Alberta Budget 2015: You’d almost think Rachel Notley’s NDP has concluded its job is to govern this province!

Posted on October 28, 2015, 1:59 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci answers reporters’ questions after delivering the NDP’s first Budget Speech in the Alberta Legislature yesterday. (CBC Photo) Below: Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean and Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt also answer questions – but only from reporters who aren’t on the Wildrose Party’s Enemies List. Below that: One of Mr. Fildebrandt’s Tweets about the Globe and Mail’s reporter.

Gee, it sure sounds as if the grownups are finally in charge here in Alberta, doesn’t it?

Faced with a steep downturn in the province’s resource-based economy, the NDP government of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has decided to keep its election promises and ensure that truly essential services continue to be provided as they are needed, and that if spending is restrained, it is in truly non-essential areas.

FildebrandtYou’d almost think the NDP had concluded its job is to govern the province during a difficult economic time, instead of just handing it over to the hobgoblins of the market and letting it implode like Detroit.

Really, the budget tabled yesterday afternoon by Finance Minister Joe Ceci is unique in recent Alberta history.

We haven’t really had a government since before Ralph Klein became premier that was willing to work very hard to protect Albertans, their jobs and their families in the face of one of the periodic downturns typical of an economy based on sales of a single, volatile natural resource. Maybe successive Progressive Conservative premiers just assumed the families impacted would quietly move back to the Maritimes.

It was Mr. Klein, of course, who entrenched the obsession with balancing the budget at all costs as Alberta’s official state religion. This unhealthy psychological syndrome persists to this day, unsupported by evidence trusted by real economists, who say deficits of up to about 3 per cent of GDP a year can be sustained without adding to the debt as long as the economy is generally on an upward trend. But the thought of a deficit of well under 2 per cent in the very kind of economic situation that requires stimulus financing sent the Wildrose Party right over the hyperbolic edge.

Apparently the notion of “the largest deficit in the province’s history” (it’s not, in GDP terms, but never mind) had Opposition spokespersons predicting a full-blown fiscal apocalypse with unembarrassed market-fundamentalist fire ’n’ brimstone.

The NDP’s slogan for yesterday’s Budget Speech was: “Supporting jobs. Supporting families. The Alberta Way.” Indeed, the government expects it to create up to 27,000 jobs through 2017.

FildebrandtTweetThis certainly wasn’t the Alberta Way under Mr. Klein, or any of Tory premiers Alison Redford (except for about two weeks when it looked like she might lose the 2012 election to Danielle Smith’s kinder, gentler version of the Wildrose Party), Dave Hancock or Jim Prentice. I’m willing to give Ed Stelmach credit for at least thinking about it.

Still, like much of the rest of the world, what we’ve grown used to here in Alberta is extremist market-fundamentalist governments that use such circumstances as an excuse to slash, slash, slash – with all the slashing in aid of handing essential government services over to be held hostage for ever-bigger profits by the private sector.

Needless to say, when resource prices improve, as they always have so far in our cyclical economy, these things are never put back the way they were.

Tragically, this version of the Alberta Way became the model for Canada’s federal government as well, as Stephen Harper’s so-called Conservatives tried to emulate Margaret Thatcher in good times and bad, using high petroleum prices to finance tax breaks that left government services on life support and bad times as an excuse for more slashing and privatization.

Canadians saw through this more quickly than Albertans did, thank goodness, but it will take longer than one elected term to repair the damage at both levels of government.

When Albertans cottoned on to this and elected the NDP under Ms. Notley last spring, they finally got a government that didn’t instinctively react to a cash flow constriction by concluding that instead of getting our house in order, we needed to burn it down.

Looking at Mr. Ceci’s sane approach to financing health care and education, I can’t shake the feeling most Albertans – including many who think of themselves as die-hard “conservatives” – are secretly relieved, even pleased, that the NDP is serious about keeping the province’s head above water, and not incidentally helping the economy along while they do it.

At least they know that if times get really tough while the downturn continues, the services they need to sustain them will be there.

As for the NDP’s planned return to perfectly balanced annual budgets within four years, and its reluctance to raise revenue streams through taxes and royalties to sustainable levels, those are political necessities, not economic ones.

