and the UCP government is burying us in a blizzard of announcements promising a relaunch strategy that will return us to “normal”.
The challenge for Albertans is to find a way to keep up with the barrage of UCP changes to legislation, regulations, and policy that, under the guise of progress are dragging us backwards.
One way to sort through the flak that pours into your media feed every day is to read it with two principles in mind: mutuality of interest and follow the money.
Mutuality of interest
The UCP and corporate Alberta share a mutuality of interest.
The UCP depends on corporations and their well-heeled shareholders and executives for financial support to stay in power. Corporations support political parties that free them from regulatory oversight (aka “red tape”) and suppress organized labour because these policies drive down costs and increase profits.
(Sorry all you ordinary Albertans who voted for the UCP after Kenney’s blue pick-up tour of Alberta; you’re not part of the equation).
The clearest examples of mutuality of interest are Kenney’s “job creating” tax cut and Bill 32, an act to “restore balance in the workplace.” The job creating tax cut did not create any jobs. Bill 32 does not restore balance; it makes things worse by undermining unions that advocate for greater equity in the workplace.
Nevertheless, both policies are a success in Kenney’s world because they reduce corporate costs and increase profits which lead to hefty dividends. If shareholders are happy, corporations are happy; if corporations are happy they reward those who made them happy.
One hand washes the other, you know.
Follow the money
Given this mutuality of interest, it’s not surprising that following the money invariably leads us to the private sector.
Sometimes the money trail is picked out in klieg lights, sometimes it’s more subtle.
It’s obvious Kenney’s $1.5 billion equity investment and $6 billion loan guarantee to the KXL pipeline bought him a heap of goodwill from TC Energy, its shareholders, and investors, even though energy leaders like Suncor’s CEO chortle when asked whether KXL will ever be completed (some experts put the likelihood of completion at less than 50%).
The money trail is less obvious when it’s obscured by rhetoric about boosting the economy and/or saving taxpayers money.
Two quick examples. Kenney’s decision to repeal former premier Lougheed’s coal development policies to allow open-pit coal mining in the fragile Eastern slopes is hailed as a boon to Alberta’s economy when in fact it’s a retrograde step that undermines everything Kenney has said about Alberta being a global leader in energy and the environment. But the Australian coal mining companies love it, right?
Under the guise of saving taxpayers money, Kenney will fully or partially close 20 parks and transfer 164 more to third-party managers. If managers can’t be found, the parks will be sold. Given that a mere 6.4% of Alberta land is protected, it’s difficult to see how selling public land to potato farmers and other business ventures will produce a meaningful increase in revenue.
But Kenney’s focus is not on increasing revenue or protecting endangered species and Alberta’s watersheds, let alone promoting recreational fishing and camping; these policies will be a success if they ingratiate the UCP government with the coal industry and other business enterprises.
Sometimes the money trail is disguised as a matter of “choice”.
Kenney is promoting more “choice” in healthcare by funneling taxpayers’ money into the privatization of healthcare, be it the Babylon Telus app which replaces real physicians with virtual ones or a policy that will increase private surgeries from 15% to 30% by 2023. If history is anything to go by this will slow down access to public surgeries and increase the cost of private surgeries.
Some good news
Albertans are becoming increasingly aware that the objective of the UCP government is not to serve them but the corporate sector that keeps them in power.
They reacted by increasing their financial support for the NDP. For the first time since 2017 the NDP raised more money than the UCP. In the second quarter the NDP raised $1,032,796.85 while the UCP raised $642,677.29. More than half the NDP donations were in amounts of $250 or less, while almost two-thirds of the UCP donations were over $250.
The day Kenney was elected he declared, “Alberta is open for business.”
A year later Albertans are pushing back. It turns Alberta is not for sale after all.