PHOTOS: Then finance minister Robin Campbell and premier Jim Prentice explain their plan to increase taxes in March 2015. Criticism was mild. Below: Premier Ralph Klein and Stockwell Day, who was Mr. Klein’s provincial treasurer in the late 1990s (CBC photo); Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth, who was interim Opposition leaders in 2015, and Wildrose Finance Critic Derek “Jerry Cans” Fildebrandt (from his Twitter feed).
It’s worth remembering as unite-the-right conservatives of all stripes completely melt down over the supposedly job-destroying, economy-destroying, soul-destroying 4.5-cent-per-litre increase in the price of gasoline introduced as part of the Alberta NDP Government’s climate strategy, that if Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives had won re-election in May 2015 his government would have raised the gasoline tax roughly the same amount.
In the spring of 2015, as it is now, Alberta was in the midst of a recession caused by the collapse of the international price of oil. But criticism of premier Prentice’s tax plans by what was left of the Wildrose Opposition was muted. Perhaps the party was still recovering from the shock of seeing most of its MLAs cross the floor to join the PC premier’s caucus the previous December.
Heather Forsyth, the Wildrose interim leader, was more upset by the Tory government’s decision to kiss Ralph Klein’s flat tax goodbye. “Rest in peace, Ralph,” agreed Stockwell Day, who had been Mr. Klein’s provincial treasurer when the flat tax was brought in.
The reliably conservative Edmonton Sun mildly suggested on March 26 that folks might want to grab some smokes, booze and a tankful of gas before midnight seeing as taxes were going up on the morrow.
Mr. Prentice’s finance minister, Robin Campbell, opined cheerfully that “Albertans want higher taxes at higher income levels. We are asking those who can afford it to pay a little bit more.”
It must also be noted that NDP Leader Rachel Notley, who later would use the same line to describe the NDP’s replacement for the flat tax, which in some ways didn’t go quite as far as Mr. Campbell’s version, complained that the Tories hadn’t gone far enough.
The Prentice budget – most of which wasn’t enacted when his government fell to the NDP on May 5 – also included a whopping health care tax, which the Tories also termed a “levy.” In the event, the NDP would kill that idea.
Certainly no one was suggesting then that the gas tax increase from nine to 13 cents would kill the province’s economy deader than the proverbial East Coast mackerel, as just about every elected conservative in Alberta was screeching about the NDP carbon levy this week.
Nobody accused Mr. Prentice of being a “socialist” determined “to tax its businesses into insolvency and its people into poverty,” as the Wildrose point man on the NDP’s carbon tax did Monday.
No Wildrose MLA was snapping cellphone selfies filling a pickup bed with a volatile cargo of jerry cans filled with pre-tax gasoline before taking it home to fuel his lawnmowers for the next dozen summers, as Opposition Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt did.
Well, as they say, that was then and this is now. It would appear that in Alberta, the conservative capacity for cognitive dissonance is almost unlimited. We are apparently in possession of a naturally functioning memory hole so vast and gravitational it could almost become a tourist attraction on a par with Niagara Falls or the tides of the Bay of Fundy!
Either that, or the leading politicians of the Alberta right just reckon we’re all suckers who’ll believe pretty much anything they tell us, as long as they adopt a harshly assertive Donald Trump tone.
There is nothing new about this. In his last re-election campaign, in the fall of 2015, former prime minister Stephen Harper was forgetfully omitting the fact he or his allies had done many of the same things he excoriated Ms. Notley’s NDP for doing.
For example, he forgot to mention Mr. Prentice’s planned gas tax increase when he blamed the NDP for making the recession worse by raising taxes, prompting an iPolitics headline writer to note “Fact Check: Tories were going to increase taxes in Alberta too.”
There’s nothing new about Mr. Harper’s faulty Tory memory either. As Peter-Lougheed-era PC supporter Alan Spiller put it in a letter to the Medicine Hat News on Dec. 21, it was premier Ralph Klein’s decision to slash the taxes and royalties enacted by the Alberta Conservative dynasty’s founder, Peter Lougheed, that “put this province and many of its citizens” on the road to “financial ruin.”
But now, Mr. Spiller observed, Wildrosers and Conservatives have forgotten “what Lougheed created for us by collecting proper royalties and taxes.” He asked: “How stupid do they think we are?”
Well, that’s the 64-Billion-Dollar Question, isn’t it?
“If you enjoy being treated like a moron go right on believing all the lies the Wildrose and Conservatives are spreading,” Mr. Spiller bitterly concluded his letter. “Really, those of us who had ties to the oil industry aren’t that stupid.”
One can only hope!
Speaking of timely reminders, the Christian home schoolers of the Trinity Christian School Association and the related Wisdom Home School Society will be back in court in Grande Prairie Thursday trying to permanently overturn the Alberta Government’s withdrawal of funding and accreditation last year after a provincial audit revealed financial irregularities.
In early November, the two entities got a temporary injunction from an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judge allowing them to continue operating until tomorrow’s hearing. The decision affected about 3,500 home-schooled students, about a third of the total receiving such schooling in the province.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.