Alberta Politics
The UCP Government’s “blue ribbon” panel. From left to right: Mike Percy, Dave Mowat, Finance Minister Travis Toews, Janice MacKinnon, Premier Jason Kenney, Kim Henderson, Jay Ramotar and Bev Dahlby.

Happy Labour Day, Alberta Day, or whatever … brace yourself for unpleasantness tomorrow!

Posted on September 02, 2019, 2:39 am
8 mins

Happy Labour Day! Given the occasion, it’s mildly surprising Alberta’s United Conservative Party Government didn’t use today to announce the “findings” of its “blue-ribbon” panel’s “deep dive” into the state of the province’s finances.

The idea of poking a stick in the eye of unionized public employees on Labour Day must have been tempting to Premier Jason Kenney and his social media communications team.

Premier Jason Kenney in his Happy Birthday, Alberta video (Photo: Screenshot).

Still, the thought of having to pay overtime for the symbolism of making this announcement on a federal statutory holiday honouring the contribution of labour to Canadian society must have been too much for the premier. The announcement will go ahead tomorrow in Calgary.

Make no mistake, though, the conclusions reached by the panel are certain to be a crucial part of the government’s promised assault on the collective bargaining rights of Alberta’s working people, as well as justification for legislated cuts it plans to make to public employees’ pay and public services.

Despite the attempt to create a veneer of impartiality and independence, the panel’s mandate and makeup, announced in May by Finance Minister Travis Toews, have been structured to ensure it will deliver the recommendations desired by the Kenney Government.

Indeed, yesterday the premier’s little tweeters and the stenographers at Postmedia were working closely together to establish the government’s narrative before the report was made public. “After four years of acting like fat cats, expect a long (sic) of squawking and moaning from the public sector on Tuesday, but a lot of quiet relief from the rest of us,” the Edmonton Sun concluded gleefully in an anonymous editorial.

The panel’s mandate included not enough time to provide even a shallow dive into Alberta’s fiscal state, plus instructions not to so much as think about tax increases.

Premier William Aberhart (Photo: Public Domain).

Its ideological makeup is clear enough from the resumes of panel members:

  • Janice MacKinnon, chair, a former Saskatchewan NDP finance minister notorious for shuttering 52 public hospitals in that province
  • Mike Percy, vice chair, a retired University of Alberta professor who was once Alberta Liberal finance critic in the years that party campaigned to the right of Ralph Klein’s Progressive Conservatives
  • Kim Henderson, a big shot at a government-relations and “strategic advice” consultancy so discreet it doesn’t appear to have a public website, who not so long ago was a senior advisor to former B.C. premier Christy Clark, a Liberal who is really a Conservative
  • Bev Dahlby, a conservative University of Calgary economist and Fraser Institute advisor, whose biography, interestingly, has recently disappeared from the market-fundamentalist think tank’s website
  • Dave Mowat, former president and CEO of the government-owned ATB Financial
  • Jay Ramotar, a retired senior Alberta civil servant who was a regular occupant of the No. 1 or No. 2 spot on the government’s sunshine list of best-paid public employees

Readers will get the picture.

So there is really not much suspense about what this group will have to say for itself, beyond how big the recommended pay rollbacks for nurses, teachers, and other provincial public employees will turn out to be.

And Happy Alberta Day, whatever that is!

Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney’s mischievously malicious minions had to satisfy themselves with a weak flank attack on the idea of Labour Day, which was probably too subtle for most of the party’s angry base.

Blogger Susan Wright (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Still, props to the self-described Canadian patriot for declaring yesterday to be Alberta Day, a stat holiday that doesn’t exist anywhere in a statute, in a short message supposedly celebrating the province’s 114th birthday.

On Sept. 1, 1905, the Province of Alberta was carved out of the Northwest Territories to become a full and equal partner in the Dominion of Canada,” Mr. Kenney began, his political intent clear enough, although the facts dredged up by his crack research team somewhat in question.

Readers familiar with Alberta history will recall that this statement is not quite true, seeing as Ottawa didn’t transfer control over resources to Alberta until April 3, 1930 — a delay of 24 years, seven months and two days that slightly weakens the premier’s case.

