Mr Toews Advises the Feds on Economic Recovery

The UCP government is nothing if not brazen.

Having failed to explain how the UCP government was going to set Alberta on the path to economic recovery Mr Toews, Alberta’s finance minister and treasury board president, decided to lecture the federal government what it must do to get the country back on track.  

Yes, the UCP is now preaching to all Canadians, not just the poor souls stuck here in Alberta.   

This is Toews’ four point plan.  

Competitiveness & productivity

Toews said Canada’s economic recovery is entirely dependent on its ability to attract private-sector investment. Entirely!

He failed to explain how Canada can attract such investment but it’s safe to assume his advice to the feds would mirror his advice to Jason Kenney—slash corporate taxes.

Finance Minister Toews

We all know how well that turned out.

Alberta’s corporate tax rate dropped from 12% to 8%, billions of dollars disappeared from the government’s coffers, the deficit got worse…and corporations used the tax break to pay down debt, buy back shares and pay dividends to their shareholders.

The one thing they did not do was invest in the economy.

Get out of the way

Toews said the feds must get out of the way of economic growth (ie deregulate) and points an accusatory finger at Bill C-69 (“no more pipelines”) and Bill C-48 (“west coast tanker ban”) to support his argument.

Bearing in mind that Toews is advising Canada on how to reignite its economy and energy contributes only 10.2% to Canada’s GDP, a less Alberta-centric example would have been appropriate.

Nevertheless, let’s consider how well Toews’ “get out of the way” strategy (also known as cutting red tape) is working in Alberta.

So far it has not delivered the promised economic growth; it has however exposed the province to increased environmental degradation. The most recent example is the government’s spectacularly stupid decision to resurrect the coal industry by revoking (and temporarily reinstating) the Coal Policy thereby allowing Australian coal companies to turn mountains into open-pit mines.

Cut support for unemployed Canadians

Toews admits temporary income support to Canadians during the pandemic was important but says “to move the economy forward, Canadians must have every incentive to return to work.”

Apparently 27% of small firms say some of their laid-off staff have refused to return to work. Instead of quantifying how many employees he’s talking about or why they refuse to return to work, Toews concludes Canada’s employment insurance plan is too generous and needs an overhaul.

Don’t pick winners and losers

Toews said the government must avoid “interventionist programs” and “market-distorting initiatives”—all political-speak for showering tax dollars on one industry participant but not another. He went even further stressing that governments “must use taxpayer dollars as if they are our own—with the greatest care and responsibility.”


Give me a moment to catch my breath!

Toews and his boss embarked on a multibillion dollar “interventionist program” when they gave TC Energy $1.5 billion in equity and $6 billion in loan guarantees to support KXL, only to have President Biden cancel its permit.

Toews has absolutely no credibility on this point. None.

A broader perspective

Toews concludes that this is a pivotal time in our history. In that he’s correct, but he’s misguided if he thinks the government’s response should be a single-minded focus on creating “an environment that positions the private sector for growth.”

The pandemic has had a profound social and cultural effect in addition to an economic impact on our society. We’ve learned a lot about our dependence on others and the value of community.

It’s time to acknowledge the importance of robust public services—solid K-12 public school funding, sufficient post-secondary funding to ensure students are prepared for the future and not buried in debt, public healthcare, and government support for seniors and other vulnerable citizens.

If we’re going to come out of this stronger and more resilient we need to learn from past governments that took bold action to recover from major crises like the great depression and WWII.

Why? Because authors like Robert Kuttner have shown that after the great depression and WWII governments that regulated the financial and business sectors, strengthened unions and supplemented good labour income with robust public services were rewarded by economic growth and full employment.*

And political scientists like Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garret have shown economic growth results from a reduction of income inequity.**

This is the time for visionary leadership, not a trite rehash of failed conservative policies.  

*Robert Kuttner, Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?  

**Robert Putnam & Shaylyn Romney Garret, The Upswing

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43 Responses to Mr Toews Advises the Feds on Economic Recovery

  1. rubennelson says:

    Another piece that is well done and vital for Albertans to hear. As I see him, Kenney and his ilk are turning Alberta into the “Mississippi” of Canada — the place which attracts money with a nudge and a wink that says, “Bring your money and we’ll let you do whatever you please to our people and environment as long as it is done with stealth.” The last bastion of corrupting capitalism.

