Fossil fuel extraction’s starting to look like a sunset industry in our increasingly cranky province (Photo: Arne Hückelheim, Creative Commons).

Good Lord, can Alberta survive another spring of renewal like the last one?

Another springtime of renewal — that’s what Government House Leader Jason Nixon and the United Conservative Party’s meme machine were promising yesterday with the announcement the Alberta Legislature well get back to business on Feb. 25.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“At only 12% of the way though our mandate, we’ve delivered on 43% of our commitments to Albertans so far,” Premier Jason Kenney or one of his social media surrogates tweeted merrily with a huckster’s love of spurious statistics. “Looking forward to another spring of renewal.”

In case you weren’t already feeling a sense of foreboding, the two Jasons were promising “a busy and engaging sitting” and an “ambitious legislative agenda.” It’s enough to remind one of the best selling novel ever written: “It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,” etc., etc. Well, at least neither Jason was wearing a hockey mask.

Considering what the last springtime of Conservative renewal brought us, the auguries are not promising!

There’s that drop in full-time employment since Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government decided to give a $4.7-billion tax break to Alberta’s corporate greenhouse gasbags, likely somewhat underestimated by the NDP Opposition at about 50,000 lost jobs.

Of those, 24,000 were recorded last month. Eight thousand lost jobs were in the oilpatch, by the way, which Mr. Kenney had promised to magically fix just by getting elected.

UCP House Leader Jason Nixon (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

And thanks to the UCP’s revenge policy of eliminating public sector positions to get back at educated folks whose work continued through the recession, Edmonton now has the highest unemployment rate of any major city in Canada. That may satisfy high-school dropouts in Grande Prairie who used to make $200,000 a year in the oilpatch, but it sure doesn’t do much for the economy.

Then there’s the province’s souring economic prospects for this year, as economic forecasters at the Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion Bank revise previous more-optimistic predictions downward to account for the impact of UCP austerity policies and continued uncertainty around oil prices. The results: lower growth, higher unemployment, fewer jobs created, fewer housing starts, big drops in retail sales, and so on.

And don’t forget the full-notch credit downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service last month, in which the New York-based bond-rating agency’s analysts cited the province’s continued heavy dependence on fossil fuels and the no-longer-deniable impact of global climate change.

Even with the best efforts of the Alberta Energy War Room — which, admittedly, aren’t all that good — the business of extracting fossil fuels from the earth is starting to look like a sunset industry, even in Alberta.

Conservative Party of Canada leadership non-candidate Rona Ambrose (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Indeed, the only performance indicator Alberta’s leading these days is for gloom. No wonder that Angus Reid Institute poll discovered that more than 70 per cent of Albertans are miserable about the direction Canada’s heading, with which Canadians elsewhere are generally satisfied. Even our cranky neighbours in Saskatchewan aren’t as disgruntled.

The UCP’s response for all these things, of course, will be to blame Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But the longer the UCP remains in office, the more this seems like a bit of a reach.

Rest-of-Canadians are forgiven if they conclude us oilpatch denizens are only happy if the rest of the country is miserable, even though the evidence suggests our misery is being driven by the people we’ve elected.

And God only knows what the UCP will get up to if its runs out of commitments to strike of its list! Just for starters, look for more chaos in health care, the possibility of major public sector labour disputes, the end of affordable child care, and skyrocketing costs as insurers and other businesses are cut loose from reasonable regulation.

Well, if there’s genuinely good news, it may be the report in Montreal’s La Presse that Rona Ambrose, Mr. Kenney’s putative pick for the best person to run the Conservative Party of Canada, has dropped out of the race to replace the hapless Andrew Scheer as leader.

This runs counter to the insistence of Postmedia’s newspapers, it must be noted, that if it didn’t happen in English, it didn’t happen. Still, it would open the door to Mr. Kenney making his longed-for dash back to Ottawa, a city congenial to bachelor prime ministers since the days of Billy King and R.B. Bennett.

And that might give Albertans some hope for a springtime of renewal that doesn’t have to involve ruination.

Otherwise, I suppose, the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Join the Conversation


  1. I’d laugh if wasn’t so sad. To be in a province where many of my neighbours vote for a party whose policies would undeniably disadvantage them but, because the alternative is labelled “NDP”, then that is unacceptable.

    We accuse Trump’s supporters in the U.S. of being ignorant, uneducated and unsophisticated, but we’ve got a hefty percentage of all three here in Alberta.

