Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is a bad Premier.

There is no doubt that Jason Kenney changed the face of Alberta politics when he jumped into provincial politics in 2017.

He succeeded in leading the merger of the Wildrose opposition with the Progressive Conservatives remanent into the United Conservative Party.

And, for a period, he was able to convince the two warring factions to put aside their differences and focus on a higher goal: winning the 2019 election.

And it worked.

At least it did for a time.

The UCP won a big majority, but quickly discovered that all those things the PCs and Wildrosers didn’t like about each other still existed, but now they were in the same party.

Last night, Kenney announced his plans to step down as UCP leader after getting a weak 51.4 per cent endorsement an acrimonious, divisive and drawn-out leadership review.

How did we get here so fast?

The COVID-19 pandemic definitely derailed Kenney and his party, but that wasn’t his only mistake.

Let’s look back at the chaos of the past three years.

Kenney’s much promoted Open for Summer plan in 2021 alienated a large swath of Albertans who were uncomfortable with removing public health restrictions so quickly and haphazardly just for the Calgary Stampede.

Rachel Notley’s NDP were riding high in the polls and fundraising, and to a lot of Albertans it looked like Kenney was dropping the COVID-19 restrictions to fast to save his party’s fortunes and his own leadership.

But being forced to backtrack and reintroduce restrictions when COVID-19 cases and deaths predictably skyrocketed and hospitals and ICUs overflowed only served to alienate a growing group right-wing populists and Freedom Truckers who were then highly motivated to defeat Kenney in the leadership review.

Despite flirting with right-wing populism before the 2019 election and during his time as Premier, Kenney is not a populist.

Kenney is probably far more comfortable discussing the works of Ludwig von Mises in the salons of the Manhattan Institute than driving a big blue truck around rural Alberta.

He sold Albertans, and conservative activists, a bill of goods that he could not deliver on.

But again, it wasn’t just COVID-19 that sealed his fate in the leadership review

If Kenney had not been so deeply unpopular with Albertans and if the UCP hadn’t been trailing the NDP in almost every poll since late 2020, he would have had a stronger hand to play.

But he didn’t.

Let’s look at why.

Somewhere along the line Kenney and his ministers began to believe that the big electoral mandate they got in 2019 meant they could impose their platform with abandon and, perhaps fatally, not have to listen to Albertans who started pushing back.

While Kenney’s opponents were always going to oppose his plans to privatize health care and schools, it wasn’t just NDP partisans who pushed back.

It was normal Albertans.

And Kenney didn’t seem to realize this.

Kenney and Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon’s plans to close and sell more than 140 provincial parks sparked a province-wide lawn sign campaign that crossed the partisan divide.

After months of actively dismissing and attacking opponents of these plans, the UCP government was forced to back down.

The UCP’s eagerness to open the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining produced a similar backlash.

Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage pushed forward, again dismissing the opposition, which included dozens of southern Alberta municipal councils and country music artists like Corb Lund, Paul Brandt and Terri Clark, until they were forced to back down.

Kenney and Health Minster Tyler Shandro picked big fights with nurses and doctors during the pandemic, which almost certainly undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to handle the pandemic.

Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange were almost engaged in daily fights with teachers, even when the safety of children during the pandemic was the biggest concern for almost every Alberta parent.

Alberta can already be a notoriously difficult place to govern, but at times it looked like the UCP was actively trying to make it more difficult.

And then there were the scandals.

The kamikaze campaign.

The RCMP investigation.

Shandro yelling at a doctor in his driveway.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu phoning the chief of police after getting a traffic ticket.

Lawsuits alleging of drinking and sexual harassment of political staff by cabinet ministers.

Alohagate.

The Sky Palace patio party.

Betting and losing $1.3 billion on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

And the theatrics.

The Energy War Room staffed by UCP-insiders.

The late and over budget Allan Inquiry into nefarious foreign interference that found nothing illegal.

A referendum about equalization that was always going to be ignored by Ottawa, and ironically, was ignored by most Albertans.

The never ending legal challenges against the federal government.

And then there’s the curriculum.

Pledging during the 2019 campaign to take ideology and politics out of the draft K-12 curriculum, Kenney’s government injected new levels of weird and outdated ideology.

Panned by teachers, reviled by curriculum experts, and mocked internationally as age-inappropriate, outdated, Eurocentric, jargon-riddled, inaccurate, unconcerned with developing critical thinking skills, and rife with plagiarism, is how columnist David Climenhaga described it.

