Zombie Confidence Fairy finally rears its head as the 2015 Campaign of Fear gets up steam in Alberta

Posted on May 02, 2015, 1:35 pm
8 mins

A group of five prominent Edmonton businessmen with ties to the Prentice Progressive Conservative Party tried to talk some sense into us crazy Albertans yesterday about voting NDP during a news conference in the Melcor Developments’ boardroom in downtown Edmonton. From left to right: John Cameron, Paul Verhesen, Doug Goss, Ashif Mawji and Tim Melton. Below: Messrs. Cameron, Melton and Goss.

The Alberta Progressive Conservative Party’s 2015 Campaign of Fear got rolling in earnest yesterday morning, with dire warnings from a group of five prominent and well-heeled Edmonton businessmen about the grave risk taken by voters who rashly start contemplating sudden changes of course after only 44 years.

The scene in Melcor Developments’ Jasper Avenue headquarters had moments of surreal comedy as the five executives, which the Edmonton Journal’s reporter cruelly pointed out in her story together have donated close to $100,000 to Premier Jim Prentice’s party since 2010, wondered aloud about what has gotten into Alberta voters to make them so reckless they’d consider a vote for the New Democratic Party.

Cameron“I don’t understand the unhappiness,” said a puzzled Melcor Executive Chairman Tim Melton, who lent his nicely appointed ninth-floor boardroom to the effort, which the Group of Five indicated they came up with at Thursday night’s $5,000-a-table fundraiser for Premier Prentice in the capital city.

“I can’t imagine what this province will look like if we don’t make the right choice next week,” exclaimed John Cameron, president and CEO of Keller Construction. (Hint: Pretty much the same as it looks today.)

A two-per-cent increase in corporate taxes, the group wanted to make sure gathered reporters and bloggers understood, is certain to kill jobs, although it is not immediately clear where these jobs will go as Alberta will remain pretty much the lowest-taxed jurisdiction on the continent no matter which party is elected on Tuesday.

Regardless, as the cameras and tape recorders rolled, Mr. Cameron wondered aloud: “Why is it always the corporations? Why is it always? I risk everything I have because I am a small business, and then I have somebody telling me that I should be paying more tax! Why? Why is it me?

No need to go on. You get the picture.

Still, some things said there deserve a response, as when Ashif Mawji, president of Trust Science and CEO of NPO Net Zero, asserted with absolute and genuine sincerity that a new government would cause uncertainty, and “uncertainty is what paralyzes business.”

MeltonDespite the widespread belief in this myth in business circles, it is in fact not true. The “Zombie Confidence Fairy,” as Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman terms the notion that business confidence is undermined by policy uncertainty is so widely repeated it has taken on the air of unassailable truth. Nevertheless, Dr. Krugman says, “it’s actually a highly dubious, mathematically implausible argument that receives no support at all from the data.”

Likewise, when someone at the head table stated with conviction that NDP governments always run big deficits, this too is factually untrue, notwithstanding the how often it is repeated by people who actually believe it to be so.

As Canadian economist Toby Sanger produces the evidence to prove, “NDP governments have the best fiscal record of all political parties that have formed federal or provincial government in Canada.”

“Of the 52 years the NDP has formed governments in Canada since 1980, they’ve run balanced budgets for exactly half of those years and deficits the other half. This is a better record than both the Conservatives (balanced budgets 37 per cent of years in government) and the Liberals (only 27 per cent), as well as both Social Credit and PQ governments.”

No matter how sincerely meant, this is almost like saying patronizingly that voters aren’t “thinking straight,” that NDP Leader Rachel Notley’s policies are “amateur,” or that New Democrats “do not understand how economics work.” Oh, wait … someone did say all those things at yesterday’s boardroom presser!

Well, these events aren’t really about facts anyway. They’re about the belief that this democracy stuff is all very well, as long as the Hoi Polloi can be depended upon to make the right choices, which apparently don’t include voting for the NDP.

Just remember, if you pay attention to Canadian history, that’s exactly the attitude that got us the Senate of Canada in its present form, Mike Duffy and all.

