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.

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  1. In December the price of natural gas in Calgary to heat your house was 2.56 a gigajoule. As of Jan 1 the carbon tax added 1.011 per gigajoule or an increase of 39.5%. I have a neighbor who heats his workshop with coal, the carbon tax on it is 35$ per tonne, this amounts to over a 100% increase. He is a senior on fixed income. Yesterday morning when I got up it was below -30 with the windchill heat is essential in our climate.

    1. At $3.57 a gigajoule, natural gas is still considerably cheaper than it was a few years ago, when I think it was in the $8 range, and the Stelmach government was telling us to put on a sweater.

      With regards to your neighbour, since he is inside where there is no wind, citing the wind chill temperature is disingenuous. Here in Edmonton the temperature was in the minus 18 to minus 20 range, but inside my well insulated, but unheated, garage, the temperature was only minus 9. Bundled up, I worked out there for a few hours yesterday. Since your neighbour is on a fixed income, I am inferring he is retired and his workshop is a ‘hobby shop’. If this is correct (and I apologize for my insensitivity if it isn’t) the sympathy card doesn’t really play.

      1. Actually his supplier called him and said it would be 35$ a tonne jan 1 2017 and 53$ a tonne Jan 1 2018. He gets his coal in Forestburg. Or if you prefer call Dodds coal in Ryley you will get the same information.

    2. While the jump in natural gas price is not trivial, keep in mind that that the price of gas consumed is only a small part of the consumer’s bill.

      For example on an $80 natural gas bill that I got recently, only about 20 was the cost of gas. That portion might increase to 30 now, but the rest of the bill (distribution, admin charges, rate riders) is not rising dramatically.

      Obviously concerns about affordability are still valid, but let’s make sure that the big picture is considered.

    3. The carbon tax did not add 40% to the natural gas bill. I believe Trevor Tombe estimated the additional cost at about 9%. Remember the natural gas bill has various fixed costs and things which would not change with the carbon tax.

      1. Maybe your neighbour can get government assistance to get a better heater:

        On-Farm Energy Management Program assists producers with the purchase of equipment that improves energy efficiency or monitors energy consumption. This includes lighting, pumps, meters, boilers, heaters and low-energy, livestock-watering fountains.

        On-Farm Solar PV Program assists producers with the purchase of grid-connected solar panel systems that can be used to generate electricity and reduce emissions on farms.

        Irrigation Efficiency Program helps producers invest in new or upgraded low-pressure irrigation equipment, improving water efficiency and reducing energy use.

        Accelerating Innovation Program
        Facilitates collaboration between agricultural societies, industry organizations and producer groups to collaborate through proof-of-concept and commercialization of new products, new processes or new business practices in Alberta.

        Assists primary producers, agri-processors and other for-profit companies with the early adoption of new technologies or practices that have the potential for sector-wide impact.

    4. Fortunately, if he lives alone his rebate will be $200. If he’s heating his work-shop, I’m sure he has it well insulated to maximize thermal efficiency.

    5. I feel sorry for your neighbour, but as David pointed out, gas would have been higher under Prentice as well, and if Ralph Klein had saved money when prices were high rather than giving incentives to the oil industry and just about everyone else he liked, had kept taxes at a proper rate for well-to-do Albertans, had ranchers pay a fair rate for grazing on crown land ….. – Alberta would not be in the position we are in. So don’t blame the NDP, look at the Conservatives who wasted money when oil prices were high and ask yourself if you want to return to the middle ages under the likes of Jason Kenney.

      1. ya got that right, Maria….it seems conservatives have very, very short memories..and how about all the billions that oil and gas has been subsidized for the last 50 years….we would be much farther ahead if those subsidies were given to renewables…instead of a pitiful 5 million.

      2. Actually Maria you should read Jack Mintz’s and Daria Crisan’s analysis of the Alberta NDP’s changes to the royalty regime for conventional oil production. They actually lowered it and we are now have a lower rate than BC or Saskatchewan. Maybe instead of running down someone like Jason Kenney who is not in power, you should explain why the NDP after years of complaining about Albertan’s not getting their fair share came in and lowered royalties!!