And then there’s that thing about Kenney’s grandfather, Mart Kenney, showing up in the curriculum, which felt like weird pandering by the programme’s authors.

We never got a glimpse into who Kenney really is or anything about his life outside of politics really.

Aside from politics, we don’t really know what makes him tick.

We know he rented a room in mother’s basement, enjoys listening to Gregorian chants and is a devout Roman Catholic, but that’s almost all we were allowed to see.

Not that we are owed any more.

Politicians deserve their privacy but Kenney’s weird blank slate outside of politics probably contributed to him being not very relatable to most Albertans.

So it becomes a trust thing.

Kenney is popular with many white collar conservatives and former staffers in Ottawa who have fond memories of his two decades as a determined opposition critic and hard-working cabinet minister.

Many of them see him a kind of Philosopher King of Canadian Conservatism.

But whatever charm worked inside the Queensway didn’t translate in the Premier’s Office.

Maybe being a trusted lieutenant to Prime Minster Stephen Harper was a quite different job than being Premier of Alberta?

Someone who has known Kenney for a long time once told me that they believed one of his biggest weaknesses is that he still saw Alberta politics through a 1990s lens.

I’m not sure I totally believe that but I think there’s a hint of truth to it.

And it might be why he has misread Albertans so badly over the past three years.

Kenney got his start in Alberta politics in the early 1990s as the founding spokesperson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

It was a heady time for deficit hawks and social conservatives, and Kenney frequently engaged in very public quarrels with then-Premier Ralph Klein over government expenses.

The young conservative activist with a trademark Nixonian five-o’clock shadow pioneered the CTF soundbite machine with great success.

It’s where he cut his teeth in politics.

Thirty-years later, Kenney will soon be ending the latest phase of his political career in the same building where he started.

But this time he might not be coming back.


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Categories
Alberta Politics

OIL IS BACK, ALBERTA IS OPEN FOR SPRING AND OPEN FOR ELECTION SEASON

The price of oil is way up and COVID-19 public health restrictions are gone in Alberta.

Premier Jason Kenney and United Conservative Party cabinet ministers have fled the big cities and are hopping across the province making big spending announcements.

Grande Prairie. Red Deer. Acme. Hospitals. Schools. Airports. Childcare centres.

There is almost money for everything again. Unemployment is still high but government coffers are flush with oil revenues.

It feels like election season in Alberta.

The next provincial election is supposed to be just over a year away.

Bill 81 passed last year sets the next election day for the third Monday in May. That’s May 29, 2023. The bill was signed by Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani in December but it hasn’t been proclaimed into law by the Kenney cabinet.

Kenney could call a Hail Mary early election this year but with Rachel Notley’s NDP leading in every poll since November 2020, it would be a big gamble. The UCP could lose big.

Notley’s NDP are recruiting good candidates and have a lot more money in the bank than Kenney’s UCP, which has struggled to fundraise over the past two years.

But an early election would take advantage of high oil prices, boosted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has given Kenney a chance to shift back to talking about oil and pipelines. Plus, Kenney is keen to project a sense of optimism that the COVID pandemic might actually be over (for now, at least).

And a really early election could be a way to avoid that pesky April 9 leadership review in Red Deer.

‘Give all Albertans a chance to vote in the leadership review!’, Kenney could say.

A super early election would let Kenney punt out the growing chorus of opponents in his own caucus and avoid the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election (so long, Brian Jean!).

Kenney would still have a lot to answer for. He’s still sitting on an unpopular coal mining report the government was forced to write after nearly all Albertans rose up against open-pit coal mining in the Eastern Slopes.

Plus the draft education curriculum, a big fight with doctors, abandoned plans to privatize and sell provincial parks, and that $1.3 billion gambled on Donald Trump’s re-election.

New Labour Minister Kaycee Madu is still in cabinet after trying (and failing) to ‘interfere in the administration of justice’ after getting distracted driving ticket. And new Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is facing a code-of-conduct hearing at the Law Society.

While Kenney has callously used the Ukraine crisis as a pitch for Canadian oil, one big country dependent on Russian oil and gas, Germany, is talking about abandoning fossil fuels all together.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has referred to renewable electricity sources as “the energy of freedom.”

But Kenney’s audience isn’t Germany or investment funds in New York. His primary audience is UCP voters in Alberta.

Back to the early election talk.

Maybe that’s what Pam Livingston is already working on?

The Premier’s chief of staff is on a leave of absence to make sure he wins the leadership review, but with party nominations heating up – notably in ridings held by Kenney loyalists – shifting into election campaign mode might be a natural transition.

