Cowboys and Politicians

It’s the last day of the Calgary Stampede. 

It’s also the last day for politicians to dress up as cowboys for one last photo-op before getting back to business of politics.   

The issue we have with this photo isn’t that these men aren’t real cowboys but that they’re not real conservatives.        

Premier Kenney with premiers of NWT, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Ontario

Yes, Mr Kenney says he’s leading the charge to renew conservatism but unfortunately for conservatives he doesn’t represent traditional conservatism.  He represents something The Economist calls the New Right, a movement created by a bunch of aggrieved pessimists and reactionaries who are shredding traditional conservatism to gain power.

Conservatism then and now   

Traditional conservatives are cautious by nature.  They expect the authority imbued in the family, church, and tradition to control and slow down change.  Mr Kenney on the other hand promises to move with great haste because “speed creates its own momentum” and is more difficult to oppose.    

Traditional conservatives are pragmatists, not zealots who play fast and loose with the truth.  They don’t enflame wild-eyed western separatists with misinformation about the equalization formula, they don’t double down on allegations that the deficit was a billion dollars higher than the NDP said, when in fact it was $2 billion lower than the NDP had projected;  or to put it another way $3 billion less than Mr Kenney alleged.   

Traditional conservatives cherish institutions, they don’t abuse them.  They don’t create $30 million taxpayer funded propaganda centres and call them “war rooms”.  They don’t set up $2.5 million taxpayer funded witch hunts and call them public inquiries into foreign-funded conspiracies to kill the energy industry.  They don’t disregard the rule of law by promising to rip up billion dollar contracts before they’ve laid eyes on them.  They don’t make a mockery of democracy by running roughshod over the Opposition and plugging their ears and jumping into reflecting pools because no stunt is too juvenile for our elected representatives.                

Most importantly, they don’t manipulate the population with the promise of prosperity to gain power.     

Wealth and prosperity

Mr Kenney described his Stampede breakfast as an “…informal get-together of some like-minded premiers to talk about jobs, growth and prosperity.”   Mr Ford said it was the first time in a long time that “like-minded premiers that want their provinces to thrive” had a chance to get together.  Mr. Moe said it wasn’t an ideological gathering but one of “mutual interest on how we can continue to create wealth in the communities we represent.”

In case you missed it, the common thread there was wealth not ideology.  Prosperity in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but under Mr Kenney’s New Right government it takes precedence over absolutely everything else.    

Mr Kenney’s government moved quickly to ensure corporations were happy even if this required underfunding public services to prop up failing businesses.  The government just announced a one-time 35% cut in property taxes for selected shallow gas companies.  This translates into a $23 million hit to revenue earmarked for education and is in addition to corporate tax cuts that will reduce business taxes from 12% to 8% over the next four years.

All government ministries understand the “economy first” priority.      

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says increasing employment and restoring Alberta’s reputation as a place to do business will be a big part of his ministry’s “fight-back strategy”. If economic development is part of the Justice Minister’s mandate what are the premier and the ministers of economic development & trade, energy, natural gas, labour and treasury & finance doing…justice?  

Traditional conservatives have always been small government, pro-business types, but the progressive ones like Peter Lougheed understood the need to balance economic development with funding public services through taxation.    

Sadly, the Lougheed conservatives have been outflanked by New Right politicians like Mr Kenney and his cowboy cronies.  They’ve discovered a two-pronged path to power:  (1) fan the fear and insecurity created in the aftermath of 9/11 and the financial crisis and (2) promise prosperity through austerity (why that one works is beyond me).      

Rhinestone cowboys are fun, but New Right politicians masquerading as traditional conservatives are dangerous. 

Five “like-minded” premiers showed up for the Stampede this year, if a “like-minded” prime minister joins them next year we’re in big trouble.    

Posted in Economy, Employment, Energy & Natural Resources, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 42 Comments

Mr Kenney’s Laundry List

In a manner befitting the serious business of governing, the Alberta UCP caucus celebrated the end of the spring session by jumping into the reflecting pool in front of the Legislature.    

Perhaps it was the strain of being held to account by the NDP Opposition for seven whole weeks or maybe it was the joy of enacting legislation that makes outing gay kids in schools optional, in any event it was an unseemly start to the summer recess. 