        1. good point, Farmer B. The NDP set the royalties following a thorough review and in light of the current low oil prices. I haven’t heard the Conservatives and the Wildrosers complain about the royalties but they complain about the carbon tax. Perhaps they should propose increasing the royalties and using the extra money to give rebates to all Albertans to offset the carbon tax.

      1. Agree with the first part of your statement, but windchill/windspeed does affect heating requirements if a workshop is not totally airtight and draft-free. Mine certainly isn’t.

        1. exactly! … so it’s not an issue of ‘cost of heating’; it’s an issue of ‘cost of construction’ or ‘cost of maintenance’.
          Farmer wants us to cry crocodile tears because his buddy has to pay more to heat his shack. We have been saying for decades, generations actually, build it properly and it’s safe and warm (or cool, depending on the season).
          This is nothing more than petulance over a lost subsidy.

    6. I guess nobody read the article about the carbon tax and how So let me give you a link direct to the AB government about the carbon tax levy and rebates etc. You will find it quite informative. and ps your senior on a fixed income and many OTHER Albertans will be getting rebates. Please stop making assumptions based on supposed political conservatives (they are not conservatives they are baffelgabbers intent on stirring cow poop, the same way trump has done in the states leading to over violence against all members of US citizenry).

      1. perhaps bigger problems could arise not from tax itself but from chaos it’s bring into marketplace. some businesses already raised prices way above the impact of carbon tax on them, more will join to capitalize on it, even if there no really objective reason for it. sadly that’s common way to “successfully” run in Canada.

  2. Reading your article I just learned the number 3,500 represents one third of all home schooled students! That would mean in total there are about 10,500 home schooled students province wide.

    Good grief! I didn’t know there were so many. That’s all this province needs to ensure RWNJs eventually regain control of government for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry and their climate denying stooges.

    1. It’s a similar sorry state here in BC as well. Seeing as BC is what it is, I’m not certain what the home-schoolin’ business is producing. Probably not RWNJs, but it’s hard to tell. What IS happening is government funding going to home schooling and private schools while being taken away from the public system.

  3. Those jerry cans Mr. Fildebrandt is filling up look very clean, making me wonder if he just bought them. If they are 20 litre cans, he would save one dollar for each can by filling up at pre-carbon tax prices. Meanwhile, the Canadian Tire website lists 20 litre jerry cans for $17.99

    Is this the kind of money saving ideas we can expect from a Wildrose government?

    1. A false economy as they say, or penny wise, pound foolish. However, I doubt he is paying for it out of his own pocket. Despite ideology, Wildrose MLA’s know how to make expense claims too. I hope someone checks Mr. Fildebrandt’s expense records. I suspect that $17.99, or whatever the amount, is being paid for by Alberta taxpayers.

      1. Point taken. I tried to compare them to a plastic milk jug, and figured they were bigger than that. The smaller jerry cans were only $9, so Derek is being more money conscious than I gave him credit for – he is spending $9 to save 25 cents.

    2. “Jerry Cans” Derek is doing it all wrong. He’s paying way too much for gas.

      From, the official website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

      2015 Dodge Ram 1500 4WD 3.6 litre 6 cylinder automatic 8 speed transmission
      Regular gas, 19 miles per gallon, 16/23 city/highway combined, 5.3 gallons per 100 miles

      2015 Ford Focus 1.0 litre 3 cylinder manual 6 speed transmission
      Regular gas, 30 miles per gallon, 26/37 city/highway combined, 3.3 gallons per 100 miles

      A gas guzzler like the one he seems to standing in front of could be burning almost 40% more fuel than a Focus.
      Make the switch Derek! You’ll only need 12 jerry cans, not 20. Save money and fuel. Help the environment, Sir!

    3. damn! i forgot to fill tank before january first. was busy with research on how to convert my diesel truck into pedal powered drivetrain, like one seen on bicycles.
      another useful hint – everyone can save huge on house heating by sleeping in parka and winter boots.

      1. you kidding me, right?
        try to move 1 ton load by bike? and how one can install wood burning stove on the bike to keep itself from freezing up during the work, particularly when climate warming seems didn’t apply for Alberta’s winter 😉

    4. Or the fact he likely consumed 5 liters making a special trip to the gas station, which MIGHT put him at break even if he already owned the jerry cans and his trunk tank was already empty.