City UCP MLAs are worried about the NDP, and rightfully so, but rural MLAs are mostly worried about a challenge from the populist right.

An early election could catch challengers like the Wildrose Independence Party off-guard, robbing them of a full year to organize and recruit candidates.

“But Dave,” you say, an early election call didn’t go so well for Kenney’s conservative predecessor in the Premier’s office.

That’s true.

Premier Jim Prentice led a calcified Progressive Conservative dynasty to get trampled in the 2015 Orange Wave election that broke the mold of Alberta politics. It’s probably a warning Kenney should heed.

The NDP could win big and Notley could become the first Premier in Alberta’s history to return after being defeated. It would be a big deal.

Notice that Kenney’s language has shifted in the past month?

After years of using divide and conquer tactics on almost every issue, the most divisive and unpopular premier in Alberta’s recent history is making a desperate appeal for “unity.”

He needs a big shift – and a big shovel to dig himself out of the giant hole he has spent the past three years digging.

Whether he is actually campaigning for the April 9 leadership review or setting up Albertans for an early election, gambling might be Kenney’s only option if he wants to stay in the Premier’s office. Otherwise he might as well book the U-Haul.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney is having another bad week

When a politician repeatedly tries to gaslight his opponents and the media, deny what is perfectly obvious in a photo, refuse to apologize and then after five days only offer a non-apology when faced with a cabinet and caucus revolt, their credibility becomes damaged when the next scandal breaks – even if that alleged scandal might be hard to believe.

It doesn’t help that politician that he lost $1.3 billion betting Donald Trump would be re-elected as President of the United States last November. Or that his party and personal popularity continues to drop in the public opinion polls.

Premier Jason Kenney is having another bad week.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Biden cancelling Keystone XL exposes Kenney’s foolish multi-billion dollar gamble

Probably the least surprising news to hit Alberta politics this month is today’s reports that incoming American President Joe Biden will revoke the Presidential Permit approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline on the first day of his presidency.

Biden promised months ago that he would cancel the permit, so it comes as no surprise. But it marks another huge blow to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who invested a huge sum of his own political capital and Albertans’ real financial capital into the project.

While Keystone XL has sucked up a large amount of oxygen in provincial politics over the past few years, completion of the Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline depended almost entirely on the re-election of Donald Trump in November 2020 – an outcome that was never a sure bet.

That was the bet that Kenney made when his United Conservative Party government invested $1.5 billion of public funds into the TC Energy Corporation pipeline project and promised $6 billion worth of loan guarantees. Because of the secrecy surrounding the details of the agreement it remains unclear how much of the loan guarantees have been implemented.

For the Kenney government, it is now all about political posturing, which usually means blaming the federal government in Ottawa and eco-socialists and green-leftists abroad, and trying to justify to Albertans the billions of public dollars were just lost in this foolhardy investment.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 62: Maybe Keystone XL wasn’t a very good investment after all

In this episode of the Daveberta Podcast we discuss:

  • the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States and the future of the Alberta government’s $7 billion investment into the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • the Kenney government’s response to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s plans to lay-off 11,000 health support workers.
  • the Auditor General’s report and what it had to say about the Canadian Energy Centre.

We also take a deeper look at what Cypress-Medicine Hat UCP MLA Drew Barnes could be up to after he backed Edmonton-Ellerslie NDP MLA Rod Loyola’s motion to debate Canadian unity in the Alberta Legislature (Dave also nerds out about Alberta’s 1982 election, which took place 38 years to the day that Loyola introduced the motion).

And we dive into the mailbag to answer some great questions from our listeners.

The Daveberta Podcast is hosted by Dave Cournoyer and produced by Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network: Locally grown. Community supported. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Recommended Reading

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Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 57: A deep dive into diversification, oil pipelines and petro-patriotism with Andrew Leach

Andrew Leach joins Dave Cournoyer on the Daveberta Podcast to discuss the state of Alberta’s economy, economic diversification and how the politics of oil and pipelines are developing in 2020. He also shares some thoughts and reflections on climate change policy from his time as chair of Alberta’s Climate Change Advisory Panel in 2015.

Leach is a Canadian energy and environmental economist and an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta. You can follow him on Twitter and read more about him on his Wikipedia page.

This episode sounds great because of the skills and technical expertise of our hard-working producer, Adam Rozenhart.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network. The Alberta Podcast Network includes dozens of great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Recommended Reading

Categories
Alberta Politics

4 reasons why Kenney’s approval ratings are low and Albertans aren’t rallying around the flag during the pandemic.

