Alberta Politics

Alberta politics this week… where do I even start?

It’s 9:30 p.m. I’m sitting down in my living room with the intention of writing a piece about what happened in Alberta politics this week. But where the heck do I even start?

I could write about Premier Jason Kenney‘s growing focus on not alienating anti-vaxxers following his recent announcement about the potential distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021. Or I could write about how Health Minister Tyler Shandro amplified Kenney’s comments that basically amount to protecting anti-vaxxers from a vaccine that could stop a pandemic that has almost ground many part of our society and economy to a halt this year.

I could also write about Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s announcement today that there were more than 1,800 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths in Alberta. Overworked doctors and nurses also remain concerned that understaffed hospitals could be overwhelmed by the growing number of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta. And Alberta remains the only province without a province-wide mandatory mask mandate.

I would like to write about the steady stream of information leaks coming from the Alberta government to the media and the NDP opposition, which has led to stories about public health advice presented to cabinet, modelling projections and the government’s plans to set up Red Cross and federal government field hospitals in Alberta.

I could write about how in a radio interview this week, Kenney singled out the South Asian community in northeast Calgary as spreaders of COVID-19. I could also write about City Councillor George Chahal‘s response, tweeting that Kenney “should focus on those knowingly putting our frontline workers and their families at risk by violating public health orders, not the people working the jobs we need to keep our city going during a global pandemic.”

I might also write about the handful of recent public opinion polls that suggest the Kenney government is continuing to flounder. Kenney’s approval rating has dropped to 40 per cent, according to a recent Angus Reid survey, and the United Conservative Party fell behind the New Democratic Party in a voter intention poll conducted by Environics and commissioned by CUPE Alberta.

But I also might pen a piece about how politicians from other provinces are starting to refer to Alberta to downplay the spread of COVID in their own provinces.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, the wife of Kenney’s former colleague the late Jim Flaherty, singled out Alberta during Question Period at Queen’s Park earlier this week.

“You want to speak about who is in crisis? Have you taken a look at Alberta, where they’re doubling up patients in intensive care units? We’re not doing that in Ontario,” Elliott said.

And our neighbours to the north are even asking questions about us. Northwest Territories MLA Kevin O’Reilly is asking whether the territory will stop sending patients to Alberta.

I might delve into why the Alberta government has left at least $300 million on the table that could be used to pay top-up wages to health-care workers, correctional officers, first responders and other essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alberta Senator Paula Simons asked about that in Ottawa this week.

Or I could write about how the Alberta government’s own data seems to contradict Environment & Parks Minister Jason Nixon‘s claims about provincial parks being shuttered and privatized because of low usage.

I could try to figure out what in the world Red Deer-South UCP MLA Jason Stephan means when he raised red flags about “socialist decarbonization” during a private members statement in the Legislative Assembly this week. But that might take a series of think-pieces to even attempt to explain.

Now I’m getting tired, so I’ll leave you with these thoughts and a tweet from William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk, about the Alberta government’s stubborn refusal to adopt the federal CovidAlert Tracing app.

Good night.

Alberta Politics

national securities regulator shows split among conservatives.

The creation of a national securities regulator has created an interesting split in Alberta’s conservative movements. The national regulator, championed by the Ottawa Conservatives is strongly opposed on the provincial-level in Alberta by the Wildrose Alliance and governing Progressive Conservative parties.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith in a May 26, 2010 media release:

“As I have travelled the province and met with business leaders, many have talked about the importance of choice in terms of where they raise money and have their affairs regulated.”
“If the federal government plans to take away this choice from Alberta’s entrepreneurs, we hope that the Government of Alberta will aggressively pursue its intervention against this intrusive law.”

Finance Minister Ted Morton in a May 26, 2010 media release:

“Alberta is not opposed to improving on the system we have, but we are opposed to the federal government acting unilaterally in an area that is provincial jurisdiction.”
“A federal regulator headquartered in Toronto could make it harder for these and other Alberta businesses to raise funds for growth and development.”
“If we open the door to federal intrusion in this area, we will be potentially inviting intrusion into other areas of provincial jurisdiction governing finance, such as insurance, pensions and financial institutions. Most Albertans don’t want this, and this is why we have joined forces with Québec to challenge the legality of this unprecedented federal power grab.”

Airdrie-Chestermere Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson in a May 26, 2010 media release:

“If businesses want to participate in a nationally-regulated system, they should be free to opt-in to that kind of arrangement. If businesses want to participate in a provincially-regulated system, then they should be free to continue.”

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in the Globe & Mail:

“Today we have 13 regulators, 13 sets of rules and 13 sets of fees. We need to lower barriers, not multiply them.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Toronto Star:

“As an Albertan, I have no interest in seeing this sector centralized in Toronto.”

What happens if Alberta decides to opt out of the national securities regulator? Heather Zordel, a securities lawyer with Cassels Brock, told the Hamilton Spectator:

“If Alberta is not participating, where does that leave you? Well, that leaves you with an unfortunate situation where the co-ordination effort is going to have to be dealt with through the offices of the people that do participate.”

History shows that Albertans should be cautious of ceding autonomy to central Canadian institutions – especially in relation to our natural resources – but this appears to be more complex than a typical Ottawa versus Alberta struggle. Alberta’s New West Partnership allies, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, suspicious silence on the issue begs the question of how much this really has to do with the state of the conservative movement in Alberta? Perhaps Minister Morton’s beating the war drums against Ottawa has more to do with the Wildrose Alliance than a national regulator.