GossAt least the five businessmen – who also included lawyer and University of Alberta Board Chair Doug Goss and Clark Builders CEO Paul Verhesen – didn’t go as far as Edmonton’s absentee federal cabinet minister, Rona Ambrose, who later in the day seemed to be suggesting that because our economy is so important the rest of the country ought to have a veto if Alberta voters decide to do something as crazy as electing a social democratic government.

One suspects that Albertans – who see themselves as independent-minded sorts – will object to the idea that their democratic choices, whatever they may be, should be subject to ratification by more sensible Canadians in other parts of the country, or at least by the occupants of the boardrooms of the land.

Likewise, I doubt Albertans will be much impressed by the fact that the Toronto Globe and Mail’s editorial board – the same fellows who without any success instructed Ontarians to elect Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives last June – has endorsed Mr. Prentice’s PCs. Unsurprisingly, the Toronto-owned, Hamilton-edited Edmonton Journal also came to the same conclusion at the same moment.

I don’t know what’s going to happen on Tuesday, but the Prentice strategic brain trust is going to have to do better than it did yesterday if it wants to scare the beejeepers out of us Albertans.

After all, as last week’s ThinkHQ poll showed, Albertans are actually more fearful of a re-elected PC government than either of the obvious alternatives.

Will Mr. Prentice have to drag Prime Minister Stephen Harper back from his friendly visit with European social democrats to put the fear of God into Alberta voters about voting for Canadian social democrats?

Let me put it to you this way. Albertans who are contemplating a vote for the NDP should remember, as no less an authority than Franklin D. Roosevelt advised Americans at a moment far more dire than this: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

29 Comments to: Zombie Confidence Fairy finally rears its head as the 2015 Campaign of Fear gets up steam in Alberta

  1. pauline urquhart

    May 2nd, 2015

    It is interesting to see who sits at the table. Is there even one woman in the “inner circle”?

    Reply
  2. May 2nd, 2015

    We should keep a list of who these people and companies are. At the end of the election we should have a rather complete list of insiders.

    Reply
  3. Val Jobson

    May 2nd, 2015

    “Mr. Cameron wondered aloud: “Why is it always the corporations? Why is it always? I risk everything I have because I am a small business, and then I have somebody telling me that I should be paying more tax! Why? Why is it me?””

    It’s my understanding that small businesses pay 3% tax and corporations pay 10% tax. Which does Cameron pay? Does he have a small business or a corporation? If he really has a small business, then why is he worrying about a tax increase? Nobody is suggesting an increase for them, I think.

    On the other hand, a shorter response to his wailing would be “Look in the mirror, chum.”

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      May 2nd, 2015

      Well, to be fair (albeit still somewhat opaque in terms of this guy’s whining) a small business can be incorporated, although it seems if his business were the latter, he would be a fool to incorporate. In any event, what this type usually says after their rant about raising corporate taxes is that business creates jobs, so they should not be taxes. Of course, we all know that is bunk – it is consumers who create jobs by spending money on the things business produces…and Prentice has raised taxes on individuals, the prime job creators. Again, this should not surprise any of us here – we all know the ‘business creates jobs’ argument is a smokescreen that plutocrats like to blow at us plebs to justify their entitlements.

      Reply
      • May 4th, 2015

        “Prentice has raised taxes on individuals, the prime job creators”

        Individuals are the prime job creators? How many Albertans were hired to work for sole proprietorships, ie individuals who have not incorporated?

        Reply
        • SMan

          May 4th, 2015

          0 people buying gas = 0 gas companies.

          Reply
  4. political ranger

    May 2nd, 2015

    If these titans of industry and champions of free market democracy are so worried about the amateurishly uncertain experiment of a freely elected government, well then they could pack up and relocate.
    How about down to the bastion of free market principles just south of here in America; they only pay 37% corporate tax there. Or farther south to other oil-economies like Mexico or Venezuela; if they don’t like your corporate philosophy, or if they really like your company, they’ll just nationalize you.
    I think once these guys quite bloviating about the end of the world as we know it and start doing what they do best, thinking about what’s best for themselves, they’ll realise they have it pretty darn good here.
    Maybe they should think about doing something useful around here.

