‘Daydreaming in Technicolor’ … the Alberta Party and Derek Fildebrandt present alternative budgets

Posted on March 22, 2018, 12:51 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: The Alberta Legislature gets the Technicolor treatment with publication of two Opposition “alternative budgets.” There was nothing from the United Conservative Opposition, of course. Below: Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel and a costumed Derek Fildebrandt, the Independent “Liberty Conservative,” late of the UPC and Wildrose Party (Photo: Derek Fildebrandt Facebook page).

Today is Budget Day in Alberta, which means yesterday was Alternative Budget Day.

Leastways, the Alberta Party and Independent “Liberty Conservative” MLA Derek Fildebrandt put out “alternative budgets” in advance of the reading of the real thing by NDP Finance Minister Joe Ceci on the floor of the Legislature this afternoon.

As for the Opposition United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney, forget about it. They’re saying nada. In their defence, sort of, this is vintage “low-bridging,” a venerable political strategy used by opposition parties of all stripes that have a chance of forming government.

Why tip your hand to policies that are bound to be unpopular with significant sectors of the electorate when you have a chance to win anyway? From the UCP’s perspective, therefore, saying too much just helps Premier Rachel Notley. They’re prepared to take the heat for saying nothing because it’s preferable to the risk of saying too much. If we let them get away with it, who’s to say they’re wrong?

But from the perspective of the third party in the Legislature, with three members in its caucus now and its leader outside the House, an Alberta Party alternative budget makes sense as a way to generate publicity suggesting they’re a credible alternative to both the Government and the Opposition – getting themselves on the radar at last.

From Mr. Fildebrandt’s point of view, what’s to lose? Floating plausibly deniable balloons about the worst ideas in the UCP’s likely agenda is unlikely to get the Strathmore-Brooks MLA invited back to the bosom of the party, but you never know. Failing that, the ideas expressed therein might give him a leg up on his next career as a full-time media bloviator, think tank “fellow” or whatever he has to do when he gets back to his native Ontario.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you, dear readers. I haven’t crunched all the numbers in these documents, which are the political equivalent of a rather dull novel. Personally, notwithstanding Mr. Fildebrandt’s recent political difficulties, I prefer any fiction I read to have gunfire in the first chapter, or at least swordplay. Call me Walter Mitty if you wish.

Mr. Fildebrandt’s effort combines a little swordplay, I suppose you could say, but only if you count Ralph Klein-style budget slashing, privatization and general fiscal chaos of the sort that set Alberta so far back in the mid 1990s.

Mr. Fildebrandt’s effort is interesting, though, in that he may be floating policy balloons for his former colleagues at the UCP.

Naturally, therefore, Mr. Fildebrandt proposes to kill the carbon tax. By also calling for 5-per-cent across the board pay cuts for civil servants, 3-per-cent budget cuts across the board for government departments, and replacement of public employees’ pension plans with insecure defined contribution plans he is signalling what a UCP Government led by Mr. Kenney would likely do.

Cagily, he proposed no pay cuts for “front line” public employees like nurses, doctors, teachers and professors. As for front line workers like social workers, safely inspectors and forest fire fighters, well, I guess they’re out of luck.

He also throws in the complete elimination of the trade ministry and a few boutique tax breaks beloved by industry groups – none of which is going to be done by anyone, but which might strengthen his post-political employment prospects in the rich pastures available for spavined neoliberal hacks.

The figures Mr. Fildebrandt provides do show that cutting civil service salaries would barely make a dent in provincial spending. There are things, of course, that could be meaningful, but don’t expect to hear about them from a rural MLA, even one with little hope of re-election.

I trust Mr. Fildebrandt’s numbers, by the way, because this exercise shows signs of having been helped by someone with a spreadsheet application and knowledge of the provincial budget – perhaps one of the political academics at the U of C’s “Calgary School” or even a borrowed member of the UCP staff.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Party’s alternative budget didn’t actually promise to grant three wishes to every Albertan, but by claiming the party could “restrain expenditure growth and examine our revenues to achieve balance, without devastating front-line services and despite current economic challenges,” it comes close. Either that, or the reference to examining our revenues is a hint of a sales tax.