The laundry list  

For a party that was quick to denounce the NDP government for moving too fast, Mr Kenney made a big deal about passing 13 bills and fully or partially implementing 55 platform commitments.            

He described this effort in Trumpian terms.  By repealing the carbon tax and cutting corporate taxes he’d set the record for the most tax relief provided to Albertans and businesses in a single legislative session.  Another perspective would be he traded the Alberta carbon tax for the federal carbon tax and blew the biggest hole in Alberta’s budget ($4.5 billion) in a single legislative session.    

But hey, let’s not quibble, more jobs and investment dollars are just around the corner, right?      

Of the 55 commitments 24% are real (repealing the carbon tax, cutting corporate taxes, ending subsidies for renewables projects) and 11% damage the government’s relationship with business and/or Albertans by rolling back protections for LGBTQ students, unions and workers under 18, killing jobs by cancelling infrastructure projects, or revisiting settled issues like farm safety, the structure of electricity markets, supervised consumption sites and crude by rail leasing agreements.    

The remaining 65% are a mishmash of:

  • public relations stunts—the public inquiry into foreign funding for “anti-Alberta energy campaigns”, legislation to restrict exports to BC and elect senatorial nominees and a referendum on equalization,   
  • pre-emptive moves—the Blue Ribbon panel to review Alberta’s fiscal framework will provide air cover when Mr Kenney cuts public services in the fall,
  • organizational moves—appointing three new associate ministers and one new minister and creating a new ministry to reduce red tape       
  • self-congratulatory pats on the back for retaining NDP legislation relating to essential services,  charitable tax credits, the 2% small business tax and the $15/hr minimum wage,  
  • brownie points for complying with the laws, specifically the constitutional right to separate schools and compliance with environmental impact assessments,
  • litigation—challenging the fed’s carbon tax after the courts upheld it twice, and    
  • doing what premiers and governments are supposed to do like sitting in the Legislature (commitment #2), talking about the energy industry (commitment #44), talking to the energy industry (commitment #24) and talking to the other provinces (commitments #25 and #54). 

Mr Kenney also introduced some small changes which are legitimate but raise questions about why they were top priority and had to be addressed in the first session (who knew the reclassification of service rigs as off road vehicles was a burning issue for Albertans). 

Is it enough?

Mr Kenney presented the laundry list as evidence Alberta was “on track to become the most tax competitive jurisdiction for businesses and among the most attractive investment destinations in North America.”

The business sector supports Mr Kenney’s laundry list, well at least the tax reduction part, but thinks the premier could use more help.      

Last week a new non-profit, non-partisan industry association, the Business Council of Alberta, was founded to “create the right conditions where Albertans, the economy and the environment can thrive without leaving anyone behind.” 

Hal Kvisle, the chair of BCA said its objective was “to improve prosperity for all Albertans … not just economic prosperity, not just companies getting richer, but employees doing better, improvements on the social side of things and, of course, very careful attention to the environment.”  

The BCA is a group of more than 40 CEOs and senior executives representing top Alberta companies in every sector of the economy.  It employs over 200,000 Albertans and invests tens of billions annually in the economy.

It wholeheartedly endorsed Mr Kenney’s corporate tax cut which “in combination with the predictable reductions coming over the next 3 years, has a high potential to result in new projects and investments, and more Albertans working”.

Sadly it failed to mention whether its member companies would embark on a hiring spree or invest more capital in the economy any time soon.

The future

Between Mr Kenney’s 55 commitments and the BCA’s desire to improve prosperity for all Albertans not just companies, we’ve got nothing to worry about. 

Excuse me while I take a celebratory dip in the goldfish pond. 

Sources: https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=64169A93BB78D-E988-AAFF-C531FB39F4E11E15

https://www.businesscouncilab.com/

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 31 Comments

Happy Canada Day!

Dear Canada:  Happy birthday!

With hugs and kisses from Ms Soapbox.

PS:  You may have heard some silly talk to the effect that Alberta wants to separate from Canada because Albertans don’t think Canada appreciates their contribution to Confederation.  They’re being egged on by a silly little man, our Premier, who’s issued warnings about rising western separatism and threatened to use “every tool in the legal and political tool box” to defend Alberta’s interests.