Alberta is used to being a political outlier. And in the first six months of 2020, when governments and opposition parties in most provinces put aside their political differences to face the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown, Alberta remained an outlier as neither the United Conservative Party government nor the New Democratic Party opposition put aside their differences to rally around the flag. Here are a few reasons why:

Jason Kenney (source: Flickr)
Jason Kenney (source: Flickr)

1. Jason Kenney is unpopular. This is not new and has been a problem that has dogged him and his party since he jumped into provincial politics in 2017. Pulling off a coup by taking over the Progressive Conservative Party and merging it with the Wildrose Party to form the UCP may have solidified his popularity among conservative partisans, but most polls have shown his approval and performance ratings dragging far below the high-water mark of UCP support in the 2019 election.

2. The United Conservative Party government is using the pandemic and economic crisis as cloud cover to continue to implement a divisive political agenda. The UCP campaigned on the slogan of “jobs, economy and pipelines,” but during the pandemic the government has barely skipped a beat in continuing its fight with rural and small town doctors, cutting funding that led to 25,000 education workers losing their jobs and thousands of layoffs at Alberta’s technical colleges and universities, and pushing the privatization and closure of Alberta’s provincial parks. And plans to layoff nurses and health care workers? That has only been delayed.

And while claiming that the government is broke, the UCP invested $1.5 billion and pledged an additional $6 billion towards the construction of a pipeline that entirely depends on Donald Trump being re-elected as President of the United States in November.

Donald Trump (source: Facebook)
Donald Trump (source: Facebook)

Probably one of the most distinguishing features of the UCP government is the inability of its ministers to admit it is wrong or has made a mistake, ever. Instead, the UCP responds by aggressively blaming its opponents, whether it be the Alberta Medical Association, the New Democratic Party, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, secret foreign-funded anti-Alberta campaigns, or nefarious urban green-left radicals with growing influence over New York City-based credit rating agencies.

Barely a day goes by where the UCP does not release a meme or video on social media attacking its opponents. Long gone are the days when the old PC Party government would focus on governing and pretend the opposition parties didn’t exist.

3. The New Democratic Party official opposition is very aggressive. While the tiny 2-4 MLA NDP caucus of the past would frequently run circles around the other opposition parties, the current 24-MLA NDP caucus is striking a different tone and operating in a similar aggressive manner to how the Wildrose Party did during its time in opposition benches from 2012-2017.

Rachel Notley (source: Facebook)

It is perhaps not a surprise that the UCP is now trying to paint the NDP with the same “Team Angry” moniker that the PC Party slapped onto the Wildrose Party a decade ago. But the political landscape in Alberta is drastically different as both parties now exist in a competitive environment where Albertans have a taste for electoral change.

With former premier Rachel Notley at its helm and a front bench of former cabinet ministers in its caucus, the NDP are the first official opposition in decades that can legitimately call itself a government-in-waiting. But in a big way, the NDP needs to start acting like a government-in-waiting and talking confidently about what new ideas it will implement and bad UCP ideas it will repeal if or when it forms government again in 2023.

4. Nothing is actually getting done for Albertans who now face record unemployment levels and a very uncertain economic future.

Categories
Alberta Politics

Talking Alberta pandemic politics with Ryan Jespersen on 630 CHED

I was thrilled to spend an hour (remotely) with Ryan Jespersen and panelists Rosa Ellithorpe and Melissa Caouette on 630CHED today to talk about Albertan, Canadian and American politics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We covered a lot of ground, including President Donald Trump’s decision to order 3M to not ship N95 masks to Canada, and how premiers Jason Kenney and Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have responded to the pandemic and a collapsing economy.

Categories
Alberta Politics Daveberta Podcast

Episode 51: A new Alberta. Responding to COVID-19 and Oil Crash with Chris Henderson.

Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay at home.

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the plummeting price of oil has sent shockwaves through Alberta politics over the past two weeks.

Chris Henderson, Chief Strategist and Partner at Y Station Communications and Research, joins Dave Cournoyer and Adam Rozenhart on the Daveberta Podcast to try to make sense of the rapidly changing political landscape in Alberta and Canada.

Chris reflects on how political leaders Jason Kenney, Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump are responding to the crisis and shares some of the results from Y Station’s recent polling of Albertans on COVID-19 issues.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We love feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Find us on TwitterInstagram, Facebook, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca. Thanks for listening.