    • Rubennelson: I agree. The AER (finally) suspended SanLing Energy because it has little confidence in the company’s ability to operate safely. The company has been non-compliant since 2019, it owes the AER $67 million. One wonders why it took this long to finally suspend the company. One also wonders why the AER isn’t imposing meaningful financial penalties or charging the company with an offence pursuant to the Responsible Energy Development Act.

  2. Dawn Friesen says:

    As always, you have clearly and accurately covered the topic of Travis Toews “advising” on how Canada should recover – as if the rest of the country sees that Alberta is the shining example to follow. I, too, have been struggling with his plan. At a risk of redundancy (minus your eloquence of presentation) here are my thoughts –

    There are many statements in the Toews article that are indicative of the government’s point of view and sadly, they all talk about wealth creation, doing away with regulations and capitalization. Toews does not acknowledge that the role of government is to provide citizens with services that are best delivered publicly – education, health, environmental protection, etc. So, with making money as the goal – citizens are only a means to the end, sometimes a hindrance, and not the primary purpose of the work of government.

    By way of example, Toews says “For sustainable job and wealth creation, we must create an environment that positions the private sector for growth.” Yes, we need private sector growth and corporations are well poised and able to look after their interests without tax dollars being sun in to their wealth. We must also have public sector protections and improvements. Private (corporatized) education and health care, by design, leave many people out and diminish needed funding to basic public services while costing society much more.

    I remind Travis Toews, he is the Finance Minister of the Province of Alberta and Albertans are not lazy, not stupid, not willing to leave the vulnerable behind and unwilling to sell out to corporatization for services. A province is not a business. He is not the CEO of Alberta Inc. Public and private sectors are complimentary and we need both. And we need to be clear how each manages funds and that they are much different in their role and how they serve citizens. I willingly pay taxes for kids to have schools, for post secondary education to prepare for the future, for hospitals that are well staffed and equipped, for roads built, and to support vulnerable and elderly. I do not support my tax dollars going to large corporations who give investors big dividends, do not provide community services and can leave whenever the going gets tough ( with Alberta tax dollars in their pockets).

    • Well said Dawn. To add to your list of things the UCP does that are just plain wrong, one tactic is to cherry pick information to support whatever cockamamie program they’re pushing. They said their program to help drug users (by closing safe injection sites) was based on a successful Portuguese program but failed to mention drugs have been decriminalized in Portugal. They said their plan to reopen schools was based on a successful Danish program but failed to mention Danish schools cap classe size at 12 to 15. They’ve just announced a plan to introduce charter (?) orthopedic clinics to reduce the backlog in surgeries caused by covid. I’d love to see the how much these surgeries cost, what portion will be born by the Alberta taxpayer and what portion will be privately paid, and lastly where these clinics will get the anesthesiologists, nurses, etc. they need, because if the plan is to scoop them out of the public healthcare system, that will just increase the backlog on the public side.

  3. Susan in Palliser says:

    Ah, Susan is there room for hope that the point you so clearly make about the need for a focus on robust public services will yet win the day with my/ our fellow Albertans?
    Political pundit, Chantel Hebert, in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star, suggests that there may be a shift away post pandemic from Conservative policy with more voters embracing progressive actions and a role for government in providing such supports. The perspective she offers does refer to the federal sphere.
    I wonder if Mr.Toews is open to a little historical perspective and to the possibility that as you suggest the solutions he offers do not get the needed results?

    • Susan in Palliser: I must say I’m heartened by Chantel Hebert’s suggestion. The Globe & Mail is full of stories about the federal Conservatives and how that party is splitting into the hard right social conservatives and the more (dare I say) moderate conservatives. One would hope a similar trend might develop in Alberta if for no reason than to lay the groundwork for a return to “progressive” conservatism and the end to Kenney et al. Although whether Albertans will ever go full bore progressive remains to be seen.

  4. Rick Cowburn says:

    A worthy news replacement for Trump has been found in the Far North. Admittedly it’s a much smaller market, but the news is almost as batshit crazy as the Donald’s haze.

    thanks, I guess…!

    On March 7, 2021 at 19:05:07, Susan on the Soapbox ( wrote:

    susanonthesoapbox posted: ” The UCP government is nothing if not brazen. Having failed to explain how the UCP government was going to set Alberta on the path to economic recovery Mr Toews, Alberta’s finance minister and treasury board president, decided to lecture the federal go”

    • Rick, I suspect you’re right, Kenney is a miniTrump. Thankfully he doesn’t appear to have the same hold over his party that Trump has (even now) over the GOP. As you said, the news emanating out of the Kenney government truly boggles the mind. 2023 can’t come fast enough!!