  2. We might have to revise the winter of our discontent to spring time of our discontent. However, I don’t think Kenney is quite as politically thick as he comes across lately. Alberta will somehow survive whatever he plans to inflict upon us next, but he must realize at this point his popularity may not. With that in mind, I suspect one possibility is he may double down on the rhetoric, but he may not actually follow through on it.

    A second possibility is he may suddenly decide to head back to Ottawa, where the living seemed easier, but I think that window of opportunity is closing soon. I suppose with Rona not seeming to take the bait, Kenney’s time to act could be soon or never.

    Alberta sure seems a glum place these days. The recent news story didn’t quite get it right in calling it western pessimism. BC seemed fairly upbeat and Manitoba was 50/50. The black cloud of pessimism does seem to have descended heavily on Alberta around the same time as Kenney came back from Ottawa. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It probably would be best for us if he went back to Ottawa, but I think the chances of that are also 50/50.

  3. A rather brilliant summary of the situation, to which I can add not a thing.

    It’s sad to see the ruination of the province by dull-minded right-wing desperados. If there was any logic to what’s happening beyond some kind of demented ideological theme no sane person would countenance unless there were a personal big pot of gold at the end of it all, I cannot see it.

    Thus, as a Canadian from another province, I can only despair at what’s happening in Alberta. And hope the disease doesn’t spread further.

  4. This announcement is so Jay-Kay and declare “mission accomplished” once he gets past the final round of his agenda to wreck everything. On the table is reform to the O&G royalty program, which will include its abolition, followed by a PST to cover the lost revenue. PST to come after Kenney takes his angry midget performance back to Ottawa. Expect something of a scandal when Ken-Doh swaps his provincial seat with the current holder of his old federal riding, not to mention the installation of Jason Nixon as UCP leader and premier without a leadership convention. Too many elections can be bad for you, don’t you know.

    Now that the return of “Rosa” Ambrose has been permanently put on hold, thanks to her plum appointment as the next ambassador to the US (in Washington, DC) just proves it’s good to have friends like Chrystia Freeland. I expect the CPC membership to hollar “TRAITOR! TRAITOR!!” at the mere mention of Ambrose’s name now.

    And ole Stevie Harpo has stepped away from the Conservative Party Fund to some reason. Maybe because he got tarred by that ham-fisted attempt at a smear against Andrew Scheer, implying that he misappropriated party funds, when it was Harpo and his gang that approved those funds for the Scheer in the first place, then tried to make a scandal out of it because Scheer couldn’t even beat a blackface. Harpo giveth and Harpo taketh away. I presume we can expect to see Harpo return to the federal scene by stumping for J-Kenney, because who can resist a “Game of Thrones”? And Peter MacKay’s wife, the stunning Nazanin Afshin-Jam, is Iranian (and Canadian) therefore Socons have a reason to dislike her.

    The CPC clown car is just getting warmed up.

  5. Feeling a little punch-drunk and chewed up by the rats these days? Join the club.

    It wasn’t as if Albertans weren’t warned about the dystopian aftermath of a Kenney government. Prescient scribes like Climenhaga et al, along with the NDP, sounded the warning bells of calamity to health care, education and public services during the last election cycle. Albertans should have paid attention.

    Now that the chickens have come home to roost, voters duped by Jason Kenney and his cheerleading gaggle of right-wing media acolytes, sycophants and conservative tail-waggers will likely just have to grin and bear it until 2023. Unless of course—one of those UCP election deliverables includes the oft-promised “Recall Legislation” during this latest cycle of springtime renewal—in which case, all bets are off.

    1. It’s certainly tempting to suppose that the voters were duped, but I do not think so. As somebody once said, you can’t cheat an honest man. I think we have to assume that 65% of the electorate knew what they were doing, and prefer these outcomes to the mere existence of an NDP government. I certainly applaud Rachel Notley’s indomitable spirit, but I see no hope for Alberta. Just as 2016 was the decisive moment for the USA, so the last election was the decisive moment for Alberta.

      If I were a betting man, I would bet heavily on the UCP easily winning the next election and the one after that, and so spiralling every downwards to the UCPs imaginary oil-fueled conservative theocracy, or, as I like to call it, “ruin”. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

      I’ve been thinking a fair bit lately on the sources for the unreasoning hatreds and apparent self-harm of the conservative electorate, and I think we have to start looking not just at the Right Wing Noise Machine, but at all those fundie churches that have filled the landscape over the past 30 years. I can’t think of any other mechanism that could pour so much unreason into the ears of so many.