    Reply
    • May 4th, 2015

      “…Venezuela… they’ll just nationalize you”

      Indeed, and NDP candidate Rod Loyola, who is almost guaranteed to be elected in Edmonton Ellerslie, has sung Chavez’ praises. I, quite frankly, don’t want to end up an economic basketcase like Venezuela and am accordingly not voting for a party fielding this sort of candidate.

      Reply
  5. May 2nd, 2015

    The record of these deregulation pushers is what Canadians have good cause to be fearful of. Not responsible people like Rachel Notley – who believes in honest government, that is willing to set the authoritative allocation of values in society: the real purpose of politics. The deregulators have been pushing a false premise for the past several decades that government should just get out of the way and sub out all public goals to private developers.

    There is growing peril that is becoming more demonstrable from our tolerating this poison to undermine the governance function. If anything, the NDP is a force for protection of the rule of law, and demanding good faith in the way policy and business practices are practiced. This is far more a classical conservative position, than the pathological policies that neocons in Canada have been dreaming up. These policies put our economic condition in outright catastrophic jeopardy.

    The people of Alberta – and all of Canada should take a hard look – and allow the record to register in our collective mind – just how pandering to oligarchy the policies shoved down the throats of Canadians have been over the past decade. Alberta is represented by a political caste that believes 1) derivative holders should have higher creditor standing than depositors in financial institutions deemed to be “significant institutions”; 2) that securitized debt instruments are good and necessary; 3) that in the event of the next meltdown, the significant institutions will have have right to classify depositors’ savings as assets of the investment firm – rather than liabilities owed to the depositor. This kind of predatory idea first raised its lethal head in the 2013 Canada Economic Action Plan, and got rubber-stamped at the G20 summit last November. Where in any of this – can one find a trace of ‘conservatism’? What these plutocracy policies do it put the savings of depositors as the backing for a small group of program traders – who would end up with the funds of depositors, if there is a repeat of 2008. Genuine conservatives would be challenging this transformation at every opportunity.

    For a summary of the changes in policy giving derivative holders supremacy in the investment heirarchy, look at the Chapter 3 document under “Archive” on the canadachapterpbi.ca website. This document is a condensation of what the 2013 Canada Economic Action Plan stated on this matter.

    Alberta needs to have governance by a party that respects the common law of contract – and is not willing to knuckle under to the concentration of wealth as seen in the designs of the the Bank for International Settlements.

    Reply
    • Paul Armstrong

      May 3rd, 2015

      very good arguments, should send them along to these “unfamous five”..they are collectively tax evaders and total jerkoffs….self-serving control freaks..

      Reply
      • May 3rd, 2015

        Something to remember in all this fear mongering. When Harper took office he had a 75 million dollar surplus left there by the Federal Liberals. He immediately reduced corporate taxes “as an incentive for growth” This brought Canadian Federal Taxes down below a level you would consider competitive.

        I have seen absolutely no evidence that the corporations returned any of this money to the economy! Nor did the Bank of Canada who chided them to start spending some of those savings. The country needs it.

        Reply
  6. David

    May 2nd, 2015

    The desire for change that some of the very comfortable business people referred to above can’t understand stems from Premier Prentice telling us we were in for tough times and everyone would have to make sacrifices, then ruling out corporate tax increased or looking at royalty rates charged. It became apparent from that whose interests Premier Prentice really cared about most and it wasn’t average Albertans, who found out from his budgets that they would have to make sacrifices.

    Yes the PC’s are again running a full blown campaign of fear, perhaps it may even work. However, I think it is unlikely. This time people are not going to be as easily fooled again.

    If anyone should be most fearful right now it is those people who have a cozy relationship with the PC government, those that have provided generous donations to them and in turn have benefited from many lucrative government contracts. As long as the PC’s get re-elected they can keep these cozy relationships from being too closely examined and probably also keep anything too unseemly buried and hidden from public view. If the government changes, some things may come to light that will make corporate tax rate changes the least of their worries.

    Reply
    • D Squared

      May 3rd, 2015

      “If the government changes, some things may come to light that will make corporate tax rate changes the least of their worries” Go long on shredders and custom shredding firms in this outcome scenario.

      Reply
    • May 3rd, 2015

      Ron Liepert on his last public address talking about how our royalty was 6% and falling said “Albertans should get rid of their thoughts of entitlement” and “Albertans should tighten their belts” Comments like those earned him the name of Loose Lips Liepert.