  5. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. The UCP is another failed conservative government in Alberta. They are running out of sound ideas, have spouted meaningless rhetoric, and when all else they do fails, they blame everyone else but themselves. The only good conservative government Alberta has seen in its history was Peter Lougheed’s PC government. The UCP are thinking oil prices will rise up, and come in like Superman, and save the day. Not likely, as we see here.
    Two years into their term, (how the UCP got into power to begin with is mired in controversies) and the UCP gets a failing grade. Besides losing about $10 billion, what has the UCP’s two hits of corporate tax cuts done? No employment and no corporations were flocking to Alberta. This is not a surprise to those who understand that trickle down economics simply don’t do anything to create employment or prosperity. This economic turmoil may be worse than the Great Depression. The UCP isn’t prepared to handle this with their outdated ideas and their less than stellar budget.

    • Dwayne, I think Alberta is the last bastion of conservatism in Canada. I just read that a poll of federal conservatives found that only 1 of the 3 people who typically vote conservative will vote conservative this time. In other words the conservative base has dropped by 2/3 (at least according to that poll).
      Makes you wonder who they’ll vote for because they certainly won’t vote Liberal, Green or NDP.

  6. Douglas says:

    Did you see Toews post-it note sized epistle in the Journal? The Peace country cowboy bookeeper emperor has only his new cowbuoy boots on and nothing else. Nada. He can’t or won’t converse with economists like Tombe. It positively pains him to cut a cheque to a public worker. It’s the rancher way.

  7. Carl Hunt says:

    Maybe Minister Toews is lecturing Canadians because Kenney & his entire Cabinet are planning to run in the next Federal election? 😉

    • Carl, at the rate Kenney is going he won’t be able to run for reeve.
      And his Cabinet…half want to resurrect the Wild Rose, the other half want to go farther right or separate all together.
      After 2 years in power the man who rode into Alberta to unite the conservatives has blown them up.

    • Rob Ballantyne says:

      More likely he will campaign against Trudeau in the next Provincial Election and avoid (as much as possible) any and all references to the NDP. Its a lot easier for the UCP to get the rural rubes to vote against Trudeau (since the Feds almost never respond to UCP taunts) that it is to respond to NDP pols that actually have transparency and well researched plans of action. Ralph did that a ?couple of times – worked beautifully.

      • Rob, you’ve outlined the UCP strategy which is nothing more than throwing rocks at the Federal Liberals and the NDP.
        I like that you mentioned the NDP’s work in researching action plans. God knows after we emerge from the pandemic and finally understand what a deep hole we’re in we’re going to need all the visionaries we’ve got. None of whom, incidentally sit on the Government side of the Assembly.

      • jerrymacgp says:

        Trudeau-bashing remains alive & well up here in the Peace Country, where Mr Toews’ riding — Grande Prairie-Wapiti — is located. Just yesterday on the way to work I found myself stopped at a red light behind a mid-sized SUV with a flipping-the-bird “F*ck Trudeau” decal on the back window. One is forced to wonder if that driver got any CERB chèques this past 12 months, and if so, did they send them back?

        Now, to be clear, I’m not Mr Trudeau’s biggest fan either; at best, his big talk, small action government deserves a C- for how well it has managed the pandemic. The CERB would have been smaller, and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy would have been laughably inadequate, if it hadn’t been for Jagmeet Singh pushing his government to act on their rhetoric instead of like Liberals. But perish the thought had Mr Scheer or Erin the Toole been PM … as Kenney & most of Alberta apparently would have preferred.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Maybe you’re right Rob B., but I don’t know. On many levels Rachel Notley can speak to the FUBARS, and in the vernacular. Kenney will never be able to do that, since he doesn’t seem to quite pony the accent of hosers. Though I will concede he was well informed that they would respond enthusiastically to any pickup truck, leased and unlift-kitted or no’. G’OILERS!

        No, Kenney’s audience will forever be the people who dream they’re in Montana, circa 1796, but have been forced by circumstance to reside to the North in Alberta. There are surprising numbers of them spread across the province, and they are all very sad right now because they all wish they could have voted for *rump themselves last November. He would have won, ‘shore ‘nough! then.

