Alberta Politics
The boys in the band, sort of, although not the cover of the Rolling Stone (Photo: Screenshot of Maclean’s Magazine).

Jobs! Pipelines! Help is on the way! Or … maybe not: Election hot takes from Alberta

Posted on April 18, 2019, 1:41 am
9 mins

Tuesday night’s Alberta election results pretty well put paid to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “Grand Bargain” with Alberta on climate change, the terms of which were basically that the province could have a pipeline to tidewater if we play nice and put a price on carbon.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Premier-elect Jason Kenney has made it unequivocally clear there will be no more provincial carbon tax as quickly as legislatively possible, and he and the other boys from the cover of Maclean’s Magazine will do whatever they can to sink the federal carbon tax too, insofar as it applies to the provinces.

For places like British Columbia and Quebec, that will make opposing Mr. Kenney on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project synonymous with opposing alt-right environmental conspiracy theories and full-blown climate change denial.

So it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the governments of either of those provinces if an argument over economics turns into an all-out culture war. With Mr. Kenney’s face on the TMX, what are the chances fence-sitting British Columbians in particular will flee in droves to the anti-pipeline camp? Pretty good, I’d say.

What Will Rachel Do?

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley on Tuesday Night (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As noted here Tuesday night, sticking around as Opposition leader isn’t going to be all that much fun for soon-to-be-former Premier Rachel Notley.

Environmentalist and author Avi Lewis (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Ms. Notley is not a flake. So there was no Jim Prentice-style tantrum the instant the election results were in, but she’s got to be thinking about her future, not to mention the future ability of the NDP to form a government in a province as solidly cap-C Conservative as Alberta now is, especially without a wild rose bush in sight.

Already, some people in political Alberta are whispering about the idea of Ms. Notley resigning in time to run for the New Democratic Party in the federal Edmonton Strathcona riding, which occupies much of the same territory as her provincial riding that’s only a hyphen away from having the same name. Yes, Heather McPherson, the current nominated candidate would have to step aside, but stranger things have happened.

Edmonton Strathcona federal NDP candidate Heather McPherson (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That could set Ms. Notley up for two epic battles: First, perhaps, with Avi Lewis or someone like him from the Leap wing of the federal NDP for the soul of the national party, and after that, if the planets were all in alignment, for a rematch Rumble on the Rideau with Jason Kenney to replace the increasingly rudderless Mr. Trudeau.

Likely? Probably not. But it’s fun to think about.

The next logical move for PMJT would be …

Speaking of Mr. Trudeau, if he were smart, he’d cancel the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project right now.

Why? The Art of the Deal, of course.

With Jason Kenney about to be sworn in as the Big Kahuna in Edmonton vowing that his Bill 1 will be the Carbon Tax Repeal Act, that would be your ultimate, no foolin’ around federal bargaining chip, don’t you think?

And it would be popular in certain parts of Canada that are important to Mr. Trudeau’s re-election hopes.

Fortunately for Mr. Kenney, evidence is mounting Mr. Trudeau isn’t all that smart, or at least that he’s lost his mojo since Gerald Butts took the high jump.

This just in from the press room

Calgary Sun-Herald Columnist Rick Bell (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

While other Postmedia columnists were rejoicing about the UCP victory – as well they should, most of them have devoted themselves to task of ensuring it happened every day for the past four years – Rick Bell still found time to whine about how the NDP treated him.

“Long before Jason Kenney came along, this scribbler who crusaded against the corruption and abuses of Toryland and wrote about Notley’s rise before others, became an unperson in the Notley NDP world,” Mr. Bell whinged.

Chin up, Dinger! Time to stop choking back the tears. It’s not all about you. We were all unpersons!

So long, Alberta Party! Just go away

Former Alberta Party leader and MLA Greg Clark, swept away in the UCP wave on Tuesday night (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Born of the “Big Listen,” a province-wide kaffeeklatsch, the Alberta Party started out as a home for disgruntled Blue Liberals a decade ago.

When the smart ones all got elected as city councillors in Calgary and Edmonton, it morphed into a post-UCP home for disgruntled Red Tories.

Under the leadership of Greg Clark the Alberta Party managed to shuffle unconvincingly along through the Notley Years in the Alberta Legislature, even attracting a disgruntled New Democrat MLA and a disgruntled UCP MLA to its caucus.

But then Stephen Mandel, the bored and cranky former mayor of Edmonton and sometime Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, got the idea of duplicating Mr. Kenney’s double-reverse-hostile takeover of the PC Party and the Wildrose Party, which had resulted in the UCP.