Accolades: The Daveberta Podcast is the winner in the Outstanding News & Current Affairs Series category in the 2020 Canadian Podcast Awards. Thanks to everyone who voted for and continues to listen to our made-in-Alberta politics podcast.

Recommending reading:

Categories
Alberta Politics

Alberta politics talk with Ryan Jespersen on 630 CHED

I was thrilled to spend an hour with Ryan Jespersen on 630CHED today to talk about American and Alberta politics.

We covered a lot of ground, including the political theatre between United States President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the State of the Union address, the federal Conservative Party leadership race and whether a Draft Kenney campaign will start anytime soon, political party fundraising returns from 2019, Rachel Notley’s decision to lead the NDP into Alberta’s 2023 election, and whether the Canadian Energy Centre is worth it’s $30 million annual budget (spoiler: it’s not).

Thanks again to Ryan for having me on the show!

Categories
Alberta Politics

Preston Manning had a plan for carbon pricing, but Kenney and Ford choose to blow hot air over carbon tax

If the Alberta government could tax all the hot air at today’s anti-carbon tax rally in Calgary the deficit could be paid off.

Preston Manning
Preston Manning

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford will hold a joint “Scrap the Carbon Tax” rally in downtown Calgary this evening on the second leg of the Central Canadian Premier’s anti-carbon tax tour of Western Canada.

With the PC government of Manitoba set to cancel its own carbon tax plan, Canada’s conservatives are mostly united against the national carbon tax.

Kenney hopes to turn Alberta’s 2019 provincial election into a referendum on the NDP government’s carbon tax. And federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer hopes to turn next October’s expected federal election into a referendum on Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax.

It wasn’t too long ago that carbon pricing was an idea embraced by Canadian conservatives. While he may disagree with the way Rachel Notley’s government has implemented a carbon tax, Conservative movement godfather Preston Manning offered five pieces of advice on how to sell the idea of carbon pricing to Canadians in a November 2014 opinion-editorial published in the Globe & Mail.

Even if you are a progressive, it is worth listening to Manning on this issue because he does make some good points. Here are Manning’s five pieces of advice from 2014 and my impressions on how the NDP and opposition conservatives have reacted:

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader
Rachel Notley

1. Avoid using the word “tax” in conjunction with pricing pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.

The NDP government launched the program as a Carbon Levy, but it did not take long for conservative voices in the opposition and opinion pages of the province’s Postmedia-owned newspapers to rebrand it as a carbon tax. Alberta governments in the past have tried to brand new taxes with different names, such as the Health Care Premium introduced by Ralph Klein and the Health Care Levy proposed by Jim Prentice before the 2015 election.

2. Ask, “Out of whose mouth will our message be most credible?”

Manning raised the point that politicians, political staff and lobbyists typical rank at the very bottom of the public trust scale, so the government will need to find different voices to promote the program. The NDP did very well at the launch of the Climate Leadership Plan, uniting environmental and industry leaders in a way that no Alberta government has done before.

The NDP government earned a lot of praise for their Climate Leadership Plan from economists, environmental and industry leaders, and even a mention from former United States President Barack Obama in his speech to the Canadian House of Commons in 2016. But they did not necessarily do an effective job selling the program, especially the carbon levy, to Albertans.

Graham Thomson CBC
Graham Thomson

As Graham Thomson explained in his new gig as a political columnist for CBC, the carbon tax is “the kind of thing opposition politicians can demonize in 10 seconds while the government needs five minutes worth of graphs and charts to explain.”

You can find lost of Albertans who are supportive of the carbon tax but will admit to being a little confused about how it actually works.

3. In selling an unfamiliar concept or policy solution, start where the public’s head is, not where yours is.

“In broaching climate change with the public, don’t start by making scientific declarations to people who rarely read or think about science,” Manning wrote in 2014. “Far better to start with the climate change effects our audience is already aware of, particularly in resource-producing areas, and then present the science to help explain. For example, start with British Columbia loggers’ awareness that winters are no longer cold enough to kill the pine beetle, or Alberta drill crews’ awareness that it’s taking longer for muskeg to freeze and allow drilling each fall.”

I believe there is broad recognition in Alberta that climate change needs to be addressed but the sharp downturn in the price of oil and the continued political wrangling over the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline have distracted the public’s attention on energy and environmental issues. The opposition was successful in branding the carbon tax as damaging to the economy at a time when many Albertans had lost or were on the verge of losing their jobs, especially in Calgary and some rural areas.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The NDP government also may have made a strategic error by arguing the Climate Leadership Plan would create the social license needed to convince British Columbians that a pipeline expansion is needed also knee-capped the carbon tax when the project stalled. Tying the carbon tax to the pipeline was a gamble, and it, so far, does not appear to have paid off.