        I am not a fan of the Liberal gov’t myself, however I do take a bit more-pleasure-than-is-probably-good-for-me in reminding, every chance I get, those with the ‘I H8Trudeau Monster Trux for Kids’ decals obscuring their rear window’s gun racks that their self purported mortal enemy, Mr.Trudeau, freed their (more often than not) faithful sidekick: Mary Jane! If ever you want to see someone look stupid(er)…

        Bonne Chance avec c’est Alberta! GIVE’R!

  8. sawatzkyelsa says:

    Greetings Susan on the Soapbox,

    Your weekly blog brings me joy…beautifully written, thoughtful and sometimes funny. I’m happy to hear there are others that believe Kenny and Toews have reached their level of incompetence. Really, those two plus our health minister remind me of the three stooges. Unfortunately the consequences of their buffoonery can be dire. Keep up the good work.


    On Sun., Mar. 7, 2021, 7:04 p.m. Susan on the Soapbox, wrote:

    > susanonthesoapbox posted: ” The UCP government is nothing if not brazen. > Having failed to explain how the UCP government was going to set Alberta on > the path to economic recovery Mr Toews, Alberta’s finance minister and > treasury board president, decided to lecture the federal go” >

    • Hello Elsa, how nice to hear from you!
      The three stooges, what a perfect name for the level of incompetence we’re witnessing.
      I do believe there’s a strong chance the UCP will be replaced in the next election, but the damage they will do in the next two years is staggering.

  9. jerrymacgp says:

    Thank you for your post. There’s a fellow revered in hard-right libertarian circles, Grover Norquist — head of the American counterpart to the CTF — who’s famed for saying, “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub”. Well, a government small enough to drown in the tub isn’t the government you want in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of Canadians in only 12 months (22,236 to date) — nor is it the government you want in the midst of an unprecedented economic shutdown & an artificial recession caused by that same pandemic & the public health measures needed to combat it.

    Small governments also don’t pre-purchase millions of doses of newly-developed vaccines from four different manufacturers on radically different platforms and then rapidly distribute them to provincial & territorial health departments for delivery to the population. Let’s not forget: in the over three centuries since the first vaccine in history was developed by Dr Edward Jenner, no vaccine has ever been developed so fast, and here we have four, with more on the way. While that work was largely done by private pharmaceutical firms, with involvement by university researchers in some cases, government support for their work was instrumental in getting it done.

    I’m sad to say, I live in Mr Toews’ riding, and the voters up here are pretty conservative. I’m not very optimistic he won’t hang onto his seat come the next election, regardless of the provincial outcome.

    • jerrymacgp, these are all excellent points. Your reference to Grover Norquist reminded me of a comment by a Virginia conservative (when the desegregation of schools cases were being litigated). He said “I am an aristocrat. I love liberty; I hate equality.” He owned the state’s leading newspapers and said society is separated into “those who ride and those who are the donkeys to be ridden”. I fear that is the kind of thinking that underlies much of what we’re witnessing here with the UCP.

    • Interesting article Carlos. The thread seemed to be some UCP members have had it with Kenney while others blasted him and are waiting for him to make significant changes.
      The big question in my mind is what changes? He can’t save fossil fuels, he can’t fix the deficit and reduce the debt with his austerity budget, he can’t make covid go away.
      The real problem with Kenney is he and his party have no vision for the future, period.

  10. Ingamarie says:

    A pretty sound, no none sense analysis Susan………just have to add that Toews’ recipe should be recognizable by everyone who’s paid a modicum of attention to neoliberal economics over the last 30 years…….and it is a failed strategy. For everyone but the corporations…..(in part because when they screw up neoliberal governments give them welfare payments of public money), and the 1%, standards of living have eroded, young families remain renting or swamped by growing debt……and desperate workers continue to clutch at the forlorn hopes of fossil fuel booms to provide a living wage.

    Unfortunately, in Alberta, too many haven’t paid attention….they’ve partied on a non renewable resource boom. So these old saws of how to ‘grow’ an economy will resonate in Alberta. In the rest of Canada, hopefully not so much.

    • Ingamarie: you nailed it with your comment that too many Albertans haven’t paid attention so when the conservatives fail to deliver on the dream, Albertans fall for the same old excuses, it’s Ottawa’s fault (assuming the Liberals are in power) or it’s Quebec or those damned feminists and minorities, etc and so on. Pathetic really.

