United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney addresses the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 9 (Screenshot of Calgary Chamber video).

A recent speech by Jason Kenney to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce indicates the Alberta Opposition leader intends to ram a radical program through the Legislature with minimal public consultation if his United Conservative Party wins the election likely to be held in 2019.

Oddly, it took almost a week for a comprehensive report of Mr. Kenney’s sold-out Oct. 9 “conversation” with the Chamber’s members to filter out to the public.

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It’s not as if it was supposed to be a secret. The Chamber posted a video of the whole thing on its Facebook page on the same day Mr. Kenney spoke and answered questions. An Oct. 10 story in the Calgary Herald mentioned his remarks in passing, but focused on the controversy about the city’s proposed Olympic bid and Mr. Kenney’s proposal to establish a Ministry of Truth “to respond in real time to every lie or myth told about our energy industry here in Canada and around the world.”

It appears, though, as if no one in the Calgary media noticed the UCP leader’s new policy hints until Emma Graney of the Edmonton Journal bothered to watch the Chamber’s recording over the weekend. Her story was published yesterday.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford (Photo: Andrew Louis, Creative Commons).

Clearly assuming a UCP victory next spring is a slam-dunk, Mr. Kenney explained the logic of his legislative strategy to the lunchtime crowd at the Calgary Hyatt-Regency hotel as a sort of political version of what the U.S. armed forces used to call “shock and awe.” In other words, his planned legislative program sounds remarkably like the approach already tested south of the 49th Parallel by U.S. President Donald Trump and now being rolled out in Ontario by Premier Doug Ford.

“You move with speed because speed creates its own momentum,” Mr. Kenney told the Chamber crowd. “It also makes it harder for the opponents of reform to obstruct it.” This is undeniably true – although it doesn’t exactly indicate a profound commitment to democratic principles.

Responding to a question, Mr. Kenney credited the strategy to Sir Roger Douglas, the New Zealand Labour politician turned neoliberal who as the country’s finance minister in the late 1980s betrayed his party’s supporters and laid waste to New Zealand’s traditional managed economy. Arguably the country is still recovering from that dangerous experiment in “Rogernomics.”

Former New Zealand finance minister Roger Douglas (Photo: Alan Liefting, Public Domain).

But Sir Roger is said to have inspired Mr. Klein’s Alberta government in the 1990s – from which, not incidentally, Alberta is still recovering as well. At any rate, Mr. Kenney seemed impressed by his tactics. “He said the first and most important lesson is that you move quickly.”

Mr. Kenney also told the Chamber’s luncheon crowd he’d like to avoid getting “bogged down” in too much consultation, which is faintly ironic considering the shrieking we’ve heard from the United Conservative Party and its PC and Wildrose predecessors ever since 2015 about supposedly inadequate consultation by Alberta’s NDP Government on such topics farm-safety legislation and the details of its climate change policy.

Nevertheless, Mr. Kenney’s current view is that governments can get caught up in an “endless process” that includes too much consultation. Who would have known?

Well, as anyone who pays attention to movement conservatives like Mr. Kenney understands, what’s sauce for the goose isn’t necessarily sauce for the gander, at least when the gander finally gets to run the farm.

We already knew Mr. Kenney plans to pull the plug on the NDP’s carbon tax, of course. But additional bits and pieces of policies revealed in his policy fan dance before the Chamber included:

  • Lowering of components of the minimum wage by bringing back discredited differential minimum wages for young workers and booze servers
  • Rolling back labour legislation to return Alberta to 1970s style labour relations
  • Ending the NDP’s policy of shutting down coal-fired electricity generation and reversing the province’s progress on pollution
  • Returning to instinctive conservative austerity in the name of balancing the budget a year earlier than Premier Rachel Notley’s plan

Still unmentioned were specifics, such as whether Mr. Kenney’s cuts would include eliminating workplace leaves for pregnant women, people with sick children or dealing with domestic violence.

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons).

Nor was there discussion, of course, of some of the bigger and inevitably unpopular cuts that would be required to meet Mr. Kenney’s budget-balancing schedule – including slashing public education, advocated by the UCP leader back when he was spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Astro-Turf group; closing rural hospitals, probably the only way to achieve significant health care savings; and wholesale public service privatization.

If such radical surgery is in Mr. Kenney’s bag of policy tricks, though, you can count on not hearing about it until after the ballots are counted.

Regardless, the glimpse of Mr. Kenney’s plans provided by Ms. Graney prompted a sharp riposte from Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, who wondered just what environmental regulations Mr. Kenney’s proposed “fiscal commission” would recommend cutting.

“Finally the mask has slipped with respect to what Jason Kenney wants to do to the people of this province,” Ms. Phillips said. “He does not want to talk to Albertans about doing things like firing pregnant women. He does not want to talk to Albertans about restoring an employer’s ability to fire someone who needs to take time off to care for a child with cancer. Of course he does not want to get bogged down in those conversations because Jason Kenney is not working for ordinary Albertans.”

Mr. Kenney followed up yesterday with a social media post complaining about the reaction from “over-caffeinated NDP types” and claiming consultations by the NDP Government are a “sham.”