If only … Mr. Mandel seemed to think. On Tuesday, the political party that never, ever captured the imagination of Albertans despite having a great name, was totally skunked. Of the full slate of 87 candidates it ran, none were elected, and that included Mr. Mandel.

Seventies pop icon Debbie Harry had the right advice for the Alberta Party at this point in its history: “Don’t go away sad. Don’t go away mad. Just go away!”

How’s that Kenney schtick goin’ down in Quebec?

Greetings from Quebec, Alberta (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Message from the National Assembly in Quebec City: Congratulations, Jason Kenney! Now get lost!

Yesterday the National Assembly considered a motion by the Québec solidaire political party that congratulated Mr. Kenney for his victory Tuesday, and added: “Qu’elle rappelle que le Québec a la pleine légitimité de refuser des projets d’oléoducs.”

That basically means, in the event like me you’re condemned to speak only English, that just in case you forgot, Quebec reminds Albertans it has the legitimate right to refuse pipeline projects.

The party elaborated further in a Facebook post: “Merci, mais non merci.”

The motion was passed unanimously by the Assembly.

– With files from Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan

26 Comments to: Jobs! Pipelines! Help is on the way! Or … maybe not: Election hot takes from Alberta

  1. David

    April 18th, 2019

    A lot of political baggage to unpack and Mr. Kenney has not even settled in yet. In theory, Mr. Kenney could be a succesful long term Conservative Premier of a Conservative leaning Province, sort of the Jean Charest of the far right, but I sense he has bigger ambitions than just remaining a big fish in a small pond. As a result he will take us all on a crazy ride and we will probably end up a bit nauseous from it. After a few years of his probably unsucessful battles with other Canadian governments, courts and environmentalists, Notley’s approach might look quite good in hindsight. She might be wise to stick around until Alberta catches up to her strategy. In any event she is probably still the best asset the Alberta NDP has or may ever have.

    Trudeau is now playing to a national audience, Kenney currently more to a local one. If Trudeau looks reasonable while Kenney doesn’t that could benefit Trudeau over the Federal Conservatives. They may actually only have one common interest, they both don’t want Scheer to win the Federal election in October, but for different reasons. Scheer’s success would probably keep Kenney’s political ambitions forever confined to the provincial pond he now swims in.

    I don’t know if the Alberta Party will fade away just yet, but Mr. Mandel probably will.
    Can he read the writing on the wall that now says retirement in big flashing letters? I like Mandel, but I thought from the start the Alberta Party made a mistake in choosing him as leader even though he actually did ok in the debate. Mr. Kenney can also breathe a sigh of relief, no imminent threat from the center right. The disappearance of the Alberta Party might also make a potential future come back easier for the NDP if people eventually tire of Kenney’s antics.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      April 18th, 2019

      “… I thought from the start the Alberta Party made a mistake in choosing him as leader…”

      I agree. The best case scenario for the Alberta Party was they build a substantial beachhead in 2019 and become a government in 2023. A premier Mandel elected in 2023 would turn 80 before the completion of his first term. Sorry to be ageist, but once someone approaches that age you just can’t take for granted he will still have the necessary health and energy the job requires.

      Reply
  2. Expat Albertan

    April 18th, 2019

    One thing I’ve never seen mentioned: Kenney’s never been a leader, only a second (or third) banana in politics. He was good at taking orders from Harper, but he’s yet to be the one with his hand on the tiller (to be fair, you can say that about a lot of political leaders who’ve won a first mandate). We’ll see how he does actually running a ship where he’s declared a red alert and called for all hands on deck.

    Reply
    • Valerie Jobson

      April 19th, 2019

      He has lots of experience at running away from confrontations, but none at running a ship. I don’t expect much.

      Reply
  3. Jerrymacgp

    April 18th, 2019

    Re Rachel Notley: Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition isn’t such a bad job, especially if you are leading the second largest caucus in Alberta NDP history, and have such fat targets on the government side to take potshots at. It’s also a cool title. Who knows, she might just stick it out for a couple or three years, and see whether the NDP has a shot at winning government again in 2023, before deciding her future.

    As for the Alberta Party, they did grow their popular vote share significantly from previous elections—they got many more votes than the moribund Alberta Liberals—but it was too distributed to earn them any seats. They should probably keep chipping away at gaining traction, perhaps by refocusing on areas where they have a hope of electing MLAs, but Mr Mandel should probably ease his way into a serene retirement. As for the Liberals, they are nought but a fringe party now and should just fold up their tent.

