Alberta Politics

Fair Deal report a response to fringe separatist threat and distraction from UCP job cuts

The final report of the Fair Deal Panel was released yesterday. Here are my quick thoughts on the final report.

A reaction to a threat from the right: The appointment of the Fair Deal Panel was a direct response to a perceived threat to the United Conservative Party from the political right and fringe separatists following the re-election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal government in October 2019.

The panel, which was announced by Premier Jason Kenney at the Manning Networking Conference in Red Deer, was a relief value to give frustrated Conservatives an opportunity to express their anger at the Liberals and a steering wheel to allow the Premier to control the political narrative around Alberta’s political relationship with Ottawa.

Kenney played a major role in the federal Conservative Party’s campaign against the Trudeau Liberals, with the premier even traveling to Ontario and Manitoba to campaign during the election, but despite all the bluster it appeared to have little impact on voters in those provinces on Election Day. The Conservatives did very well in Alberta, earning 69% of the vote, but saw their support decline in almost every riding Kenney campaigned in.

A federal Conservative landslide in Alberta is nothing new, it literally happens every four years. But the latest electoral division reflects an increasing feeling inside Alberta that the rest of Canada does not support the province’s energy industry and a growing feeling outside of Alberta that the province is a laggard on climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

Alienation and anger at Ottawa is omnipresent in Alberta politics, but the separatist threat that spooked Kenney seven months ago has largely evaporated and the crash in the international price of oil and the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of the provinces being able to work with a federal government for financial relief.

Fair Deal Panel meant to distract from the UCPs job cuts agenda: Creating external enemies and manufacturing crises is something that Kenney excels at. The focus on the Fair Deal report and its recommendations are meant to distract Albertans from the UCP’s political agenda closer to home.

Despite claiming to be obsessed with creating jobs, Kenney’s government has done the opposite by cutting tens of thousands of jobs in Alberta’s public service, schools, colleges and universities. A high-profile dispute with Alberta’s doctors, which included an incident where Health Minister Tyler Shandro yelled at a physician at the driveway of his home, has mired the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UCP is also moving forward with plans to close and privatize Alberta’s provincial parks.

And it is expected that the Kenney government could soon introduce anti-union legislation and a $2/hour rollback of the $15/hour general minimum wage, directly targeting many of the low income service workers who have been praised as “heroes” during the pandemic.

Police and pension plans: There is little in the final report that the UCP government wasn’t already prepared to pursue or consider. Kenney has said that the government plans to implement or study 23 of the 25 recommendations in the panel’s final report.

Despite public opinion polls showing Albertans do not support replacing the Canada Pension Plan with an Alberta Pension Plan and replacing the RCMP with an Alberta police service, Kenney’s response to the panel report indicated the government was planning to study the two proposals. Both ideas are expensive and likely within provincial jurisdiction to implement, but the creation of an Alberta Pension Plan contradicts other proposals in the report meant to break down trade barriers and increase labour mobility with other provinces.

Equalization referendum: Kenney has spent much of the past year threatening to hold a referendum to remove the equalization article from the Constitution of Canada, so it was unsurprising to see the panel recommend it as well. The threat originated with frustration around delays with the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the federal government’s purchase of the pipeline did not convince Kenney to abandon the pledge.

In its report, the panel admits that a provincial referendum will not have the power to force the federal government or other provinces to reopen the Constitution or renegotiate the equalization formula.

There is probably no scenario where Alberta, a province that is wealthier than most other Canadian provinces even during an economic downtown, will receive funds from a national equalization program. But the unfairness of equalization is a talking point engrained in mainstream Alberta that is not based in fact and is not going away anytime soon.

The panel suggests holding a referendum on equalization would “morally obligate” the federal government and provinces to negotiate amendments to the Constitution. The same argument has worked unsuccessfully for thirty-years on the issue of Senate reform, which the panel report also recommends the province continue to pursue through provincial Senate Nominee elections.

Hijacking the 2021 Municipal Elections: As I first wrote more than a year ago, it is no coincidence that the proposed referendum and the rebooted Senate Nominee election will take place on the same day as the municipal elections across Alberta, October 18, 2021. The timing of these two votes will be used to increase turnout by conservative voters in the municipal and school board elections in an effort to boost support for candidates aligned with the UCP.

Although they dominate in federal and provincial elections, Conservatives have less success at the municipal level where candidates campaign as individuals and mayors offices, town councils and school boards have been more likely to be populated with Albertans more closely aligned with the NDP or Liberals.

Candidates in Alberta’s previous Senate Nominee elections ran under provincial party banners or as Independents. Changes introduced in the Senate Election Act in 2019 (which the report incorrectly refers to as the Senatorial Selection Act, which expired in 2016), will allow candidates to be marked on as a ballot as affiliated with federal political parties.

Injecting a federal party like the Conservative Party of Canada and its resources into a provincial vote being held during a municipal election will muddy the waters during the municipal election, forcing equalization and federal issues into local campaigns that usually focus on local issues. With the federals Liberals having abandoned their Senate caucus and the New Democratic Party continuing to call for Senate abolition, it is unlikely that the those parties will have any interest in participating in the Senate election, leaving the Conservatives to collect voter data and drive conservative voters to the polls.

