Alberta Premier Jason Kenney addresses Preston Manning’s Red Deer clambake on Saturday (Photo: Screenshot of CTV news clip).

How much of the United Conservative Party’s radical project to transform Alberta into a dystopic firewalled statelet, most of the details of which were revealed by Premier Jason Kenney for the first time at Preston Manning’s Red Deer clambake on Saturday, was predicated on a Conservative victory in last month’s federal election?

A lot, by the sound of it.

Preston Manning (Photo: Manning Centre).

You’d almost think ideas like Bill 207, the legislation to restrict reproductive rights usefully described on social media yesterday as the Abandoning Patients Act, and the scheme to replace the trustworthy Canada Pension Plan with an Alberta version more vulnerable to mismanagement and misappropriation, were prepared in advance on the assumption Andrew Scheer would be prime minister by now.

No wonder Alberta’s federal and provincial Conservative politicians are so furious that Canadian voters seem to have cottoned on to what they were up to and let the Liberals hang onto a minority government on Oct. 21 despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s very bad year.

Bill 207, as has already been argued here, has the look and feel of legislation drafted in the Premier’s Office and handed to Peace River MLA Dan Williams, one of many anti-abortion hardliners in the UCP Caucus, to present as if it were his own private member’s bill.

But it was Mr. Kenney’s pension machinations, accompanied by noisy cheerleading from mainstream media and in particular Postmedia’s plethora of market-fundamentalist pundits, that really got me thinking about this.

Alberta premier Ernest Manning in his glory days (Photo: Glenbow Archives, Public Domain).

It turns out this isn’t as easy to do as the right-wing commentariat would like you to believe. So while Albertans need to remain on guard against Mr. Kenney scheming to hijack their CPP, it’s too early to despair that their pension funds are about to disappear into thin air like 50 years of Alberta’s oil and gas royalties.

In a useful thread on Twitter last night, University of British Columbia economist Kevin Milligan pointed out that Section 3(1) of the Canada Pension Plan Act includes a deadline after which provinces that don’t wish to participate in the CPP can no longer easily set up their own pension plan, as Quebec once did.

That deadline, Dr. Milligan noted, was on May 3, 1965 — so if you’re mad about Alberta politicians bowing to the will of Ottawa, you’d need to take it up with Preston “Secession Needs to be Part of the Strategy” Manning’s late daddy, Social Credit premier Ernest Manning, who may not have been a raging commie but apparently wasn’t quite the Alberta sovereignist junior turned out to be either.

As Professor Milligan noted, “you can’t do like Quebec without a time machine.”

The CPP Act does allow provinces to pull out, he explained, but the mechanism for doing so requires the departing province to prove it has a comprehensive and comparable plan.

UBC economics professor Kevin Milligan (Photo: Twitter).

As an aside, any such scheme had better be comparable, or Ottawa should tell the UCP to keep its grubby paws off our pensions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply if you’re an Alberta teacher, nurse or other public employee whose pension savings Mr. Kenney covets for use as a pork barrel to convert into welfare payments for fossil fuel billionaires.

Dr. Milligan’s Twitter thread continued: “Some have asked if the Canada Pension Plan Act can be changed in order to make it easier for AB to get out. Of course this is possible — but CPP amendment requires 2/3rds of provinces with 2/3rds of population to agree. So, not an easy path.”

My point here is that Canadian Conservatives almost certainly thought that with friendly majorities in populous provinces like Alberta, Ontario and perhaps even Quebec, this destructive goal might just have been within reach with a Conservative majority in the House of Commons.

This suggests to this Albertan that Conservatives must never again be allowed to govern Canada, whether they’re led by Mr. Scheer or some other Stephen Harper clone — a concept that a majority of voters in most other provinces seem to have grasped, thank goodness. This would be true, it’s said here, even if we didn’t face a planetary climate emergency.

Meanwhile, at least one group of Alberta physicians has started to organize to fight Bill 207. The Neurology Section of the Alberta Medical Association presented a motion to the physicians’ advocacy and bargaining association urging it to “take a strong stance in opposition to this bill” on the grounds that to do otherwise “opens the door to allowing physicians to discriminate freely and deny care along any number of ‘conscience’ lines, such as gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

Further, the neurologists’ motion says, “our patients are entitled to choose for themselves with respect to legally approved medical procedures and that health care providers do not have the right to deny access to care for those patients or any others.”

