Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, channeling Ralph Klein, arrives in the Legislative Building’s Rotunda after the Throne Speech (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Crib notes: Understanding yesterday’s United Conservative Party Throne Speech

Posted on May 23, 2019, 1:40 am
8 mins

As the documents that lay out the government’s policy agenda for the next couple of years, Throne Speeches are by nature tendentious.

In the service of making what is a curse to many citizens appear to be a blessing they tend to be faintly Orwellian as well. That is, they often say the opposite of what they mean with a little artificial sweetener sprinkled on top.

Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell reading the Throne Speech yesterday (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Yesterday’s first Throne Speech from the United Conservative Government of Premier Jason Kenney, elected on April 16, was quite typical in this regard.

There was precious little actual news in it, mostly just market fundamentalist nostrums, unachievable promises from the campaign trail, and assignment of blame for their inevitable failure, reheated together in the Legislature’s rhetorical microwave.

Indeed, the news was mostly in the gaps or between the lines. Sure, the carbon tax will be gone in a week with revenues already collected rolled into general revenues. But what will happen to the thousands of job-creating projects the tax was funding? No information.

Stand by for “tough fiscal decisions,” Mr. Kenney told reporters in a news conference before the speech. “There will have to be some reduction in the overall size of the Alberta public sector,” he said.

Speaker Nathan Cooper (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If you were paying attention during the campaign, though, you’d heard most of the speech before. If you weren’t, you’re not likely to pay attention now, are you?

Some credit should go to the anonymous author of yesterday’s effort for at least making it sound as if it were written by a grownup. This is a significant improvement from the Throne Speeches of the late Progressive Conservative Era, which often sounded as if the task had been handed to someone’s bright 11-year-old niece or nephew. This grownup tone is an unacknowledged tribute to the practice of the former NDP Government.

Had the speech been written by one of my past undergraduate journalism students, I would have given it a B+ were it not for the unfortunate effort at springtime poetry in the opening lines – which, translated, in effect meant, “Nyaa-nyaa da boo-boo, we won!”

Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchel provided a clear and professional reading, as befits her role as a vice-regal personage, with only a few understandable stumbles. Her gentle correction of newly elected Speaker Nathan Cooper’s mispronunciation of “lieutenant” was subtly done, as if she were just enunciating unusually clearly, avoiding hurt feelings. I am confident Mr. Cooper, who is known to be a bright spark, will not say lootenant ever again.

As a service to readers, I have provided accurate translations of some of the more tendentious passages from the speech in italics after each quote. Readers should feel welcome to provide their own translations of other passages in the comments section. No swears, please.

When they say … they really mean …

Recognizing that our province is beset by severe external political and economic constraints, and consequently saddled with serious internal fiscal challenges requiring urgent action …” (Everything we used to say was the NDP’s fault isn’t our fault!”)

“A relentless focus on policies designed to create jobs, growth, and economic diversification.” (We’re going to cut taxes for rich people and do whatever the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers tells us.)

Making life better for all Albertans, by ensuring the quality and effectiveness of our public services, especially in health care and education …” (You’re getting choice! We’re going to privatize a whole whack of public health care and education.)

“Bill 1, as promised, will be the Carbon Tax Repeal Act. In providing $1.4 billion in tax relief, it will make everything more affordable for Albertans.” (You won’t notice a thing, just like you never actually noticed the carbon tax.)

“Strengthen the rights of Albertans within unions.” (Unconstitutionally weaken unions so that you get paid less and have fewer rights.)

“Economists estimate that this (business tax) reduction will generate 55,000 new full time jobs, and increase the size of our economy by $12.7 billion.” (It’ll be about as successful as it was in Oklahoma. But don’t worry, we’ll blame someone else.)

“A commitment to curriculum reform, based on proven pedagogy that teaches essential knowledge needed to achieve foundational competences …” (We’ll repackage the NDP’s curriculum reform, the one we called too ideological, and call it a huge improvement. Thanks for the idea, Mr. Trump!)

“In a world where the demand for energy will continue to rise, Alberta can, should, and will be one of the largest suppliers.” (That stuff we said on Page 1 about diversification? Forget it. We’re going with Drill! Drill! Drill!)