(When did politicians turn into mechanics ready to whip out the old tool box when they don’t have anything concrete to say?)   

Anyway, it’s your birthday, feel free to ignore this nonsense.           

Naïvety

It’s true that a recent Angus Reid poll found 50% of Albertans would support separation. 

While this sounds alarming, what it really means is if the separatists are successful, the rest of Alberta would be heading for the lifeboats.  For every Albertan leaving Canada, there would be another Albertan leaving Alberta, effectively reducing the population of Indie AB to that of Vancouver.        

This puts Indie AB in a precarious position when it comes to negotiating separation from Canada.

The western separatist dream is based on the naïve assumption that Indie AB would come out on top in its negotiations with Canada, the US and the rest of the world in resolving the problems it created by turning itself into a land-locked country totally dependent on foreign countries to get its goods and services to market.  Some would call this shooting oneself in the foot.

As Britain discovered with Brexit it’s easier to say “Leave!” than it is to actually leave. 

The challenges facing Indie AB would be formidable as it negotiates the repayment of Alberta’s share of the federal debt (roughly $71 billion), national defence, currency, border policy (open or closed) as well as replicating international trade and security agreements under NAFTA 2.0, WTO, NATO etc.

Hubris

The hubris of the Premier and his western separatists is staggering. 

They’ve assumed the 45 First Nations in Alberta and other western provinces would join them in this frolic, and if full independence became too difficult, everyone would be agreeable to a bait-and-switch that results in Indie AB joining the United States.  

Really? 

Are the separatists ready to trade the political influence that comes with being the richest province in Canada for the influence, such as it is, that comes with being the 25th richest state in the US with a population somewhere between that of New Mexico and Oklahoma depending on how many Albertans agree to become Americans.     

More importantly, have the separatists figured out how to replace key public services, particularly access to universal healthcare, that would go poof when Indie AB becomes the 51st state?             

Investment

Western separatists assume the economy would boom if they freed themselves from Ottawa’s interference.  They’ve forgotten that capital markets want certainty.  Investors won’t stick around for two or more years while Indie AB sorts itself out.  They’ll shift their investments to other jurisdictions that offer certainty in the laws and policies governing resource development, interprovincial and international trade, environment, health, safety, taxation and labour. 

Reality 

Canada, here’s the last thing you should know.

Albertans wonder whether their premier really has their best interests at heart or if he’s just posturing to pump up his political profile.     

Mr Kenney had plenty of opportunities to protect Alberta’s interests when he was a federal MP in the Harper government but failed to do so.  Now that he’s no longer in Parliament he’s telling Albertans they’re being victimized by Ottawa.  Unbridled anger is dangerous and difficult to control.  It results in billboards like the one in Edmonton that said, “Is Trudeau Leading Us to Civil War?”

Mr Kenney may be fine with this, but most of us know that if anyone is leading us astray it’s Mr Kenney, not Mr Trudeau. 

So this Albertan wants to wish Canada a Happy Birthday and tell her fellow Canadians that she, like most Albertans, is grateful to be a citizen in the country ranked on the World Index as the best country in the world for quality of life.**   

Happy Birthday Canada!

*https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/why-alberta-separatism-is-the-dumbest-political-movement-in-canada-today#comments-area

**https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/canada-ranked-best-country-quality-life-2019

Posted in Celebrations, Culture, Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

About Those Ear Plugs…

Sigh.  I expected to spend the next four years writing letters to my MLA, Doug Schweitzer, but I didn’t think the first one would be about ear plugs.

But we play the cards we’re dealt so here goes. 

Dear Hon. Doug Schweitzer, Justice Minister and Solicitor General,

I’m a lawyer with 26 years of experience in the energy sector, including over a decade as General Counsel, VP Law.  I’m also one of your constituents here in Calgary-Elbow.  I’m writing to express my concern over what appears to be confusion on your part about your responsibilities as Justice Minister & Solicitor General.

Let’s start with first principles (government must operate democratically, transparently and with respect for all Albertans, not just those who voted UCP) and work our way down to the petty details (ear plugs).