One would like to think Mr. Kenney’s musings are evidence of hubris. Alas, while the UCP leader may be treating Alberta voters with contempt, it remains up to those voters to provide evidence they don’t approve of such treatment.

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  1. Thanks for writing this, David, and for giving the opportunity to comment.

    One of the things Kenney mentioned, and I think deserves more critical evaluation, is his intent to reduce regulations.

    It is always a good idea to evaluate existing regulations and make sure they are still relevant/necessary, and eliminate the ones that are outdated. At the same time, however, at some point there was a need for those regulations, and it is incumbent on legislators to find out what that reason was, and if it is still relevant. To set a goal of eliminating a set number of the regulations is incredibly irresponsible.

    Mind you, the idea of resurrecting our coal industry is also incomprehensibly irresponsible.

  2. Jason Kenney’s “Back-to-the-Future” business plan is dated—just like his current political party.

    When the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were running for the leadership of the UCP they all spoke of punishing cuts to public services, education and health care. Similarly, Kenney’s vision promises a tsunami of social upheaval and destruction—reminiscent of Ralph Klein’s heavy-handed, ham-fisted attack on our public services and the people who provided them. It’s not Ralph Klein 2.0 that Albertans are looking for. Albertans are way too smart for Kenney’s constant gaslighting and his feeble attempts to sell “on-your-own” economics to the huddled masses—they proved that in spades in 2015 when they voted for change.

  3. “Alas, while the UCP leader may be treating Alberta voters with contempt, it remains up to those voters to provide evidence they don’t approve of such treatment.”

    Unfortunately, contempt for voters infects both sides of the aisle.
    Witness Notley’s numerous misrepresentations about pipelines, oilsands, climate change, and carbon taxes. Wicked spin.
    Notley boasts about her climate leadership, when in fact her “climate plan” — sans targets and timelines — puts Canada’s targets out of reach for decades. No climate scientist supports it.

    Notley would have us believe that we have time to build pipelines and expand oilsands production for decades before reducing emissions or meeting any sort of targets. Climate change is not really serious. The urgent issue is pipelines.

    Notley insists that climate action depends on pipelines. Like smoking cigarettes to cure cancer. Building fossil fuel infrastructure locks us into a fossil-fuel future. Deepening our addiction. If current dependence on the fossil fuel industry makes it difficult to make the shift today, expansion and increasing dependence make it even harder tomorrow.

    Notley fearmongers about lost jobs, as if the only energy in the world is oil, and the only jobs in AB are in the oilpatch. Tens of thousands of Albertans lost their jobs recently because of the latest global oil price crash. Overdependence on one cyclical industry blasts holes in govt budgets and forces services cuts and job losses. Time to get off the fossil fuel rollercoaster.

    A carbon tax too small to change consumer behavior cannot buy social license in another province for pipelines that boost emissions. Hopelessly contradictory policy.

    The “hard cap” on oilsands emissions (43% above current levels) is anything but. Several exemptions boost the nominal limit. The fraudulent oilsands cap won’t outlive the NDP govt. No wonder Big Oil CEOs signed on.
    Several exemptions raise the cap above the nominal 100 Mt limit.

    Notley brazenly told the ATA convention that new pipelines won’t boost oilsands production. Obvious nonsense. Pipeline constraints curtail profits, delay expansions, force companies to cancel new projects, and ultimately restrict production.

    Notley’s grandiose claims notwithstanding, evidence for lucrative overseas markets willing to pay “world price” for AB dilbit remains scant.

    Recall the NDP’s about-face on royalties. So much for giving Albertans their “fair share”.

    “Climate leader” Rachel Notley: “Until the federal government gets its act together, Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan. And let’s be clear, without Alberta, that plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
    As Notley and other premiers previously pointed out, Ottawa DOESN’T NEED the provinces’ permission to enact a national price on carbon.

    One study after another reports that AB’s oil & gas emissions are grossly under-reported. Gross dishonesty.

    If AB’s emissions stats are fictional, so is AB’s temporary oilsands emissions cap. After tallying oilsands emissions including projects that are under construction, have received approval, or are seeking approval, the Pembina Institute calculates that the total “blows well past” Notley’s fraudulent cap.
    • thenarwhal.ca/latest-oilsands-mega-mine-proposal-a-reality-check-for-albertas-emissions-cap/

    How can Notley brands herself “progressive” when she knows that climate change disproportionately affects women and children, and the global poor?

    We expect cons to lie. Should we not hold “progressive” politicians to a higher standard?

    It remains up to Alberta voters to provide evidence they don’t approve of such treatment — from politicians of any stripe.
    But if it flatters you to be deceived, by all means endorse the fraud artists of your choice in 2019.

    1. Hard to fault your stats or your arguments. Goes to show how difficult it is to live honourable in a petro state. We can imagine anything but the end of the black gold that has kept us all a little thick, but ‘advantaged’. The good news is that the bonanza is almost over……….and spin won’t bring it back.

      We just have to keep talking, researching, and transitioning….. while remembering, fracked gas isn’t natural gas…its as dirty or dirtier, than coal. But currently in Alberta, it is likely what we intend to replace coal with. We’re in a corner, regardless of what Notley threatens or promises….