We are also in the era of Donald Trump and conservative politicians across Canada have interpreted his success south of the 49th parallel as a license to engage in a similar angry populist tone. Conservative strategists in Alberta seem to believe that Ford’s victory in Ontario is the key to success and plan to embrace a similar campaign here in Alberta. Whether the abandonment of moderate conservatism in favour of populist rhetoric and climate change denial will lead to success in the long-term is yet to be seen.

4. Be honest about the ultimate costs to consumers.

Manning argued that “it’s possible to make environmental levies “revenue neutral” by reducing income taxes” and the initial argument from the NDP government that the cost of the carbon levy would be “revenue neutral” was confusing, unconvincing and quickly debunked.

A carbon tax does not need to be revenue neutral and the NDP bought into a naturally conservative idea by arguing so from the beginning. The NDP should have been up front about the cost while also reminding Albertans that we already pay some of the lowest taxes in Canada and our government is desperate for additional revenue to fund our public services.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes

After decades of rich oil and gas royalties pouring into public coffers, the Alberta government became over-dependent on oil and natural gas royalties to pay for a large portion of the daily operations of government.

5. Be balanced – Canadians love balance.

It may have been poorly communicated but I believe the Climate Leadership Plan is actually a fairly balanced and largely conservative initiative. By their very nature, carbon pricing is a free market idea and it was embraced by Conservative partisans until their opponents implemented these policies.

Despite being demonized as a leftist ideological wealth redistribution program, the plan listened to industry leaders in allowing for significant growth in the oil sands while providing incentives to decrease carbon footprint and increase energy efficiency.

Manning wrote in 2010 that “[t]here is no inherent reason why conservatives should be ambivalent on the environment, since conservation and conservatism come from the same root, since living within our means ecologically is a logical extension of living within our means fiscally, and since markets (in which conservatives strongly believe) can be effectively harnessed to environmental conservation.”

But today’s Conservatives not only have abandoned their support for carbon pricing and have used some of Manning’s advice as a manual to attack government action on climate change. Conservatives are united against the carbon tax, but remain silent on how or if they even have any ideas to address climate change.

The shift to green conservatism that Manning advocated for years ago has been ignored in favour of more open denial and skepticism of climate science which continues to be an accepted line of thought in Canada’s conservative movement. In Alberta, UCP MLA Drew Barnes helped fund a film promoting climate change denial, one recently nominated candidate, Randy Kerr, was found to have openly questioned climate science on social media, and nine UCP MLAs signed a published letter that compared the carbon tax to the Holodomor – the 1930s genocide that saw up to 7 million Ukrainians killed.

We know that today’s Conservatives oppose the carbon tax, and many of them outright deny the existence of climate change. It is yet to be seen whether they will propose an alternative to the carbon tax that is more than angry politicians and hot air.

Categories
Alberta Books Alberta Politics

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward tops the list of Edmonton’s Best-Selling Books

Here is the list of the top 10 fiction and non-fiction titles sold in Edmonton for the week ended September 9, 2018, compiled by Audreys Books and provided by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

EDMONTON NON-FICTION BESTSELLERS

Bob Woodward Fear Canada Edmonton Trump
Bob Woodward’s Fear

1. Fear- Bob Woodward
2. Educated- Tara Westover
3. Little Yellow House – Carissa Halton*+
4. Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
5. 12 Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson*
6. I’m Afraid of Men – Vivek Shraya *
7. How Do We Look – Mary Beard
8. Food Artisans of Alberta – Karen Anderson *+ and Matilde Sanchez-Turri*+
9. Unhinged- Omarosa Manigault Newman
10. Trafficked Girl- Zoe Paterson

EDMONTON FICTION BESTSELLERS

1. The Dutch Wife – Ellen Keith*
2. Amma’s Daughters – Meenal Shrivastava *+
3. Push Back (young adult) – Karen Spafford-Fitz *
4. Unity Club (young adult) – Karen Spafford-Fitz*
5. The Orange Shirt Story – Phyllis Webstad
6. A Wake for the Dreamland – Laurel Deedrick-Mayne*
7. Called Up (childrens) – Steven Sandor*
8. This Wound is a World- Billy-Ray Belcourt*+
9. My Sundays with Normand – Adele Fontaine*
10. Women Talking- Miriam Toews

* Alberta Author + Alberta Publisher

Categories
Alberta Politics

UCP candidate’s ties to Trump campaign caps off sleepy by-elections in Fort McMurray-Conklin and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Photo: Sid Fayad, Laila Goodridge, Jane Stroud, Nicole Mooney, Abigail Douglass, Devin Dreeshen.