As Justice Minister you’re the legal advisor to Cabinet responsible for the administration of justice for all the policy areas within provincial jurisdiction.  As Solicitor General you are Alberta’s chief legal officer, responsible for conducting all litigation and upholding the Alberta Bill of Rights, the rule of law, etc.

Over the last week the UCP government engaged in conduct that you as Justice Minister & Solicitor General should have prevented. 

Doug Schweitzer Justice Minister & Solicitor General

Which brings me to civility…and ear plugs.

Civility   

Mr Kenney addressed the subject of civil discourse his victory speech when he said it was his hope that he and Ms Notley would not allow their disagreements to “diminish our respect for one another as Albertans who are devoted to making life better for our fellow citizens…it is my hope that we can work together to stop the coarsening of our public discourse.  To raise the bar of civility and respect.  And while we will always have disagreements, as we should in a democracy, let us seek to express them without being disagreeable.” 

Such fine words, so little staying power. 

Under your watch as Justice Minister and legal advisor to Cabinet, the gong show otherwise known as the First Session of the 30th Legislature sank into snarkiness with Mr Kenney railing against “NDP-affiliated union bosses” and implying they’re aligned with “Socialist International” and belittling academics who supported the NDP’s carbon tax as guys who “prance around” (prance?). 

When churlish words failed him, Mr Kenney distributed ear plugs to his MLAs so they wouldn’t have to listen to the NDP Opposition speaking out against the UCP’s Bill 9 which will delay arbitration talks with public sector employees who gave up wage hikes in return for a promise that such talks would take place now. 

Mr Kenney issued a media release describing the stunt as a “light-hearted attempt to boost Government Caucus morale after being forced to listen to the NDP’s insults…”  

As we both know from our work in the private sector, when a publicly traded corporation issues a media release it is obligated by securities laws to ensure the release does not include any material misrepresentations or omissions.  I had hoped that given Mr Kenney’s deep respect for the private sector, you would have applied the same high standard to government media releases. 

I was wrong.

So, I ask you as the government’s top lawyer trained in the securities laws relating to media releases, which part boosted the UCP government’s morale? The government’s decision to pull the rug out from under public sector employees who agreed in good faith to delay wage talks?  The government’s lack of respect for the sanctity of contract and collective bargaining rights?  The government’s decision to ridicule the democratic process of law-making by blocking their ears?          

Would you care to comment on Mr Kenney’s second explanation, that he was playing Florence Nightingale and wanted to ease a caucus member’s tinnitus?

I understand that someone who’s never worked in private sector may not understand the seriousness of his comments, but you’re a lawyer with extensive legal experience in restructuring and bankruptcy.  Your Cabinet page says your legal experience makes you “uniquely positioned to get to work on day one and deliver results for Albertans.”   

As a lawyer you have a duty that others do not.

A Lawyer’s Duty

The Law Society Code of Conduct says lawyers have a duty to “observe the highest standards of conduct on both a personal and professional level so as to retain the trust, respect and confidence of colleagues and members of the public” and this duty applies to all lawyers including those in public office. 

This duty is put in a broader context by Timothy Snyder in his book On Tyranny which sets out 20 ways to avoid sliding into tyranny.  One is to defend our institutions, including the institution of respectful debate in the Legislature, the other is to stay true to our professional ethics when political leaders set a bad example. 

It won’t be easy Mr Schweitzer, but you weren’t elected to be Mr Kenney’s sycophant, you were elected to represent your constituents in Calgary-Elbow.  When Mr Kenney put you into Cabinet as Alberta’s Justice Minister and Solicitor General, he made you responsible for the administration of justice for four million Albertans. 

Please don’t let us down. 

Sincerely,

Susan Wright

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Crime and Justice, Employment, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 82 Comments

Sisters’ Weekend

Ms Soapbox just returned from a fabulous long weekend in Victoria with her sisters.  As a result I wasn’t terribly focused on the machinations of our politicians.  Did I miss anything?    

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

GSAs in Alberta (Even Doug Ford Does It Better)

It started when the Kenney government introduced Bill 8, the Education Amendment Act which they said would provide “the strongest statutory protections” for gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in the country. 

It ended with a news release issued by Education Minister LaGrange late Friday afternoon on “the protections for students under the Education Act.” 

The News Release

Here’s the release and Ms Soapbox’s comment in italics. 

