PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who is not getting any credit for her economic successes from the Opposition or the media. Below: Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci; Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall; and University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe (CBC photo).
Alberta added an impressive 20,000 full-time jobs in March, according to Statistics Canada, suggesting the province’s resource-based economy is enjoying a significant rebound.
But will Premier Rachel Notley, Finance Minister Joe Ceci or any other member of Alberta’s New Democratic Government get any credit for this development from the Opposition and its mainstream media auxiliary? Don’t hold your breath.
Opponents of the government continue to repeat the same old claims about the state of the economy they were making a year ago, two years ago, and three years ago about PC premier Jim Prentice, pretty much word for word.
Meanwhile, next door in Saskatchewan – home of Premier Brad Wall, who a well-known Alberta right-wing Opposition figure not long ago declared to be the real leader of Western Canada – that province was shedding jobs in the same time period.
According to the same Statistics Canada report, employment declined in Saskatchewan by more than 5,000 jobs in March.
Since Saskatchewan’s economy like Alberta’s is resource dependent, this suggests that when it comes to real jobs for real people, Premier Notley’s approach of continuing to fund basic services and programs is more effective at keeping the economy ticking along than Mr. Wall’s ideologically driven austerity.
And since Saskatchewan’s economy measured by Gross Domestic Product as well as its share of the national GDP and its population is always about a quarter of Alberta’s, perhaps we could extrapolate that, all things being equal, if Saskatchewan were the same size as Alberta it would have lost about … 20,000 jobs.
On the other hand, the overall unemployment rate remains higher in Alberta – probably partly because so much of the Canadian oil industry is headquartered in Calgary and partly because more people are looking for work again now that the economy is perking up and there are more grounds for optimism here in Alberta. Nevertheless, that means there’s still something for opponents of Ms. Notley’s government to point to when the facts don’t support their narrative … for the moment, anyway.
Just the same, by any normal measure, the Alberta economy remains strong. “The Alberta economy as a whole is robust … certainly relative to other provinces,” University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe recently told a Postmedia reporter, who buried the good news, but at least covered it. “I’d still say it’s the strongest economy in Canada.”
For its part, the federal statistics agency noted: “Employment in the province has been on an upward trend since the autumn of 2016.”
Alberta’s recession this time has been shallower than it was in either 2008 or 1981, Dr. Tombe noted in a Tweet the day the Statistics Canada numbers came out – both earlier recessions took place while the Progressive Conservative Party was managing the economy.
Nor does the province’s expected debt-to-GDP ratio of about 7-per-cent seem like a problem by any economic yardstick, despite the Opposition’s best efforts to raise debate to a hysterical pitch over the size of the provincial debt.
Alberta’s two main conservative opposition parties, and to a significant degree the mainstream media, have spent the past two years loudly and continually denouncing the NDP for the economic conditions the province faced – even though the most significant factor, the impact of the international price of oil on our historically one-note economy, was well beyond the provincial or even the federal government’s control.
Now that the measures they have taken seem to be bearing some fruit, conservatives appear to have nothing much to say about this situation and the media has gone very, very quiet. The conservative parties, at least, have an excuse, being focused as they are on their efforts to join together in a tiny-tent social-conservative-dominated Frankenparty.
They’re bound to argue the good economic news is all caused by factors outside Alberta, and has nothing to do with NDP policies – in other words, the only thing consistent about conservatives is their ideologically driven inconsistency.
For its part, the energy industry seems to be quietly supportive of what the Notley Government has been doing, which may also account for some conservative discomfort with the issue.
Indeed, the Alberta government’s most effective critics nowadays, if not its loudest ones, may be found in the environmental movement.
Meanwhile, the orange-clad Edmonton Oilers are back in the National Hockey League playoffs for the first time since 2006. If they do better than the Calgary Flames, Wildrosers and PCs will presumably try to blame the NDP for that, too.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.