    Reply
  4. Bob Raynard

    April 18th, 2019

    “if he were smart, he’d cancel the Trans Mountain Pipeline”

    If JT were to cancel the pipeline he would probably lose every seat in Alberta. Oh, never mind.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      April 18th, 2019

      Sir, you have just hit on one of the most significant points of this whole discussion: that Mr Trudeau stands to piss off far more voters, in far more politically relevant parts of the country, by backing pipelines than he does by opposing them. His re-election chances are not affected one whit by the potential loss of his remaining Alberta rump of four seats, but seriously jeopardized by the possible loss of seats in Greater Vancouver & the Lower Mainland. Scheer is in just as much trouble, since much of his party’s strength is concentrated in Alberta & Saskatchewan, and less so in the all-important electoral theatres of Quebec, Ontario, and BC.

      Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        April 20th, 2019

        re: Andrew Scheer. I agree with your point, Jerry. I really do question the political wisdom of Andrew Scheer’s showing up at the Pipeline Convoy rallies. I suppose he had to show support to his base, but he must have turned off the moderate voter wondering about an alternative to JT.

        Reply
        • Expat Albertan

          April 21st, 2019

          To be fair, the polls don’t show that; they show the Conservatives ahead. Still, a week is a long time in politics and (to use another cliche) election campaigns matter. We’ll see how things are this fall.

          Reply
    • David Bridger

      April 18th, 2019

      The Liberals have only 4 seats to lose in Alberta and losing them will not likely hurt as much as losing seats in Quebec. Plus if they do they can more safely cancel TMX.

      Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    April 18th, 2019

    There is an interesting parallel that has been created between the Edmonton/Alberta and Alberta/Canada relationships. If Jason Kenney decides to punish Edmonton for not voting UPC, he can hardly criticize the federal government for punishing Alberta for not voting Liberal. During the election campaign Mr. Kenney argued that Edmonton should vote UPC so they could have a voice at his cabinet table. Using that logic, if the polls suggest we will get a federal Liberal government in the fall, Mr. Kenney should suggest Alberta elect a Liberal MP or two.

    Reply
    • David

      April 18th, 2019

      I am sure consistency is often overlooked in politics. If you can believe Kenney, he does not seem to be taking the losses in Edmonton too personally. Perhaps that is the case, after all he has enough MLA’s, more might just cause problems. He spent some time in Edmonton where he started his career, so perhaps he also has some favorable memories. In any event, he wasn’t ever the mayor of the other major city in Alberta, but a Federal MP, so he probably wasn’t too caught up in the sometime inter city rivalries, like say another Premier from the 90’s. I don’t think he will do much to benefit or help Edmonton, but perhaps he will refrain from excessive punishment.

      Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        April 21st, 2019

        Interesting. As a federal politician, Kenney’s default mode was a Trump-like nastiness toward his critics. I’ve always said, Albertans will be shocked when he directs that venom toward the home-front. He is like a junk-yard dog; fine when he’s far away guarding the property, but disruptive when you bring him in the house to play with the children.

        Reply
  6. Paul

    April 18th, 2019

    When Ms. Notley was elected, I would have been delighted to learn that she would eventually be leading the NDP to victory in a national election. But, as capable as I consider her to be, and as apparently likeable, I have since come to see her as more of a third-way candidate than a visionary, more at home in Blairite Labour than a Corbynite one.

    First there was all the sound and fury of the Royalty review, then the galling climbdown of its result. Then the Kenney-lite bashing of BC fruit growers and wine makers. Some nation building that was. Then the character assassination of climate voices, and then of pretty much anyone opposed to more investment / subsidy for carbon-intensive infrastructure. As if $30 a barrel tax on carbon consumption (and not production) can buy us a climate indulgence from the God of Thermodynamics.

    Having respected her as I once did, I will not say this was cynicism at work, or opportunism. Opportunism would have meant taking the lottery win of an NDP victory in Alberta and showing how different an NDP government could be, for that term and that mandate. As opposed to investing in the Alberta NDP as a long-term, middle-of-the-road option, doing pretty much what the Right does on the big files, while trying to minimize social spending in an unchallenged low-royalty, low-tax, low-revenue status quo.

    In the end, though they governed more skillfully than the Alberta Conservatives have or will since Lougheed, they got what they had coming.

    Reply
    • Sub-Boreal

      April 18th, 2019

      Exactly. She should have asked at her first Cabinet meeting the question posed at Dave Barrett’s in 1972: “Are we here for a good time, or a long time?”

      Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        April 21st, 2019

        Really important point. Given the hurdles and headwinds against truly social democratic parties in North America, any NDP government should make hay while the sun shines. Given recent history showing that, in most jurisdictions, an NDP government will govern for one-term, they should make that one-term count by passing policy that is in-line with their political philosophy. Sure, it’ll piss off a lot of people. But Notley tried to appease conservatives and look where it got her.

        Reply
  7. Robert Bott

    April 18th, 2019

    I think the oil companies are praying Kenney doesn’t barge into the china shop and smash the careful structure Notley erected—climate policy, rail cars, Trans Mountain, upgrading, etc.—just when they seem close to paying off. Also, they’re deluded if they think there’s much “red tape” and “fat” left to be trimmed after decades of efforts to do so. The massive reclamation liabilities are one result of too much cutting and accommodation.

    Is it nuts to remain optimistic in the age of Ford, Trump, Kenney et al? Interesting etymology: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/03/23/same/

    Reply
  8. Geoffrey Pounder

    April 18th, 2019

    Climenhaga: “With Mr. Kenney’s face on the TMX, what are the chances fence-sitting British Columbians in particular will flee in droves to the anti-pipeline camp?”

    Notley’s signal achievement was to “push country-wide support for pipelines from 40% to 70%.” Something Kenney could never do.
    Notley led progressives astray to support oilsands and pipelines, downplay the science, and ignore IPCC warnings. Again, something Jason Kenney cannot do.
    Kenneys’ aggressive tactics and angry bluster will just increase resistance. His efforts will come to nothing.

    Climenhaga: “Already, some people in political Alberta are whispering about the idea of Ms. Notley resigning in time to run for the New Democratic Party in the federal Edmonton Strathcona riding ”

    Will an anti-pipeline federal NDP unsparing in its criticism of AB’s oilsands industry welcome the Pipeline Queen into their ranks?

    Reply
  9. tom in ontario

    April 18th, 2019

    The vacant stares on the Maclean’s Five indicate they could be gearing up for a round-robin arm wrestling tussle. Right arms only.

    Reply
  10. Keith McClary

    April 18th, 2019

    I’m guessing that Kenney’s Bill#1 to abolish the carbon tax will not include enactment of the UCP climate change plan (or whatever they call it without using that taboo phrase). Then the feds will have to extend the federal tax to Alberta, as with other provinces that don’t have plans, which will give Kenny a casus belli for his war.

    Reply
  11. David Bridger

    April 18th, 2019

    The NDP under Motley made the mistake of showing themselves as being only partly progressive as in Blairite Labour as opposed to really progressive Corbynite Labour. There is no future for an NDP in the centre right as they found out Tuesday. If the voters want the centre right, they will vote for the real right as they did.

    Motley backed off the royalty review and lost the progressive vote.

    A real NDP government would own the oil like Norway does and take an owner’s share of the proceeds instead of a paltry 6% royalty and as owner’s would have the money to clean up the abandoned wells itself which will likely fall to the PROVINCIAL government to do anyway.

    Reply
  12. Valerie Jobson

    April 19th, 2019

    No mention of Fildebrandt? Can we hope he sticks around starting Wildrose Party II?

    Reply
    • Lars

      April 21st, 2019

      Perhaps he will appear in cap and bells at the opening of the Legislature.

      Reply
  13. April 20th, 2019

    If there were no Alberta Party most of those votes would have gone to Kenney. I know mine would have. The NDP cannot win without divided competition, so it makes no sense to me for the NDP to wish away all but the Conservatives.

    As for the Liberals, yes, just end it already. But they’re essentially already gone as a practical matter.

    Reply
  14. David Grant

    April 20th, 2019

    Well let’s hope that this band doesn’t have a success tour!!! Their ideas are just horrible and I hope that those who oppose them will do what they can to stop these policies.

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      April 21st, 2019

      Well, here in Ontario, we now have the most unpopular premier in Canada. It’s incredible; most parties in their first mandate have a honeymoon period of a year or two. Ford’s PC party hit the ground offending and have upped the ante with every action and policy announcement (e.g. sex education, autism funding, trying to get a Ford crony as head of the OPP, Ontario Hydro boondoggles…I could go on). It’ll be interesting how this bodes for the federal election, since Ontario, unlike Alberta, has a tendency to vote in opposing parties in the federal and provincial jurisdictions. I can see voters checking off Liberal in October just to stick it to Ford.

      Reply

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