Voters will head to the polls tomorrow to elect new MLAs in two relatively sleepy by-elections. The two districts, Fort McMurray-Conklin and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, were both held by United Conservative Party MLAs before they became vacant and voters are expected to have re-elected two UCP candidates after the polls close at 8:00 p.m. on July 12, 2018.

In the final day before voting day, an investigation by Vice.com revealed that Innisfail-Sylvan Lake UCP candidate Devin Dreeshen, son of local Conservative Member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen, was a campaign volunteer for Donald Trump during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.

As part of the investigation, Vice discovered a November 2016 photo of Dreeshen at an invite-only election night event in New York City sporting a red ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball cap and raising a drink to Trump’s victory.

According to Vice, “On and off between February and November of 2016, Dreeshen and his colleague Matthew McBain followed Trump around the United States training volunteers, knocking on doors and even shadowing Ivanka Trump for some reason.” The ‘my experience‘ section of Dreeshen’s website makes no mention of his time as a Trump volunteer south of the border.

When Vice writer Hadeel Abdel-Nabi questioned Dreeshen about his activities with the Trump campaign at a by-election event in Sylvan Lake, the UCP candidate is reported to have fled to the bathroom and was not seen again.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake New Democratic Party candidate Nicole Mooney faced criticism for pro-life views she held in in 2014 but says she no longer holds. Mooney, a Sylvan Lake-resident who teaches at a Catholic high school in Red Deer, was reported to have led a field trip with dozens of her students to the March for Life event in Edmonton.

While anti-abortion views on women’s reproductive rights are certainly a minority opinion in the NDP caucus these days, these views are likely fairly mainstream in this rural central Alberta district.

Postmedia columnist Rick Bell pounced on Mooney’s pro-life leanings as a sign of NDP hypocrisy. But Bell neglected to mention that while Mooney has not made her views part of her campaign, a pro-life activist group has launched an effort to nominate “52 pro-life candidates” to stand in the next election, presumably for the UCP. According to Press Progress, the RightNow initiative is led by Catherine Gallagher, who previously work for Jason Kenney as a staffer in Ottawa.

The NDP scored a solid candidate when they recruited three-term Wood Buffalo municipal councillor Jane Stroud to carry their banner in Fort McMurray-Conklin. Stroud is well-respected and has good name recognition in the district. She has also earned the endorsement of three of her Wood Buffalo council colleagues and First Nations leaders in the sprawling northeast Alberta district.

UCP candidate Laila Goodridge was the target of criticism at the beginning of the campaign when Stroud accused her of being a ‘fly-in, fly-out’ candidate. A Fort McMurray native, Goodridge spent much of her adult life working as a political staffer outside of region, including as the Wildrose Party candidate in Grande Prairie-Wapiti in the 2015 provincial election. Her ties to the community and her connection to former MLA Brian Jean, who she worked for as an organizer of his 2017 UCP leadership campaign, were obviously enough of an advantage to help her win a crowded contest for the UCP nomination.

While she is the favourite to win, Goodridge appeared to be managing expectations last week, warning UCP voters that a low-voter turnout and ‘special interest groups’ tied to the NDP could hurt the UCP on July 12. Goodridge’s ‘special interest group’ comment offended some voters who believed she may have been referring to First Nations leaders supporting Stroud. 

But the incident that appeared to get the most attention during these by-elections was  when CBC reported about a racial slur made by Alberta Party candidate Sid Fayad five years ago on Facebook. Fayad apologized for the comment.

Meanwhile, the decision by Greyhound to end passenger and freight transportation operations in Alberta, an issue that will actually have a big impact on a lot of rural communities in these two districts, emerged late in the campaign. Stroud issued a statement in response to Greyhound’s withdrawal, but it was likely too late to become a decisive issue in these by-elections.  