The big policy item for the Alberta Party seems to be “addressing health care costs” by completely restoring the operational procedures observed by Alberta Health Services and the Health Ministry when Leader Stephen Mandel, for now unelected to the Legislature, was the unelected minister of health in the Jim Prentice Progressive Conservative Government.

You can read it for yourself, but using paramedics as paraphysicians, “ensuring” there are no duplications and redundancies at Alberta Health Services, “empowering” front-line health care professionals to “advocate for innovative changes” (viz., privatization), “reforming” AHS culture to make it “more receptive to innovation in service delivery” (viz., more privatization), and selling off property for quick cash sure sounds like the kind of ideas proposed by the PCs under premiers Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford, Dave Hancock and Jim Prentice.

It doesn’t say anywhere in there that in the unlikely event the party that aspires to be the new PCs becomes government Mr. Mandel would bring back former consultant and deputy health minister Janet Davidson and former AHS President Vickie Kaminski, but it sure sounds like he wishes he could.

Enough said. These are fantasy documents, not really very meaningful. Still, props to the Alberta Party for daring to put its ideas on the record. I’d say that about Mr. Fildebrandt too if he’d ever managed to put one out during the more than two years he was finance critic for the Wildrose Party and the UCP.

Today we’ll see the government’s budget.

After that, over at the UCP Caucus Room … Chirp-chirp! Chirp-chirp!

9 Comments to: ‘Daydreaming in Technicolor’ … the Alberta Party and Derek Fildebrandt present alternative budgets

  1. Farmer Brian

    March 22nd, 2018

    Probably the best pre-budget interview I heard was with Dr. Ron Kneebone, Calgary school of public policy. He said you should only budget for $2 billion a oil and gas royalties to be spent in your budget and any amount above that should go into savings. He said Alberta governments have been told this for 30 years. Unfortunately what has happened instead, is that every cent of oil and gas revenues is being spent and budgets have been based on pie in the sky oil and gas revenue returns which don’t materialize and we end up in a deficit position. He also said unless governments find a way to control health care spending budgets will never return to balance and spending on education and other social programs will have to be curtailed. From my own perspective I certainly expect the NDP to continue the tradition with their upcoming budget. The path to balance will be based on increased oil revenues and not on any realistic curtailment of spending or a realistic change in our tax structure so that Albertan’s will be paying the full cost of the benefits they receive. In the NDP’s defence there is no one in the opposition benches with a plan that will work either. Have a good day

    Reply
    • St Albertan

      March 22nd, 2018

      You know, I have to admit that your posts are at best thought provoking and at worst irritating. This one is both for me, because I detect that you may have realized just how much gold the good ship “Alberta Advantage” has sailed away with, never to return. If you are a real citizen, I think we have something in common. Do we both see the NDP budget as a missed opportunity? Do we both believe the Alberta Party shadow budget (in my case a shudder courses through me), and do we both think Derek is talking the kind of fiscal baffle-gab that appeals to a small but growing number of Albertans who are motivated by grievance, entitlement, and grandiosity? Do we both know what has been lost by allowing American agents the opportunity to take all our low hanging fruit? I’d say yes. That’s our common ground. What we do about it, now that’s our conflict.

      Reply
  2. brett

    March 22nd, 2018

    If I were the Alberta Party I would not want to be associated with anything that Derek Fildebrandt endorsed.

    I suspect that for most people, his endorsement would be the ‘kiss of death’ to any proposal. He has lost all credibility. His quest for print space and air time is embarrassing.

    Reply
  3. David

    March 22nd, 2018

    One of the pitfalls of being in opposition is to fall into the easy role of just mindlessly opposing what the government does, without presenting viable or better solutions. Parties that are good at being an effective opposition find they are often rewarded for it by voters – they get to remain the opposition. Often the Wildrose party was a very effective opposition to the PC’s, where they struggled was to present good alternative ideas. Kenney seems to be going down the same path, with even less substance to his alternative ideas. What is his climate change plan? We don’t know but we think it might be based on the failed an expensive ideas of the previous government. What is his alternative budget? Again, we do not know.