The release is entitled “Protecting LGBTQ2S+ students”.  (Good start considering Ms LaGrange couldn’t bring herself to say the word “gay” a week ago). 

 

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange

“With the passionate debate taking place in the legislature about Bill 8, I feel it’s important to clarify a few important misconceptions about student protections under the Education Act.  (“Passionate” is an understatement.  Government House Leader Jason Nixon threw himself into the breach so many times to defend Bill 8, Ms LeGrange and Solicitor General, Doug Schweitzer, one suspects he didn’t trust them to speak for themselves).  

“To be absolutely clear: our government opposes mandatory parental notification of student involvement in inclusion groups, and Alberta will have among the most comprehensive statutory protections for gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Canada.  (True, Bill 8 doesn’t make parental notification “mandatory”, but it doesn’t go far enough to prevent them from being outed, see below. The comment that Alberta “will have among the most comprehensive statutory protections” is Ms LaGrange backing away from Mr Nixon’s assertion (20 times) that Bill 8 provides the most comprehensive statutory protection for LGBTQ students in the country).    

“Once requested by students, creating a GSA is not optional. In Alberta, like Manitoba and Ontario, the Education Act specifically guarantees in legislation that students are entitled to create inclusion groups, including GSAs and QSAs. Compared to legislation in Ontario and Manitoba, the Education Act provides greater direction regarding the appointment of a staff liaison for the student organization. 

“With amendments introduced through Bill 8, we are also clarifying that board obligations regarding welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments, policies and publicly available student codes of conduct apply to all publicly funded schools – including accredited private schools.  (Nothing says “welcoming and respectful” like Bill 8 which will allow a school to drag its feet until the kids give up or if they form a club, prevent them from referring to themselves as “gay” or “queer”).     

Reference has also been made to Nova Scotia and British Columbia, which have no overarching provincial statutes protecting GSAs. Unlike the Education Act, British Columbia’s ministry directive and Nova Scotia’s provincial policy are not enshrined in provincial legislation.  (Legislation passed by Ontario, ministerial orders passed by BC and policies enacted by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick provide stronger protections than Bill 8, and as any lawyer knows all of these instruments are enforceable). 

“The privacy of students is also protected under Alberta’s strict privacy laws. Schools cannot disclose a student’s membership in any inclusion group, as there are student privacy considerations that trump other legislation, including the Education Act and the previous government’s Bill 24.

“All school authorities are required to follow privacy legislation: publicly funded schools must follow the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and private schools must adhere to the Personal Information Protection Act. School authorities may only disclose personal information if authorized under these laws.  (Quick, grab the Solicitor General before he slips away and ask him to read the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) because the claim they will protect a student’s privacy is overstated.  

FOIP applies to a “local public body”.  The definition of “local public body” includes “an educational body”, so yes, FOIP applies to schools.  However, Section 17(2)(j)(iii) states it is not an “unreasonable invasion” of privacy to disclose someone’s attendance at or participation in ‘a public event or activity related to a public body, including a graduation ceremony, sporting event, cultural program or club, or field trip’ unless pursuant to section 17(3) the person requests the information not be disclosed.  So, unless a student gives their principal (written?) notice they don’t want their membership in a GSA disclosed (and assuming the principal doesn’t misplace or forget he’s received such notice), the student’s membership in a GSA is not private. 

PIPA applies to private schools that are incorporated under the Societies Act or the Companies Act. A school may not disclose whether a student belongs to a GSA without the student’s consent except where such disclosure is required by law or relates to an emergency.*

Now here’s the tricky part, under FOIP and PIPA schools can’t force students to consent to disclose whether they belong to a GSA, however if the student is under 18, the student’s right to consent may be exercised by his/her guardian under certain circumstances, eg under FOIP the school must believe the release of this information is not an “unreasonable invasion” of privacy.  

So where does that leave us? 

Principals and schools boards better put their lawyers on speed dial to ensure they’re complying with the privacy laws that “trump” Bill 8, and students who want to join a GSA must understand the risk of being outed by schools that do not understand their obligations of confidentiality as set out in the privacy laws.