Speaking of motions, though, the UCP will consider one at its annual general meeting at the end of the month in Calgary to implement a full “voucher” system to fund education — providing 100 per cent funding for private schools and presumably bringing down hard times if not ruination on the public and Catholic systems.

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  1. Mr. Kenney and the local firewall gang have sure been busy throwing red meat to the angry conservative base and trying to stick it to the rest of Canada for letting Trudeau win. Of course threats are only effective if you are not bluffing and cutting off your nose to spite your face is not really a good strategy.

    I suspect Trudeau’s strategy is to let the Conservatives led by Kenney have their temper tantrum and not say or do too much to encourage it or escalate the situation. The tantrum may soon start to look silly in the rest of Canada, if it hasn’t already. The Federal Conservatives risk starting to look more like a western regional protest party like Reform rather than a national party the Conservatives have tried to portray themselves as. If you think the Conservatives did bad in Ontario and Quebec this last time, how about Reform 2.0 guys?

    I don’t know if they will eventually figure this out – all this is a losing game for the Federal Conservatives, but not necessarily for Kenney. It distracts from his bad news budget and keeps the focus here on frustration with Trudeau at least for a while longer. Heck, it probably even shows Kenney as a real fighter to Federal Conservatives, as opposed to Scheer who does not seem so much.

  2. Of course it’s becoming clearer with each passing day …

    Kenney wants the pension funds (CPP or APP, or whatever it will be) as a means to transfer billions into the O&G industry. And surely this will include public employee’s pension funds as well, as they will also be tossed into the massive pot to prop up the O&G lobby.

    While this will come as an enormous surprise to many Albertans, including those who voted for Kenney, as though he was some messiah, who would pull pipelines out of the ether. They voted for him en masse; it’s time to pay the piper. I recall, even three years ago, many people I encountered had no idea who Kenney was, apart from being Stephen Harper’s “minister of everything”. Indeed, I found that, when I attended a few of Kenney’s pre-UCP events, the consensus of those attending who claimed they knew a great deal about Kenney, also believed he was married and had a family. I guess for a great many of Alberta voters, casting a ballot may truly be an act of ignorance.

    So, let the mayhem begin. There will be endless legal challenges, nonsense initiatives, and a fantastic amount of crazy, as Kenney leads his crusade in its holy mission against all that promises sanity and stability.

    Margret Atwood must surely be mining Alberta’s current events for her next opus.

    1. Well it seems the QPP invests in Quebec and helps them buy Canadian companies even in western Canada, But the CPP invests in items like stressed real estate assets in Mumbai India… or in China ventures. When the India new rupee dropped they lost millions of our pension fund. So if you’d rsther see your pension fund invested in Canadian jobs in Alberta. Ir can help Alberta diversify its economy and by other Canadian assets.

  3. Interesting that Jason Kenney didn’t require a referendum to rebate 4.7 billion tax dollars to corporations. It was practically the first thing he did. Maybe he canvassed the CEOs.

  4. Is it safe to assume that with any voucher system the money funneled to private hands would strictly be coming from the formally public system? Both Kenney and the education robot, or is it minister??, wouldn’t dare touch Catholic funding would they?
    So the Doctors aren’t just going to sit and be good little employees, who could possibly have foreseen that…

    1. Hi Jim. In Alberta the Catholic system is funded the same as the public. Funds for the private system will absolutely be taken from both the public and the Catholic systems.

  5. All of the current sound and fury emanating from the Canadian Conservative enclave is hardly surprising in the past light of Thatcherism, Reaganism, and the published works of the Conservative idol, Friedman. Accordingly, the stated goal of Preston Manning is to ‘strengthen Canadian democracy according to Conservative principles’. Further, the evangelical Christian Preston Manning has stated that he is “a great fan and imperfect follower of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    Perhaps Mr. Manning and his like minded followers have either forgotten their Gospel teachings, or have resorted to selectively interpreting them to suit their own ends, or maybe it is just the result of being an “imperfect follower”.

    So, as his own Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Does that also apply to equalization payments and Federal transfers?

  6. “This suggests to this Albertan that Conservatives must never again be allowed to govern Canada …”

    Welcome aboard David, to the good ship Sanity, sailing under the flag of Democracy. It’s about time! We got lots of room; bring your friends!