“The political forces standing in the way of this inevitable destiny today are external and temporary.” (We plan to blame Quebec and British Columbia, plus Justin Trudeau and the Tides Foundation, for any promises we can’t keep. As for doing anything about climate change, forget that too.)

“A public inquiry into the foreign sources of funds responsible for the campaign to landlock Alberta’s energy.” (This is how we’re going to blame them. The inquiry’s mandate will not extend to foreign funding we like, like the Koch Brothers cash machine.)

“My government will take action to address climate change with … a Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Fund.” (Forget controlling carbon outputs, we don’t really believe that climate change stuff anyway. We’re bringing back the carbon capture boondoggle!”)

“A great tradition of ordered liberty.” (Order for you. Liberty for us. “Guided democracy” is next.)

“It is our duty and our destiny to renew Alberta’s role as an economic and political leader within Canada.” (I, Jason Kenney, will be prime minister of Canada soon.)

(That’s enough!  Ed.)

15 Comments to: Crib notes: Understanding yesterday’s United Conservative Party Throne Speech

  1. Dave

    May 23rd, 2019

    Throne speeches do often have an upside down quality about them.. Where they are clear and consistent with what the party has already said, you usually need to worry the least. Where they are vague or an odd new word or phrase pops up, something big or unexpected is being quietly planned, so hold onto your hats folks!

    Perhaps we shouldn’t totally underestimate Kenney’s ability to surprise, but I think he is more inclined to focus on what we expect rathet than go off on some big unexpected tangents.

    He was fairly good at making difficult or things not possible sound easy on the campaign trail, but governing is always more grounded in reality. Those that promise too much often dissapoint. Remember the Canadian politician who promised jobs, jobs, jobs – well his honeymoon was short and voters soon started to fall out of love with him even though he won over 50% of the vote. More recently the gradually diminishing number of supporters for another politician are stiil waiting for him to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it. Of course he has blamed many for his not being to implement his rash promise, but it was his promise he was foolish to make, not theirs. After the summer of repeal, perhaps UCP supporters can look forward to the winter of disappointment.

  2. the salamander

    May 23rd, 2019

    .. Whew !! You got it like a wood chipper takes the downed branches.. ‘The Throne Speech’ – what a quaint term.. All hail King Kenney.. perhaps that can be refined or redefined.. or mined.. We look at Kenney as a political animal that was not electable as PM in Ottawa.. but with the advent of an evangelical Ottawa / prairie boy grifter like Andrew Scheer, one has to wonder. We found the drone speech overripe with frothy verbsge tricks.. long breathy preposterous pompous posturings & self congratulatory preenings.. reality is.. Kenney et al have doen ZERO – NOTHING – NADA .. Can’t wait for Licia Corbella et al to scuttle from their fantasy world.. proclaim the wisdom of the king.. Oh ! What’s that ?? Poor Licia is still aground on her deluded hysterical voyage of opinion.. caught upon the large island of Andrew Leach.. oh deary me.. her ship ‘Revisionist Hystery’ was holed by an offshore Alberta rock.. locally known as ‘Fact’ .. and lies wounded, hard ashore, sails a flappin.. she is faintly heard shrieking ‘the island must move.. give way I say.. give way !!’

    Its a horror movie that makes itself.. Alberta should hang her head in shame.. and then get real.. get mean, get the conundrum of resource extraction & beyond belief pollution figured out. Alberta is at the beck and call of foreign owned or driven ‘Energy Interests’ .. they are not your friends.. or friends of Canada.. Can you hear this Alberta ? Hello hello.. Alberta.. are you out there ? Heloo.. hell.. he.. … Alberta goes Walkabout …

    • TENET

      May 23rd, 2019

      As one luminary backbencher warned, “It’s gonna hurt.” But no matter what they inflict, it will never be as painful as being marooned on an island with Corbella.

    • Alex C Polkovsky

      May 24th, 2019

      If Orwellian speech was $90 a barrel, Kenny would never have to work. As it is, he’ll have to work hard to blame outsiders, whine about the audacity of anyone standing up for themselves or even standing in the way for some other reason.

