Premier’s televised fan dance fails to inspire but may deliver four more years of the same old anyway

Posted on March 25, 2015, 2:01 am
10 mins

Premier Jim Prentice in the Star Trekkie ambience of the boardroom at Government House prepares to promise Albertans to boldly go where no Tory’s gone before: in the general direction managerial competence. Actual future PC performance may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: Prime Minister Winston Churchill addresses the House of Commons at Westminster during a crisis more serious than a periodic downturn in oil prices. Note that then, as now, the CBC was there.

You want to hear a speech for a crisis? I’ll show you a speech for a crisis! “I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’”

That was Winston Churchill in the House of Commons at Westminster on May 13, 1940. In his first speech as prime minister, Mr. Churchill was dealing with a real crisis, of the sort that doesn’t give a leader the vapours at the thought of running a deficit!

Churchill-RHitler was on the loose in Europe and, Mr. Churchill told MPs, “we have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

Sorry about letting Mr. Churchill run on, but he had such a fine way with our great language he is surely worth quoting. Anyway, everyone knows Alberta Premier Jim Prentice can’t make those kinds of claims about our future here in Alberta, the convenient and dreary dogma of his neoliberal faith notwithstanding, let alone stow the anchor of his customary banker’s bureaucratese.

It would have been very hard for Mr. Prentice to rise to such heights of oratory in his tepid televised sermon to the people of Alberta last night, taped in the boardroom of Government House in Edmonton, which appears to have been redecorated to resemble the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

And where’s the logical Mr. Spock now that we need him? After all, the cause of our current troubles here in Alberta is not one of history’s great villains, as Mr. Churchill faced, but the fiscal incompetence and lack of vision of the premier’s own Progressive Conservative government, which has yet to plan successfully for a predictable and periodic downturn in the price of commodities in its 43-year history.

So the premier had the tough task of finding a way to suggest, sticking with the Star Trek theme, that he and his government will boldly go where no Tory has gone before – in the direction of managerial competence. Alas, Mr. Spock is dead, and logic seems to have perished too!

Or, to put this another way, Mr. Prentice has the (apparently not so) difficult job of persuading Albertans that the answer to more than four decades of PC mismanagement is four more interminable years of the same. Only, you know, this time they’ll do better. Promise!

To achieve this neat trick – and I give Mr. Prentice credit for a businesslike tone that almost succeeded at making his argument sound plausible – he is forced to continue doing the rhetorical fan dance, promising us tough times ahead with sunshine in the future if we all just pull together and vote PC, without ever quite revealing more than hints of what this is supposed to entail.

Mind you, Mr. Prentice wasn’t quite willing to give up the notion that if we want to see the real troublemaker, we need to look in the mirror – although he wisely steered clear of those words. “So why did this happen in Alberta? Fundamentally, we’ve not always had realistic expectations, and our leaders must bear a considerable part of the responsibility for that.” (Emphasis added, of course – and whom do you think he thinks should bear the rest?)

Some commentators, by the way, suggested this comment reflects a break with past premiers by Mr. Prentice. If they actually believe this, my late Aunt Sadie has a substantial bequest for them, if they’ll only email her representative their banking information.

Well, there were some hints there of what’s to come, I guess. We’re apparently going back to health-care fees – a central tenet of Mr. Prentice’s neoliberal faith, in which none of us will ever appreciate a thing if we don’t have to pay for it up front, preferably to an unaccountable private entity.

But this time, as he omitted to mention last night, they’ll be structured in a way that we can’t get our corporate employers to pay them, even those few of us with unions, but will have to shell out our own freely floating Canadian Loonies. But this is not, note, a “tax increase…” of which there will be none, or none where it counts in Mr. Prentice’s books anyway.

Likewise, though we are all created equal and will have to suffer equally to make it through this crisis of mismanagement to the pot o’ gold at the end of the Tory rainbow, some of us will have to suffer more equally than others – especially those of you with public sector jobs, by the sound of it, unless you’re prepared to demonstrate some “openness to new solutions.”