But in the mean time, as blogger Dave Cournoyer observed last night, the sky didn’t fall when the NDP tabled its first budget. And it won’t, either, regardless of what the Chicken Littles in the Opposition are promising.

Wow! Wildrose finance critic doubles down on media relations lunacy!

Apparently Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt wants to revolutionize the way right-wing politicians do media relations.

Faced with a reporter from an out-of-town newspaper who unsympathetically reported his deep thought that the NDP’s campaign promises weren’t really meant to be kept, and therefore shouldn’t have been, he insulted her by Tweeting that she was a “B-list reporter who wrote an intentionally torqued … story.”

The newspaper in question, the Toronto Globe and Mail, which actually has a pretty good reputation as such publications go, supported its reporter, Carrie Tait, and ignored him. Best PR practice says that should have been the end of it.

Instead, yesterday Mr. Fildebrandt doubled down on his fumble and refused to acknowledge a question from Ms. Tait: “Sorry we’re not taking questions from political journalists,” he huffed. He did it with Wildrose Leader Brian Jean standing right beside him, with a blank look on his face.

This sparked a storm of Twitter outrage by other journalists, which apparently prompted Mr. Fildebrandt to accuse Ms. Tait by Tweet of “auditioning for a job as the latest press secretary in the Premier’s Office.”

Well, it’ll be open warfare now. The Globe and Mail versus Derek Fildebrandt. I’m sure the government is watching this with unalloyed delight.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

17 Comments to: Alberta Budget 2015: You’d almost think Rachel Notley’s NDP has concluded its job is to govern this province!

  1. anonymous

    October 28th, 2015

    It’s unclear what Mr. Fildebrandt is trying to accomplish by attacking a Globe reporter. The Globe endorsed the Ottawa Division of the Wildrose Party, if not the leader. Is that the problem? And where is Mr. Jean in all this? Shouldn’t he take away Mr. Fildebrandt’s smart phone? After all, friends and leaders don’t allow friends and caucus members who are drunk on ego tweet. It’s all very entertaining, though.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxZ-scE9mDk

    Reply
  2. political ranger

    October 28th, 2015

    lottsa koolaid has been consumed in this province over the past 2 or 3 decades!

    Your comments, David, about Albertans ‘cottoning on’ to something and being ‘secretly relieved, even pleased’ point to the real fantasy (pardon the logic) here in the land o’ bubblin’ crude. There has yet to be any real evidence of any substantial number of Albertans doing any real economic thinking, nor is there any evidence that Albertans understand even general economic principles.
    People are afraid of losing their 6-figure jobs; they’ll revert to what the drunk told them all those years ago. That’s it.
    Actual planning; forget about it. Preparing for tomorrow, forget about it.

    I think Ceci brought out a credible and doable budget with realistic outcomes. Getting it to implementation will be the tough part. I still say that unless and until he fires at least 30% of the gov’t workforce, starting at the top, he hasn’t got a chance. Very, very few, and none in the top echelons, support the NDP. They are ideological right-wing and incapable of accessing problems and thinking about solutions.

    Reply
  3. Maria

    October 28th, 2015

    I thought the budget was well thought out. No problem with deficits and debts if this means improving services to Albertans. If the PC had any brains they would be quiet because it is due to their mismanagement that Alberta is not ‘rolling in dough’. As for the Wildrose, they just talk for the sake of talking. They way Fildebrandt relates to the media seems like he has aspirations to replace Harper. So glad both the Alberta NDP and the federal Liberals have a majority so that they don’t have to listen to the squawking on their right

    Reply
  4. Louis

    October 28th, 2015

    You are becoming way too biased for me to continue to follow.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 28th, 2015

      We do try to judiciously prune the readership from time to time.

      Reply
      • Tom in Ontario

        October 28th, 2015

        I’m very fond of prunes. Makes for a healthier digestive tract.

        Reply
  5. Rocky Portwell

    October 28th, 2015

    If those other reporters had any decency or moral courage, they’d refuse to speak to Fildebrandt till he dropped his refusal to shut out a reporter who asks tough questions. That’s a pretty big if, of course.