  3. Bob Raynard

    May 23rd, 2019

    “…spring arrives with an explosion of nature’s irrepressible energy.”

    High Level nearly burned down, but why would we think about climate change? A flood in Calgary and fires in Fort McMurray and Slave Lake didn’t teach us anything either.

    • Dave

      May 24th, 2019

      Fort McMurray almost burned down when I was like 5 years old, what’s your point?

  4. Kang

    May 23rd, 2019

    Aside from Alberta producing itself into lower oil prices, “drill baby, drill” means farmers and ranchers get their land stolen, water wells contaminated with toxic chemicals, and will be left holding the bag for the cleanup of abandoned wells and facilities. Even better for the libertarian types, it means the Legislature can be counted on to overturn any troublesome Court rulings that favour landowners and curb the impunity of the energy sector.

  5. Sam Gunsch

    May 23rd, 2019

    Kenney/UCP says this: ‘“In a world where the demand for energy will continue to rise, Alberta can, should, and will be one of the largest suppliers.”’

    Compare that rosy speculation by supposed ‘conservatives’ to actual conservatives at the Bank of Canada warning about ‘fire sale’ prices for oil/gas assets.

    Excerpt: ‘The shift to a low-carbon economy is “underway” and sectors like oil and gas, as well as the banks that loan money to them, are exposed to risks from climate change that could spill over into destabilizing “fire sales,” the Bank of Canada said Thursday.’

    Forecasts that consider renewables, EVs, are generally bearish…like this piece yesterday:

    • Bob Raynard

      May 23rd, 2019

      Thanks for the link, Sam. Something that needs to be kept in mind when talking about speed of technology change is the fact that most vehicles will be replaced in 10 years, so that could wind up being the conversion timeline.

      I think the path of conversion will be similar to what we have already seen in the conversion to digital cameras. The first purchasers did so to be the first on the block to have one; the next wave happened when people heard about the advantages, then the final wave happened when hard core film users found they could no longer buy film.

      One important difference is the fact that most people who converted had a working film camera that they put aside, so there was probably some procrastination involved in their switch. Compare that to someone buying a car in the next decade; they have to buy because their existing car has reached the end of its working life so there won’t be the same procrastination. People purchasing a vehicle in 2024 will want to consider the possibility that gasoline won’t even be available when their new car is ten years old.

      • Farmer Brian

        May 24th, 2019

        Bob on the farm there will have to be huge changes if there is no gasoline by 2034. At present there are electric tractors built by companies like Fendt but they will only run for 5 continuous hours on a charge. During seeding and harvest most equipment runs for a minimum of 10 hrs. and on good day many more. Farm machinery depending on the farm isn’t always replaced every 10 years. I have 2 grain augers mounted on old Oliver combine chassis that were built in 1959 that are used all the time. My Versatile 895 4 wheel drive tractor was built in 1982 and has just over 5200 hrs. on it. It still runs like a top and should last another 4-5000 hrs. with proper maintenance.

        I do agree the in Urban settings the use of EV’s will certainly become more popular but the chances of all internal combustion engines being gone by 2034 and there being no gasoline available are 0. Enjoy your day.

        • Bob Raynard

          May 25th, 2019

          Hi Brian,

          In the film analogy I presented, I was one of the film diehards. I got many beautiful slides of wonderful scenery in spectacular light conditions. The beauty of slides was when I got something worth of enlarging, I could show the slide to the processor and insist they get the same exposure on the enlargement.

          The end of film for me came when I got a great shot of my wife getting out of our tent with a lovely rainbow behind her. Under exposing the scene by a stop produced wonderful colour saturation, but still caught by wife’s (tolerant) smile. I took the best slide in for enlarging, and they couldn’t get it. Turns out they took a digital scan of the slide, then found they could either get my wife’s face and wash out the rainbow, or get the rainbow and leave my wife’s face too dark to recognize.

          That was when I realized I was wasting time and money with film which was getting ever more difficult to find, since anything I got was being run through the digital process anyway. Two thousand 1980’s dollars worth of perfectly working camera equipment went into the garbage.