    I want to put a little finer point on your statement David, if I might. The reason the ‘Conservatives’ must never be allowed to govern – is that they are not conservatives! At least as we have understood conservatives in this great democracy of Canada for the last couple hundred years.
    I don’t know exactly what label to put on these UCP people; they are all carpetbaggers of one sort or another. You can’t believe anything they say; just watch out for what they do.
    Their politics all run towards supporting one man or supporting the beliefs of one man, a very dangerous practice made abundantly clear to any who would lift their gaze from their navel or give but a passing glance at human history.

    You may have names for all the various political ideologies these nutjobs are espousing and those names may very well be accurate, today but in a historical context those ideologies are pregnant with Fascism. As such, conservatives today in Alberta and Canada are properly called Proto-Fascists.

    These people and their beliefs must be denounced in the most severe and unambiguous terms. They are, at present, an odious and egregious stain on the Canadian political landscape and present a terrifying vision for the future.

  7. Left-wing asswipe. What climate emergency? Attempts to close the barn door after Quebec opted out of CPP won’t stick. If the feds resist granting autonomies to Alberta that Quebec already has, this is going to get really nasty. As for the rest of the country dealing with increased CPP and other costs, what do you think will happen once the golden goose that is our energy industry is killed? Better budget for an extra $20 billion/yr either way. Responsibly produced Canadian energy is part of the solution. If the enviro-loons can’t grasp that, fine. Ween yourselves off the benefits of Canadian energy now. Increase taxes by $20 billion immediately and plan out your proposal to the WMF for the bailout that will inevitably required due to completely unrestrained deficit spending by Trudope. Greece and Italy can provide some very good information on this. As for Canadian voters “cottoning on”, let’s remember that more people voted for Scheer and the conservatives than for sock boy and his virtue signalling bullshit.

    1. I sympathize Mark. It is truly awful to admit that dropping out of school to go rigging was not the best life choice. Like many things, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. It is even worse to have to admit that the oil and gas sector contributes less to Alberta govt. revenue than liquor and gaming.

      And it is really sad that the oil and gas sector is replacing people with machines so there are not as many jobs and not as much income tax money paid to Ottawa and Edmonton. But it is just going to get worse until the oil and gas sector automates as much as the agriculture sector did 20 years ago. Tech change can be difficult for some.

      You do understand that until 1963 Alberta was living on transfer payments from the rest of Canada? A little humility and gratitude to Canada might be a good idea, especially when Alberta is faced with cleaning up the unfunded liabilities of abandoned oil field sites. And if you think farmers and ranchers are going to allow any more drilling on their land without upfront cash posted for clean ups, well you don’t know how difficult things can get.

      There are lots of good jobs out there – time to forget the bile and re-invent yourself.

    2. Ya-da. Ya-da. Ya-da. Rebel Media screech over.

      The nonsense over Scheer and the CONs winning the popular vote is the same that Clinton’s people used after the 2016 election. It didn’t work then and it still doesn’t work now.

      I imparted this tasty bit of wisdom personally to Hillary Clinton in the aftermath of her disastrous loss to Donnie and the Big (Im)Peach: don’t shove all your votes into a few regions.

      Now that the CONs are officially a rural rump movement, without a chance of even getting arrested in GTA, maybe it’s time to grow up and send the socons packing back to the CHP?

  8. The federal finance department (Morneau) stated: “A province that wants to exit the Canada Pension Plan must give THREE YEARS’ NOTICE, pass comparable pension legislation and assume all of the obligations and liabilities of CPP benefits due to employment or self-employment in the province.” As well, Alberta would have to hold a referendum on the subject.

    Yes, CPP contributions would be lower, but there would be NO benefit whatsoever to any pensioner! AIMco is NOT the way to go—we would be spending a spectacular amount of money setting up the pension system from scratch (including infrastructure, software, IT support, administration, staff, etc.), we would drastically increase our risk, lose the ability to attract big investments, and returns on investments would drop exponentially from 10% and higher (with the Federal CPP) to a mere 2% rate of return from AIMco. The Federal CPP fund is always growing and worth a huge, robust $400 BILLION DOLLARS, $37 billion dollars more than it actually should be—a powerful and compelling reason to just stick with it and leave well enough alone. That means YOU, Kenny!!

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