Nor is it really true, as Mr. Kenney asserted, that “in the 114 years since, Alberta has been a bastion of freedom, free enterprise and democracy.” Well, there was the time Bill Aberhart tried to put a government censor in all the newsrooms of the province, not to mention his plan to distribute provincial cash to everyone, putting the socialist in Social Credit, but I quibble.

Alberta is the best place in Canada to live, work, play and raise a family,” Mr. Kenney continued. Some wondered, of course, how he would know. After all, he’s hardly ever lived here, notwithstanding representing a Calgary riding in Ottawa for 18 years.

“On Alberta Day,” Mr. Kenney concluded, raising eyebrows all round, “let us celebrate all we have achieved and have yet to achieve as a province and people of destiny.” (Emphasis added.)

Blogger Susan Wright noted that not once did the premier mention Canada in the accompanying video, which sounded as if it had been recorded on a cellular telephone inside a tin shed. She heard proto-separatist echoes in Mr. Kenney’s bloviations and, judging from the commentary on social media last night, she wasn’t alone.

Well, if Mr. Kenney is serious about achieving a destiny as prime minister of Canada, the only way he’ll ever get to change the name of Labour Day, he’s going to have to stop giving that impression, isn’t he?

CORRECTION: This post has been edited to reflect the fact “blue-ribbon panel” members Mike Percy and Jay Ramotar have retired from their previous jobs, Dr. Percy’s with the University of Alberta and Jay Ramotar as a deputy minister in the Alberta public service.

11 Comments to: Happy Labour Day, Alberta Day, or whatever … brace yourself for unpleasantness tomorrow!

  1. Public Servant

    September 2nd, 2019

    Remember when Kenney gleefully announced Bill 9, the Bad Faith Bargaining bill during Public Service week? He just can’t resist provoking workers.

    Jason Kenney has a pathological hatred of workers. Perhaps it’s because he’s never been one.

    Reply
  2. Roger

    September 2nd, 2019

    “Mr. Kenney’s mischievously malicious minions…” Wonderful phrase, and oh so true!

    Reply
  3. Geoffrey Pounder

    September 2nd, 2019

    ATB Financial president Dave Mowat also chaired the NDP’s royalty review with predictable results.
    Perhaps someone will write a book on the NDP’s shift to the right under Rachel Notley — and how that shift left progressive positions undefended and opened up space for Jason Kenney to move even further right.

    Reply
  4. David

    September 2nd, 2019

    Sometime soon Mr. Kenney is going to have to grow up and decide who he really wants to be. The career politician who seems to have made it his life’s ambition to pursue ever higher offices has a dilema. He can be the Premier of Albera or the Prime Minister, but it will be difficult for even someone of his considerable political talents to do both.

    He may be beginning to realize that politically the road to Alberta may be a one way street. Hence the Alberta Day rhetoric and playing footsie with separatists. Perhaps he has decided to burn his bridges now as he will never have the photogenic spouse and gaggle of kids that seems to be required to seriously run for PM these days.

    I don’t think the perpetually agrieved Premier of Alberta will play well in the rest of Canada and he must also realize the honeymoon here will soon be over. I don’t think his stealthy cuts will go over as well as he thinks with Albertans. I remember Ralph Klein and Kenney may be many things, but he does not have the folksy charm of Klein and I don’t think Kenney can count on rising gas and oil prices either to soften the blow of the cuts as Klein did.

    It would seem to me Kenney has risen as far as he can and the rest of his political journey may be rougher than this sometime political golden boy has so far been accustomed to.

    Reply
  5. TENET

    September 2nd, 2019

    “Alberta is the best place in Canada to live, work, play and raise a family,” Mr. Kenney continued. Some wondered, of course, how he would know. After all, he’s hardly ever lived here, notwithstanding representing a Calgary riding in Ottawa for 18 years.”

    Albertans are such gullible and malleable masochists. And, they will never see the irony. Dave Hanson, UCP MLA for Cold Lake repeated often during the last campaign “It is going to hurt!” The guy most likely to languish on the backbenches, and with the least to contribute to a changing society – won in a landslide.

    As you put it “Readers will get the picture.” The rest will share the dopey stares of the blank faces common on voting day (In Alberta). Alberta is the best place in Canada to witness this.