      Reply
  7. Athabascan

    May 2nd, 2015

    My question is this: Why is the opinion of five wealthy one percenters even reported in the media?

    Who gives a shit what they think? On election day, much to their dismay, all their money only entitles them to one vote each. That is coincidentally the same number as five welfare moms who are struggling.

    Reply
    • PJP

      May 2nd, 2015

      Hear, hear, hear!

      Reply
    • CuJoYYC

      May 3rd, 2015

      Bingo. I don’t give a shit about wealthy whiners either. I did, however, appreciate how the Journal article juxtaposed the donations made by the sniffling executives and the government largesse they all benefitted from. Hypocrites one and all.

      Reply
  8. MAGGIE

    May 2nd, 2015

    With apologies to the screen writers of “Ghostbusters”

    John Cameron: This province is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
    Alberta Voter: What do you mean “biblical”?
    Paul Verhesen: What he means is Old Testament, dear Voter, real wrath of God type stuff.
    John Cameron: Exactly.
    Paul Verhesen: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
    Tim Melton: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
    Ashif Mawji:The dead rising from the grave!
    John Cameron: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!
    Alberta Voter: All right, all right! I get the point!

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      May 2nd, 2015

      Why worry, we already have all this wrath of God type stuff now.

      1. Rivers and lakes polluted due to tar sands.
      2. Forty-three years of darkness (PC rule)
      3. Human sacrifice in the form of work fatalities, and no protection for farm workers.
      4 Peter Lougheed resurrected the grave only to be branded as a radical.
      4. Dogs and cats live together as commonly do, and have for many years.
      5. Mass hysteria from the old guard

      Vote for a party that didn’t bring this to us. That would be the NDP.

      Reply
      • May 3rd, 2015

        Here’s my last kick at the cat will just maintain conversations online now.

        A 1% increase in taxes is hardly a choke! Notley unlike her BC and Saskatchewan name-sake (not part of her ideal or party) has laid out for the world to see an ideal, well through-out even non-partisan plan to Govern and vetted as viable by Conservative hawks.

        If you are a merchant making more than 150.000 a year profits you will pay an additional 1%.

        But that same merchant should worry about where his customers are going to come from! Alberta has the highest percentage of working poor in the western world! How many coins do you think they have to drop in your store?

        Better you worry about the well-being of the population at large than the corporations who have sucked billions, even trillions out of Alberta.

        Think! The Conservatives have gone through much more than 700 billion dollars from the Heritage trust fund; flushed through the General Revenue account.

        They have discounted our oil bound for the Gulf Coast by 30%; this according to High Commissioner Stewart Beck addressing India, posted on Financial Post. That is 30% ripped out of the pockets of producers in this province and the province to satisfy Conservative values. That, over 15 years would amount to Trillions lost revenue.

        The Wild Rose Party had always (over 20 years, yes; I have known them) had the policy to do away with the transfer payments.

        They have never had it out front until Harper put his election sharks in to run Danielle Smith’s campaign. So that gives us an idea where Harper is at too. It’s part of his rather successful unite the right campaign to which he puts a lot of effort into.

        NOT ONE THIN DIME OF ALBERTA PROVINCIAL TAXES GOES TO OTTAWA OR THE OTHER PROVINCES!!!

        This is a myth perpetuated by Western isolationists and separatists.

        It’s our federal tax dollars, just like those of all Canadians, that are pooled together and shared with the provinces and territories. And Alberta is scheduled to get about $5.5 billion dollars from Ottawa in this way in the next fiscal year, or $1,600 per capita (the same per capita as BC & Saskatchewan, BTW). So this remains an important shape of their party.

        Another perpetual lie that has moved to the forefront is Stelmach’s “New Royalty Regime” .pdf. It was the eve of his election; royalty review was the election hot button. The Conservatives released this .pdf with sky-high impossible numbers to inflame the voting public. It had no foundation in realism. Oil companies chipped in with the best bit of theatre this province has ever seen and all of a sudden this scrap of pure garbage became the street value truth. It was all a lie!

        There was one line in 6pt print on the bottom of the page “All royalty taken in Canadian dollars” This was a loss of 18% to the province at that time. Wild rose are trying to spin it as a real effort as are different parties in Calgary. At the time I posted there is nothing in this document for Albertans!