“We also recognize every child is unique and every circumstance is different. Legislation needs to balance protecting children and their privacy with the rights of parents, so children are getting the supports they need. Though it would be rare, disclosure of GSA/QSA membership would only be justified on the basis that the disclosure would avert or minimize a risk of harm. (True, FOIP section 17(2)(b) allows schools to disclose a student’s information if there are “compelling circumstances” affecting the student’s health or safety and with “written notice” to the student, but such disclosure must be about the student’s health/safety, not their membership in a GSA). 

“Unlike the previous government, we trust professional educators to navigate these difficult situations to do what is in the best interest of kids. No responsible teacher or principal would ever reveal a child’s sexual orientation. This approach provides a clear balance between student privacy and parental rights – a balance and clarity that was not found in Bill 24.  (The opposite is true. The balance under Bill 8 is tipped in favour of parents and Minister LaGrange’s commentary on Bill 8 is so confusing the Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton issued an advisory to ensure schools understood their obligations to student privacy).

“Our government believes that the safety of students in school is paramount. I am looking forward to engaging students, parents, teachers and administrators as we work together to build a modern education system which supports all students.”  (Minster LaGrange consulted with the Parents for Choice, there’s no indication she consulted with the experts who insist Bill 8 is harmful, or the hundreds of people who rallied in support of GSAs or the 60 kids who’ve written their MLAs begging the UCP government not to proceed with Bill 8).

As shocking as it may sound, when it comes to GSAs Alberta would be better off with Doug Ford.

*Updated to reflect the comments made by Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton.

Sources: Alberta Hansard June 11 to 13, 2019

FOIP https://www.canlii.org/en/ab/laws/stat/rsa-2000-c-f-25/latest/rsa-2000-c-f-25.html

PIPA https://www.canlii.org/en/ab/laws/stat/sa-2003-c-p-6.5/latest/sa-2003-c-p-6.5.html  

Posted in Education, Politics and Government, Privacy and Surveillance | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Mr Kenney’s Speech on Bill No. 1

Mr Kenney and Bill No. 1

There comes a time for politicians who spent the campaign trail foaming with righteous indignation to transform into thoughtful representatives of the people who elected them.      

Sadly, for Mr Kenney that time did not come before he rose in the Legislature to speak to Bill No 1, An Act to Repeal the Carbon Tax.

Mr Kenney started his speech by saying his party had been created “for this moment, the opportunity to remove this huge dead-weight cost that punishes hard-working people living ordinary lives in this province.”  And here we thought his purpose was to unite the conservative movement and conquer Ottawa…oops, sorry, Edmonton. 

Mr Kenney

Given Mr Kenney’s majority, one would have expected the premier’s speech to be relatively straightforward, but it didn’t unfold that way.     

Principles?  

Rather than sticking with the “promise made, promise kept” story line, Mr Kenney started with an angry description of the “history” of the carbon tax—it was “a huge act of political deception” imposed on Albertans without their democratic consent to punish them for the “crime” of heating their houses and filling their gas tanks.  Now, now Mr Kenney, the 600,000 plus Albertans who voted NDP in the 2019 election didn’t see it that way.          

After this salvo Mr Kenney tried to calm himself.    

He promised to be “objective and fair” in representing the views of Professor Andrew Leach and others who said a carbon tax is more efficient than regulation and can be an efficient form of environmental policy if it is applied in accordance with four principles.   

Then he set out the principles the NDP carbon tax failed to meet.  

Battle stations everyone, logical fallacies in-coming!  

Principle #1:  Carbon taxes are more efficient than regulations

Mr Kenney could not refute the fact the NDP met this principle: it imposed a carbon tax instead of regulations to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions so he threw red herrings around the room, starting with the NDP carbon tax not being a “utopian carbon tax” (did anyone say it was?) and falling back on campaign rhetoric (see “history” above).  He noted the tax was not revenue neutral which may be true but isn’t relevant in the context of the principle that a tax is better than a regulation.   

Principle #2:  Carbon taxes must replace offsetting regulations

Mr Kenney made this one up.  It’s part of his red-tape nightmare scenario.  While it wasn’t clear exactly what point Mr Kenney was trying to make it sounded like he expected the government to reduce or eliminate regulations concerning the health, safety and environmental impacts of energy exploration, production and transportation simply because it implemented a tax to reduce GHG emissions. 