    I have to give some credit to Fildebrandt, despite all his mistakes mainly on the personal side, he did present an alternative budget plan. Now, I don’t know if everything in there was his own idea or borrowed from professors, or from some of his former Wildrose colleagues, but all least he has presented an alternative plan and seems to stand by it. Of course his chances of being in the next government as an independent are virtually nil.

    To be fair to Kenney, I am not sure he is only just hiding his plans for cuts from Alberta voters. Although he is an experienced politician, most of that experience is at the Federal level and not in the main economic portfolios. He has no private sector experience, so maybe creating a viable alternative provincial budget is just beyond his ability at this point. So perhaps better politically to do nothing, instead of having voters realize this weakness.

    I do share suspicions that with his knowledge or not, the UCP may be using Fildebrandt here to as a way to test ideas about cuts they are considering. It would be a smart political move – if the ideas do not fly, they can easily back away and say they are only Fildebrandt’s ideas, not theirs. Unfortunately for the UCP, in losing Fildebrandt and Jean, they have lost two of their MLA’s who have the most ideas and knowledge about fiscal matters and perhaps this also explains why the UCP is missing in action here. Of course, it could also be that Kenney really hopes voters will just give him a blank cheque, without having to bother to commit to much, if anything. I hope someone from the media will eventually hold his feet to the fire and call him out on this.

    Reply
  4. Farmer Dave

    March 22nd, 2018

    UCP is still the Alliance/Reform/Wildrose Religious Party created by Preston Manning and anything Kenney does needs to be approved by the Canadian Tax Payers Federation and the Manning Center, all run by Preston Manning. Unless Kenney can put mouth to paper about the budget and what he is prepared to do, he isn’t worth a vote in the next election. I doubt that he will put mouth to paper because Preston Manning won’t approve it.

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      March 23rd, 2018

      To be fair, I don’t think Preston Manning runs the CTF. Otherwise, I agree.

      Reply
      • FARMER DAVE

        March 24th, 2018

        EXPAT, if you follow the CTF agenda you will see the connection between Scott HENNIG VP of CTF and Preston MANNING.

        Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    March 23rd, 2018

    Would Derek Fildebrandt’s 5% pay cut also apply to crown prosecutors? One of the causes of the rural crime problem is a lack of prosecutors to deal with the thieves when they get caught.

    Reply
  6. Geoff Peters

    March 23rd, 2018

    Just breaking here in BC: Two MPs arrested for defying injunction at Kinder Morgan tank farm. Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party, and Kennedy Stewart, NDP Burnaby. Here is Stewart’s statement:

    Today I was arrested by the RCMP for defying a court injunction as it applies to Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby Mountain facilities. I did so while standing with my community, Indigenous Leaders, and those from across British Columbia who oppose this new pipeline. Please read my full statement below. Together, we can stop Kinder Morgan.

    In solidarity,

    Kennedy

    “Canadians have the constitutional right to peaceful protest especially when governments abuse power. During the last election, Justin Trudeau said that ‘while governments grant permits… only communities can grant permission.’ I am here today to help amplify the voices of my constituents who do not grant permission for this pipeline.”

    “The process by which the Trudeau government approved Kinder Morgan’s plans to build a dangerous new pipeline through our community without our consent was deeply flawed and unfair. The Prime Minister broke his promise to revise the National Energy Board pipeline review process and require Kinder Morgan to resubmit its plans under this new process. His government has also threatened to use military force to facilitate construction.”

    “First Nations’ and municipal governments as well as the Province deeply oppose this pipeline as British Columbians take most of the risk for little benefit. I feel it is my responsibility to do whatever I can to advocate for my community as its elected Member of Parliament, including exercising my constitutional rights.”

    Reply

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