  4. I think most of the time when conservatives are ok with conservatives raising taxes its because they’re pretty certain the extra money will go to line the pockets of other conservatives – i.e. people at least like themselves, if not them personally. Consider that here in the US the GOP Freedom Caucus was terrified that a black president might spend infrastructure money on the wrong thing, but they’re totally fine with giving a blank check to a bankrupt reality TV star because he’s an old white guy, and they’re convinced he’ll spend it on other old white guys.

    That kind of kleptocratic/ethnocratic motivation is what kept the province vertically integrated for four decades. If you’re a contractor dependent on the largesse of the Cs for your monthly invoice, the last thing you want to do is disrupt the flow of cash.

    That total homeschool number would include many students who are “homeschool” due to things like ongoing medical issues that keep them out of regular school, isolated rural cases, kids in elite sports programs who “homeschool” to accommodate travel schedules and such. Two of the largest homeschool boards are the Edmonton and Calgary public boards for reasons such as these.

    10000 doesn’t sound that high to me when you figure that it encompasses most of the edge cases for a province of several million people.

    But that also means that Trinitys 3500 is pretty close to 100% of the homeschooled population that is trying to avoid traditional acidemic standards and expectations.

      1. I alwaysthought that the private sector was so much more efficient.

        According to the reports, one of the anomalies that touched off the audit was the exceedling high admin costs. They were reported to be in the 31 percent range vs the usual range of 4-6 percent.

        Salaries were way out of line, and the two families were on the payroll.

        Derek Fildebrandt made himself look rather foolish in his first comments, WRP even more so when they immediately tied this to a fundraising event.

        And if the schooling is so good, why was there an article in the Calgary Sun about of young lady whose high school grad marks from this school were not recognized by U of C and two other universities. She apparently had to go back to the public system to re do her final year.

        We have yet to hear the outcome, if any, of the Provinces requested RCMP investigation into a number of school expenditures.

    1. i still remember leakage of correspondence of top pro-climate change scientists and activists a few years back, in which they discussed how much of BS it is all.

      1. No that is false. You are probably thinking of “climategate” when some criminals illegally stole some emails, and climate deniers tried hard to pretend that the emails proved some scientists were corrupt. Nobody was sense was fooled by this.

        The scientists are honest, the deniers are liars.

        1. @VAL JOBSON
          c’mon, i do not deny climate change. contrary i strongly believe this constantly happens since the time, the planet Earth exist. seems just our ancestors wasn’t smart enough to capitalize on such events.

          1. Sorry typical denier weasel words, just like Don MacIntyre’s idiotic remarks to the press. The climate is changing quickly now because we humans are burning too many fossil fuels. This is not some natural cycle, it is a result of our own actions.

          2. how can you know how rapid climate changes have happened in the past?
            these climate changes wasn’t just because mother nature wanted so. UV radiation due to cosmic cataclysms, bacteries did great impact as well, tectonic moves, meteor’s showers, volcanic activity and so on. gurus like Al Gore and David Suzuki wasn’t around at that time to leave records for us and stupid dinosaurs didn’t figured out way how to write this down.
            i do not deny human’s activity has impact as well, but considering scale of event it’s too minuscule and only reason to bump it so high – great opportunity for western governments to have more cash under own control and redistribution.
            frankly i would prefer government to direct it effort into entrepreneurial activity rather than to gangsterism.

          3. Scientists can study various kinds of evidence of past climates:

            It is very silly of you to think governments are lying about climate change to get money, there are easier ways for them to get money. Climate change caused by us is a big problem and it will never go away. We have to learn to live with it and try to make it less damaging where we can.

            Gore & Suzuki are not climate scientists, but they are intelligent enough to understand what the scientists are saying.

          4. the problem with paleoclimatology that it can trace only long (thousands, sometimes millions) years lasting events. if we assume only last 100 years can be considered like solidly based on observation and recording, on the geological time scale it’s nothing and you’ll find no footprint of such events at least if they don’t last for millennia.

            “there are easier ways for them to get money”
            like which?

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