Principle #3:  Carbon taxes should be “notionally progressive”

Mr Kenney lost it with this one.  He said the NDP talked “ad nauseam about rebates” but only 40% of carbon tax revenues were rebated back to “a select number of individuals in about 60% of Alberta households.” 

If you ignore the indignant preamble, it’s obvious Mr Kenney agrees that the NDP carbon tax satisfied Principle #3.

In fact, the NDP carbon tax raised $1.8 billion, which was either rebated to families earning less than $95,000/year and singles earning less than $47,500/year or reinvested in green projects.

Higher income Albertans didn’t get rebates.  That’s how progressive taxes work.   

Given that Mr Kenney failed to make his case on the facts, he embarked on a flight of fancy alleging the NDP were in cahoots with the Trudeau Liberals who were going to increase the carbon tax to $300/tonne.  This was an irresponsible misstatement.  The federal carbon tax started at $20/tonne in 2019.  It will rise by $10/tonne per year until it reaches $50/tonne in 2022 where it will stay.    

For good measure Mr Kenney implied the NDP were secretly planning to raise the carbon tax to $5000/tonne in accordance with a paper published by the UN International Panel on Climate Change. 

Where does he get this stuff?

Principle #4: A carbon tax must be of general application to be effective

This is Mr Kenney’s attempt to justify doing nothing while we wait for the world to catch up.  He argued Alberta is the only jurisdiction “of the world’s 10 largest oil and gas producers … to have imposed a carbon tax on itself,” and pointed to Saudi Arabia, Russia, Qatar, Iran and Venezuela as examples of jurisdictions without a carbon tax, snidely remarking that Venezuela must have missed “the memo from Socialist International”.    

However, he failed to mention Norway, the world’s second largest oil producer, which implemented a carbon tax in 1991 (starting at $US 51/tonne) and set up a sovereign wealth fund which at $1 trillion is the largest rainy day fund on the planet. 

Leaving aside the moral argument that we can’t be a leader in mitigating climate change if we don’t practice what we preach, it’s disingenuous for Mr Kenney to argue no other oil producing jurisdiction has a carbon tax when we can google it and prove him wrong.    

Social licence

Having failed to score points on his “four principles” argument Mr Kenney threw in the accusation that the carbon tax failed to buy social licence. 

By now he’d really built up a head of steam. 

He said the NDP believed the carbon tax would turn pipeline opponents like David Suzuki, Elizabeth May and the BC NDP into pipeline proponents, but not “a single person, entity, government, party, or interest group moved from no to yes on pipelines as a result of the NDP carbon tax.” 

Oh dear.

Can someone peel Mr Kenney off the ceiling and introduce him to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals who approved Trans Mountain because of Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan which included the carbon tax, and the 70% of Canadians (up from 40%) who now support pipelines as a result of Notley’s climate policies. 

If we’ve learned anything from arguing with our kids, it’s that an argument that begins with “no one” does X or “everyone” does Y is ludicrous.    

Climate change deniers

Eventually Mr Kenney moved to what’s really bugging him. 

He’s outraged by the term climate change deniers because he says “you know historically where that phrase comes from.  It’s rhetoric designed to impose, frankly, moral opprobrium on those targeted by it.” He goes on to state he and his government do not deny climate science, and the anthropogenic and natural cases of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Has he talked to members of his caucus?    

He wrapped up with a commitment to impose levies on large emitters to create a fund to address climate change and a discussion about the modern world moving away from carbon taxes (is it?) and the duty of energy rich countries to lift energy poor countries out of poverty.

“Crack!”

It was a strange, illogical speech from the man who’d won an overwhelming majority just two months ago.  His outrage at being tarred with the same brush as some of his MLAs was unsettling and highlights the danger of creating such a big tent to get votes that it’s unbearable to live in after you’re elected.    

Mr Kenney’s performance in the Legislature on Bill No. 1 brings to mind Bob Dylan’s lyrics in Million Dollar Bash:  “The louder they come, the harder they crack.” 

Mr Kenney campaigned loud and proud, now we’re waiting to see if he cracks. 

Source: Alberta Hansard, May 30, 2019 starting at p 246

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