    Reply
  6. Bob

    October 28th, 2015

    Something that I am surprised no one seems to be mentioning is something St. Ralph said towards the end of his papacy, er term. In response to people suggesting the government increase spending on infrastructure during the last boom, when the province was rolling in dough, Klein responded by arguing that infrastructure spending should take place when the economy is slow, and costs lower. Therefore, in addition to invoking Peter Lougheed and David Dodge’s names, Mr. Cecil should have also claimed to be following Ralph Klein’s advice.

    Reply
  7. Andy

    October 28th, 2015

    It is only up to the government to build necessary infrastructure for businesses and other capitalistic institutions to use and in turn to create jobs and more tax revenue. The economy is built by the private sector, not the government, and all governments need to realize this and cut taxes for all citizens.

    Reply
    • anon

      October 29th, 2015

      The economy is also destroyed by the unregulated private sector: witness the endless busts, financial panics, depressions, and human misery. Government needs to act as the ‘fly-wheel’ to the economy, provide long term direction, and planning in the public interest.

      Without government regulation we would soon be back to the worst of the Victorian era.

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      October 29th, 2015

      Spoken like a true market fundamentalist who has no clue how the economy actually operates.

      Government does not serve the interests of privateers. It serves an even greater constituency – that of the entire populace. Governments are not tools of the top one-percenters to exploit at the expense of the other ninety-nine percent.

      Right wing fanatics will never accept the concept of community or the greater good. They only understand one thing: personal greed.

      Reply
      • Adam Smith

        November 1st, 2015

        So what’s wrong with that?

        Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      October 29th, 2015

      {sigh…} I could give you a short lesson in economic history, pointing out that capitalism wouldn’t exist in the first place without government support and underwriting (I’ll leave out the part where American slavery was necessary for the cotton trade to flourish, thus birthing modern capitalism in England). I will remind you that economic fundies love to talk a good game about the supremacy of the private sector and the danger of government intervention…until things stop going their way and they start sucking on the government teat (2008 financial crisis and bailout being perhaps the most egregious instance in modern history) or, closer to home, begging that nasty, inefficient government to interfere in the free market by bringing in cheap (and oh so temporary) foreign workers to address labour shortages instead of looking to the unfettered market to address the issue. But why am I even wasting my time…?

      Reply
  8. Chris

    October 28th, 2015

    We are now using debt to fund the day-to-day operation of government. This is very dangerous. Debt is fine to build a cancer hospital or freeway, not to pay the salaries of public servants.

    Reply
  9. Dave

    October 28th, 2015

    Viewing the goings on in Alberta from my mountain lair west of the Rockies, I am encouraged to see that there is at least some sense in some quarters. I was beginning to think that the home of the lunatic right needed to be amputated. I see there is still hope and I will enjoy your posts while I watch Alberta’s tentative progress into the light.

    Reply
  10. Julius

    October 28th, 2015

    I like this article as it’s very much in my line of thinking. Alberta hosts a vast amount of narrow minded people. I looked at the budget and I see the plan that the NDP has. It is literally going to take four years of explaining, describing, and sketching this plan to most Albertans to try to get them to understand what the plan is and how they are trying to help the province. Too many Albertans saw there was a deficit and that’s it, they probably skipped everything else and went straight to that, so they can be resentful and angry, and make everyone around them feel the same way.

    Biggest issue I can see? And you know this will happen… A lot of Albertans for some reason blame the NDP for low oil prices (I’ll never figure it out). Some people predict $100 a barrel oil will come about around 2019, or 2020. So if the NDP lose the next election (2019), wait and watch how many Albertans will ignorantly proclaim “See? The PC’s are back in power and the price of oil is back up because of it!” And that will be the end of the NDP in Alberta. They have a lot of convincing to do.

    Reply
  11. Linda Marshall

    October 29th, 2015

    many who think of themselves as die-hard “conservatives” – are secretly relieved, even pleased, that the NDP is serious about keeping the province’s head above water, and not incidentally helping the economy along while they do it.

    At least they know that if times get really tough while the downturn continues, the services they need to sustain them will be there.
    ————————
    Don’t bet on it. All die hard conservatives see is that someone else is getting something. And that is a situation they can’t stand.

    Reply

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