  4. It’s difficult to know where, or how to come down on this post.

    There is little doubt to any thinking person that contemporary conservatives and their right wing mob are nothing more than mobsters. Trump is running a criminal enterprise of breath-taking proportions. Recent Canadian politicos like Clark, Wall and Harper and the current crop like Ford and Kenney, all point to a disregard for democratic legitimacy. No, these people are firm defenders of the right to take whatever you can get for yourself, that party or at least personal loyalty is a legitimate consideration for positions of power and that competence or knowledge should have little or no bearing on the outcome of decisions.

    There are no good reasons (except for the 3 outlined) for supporting these people and every reason thoughtful people of good conscience should prevent them from ever walking our streets.

    On the other hand, this limp-wristed NDP blather about people getting to keep their jobs while they are out doing something else is just utter nonsense. I’m all for fair and just labour laws but a job is a contract. Not a right and not an entitlement.

    Good governance requires consultation. A thorough examination of all the aspects under consideration (and not just “both sides” either) is a necessary piece of good governance. This takes time, often lots of time.
    Another piece is decision-making. After all the facts and considerations are gathered, government has to make a decision. That means some will not like it, some will and others won’t care. That’s democracy in a liberal government. A slow time-consuming process.

    Because some do not like the outcomes is not a good enough reason to throw out the process. Designing a political system for speed of outcomes is not democratic. Something that both Kenney and Notley would do well to contemplate.

    1. “… people getting to keep their jobs while they are out doing something else is just utter nonsense…” Seriously, Mr Ranger? Not firing people off taking a sick day is, among other benefits, an important protective measure for the public health. As we enter this year’s influenza season, do we really want people to be once again be forced to choose between following public health advice—and pleas—to stay home when sick, and dragging themselves to work to spread their deadly virus around the workplace because they can’t afford to risk losing their jobs? We’re not talking about paid sick leave, which is still fairly rare in non-unionized workplaces; we’re just talking about job-secure unpaid sick leave. As for critically ill child leave, it’s just about simple humanity.

  5. I suppose Mr. Kenney’s brief foray into policy is the political equivalent of a striptease, which despite his recent more swelt appearance I do not think goes over that well.

    Given his usual great reluctance to say what he would actually do if elected, i wonder if it is a desperate attempt to distract from the Soldiers of Odin saga and other similar signs of intolerance that continue to dog him and his party.

    In any event, if Kenney thought it was safer to briely talk policy for a while I think he may be mistaken. Even this brief glimpse of policy has raised concerns and fears. I suspect he will soon realize this and go silent again.

    I think he is planning a Ford type largely policy free campaign. While this might seem the safe strategy, other partiies will have a field day going around Alberta asking if Kenney will close or cut their local schools or hospitals. I wonder how Kenney will reply to that?

  6. Remember what happened to “shock and awe”? It came up against the Mother of All Battles, and appeared to overcome it with ease. Now, a decade and a half later, while Saddam Hussein himself may be gone, his Mother of All Battles continues, spreading from Iraq to much of the rest of the Middle East, to North Africa, the the Far East and to Europe. His army’s officer corps became the backbone of ISIS, and is bound to re-emerge somewhere else soon. Here in North America, also as a direct result, we are not-so-slowly transitioning to fascism. Mr. Kenney’s version of shock and awe is part of this phenomenon.

  7. One thing about Jason Kenney he certainly gets people’s attention. I think that government is just like business in that they always want to get bigger and I think it is a good idea to look back and see if all the enacted regulations still apply and are necessary.

    This is a little off topic but I found it very interesting. During an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Friday Guy Caron of the federal NDP made a comment in response to a speech by Conservative Gerard Deltell in which he said the IPCC proposes up to a $5500 a tonne carbon tax and Gerard correctly stated that Canada can’t do it alone, countries like China, India and the U.S. must be onside. This is where it got interesting imo, Guy Caron in response: “emissions went down under the Tories because the economic crisis reduced economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions.” Why this is so interesting is because B.C.’s carbon tax has always been held up as the poster child of a successful carbon tax. It was imposed I believe in 2008, the same year we had an economic downturn in Canada. B.C.’s emissions trended down until 2012 until the economy in B.C. started to grow again and C02 emissions started rising again and have continued to rise ever since(look on Statscan website). The Federal NDP can’t have it both ways, believing lower economic activity lowered emissions in Harper’s case but that the carbon tax lowered the emissions in B.C.’s case. My belief is that the only way to lower emissions in Canada is to lower economic activity and that is exactly what a carbon tax only applied in Canada will do. Enjoy your day.

  8. As for treating voters with contempt, the Conservative party in Alberta has always behaved that way. For their supporters, it’s read as putting those damn lefties….or those damn unionists….or those damn teachers in their place. Right wing voters don’t feel the insult to themselves. They want their representatives authoritarian and essentially undemocratic. It’s how they believe their monied interests will be protected from the rabble.
    Meanwhile, democrats on the left are too cautious, too consultative and often too slow………..but no amount of listening will satisfy an opposition that believes listening should be one way.

    They’ll say what’s what…we the plebs shall listen.

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