        Kevin Taft was in line to become the next premier. His party was 600,000 dollars in debt, He refused to engage in the royalty debate and tried to redefine the election issue. Stelmach won and the Liberal Debt was paid off. He threw the election! That crew of cronies are not part of the Liberal executive anymore!

        The Conservatives have known about the danger of the High River Flood for 15 years or more. They did nothing about mitigation and they could have done. They did nothing and you are now paying 30% more on your house insurance for years to come if it ever comes off!

        Prentice has added 30% to your electric bills (forever?) There are over 2 million meters spinning in this province. That return them over 1 billion dollars in revenue every 2 years! As Prentice said “You are making good money you should not complain about paying more”

        There is only 1 choice that is well thought out and for good reason and that is the Alberta NDP in a majority Government. We can set this wreck of a province back on is feet.

        Go to Alberta–The Details top post up is the to 70 political donations from 2004 and 2010. You will find how shallow WRP donations are. Some people are expecting something back from their sure-thing bet. Possibly their private dynasty.

        http://www.edmontonjournal.com/continues+surge+Alberta+says+poll/11024909/story.html

        Reply
  9. Expat Albertan

    May 2nd, 2015

    The conservative power-bloc is afraid…delicious!! It’s about frickin’ time!

    What a momentous year it has been for the Alberta c/Conservative movement: oil prices falling through the floor, the opposition crossing the floor to the government (has anyone ever seen that anywhere in the entire world – even in fake democracies?), and now the chance of an NDP government in the conservative heartland. Pigs are flying, hell is freezing over, hail and locusts all around! Even if the NDP don’t make it into government, this is a momentous time in the province’s recent history! I wish I was there to share it with you all!

    One other comment from somebody in the Ottawa press corps: it almost seems like Alberta is trying hard to elect a woman as premier (Redford, Smith, Notley) – this alone suggests a major cultural change in the province. Fingers crossed…

    Reply
  10. jerrymacgp

    May 3rd, 2015

    I hope the average Alberta voter reading about this corporate whingeing realizes how blatantly self-serving it all is. Basically this the one-percenters saying, “please don’t cut into my ridiculously high income, I might need to buy my Porsche/Rolls-Royce/Learjet second-hand”. Pah!

    I don’t know the legal cutoff between a “small business”, like an independent auto repair shop or general store, which may in fact be incorporated for legal and financial reasons, and a “big corporation”; but I think we can all recognize that big companies like Stantec, Encana, Shell, Suncor, and the Colas Group, to name a few, can afford to leave a bit more of their profits in Alberta, which has been so good to them, before sending the rest offshore.

    Reply
  11. CuJoYYC

    May 3rd, 2015

    The biggest fear of the PCs is that their backroom deals, cronyism, and assorted thieving of our resources for more than a quarter of a century will be exposed for all to see. I’m not a supporter of the NDP or WRP but I really do look forward to a long overdue change in government. Once Albertans realize that we can survive any party in power not named PC, our democracy will be better off. It’s actually normal AND HEALTHY for governments to change every decade or two.

    Reply
  12. Chris

    May 4th, 2015

    These CEOs must have been sent out to speak to the media by the NDP. How the PCs thought that this event could help their cause is beyond me. This one event perfectly encapsulates the entire election. A deaf and dumb government that has no clue why they are about to be thrown out.

    Reply
    • PJP

      May 5th, 2015

      While we should give all due credit to the NDP and their campaign,
      I suppose we should ‘thank’ the PCs for their debacle.
      Ahh the schadenfreude …
      (For another NSFW expression of my ‘joy’ see http://youtu.be/55fzXL3uc1s)

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      May 5th, 2015

      I get your point and agree, but there is no need to insult the deaf and dumb.

      Reply
      • Chris

        May 5th, 2015

        🙂

        Reply
  13. May 4th, 2015

    I worked for both Keller construction and Clark builders they were both proudly non-union paid low wages and benefited greatly from anti family labour laws in Alberta that allowed for banked overtime and holiday pay. I wouldn’t follow those two millionaires out of burning building. Please dear lord let Rachel win.

    Reply

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