  11. mikegklein says:

    Thank you Susan. It’s just sad isn’t it.



  12. Dave says:

    I think the rest of Canada was used to enduring lectures, usually from Conservative politicians in Alberta about how to better run things, back when Alberta finances benefited from a gusher of royalty revenue. I don’t think these lectures generated any goodwill, probably some of the opposite, but I suspect they were also generally taken with a grain of salt or amusement. When the oil boom ended, these lectures mostly ended and to some extent the shoe is now on the other foot. Any one read the editorial about a PST in Alberta in the Globe and Mail recently?

    At this point, I think it would take a truly delusional politician in the Alberta government to start advising the rest of Canada on anything related to good economic management. So, this doesn’t say much about our current Finance Minister, does it?

    • Dave, it says our current Fiance Minister is delusional and Kenney is not far behind him. I was just thinking Carlo’s article about how dissatisfied the UCP are with Kenney. The article concludes the party won’t replace him because (1) there’s no obvious successor and (2) it’s too close to the 2023 election.
      I’m not so sure: (1) there are a few people (including Drew Barnes) willing to take up the leadership challenge and (2) Kenney has only been in power for 2 years and already there’s talk of throwing him out. The PCs stuck with Alison Redford a lot longer and she was regarded as an outsider (she who won the leadership race on the third round by 51%). Kenney on the other hand came with an outsized reputation, he fared much better in the UCP leadership race (won on the first ballot with 61% of the vote) and Albertans had huge expectations that he’d sort everything out, and now it’s a bigger mess than ever.
      Interesting times ahead.

  13. carlosbeca says:

    Despite the total failure of corporate tax cuts and the loss of 1.5 billion on the KLX pipeline Jason Kenney and his Finance Minister continue with their slogans as if nothing has happened other than of course their regular excuses using the Federal Government,
    The lack of responsibility is indescribable.
    I sincerely hope that the UCP unravels into open warfare for a leadership review or better yet that they just split again into Fascists and ultra fascists.

    • Carlos, you’re right and I think even UCP diehards are getting tired of nothing but excuses coming from the premier’s office. Kenney and Toews painted Albertans into a corner with this last budget. They’re going to push austerity hard and still we’ll run up a massive debt and carry a deficit. If you’re a hard core conservative, where’s the joy in that?

  14. Sheldon says:

    “A talent for following the ways of yesterday is not sufficient to improve the world of today.”
    King Wuling of Zhao 307 B.C.

    • GoinFawr says:


      • Carlos says:

        307 years BC but our amazing premier still cannot get it
        I guess I will not elaborate, furthermore GoinFawr does a much better job than I and he only replied ‘Nice’ – so I should take the clue and shut up
        It has been an interesting week and while many subjects concentrated on Harry and Megan I thought Shannon Phillips story was much more concerning.
        In the meantime it has been more than 2 years that the RCMP started the investigation on our cheater premier and nothing yet. I wonder if I also should say ‘NICE’.

      • Carlos, both of us can echo GoinFawr’s comment: Nice!

    • Sheldon, someone should carve this adage into Kenney’s desk. .

    • Dwayne, I read the article. So Alberta created a carbon reduction plan and Sonya Savage wants the feds to pay for it (to the tune of $30B).
      Albertan’s energy sector creates these emissions (which increased by 23% from 2000 to 2018). Albertans earned 20% more than the rest of Canada because the energy sector paid well and boosted salaries right across the board.
      Albertans pay low taxes and no sales tax. Alberta corporations (many of whom create these emissions) pay the lowest corporate taxes in the country.
      And now Albertans want the feds to pay for their carbon reduction plan.
      Here’s an idea, let’s ask each province to be responsible for reducing its emissions instead of asking the feds to bail us out, again!

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: Great points. The UCP still thinks Ottawa should pay for the self inflicted mistakes of the Conservatives in this province. Really bad.

      • Carlos says:

        it is unfortunately worse than the way you put it. The UCP thinks that we are entitled to it.
        We convinced ourselves in this province that we are special just because we were blessed with oil. The Conservatives have pumped the citizens to think that we have the right to do whatever we want and desire in order to be able to provide their corporate Owners with exactly whatever they want. Kevin Taft is right in his book ‘Oil’s Deep State’.
        We really have to start thinking and behaving like adults and get rid of these ridiculously immature governments.

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