    Reply
  6. Sam Gunsch

    September 2nd, 2019

    This is just awful creepy: ‘ people of destiny’.

    Is that some religious, e.g. millenarian or evangelical reference?

    Reply
    • anon

      September 3rd, 2019

      German national socialism was built on the theme of a great people with a great destiny thwarted by outside forces. Mr. Kenney’s fake Alberta history is just another part of this theme.

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    September 3rd, 2019

    The Blue Ribbon Panel should take a better look at what happened to Alberta’s finances. The place they need to start is with the Alberta PCs, after Peter Lougheed left office. They need to see that since 1986, the Alberta PCs allowed rip off royalty rates for our oil, depriving Alberta of $200 billion. Then, they need to see that since 1986, the Alberta PCs virtually depleted the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, leaving hardly anything in it. Ralph Klein was not supposed to use it for very costly corporate welfare schemes, like Alpac/Mitsubishi, to help fund his provincial election campaigns, or as a way to help pay off the provincial debt and deficit (which Ralph Klein never did). Also, the Blue Ribbon Panel should look at the Alberta PCs doing the most costliest scandals in Canadian history, after Peter Lougheed left office. The $67 million Gainer’s scandal, the Principle Trust scandal, the $110 million wasted on a metal smelting plant screwup, the now $5 billion, (and growing) Swan Hills waste treatment plant debacle, the $180 million Miller West Pulp Mill scandal, the $240 million MagCan scandal, the almost $500 million blown, trying to bail out West Edmonton Mall, the $125 million ambulance amalgamation screwup, the $100 million A.I.S.H scandal, (which was complete with Ralph Klein and his colleagues, laughing at and mocking the handicapped on T.V), the Stockwell Day defamation lawsuit costs that we had to pay for, the $400 million B.S.E bailout failure, the $34.5 billion electricity deregulation disaster, the $7 billion PPA debacle, that went with it, the $2 billion wasted on carbon capture and storage, the expensive luxury penthouse suites, the expensive plane flights, with no extra passengers, the $26 billion Northwest Upgrader fiasco, that had $9 billion in added costs, Alison Redford’s $10 billion tobaccogate lawsuit scheme, which she did, and got away with, the expensive lawsuit costs against the Alberta government, in relation to the numerous deaths of foster children in Alberta, the $260 billion bill left for Albertans to clean up abandoned oil wells in Alberta, and so much more. The Blue Ribbon Panel needs to see the drastic reduction in annual revenue caused by the Alberta PCs flat tax debacle, losing Alberta billions of dollars. Also, as of 2014, corporations in Alberta owed $1.1 billion in unpaid taxes. For many years prior, corporations in Alberta owed very large amounts of money in unpaid taxes, that were never collected by the Alberta PCs. The Blue Ribbon Panel needs to see that the Alberta PCs, after Peter Lougheed left office, badly neglected infrastructure in Alberta, leaving Alberta with a $26 billion infrastructure debt.
    These are the reasons why Alberta’s finances are in such poor state. Add to all of this, oil prices sinking in 2014, due to Saudi Arabia and America, and no rebounding. Lastly, the UCP has already made over $13 billion in very costly mistakes. What I mentioned here are facts that have been missed by many. This should be shared and put in various places, for others to see.

    Reply
  8. Janna

    September 3rd, 2019

    so. Government workers, specifically those in the ATA, UNA, and HSAA haven’t had a raise since 2016. How does that fit with his narrative?

    Reply
    • TENET

      September 3rd, 2019

      Your labors are appreciated. But Albertans have short memories, especially in Calgary and rural hillbilly constituencies.
      Perhaps the ongoing RCMP investigations will be the powder keg we need? If Jed Clampett had to describe Jason he would say, “such a liar that he used to have to get somebody else to call his dog for him.”

      Reply
  9. CovKid

    September 4th, 2019

    How did Janice MacKinnon ever qualify as a bona fide member of the NDP? And why would Romanow in Saskatchewan ever give her such a prestigious position as Finance Minister that she could impose her neo-liberal influence on healthcare in that province?

    Now she is reaping the benefits of the cut-at-all-costs mentality from those years to pad her own bank account as a “consultant”.

    No wonder politicians are far below the status of used-car salesmen in the trustworthy index.

    Reply

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