Still, while the speech was long on warnings about the gravity of the crisis and the joy to be found at the end if we all of us – loggers and bloggers alike (and thank you, Mr. Premier, for that acknowledgement) – just stick together and return the PCs to power one more time, it was very short on details.

It even contained a hint we won’t know the full details of the program when we head Thursday’s Budget Speech, but will have to wait until after the election to find out what’s really going to happen. How else are we to interpret the premier’s promise that revenue from our new health care direct payments “will start small but it will grow over three years”?

I’ll give Mr. Prentice this much: It was a stroke of genius to give the only time to respond to the leader of a moribund party so dull, ill prepared and fixated on the late Martha and Henry that many voters are bound do conclude, “what alternative is there?”

There is an alternative of course, but it lies with the only political party with seats in the Legislature that wasn’t invited to the TV studio.

Well, as Mr. Churchill said, let us take up our task with buoyancy and hope. “Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength” – and not vote for the same old thing one more wearisome time!

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7 Comments to: Premier’s televised fan dance fails to inspire but may deliver four more years of the same old anyway

  1. Valary

    March 25th, 2015

    The surprise value of Government House is the Canadian art on the walls. Try to get there the once in awhile it is open to the public.

  2. anonymous

    March 25th, 2015

    Comrade David,

    I appreciate fine political analyses you present in blog. Our citizens appreciate your commendable efforts.

    However, during this difficult time of developing plan for great leap forward, we, the committee, desire you publish sensible, optimistic pieces and refrain from criticism, sarcasm and satire sometimes embedded in writings. We think this approach best for everyone involved, especially great nation of Alberta.

    Comrade Jim.

    P.S. – If anybody asks, found Brylcreem™ in glove compartment of T-Bird.

  3. Merle

    March 25th, 2015

    Inpsiring: market fundamentalist approach to corporate taxes. Will bring more jobs and prosperity to Alberta. Growing our economy.

    Uninspiring: ditching Bill 45, which was one of the most progressive pro-worker pieces of legislation this country has ever seen. Expect more illegal strikes and stunts that the taxpayer will have to pay for…

  4. March 25th, 2015

    Prentice is no Churchill. He lacks the wit, charisma and passion to deliver an unpleasant message and be believed.

    Inherent vice of his party? The unequal sharing of blessings; plus the unequal sharing of miseries

  5. Expat Albertan

    March 25th, 2015

    Bridge of the Enterprise? Looked more like the War Room in Dr. Strangelove – and I suspect the speech was about sincere as anything coming out of the mouth of General Turgidson.

  6. March 26th, 2015

    You missed the biggest part of his message! He is cancelling our health care! This came at the same time a brand new solicitation from Alberta Blue Cross showed up in my email box after my umpteenth refusal. A new chance to join they said.

    And if I didn’t mention it before he is pulling billions out of the power line build. Every power bill to be increased 30.00 shortly? There are 1.5 million meters spinning in this province that means billions of dollars in just a few years and no mention on how many years he plans on running it.

    The cancellation of bill 45 was a good move. I think Government workers are going to take rollbacks whether bill 45 is in place or not. We have lost all of our petroleum markets and have no secondary industry.

    A progressive taxes is needed and now! Prentice hold on the flat tax gives oil companies the big break.

    We have been paying oil companies to take the resource from the province. We paid for their, roads, their water. There was a large Centrifuge experiment went on the edge of Mildred Lake 700,000 dollars a month it cost taxpayers! Oil paid zilch. We collected zero for royalty for the past few years and our producers suffered through a 30% discount going into oil bargaining for the past 10 years. I place that as Trillions lost!

    AS for those industries who want to hang onto their 10% tax; where are you going to get paying customers? You won’t have to worry about taxes!

    • March 26th, 2015

      One other thing; the new power lines were being built to move power from the oil sands to the US markets through Montana across to California! They had nothing to do with our needs or our demands! Too late to think that one now. It will be 6 years or more before we see any normalcy in this province.

      The reason we are here is because people in the city had wieners in the fridge so didn’t bother to vote; why should they? I’m telling you if you don’t get out and vote your mind this time you are really and truly hung!

      I’m supporting the NDP. I want a chance at being like Norway with billions in the bank through a history of socialist Governments.


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