Voting stations are open on Thursday, July 12, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Here are a list of the by-election candidates and their social media links:

Fort McMurray-Conklin
Alberta Party – Sid Fayad [Twitter]
Green Party – Brian Deheer
Liberal – Robin Le Fevre [Twitter]
New Democratic Party – Jane Stroud [FacebookTwitter]
United Conservative Party – Laila Goodridge [FacebookTwitter]

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Alberta Party – Abigail Douglass [FacebookTwitter]
Liberal – Nick Jansen [Twitter]
Independent – David Inscho
New Democratic Party – Nicole Mooney [FacebookTwitter]
United Conservative Party – Devin Dreeshen [FacebookTwitter]

Categories
Alberta Politics

Donald Trump’s trade war, the Ontario Election, the Trudeau government’s pipeline and more

Photo: Donald Trump with United States Secretary of Commerce Kim Kardashian (kidding). 

There was no shortage of political news to talk about this week on the Ryan Jespersen Show.

On Friday morning I joined political analyst John Brennan, Global News provincial affairs reporter Tom Vernon and Ryan Jespersen to talk about Donald Trump’s trade war against Canada and the European Union, the federal government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the gong-show that has become Ontario’s provincial election and the decision by United Conservative Party MLAs to boycott debate on a bill that would protect patients and abortion clinic staff from harassment.

Listen to the panel discussion:

Categories
Alberta Politics

Pipelines, pipelines, pipelines – An Alberta view of the BC election

British Columbia voters reduced Christy Clark’s BC Liberals to minority status in the provincial election this week. The BC Liberals, who have formed government since 2001, elected candidates in 43 of the province’s 87 legislative constituencies (pending recounts). The official opposition New Democratic Party led by John Horgan boosted their numbers by electing 41 MLAs. And the Green Party, led by climate scientist Andrew Weaver, could hold the balance of power in the minority legislature after three Green MLAs were elected on Vancouver Island.

John Horgan
John Horgan

Results of the British Columbia provincial election by political watchers and pundits in Alberta are being viewed through the same lens they have viewed the entire BC election campaign: by wondering how it will impact future construction of oil pipelines from Alberta to the West Coast.

The NDP and Greens have stated their opposition to the pipeline expansion, and the Liberals gave their support to the federally approved Trans Canada Kinder-Morgan Pipeline expansion. But given the results of yesterday’s election, it is hard to say if there is any governing scenario in BC that is ideal for Alberta’s pipeline dreams.

But just because pipelines are top of mind for many Albertans, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing our priorities were the same priorities in the minds of BC voters who cast their ballots on Tuesday. Sure, pipelines, climate change, energy, and environmental issues were likely important issues for many BC voters, but so were health care, education, housing affordability, government corruption, political financing and many other issues.

While pipeline approvals fall under federal jurisdiction, opposition by a provincial government can create significant political problems for any project and a federal government that supports it. The unanswered question now on the minds of many Albertans is how the election results will impact the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to a shipping terminal in Burnaby.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader
Rachel Notley

A minority government formed by Clark’s Liberals could continue to support for pipelines, but if they become dependent on the votes of the three Green MLAs to maintain their government, political necessity could change their enthusiasm for the project. An NDP government supported by the Greens could result in further opposition to pipeline expansion.

Opposition to the pipeline by the BC NDP led pro-pipeline Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley to announce in Dec. 2016 that NDP political staffers in Edmonton would be barred from working on BC NDP campaigns in this election. The divide between the two parties, and two provinces, on the pipeline issue is stark. Public support for pipelines among Albertans appears to be near unanimous, while opposition to pipelines in BC is a broad and mainstream opinion.

While the BC Liberals are considered to be a conservative party, a Clark government will not necessarily have the best interests of Albertans in mind. In reaction to American President Donald Trump imposing a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports, Clark threatened to impose a $70 per tonne levy on thermal coal exports through BC ports. Alberta’s coal exports could be collateral damage in this move, even though Notley has questioned whether Clark actually has the constitutional authority to impose the levy.

Andrew Weaver
Andrew Weaver

Clark has attacked the Alberta NDP in speeches before and during the campaign, and it would not be uncharacteristic of the BC Liberals to attack Alberta in order to further expose the rifts between the Notley government and Horgan NDP.

While Albertans focus on prospects for oil pipelines to the West Coast, it is important to remember that what Albertans perceive as their best interests are not necessarily the top priorities for voters and politicians in BC, and nor should they be.

Former Alberta MLA defeated on Vancouver Island

Former Alberta MLA Alana DeLong was unsuccessful in her bid for election as a Liberal candidate in the Nanaimo-North Cowachin constituency on Vancouver Island. DeLong, who represented Calgary-Bow as a Progressive Conservative in the Alberta Legislature from 2001 to 2015, was defeated by incumbent New Democrat Doug Routley 10,986 votes to 6,696 votes.