          Now, back to the future. I am envisioning a bank of solar cells charging your tractor’s batteries, when conditions are good, and the grid when they are not. (I have enough of a farming background to know what an issue fuel cost is.) The five hour run time you described is not an issue since it only takes a couple of minutes to change batteries. If enough farmers go this route, and for free fuel many will, there simply won’t be enough demand for fossil fuels, especially gasoline, for it to be a viable business. Your augers will wind up with my camera equipment, or you will simply replace the gas motors with electric ones.

          Now to get really pessimistic.

          This assumes there even is an agricultural industry in Alberta in 2034. One of the ways climate change seems to be manifesting itself is in the increased likelihood of developing polar vortices, that locks a weather system into a spot for longer and longer periods. We saw it this February with a cold spell that would not quit, last fall with snow in September and October, and last summer that created the conditions for the BC fires. The climate changes we have already seen are probably permanent; the objective of reducing emissions is to prevent things from getting even worse. As such, it really isn’t difficult to imagine things worsening to the point that crops fail more often than they succeed. All it would take is a super vortex at some point in the growing season to either create conditions that are too wet to put a crop in in the spring, too dry to grow in the summer, or too wet to get it off in the fall.

          For the life of me I don’t understand why the segment of the population that is most vulnerable to the devastation climate change can bring is also the most resistant to trying to prevent it.

          Enjoy your day too. I did enjoy reading about your old machinery.

          • Farmer Brian

            May 27th, 2019

            A couple of quick thoughts Bob as it is a busy time of year. You suggest the battery could be changed in a few minutes on an electric tractor. I did a little googling and in one article on Realagriculture about the new Fendt electric tractor, a Fendt engineer says a battery large enough to power its new 1000 series 500 horsepower tractor for 12 hrs. at 50% load would weigh 15 tonnes, so I don’t think you would switch that out in a few minutes without specialized equipment if it could be switched out at all.

            A quick response to your assertion that I am against preventing climate change(not that I am)is not possible but I will make a few points. As a cattle farmer I can produce beef on land that really isn’t suitable for crop production, I can rotate forages into my crop production which is good for the land and I can diversify my business by not just having grain production. So when I read countless articles on how we should eat less meat I certainly get my back up. Plus living in an area that has been farmed by my family for 113 years gives a person some realistic context on what has and hasn’t changed over that time period. Successful farming is about adaptation and that is what we will continue to do. Enjoy your day Bob.

  6. David Grant

    May 23rd, 2019

    Yes, we can expect Jason to blame Rachel and her godless union friends like me with everything that has gone wrong. We can also look forward to the usual crap from the wonderful Sun and Postmedia telling those of us who belong to a union why we are responsible for hindering progress. We can look forward to more natural disasters like this forest fire in High Level and the government won’t do anything to help mitigate against them because the science isn’t settled. In short, we will have to prepare for another government to come along and undo the mistakes that this government will make.

  7. Northern Loon

    May 24th, 2019

    It was so nice to run into my favourite blogger today, but sad that has been so long I wasn’t sure it was you! Maybe we can have a proper visit some day

    The most interesting thing about the Throne Speech was the delay in producing a budget until the fall and only after consultation. I expect they will skew consultation responses to allow their friends to insist on massive budget cuts all in the name of balancing the budget and service delivery be damned. Also expect that services will be farmed out to the private for profit sector so that Alberta can pay more for less cause that meets the UCP market driven focus. And the UCP has the gaul to complain about dangerous ideology of others.

    Unlike other ‘conservative’ governments I suspect that the UCP actually have a plan to privatize virtually everything and the will to actually follow through.

    Once the finances are ‘taken care of’ then I expect that they will discover that social conservative issues are too important to ignore as they will now have the ‘enemies’ clearly defined.

    It is going to be a tough four years.

  8. St Albertan

    May 24th, 2019

    Intolerance is social tax. It has no metric. It’s occasionally an infinite negative. That’s me trying my best to communicate with people who couldn’t find a clue with a guide on a cruise ship!


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