Perhaps the best example of how the Fair Deal report is a partisan political document and not a serious effort in public engagement is this map found on page 52 of the report.

The map on page 52 of the Fair Deal Panel final report.
The map on page 52 of the Fair Deal Panel final report.

Framed as an East versus West political crisis over satisfaction with Canada, the map excludes British Columbia, where 60% of respondents to the Angus Reid Institute survey in January 2020 said they were satisfied with “the way things are going in Canada.”

The map also wedges Manitoba into the western bloc by listing that province’s dissatisfied number when the survey showed that 54% of Manitobans were satisfied.

So I fixed the map.

An edited version of the map on page 52 of the Fair Deal Panel final report.
An edited version of the map on page 52 of the Fair Deal Panel final report.

The only two provinces where a majority of survey respondents were unsatisfied are Alberta and Saskatchewan, which also happen to be the only two provinces where a majority of voters supported the Conservative Party of Canada…

13 replies on “Fair Deal report a response to fringe separatist threat and distraction from UCP job cuts”

Who cares what some municipal politicians have to say. Poll the VOTERS and see what they think about it. Give your head a shake pal.

Here is a thought – maybe, just maybe, the increase in dissatisfaction in Alberta (and Saskatchewan) is related mostly to the economic situation.

The UCP and the Federal Conservatives will of course do their best to channel that dissatisfaction against their political opponents. It worked for the UCP, but not for the Federal Conservatives, and will likely not work for them as the economic and political situation is much different in the rest of Canada.

The danger for the UCP is they are now the government here and it will be hard for them to escape responsibility for the economic situation which is not getting better, so they will try create as many distractions as possible – a referendum here or there, a Senate election, etc..

As I recall, the provincial Getty government here tried Senate elections too, over 30 years ago, supposedly to pressure the Federal government into Senate reform and that accomplished nothing. We are still waiting on that one! Perhaps for a while, it boosted their popularity a bit, but in the end the economy continued to languish and Getty was gone a few years later. A little history lesson here for those doomed to repeat it. I am not sure if our Mr. Kenney remembers all this or he was living elsewhere at the time.

Seems to me Lord Jason created his own problems with the Wexit loonies by talking up their sense of “it-ain’t fair”–with a LOT of help from MSM editors who dug up the old “western alienation” template instead of actually researching the problems.

On the “Wexit” resurgence: (November 2019)

Re Jason’s attempt to sing “Poor Pitiful Me”: (17 June 2020)

Aaand I haven’t heard anything from Lord Jason about oil patch layoffs BEFORE the COVID crisis: (October 2019)

So now what? What do we do for (NOT to!) oil patch workers who have lost their jobs? Retraining in related fields? WHAT fields? And who pays? One non-answer to that last question–it sure won’t be the Kenney Krowd helping the little guys.

The dissatisfaction is lower because the cuts aren’t deep enough. The public wants deep, sustained, 20-30% across the board cuts much like Ralph Klein did in the 1990s. These cuts paved the way for 15 years of prosperity and Kenney would be wise to take on the unions once again and fight for taxpayers.

Yeah, it seems like everybody I speak to says hospital wait times are too short and our roads too smooth.

Everyone I speak to says it’s time for a choice in health care. People aren’t happy with a monopolistic, anti-choice system that takes up 45% of our budget – and where people still die while on wait lists. It’s time to pull out of the Canada Health Act entirely.

What is required are rational limits of each system. Something politicians dont want to talk about because all it is is a vote loser. However, society as a whole needs to have the conversation. In my view, a healthcare system cant be everything to everyone. Without such an ongoing discussion, as new procedures develop the scope creep will Titanic the system.

Michael Binion: Ralph Klein’s cuts didn’t pave the way to prosperity. They made Alberta to have major problems, like an infrastructure debt that is at least $30 billion. If Ralph Klein, and Don Getty weren’t so fiscally irresponsible, and didn’t do the most costliest scandals, the cuts would not be needed. More cuts don’t lead to prosperity. The UCP doesn’t get that fact.

So being dissatisfied with the way things are going to Canada is interpreted as wanting to go down the CPC and UCP path? Interesting interpretation of the results of the survey, after having a further look in 2016 53% of Albertans were satisfied with the way Canada was going. Who was in power in Alberta in 2016? So are we to interpret from these results that after electing the Kenney government Albertans became more dissatisfied with Canada? Using fair deal panel logic the more “conservatives” we elect the greater our dissatisfaction with Canada will be. Following that to a logical end should Kenney get his dream job of PM dissatisfaction with Canada will reach an all time high.

The unhappiness in Alberta and Saskatchewan is because the Liberals have decided they dont need these voters and they are feeding their economic needs to the dogs. In Alberta, the only ones that dont understand this are the government workers who were protected from this harsh reality by 4 years of deficit spending by the NDP. Money that their kids will have to pay back at some point in time, if they stay in the Province.

Bret Larson: Our kids have to pay for the major mistakes of the Alberta PCs, that they did, since the mid 1980s, and onwards. Our kids now have to pay for the UCP doing the same mistakes.

I don’t see any mistakes from the ucp. As to mistakes from the pcs, they were abit statist for my likes. However, if you check out the ab gdp growth and compare it with the test of Canada, they did a reasonable job.

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