  6. David both you and the provincial NDP continually go on about the $4.7 billion dollar tax break to business that Jason Kenney brought in. Why don’t you look historically at how much less corporate tax was collected by Rachel Notley’s government when she was elected and raised the corporate tax from 10% to 12%. Corporate tax collected: 2014-2015 $5.796 billion, 2015-2016 $4.195 billion, 2016-2017 $3.769 billion, 2017-2018 $3.448 billion, 2018-2019 $4.9 billion, source Alberta government annual reviews. So does it appear to anyone that the NDP increased corporate tax revenues?

    One other interesting note I read an interesting article in the Huffington post the other day. It was talking about which province in Canada created the most jobs in 2019. That province was Ontario. Ontario created 76% of all new jobs in 2019. So if your going to attack Jason Kenney and his lack of job creation you at the same time have to credit Doug Ford’s government with doing the best job in Canada of creating jobs. Quebec was a distant second. Enjoy your day.

    1. Farmer Brian: Ontario gaining jobs has nothing to do with Doug Ford. His policies are so out of wack, that he only has one term. What were these jobs Doug Ford created? Ontario News Now, his propaganda outlet? More lawyers to be involved with fruitless lawsuits? Doug Ford has wasted and lost over $5 billion, due to very costly mistakes. If Ontario had a gain in jobs, it is in spite of Doug Ford, not because of him. Jason Kenney said that his corporate tax cuts would help create jobs, and bring back investment to Alberta. That never happened, or did it? No, because corporate tax cuts do not create jobs, demand for goods and services creates jobs. With the global market saturated with cheap oil from America and Saudi Arabia, since 2014, who wants Alberta’s oilsands oil? Also, there is a history in Alberta of Conservatives letting corporations get off the hook with generous tax breaks, or failing to collect taxes. In 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 the Alberta PCs failed to collect. Lots of lost revenue there. Billions of dollars lost. The UCP has lost Alberta $4.7 billion from corporate tax cuts. What good did this do Alberta? Nothing. Corporate tax cuts only line corporation’s bank accounts. They do nothing more than that. This is a historical fact.

      1. If you had read the Huffington post article you would see that according to “Statistics Canada” data Ontario added “243,000 net news jobs”, Quebec added 63,000 new jobs, British Columbia added 7,000 jobs and Alberta lost 4,200 jobs. Now I actually agree that Jason Kenney is wrong to cut corporate taxes to 8%, I think 10 or 10.5% would have been far more prudent. But as the numbers I quoted illustrate the health of the economy is a greater determining factor for corporate tax revenue than the level of the corporate tax. I would also agree that economic growth is dependant on the desire for consumption of goods and services, the general mood in Alberta right now I would say is somewhat negative.

    2. Hey FB: Do you think that maybe the overall corporate tax revenue went down because of lower oil and gas prices? Sometimes your red herrings stink and this is one of those times.

      Say, how about stopping the Surface Rights Board from compensating landowners for land taken by derelict oil companies? No welfare for single moms and their kids, no welfare for free enterprisers like yourself who encouraged oil drilling on their land.

      Oh, BTW, Ontario has more industry than the ROC, so no surprise more jobs were created there. Why tearing down those wind farms alone must have created some jobs and preparing to evacuate Toronto when Ford runs the Pickering nuc plant well past its service life would be a priceless job creating program.

    3. You’re desperate, in a way that I find very enjoyable in a “tears of my enemies” sense. Pretending to be so stupid as to confuse a tax cut with a decline in tax revenues due to a recession….well it would be sad and disappointing. If I were your mother.

      And stop telling people what kind of day to have It’s condescending.

    4. The corporate tax collected dropped and rose in accordance with the decline and recovery of the provincial GDP between 2014 and 2019. Was there a way in which the NDP would have been likely to increase the amount of corporat tax collected with the GDP taking a nose-dive as the revenue from oil and gas evaporated in 2015?

      Your second paragraph is entirely dependent on a logical fallacy. The fact that Kenney’s policies may have had an impact on job losses in Alberta does not mean that an increase in jobs in Ontario is due to Ford’s policies.

  7. now that we finally have a real opposition party in AB do so hope the NDP gets their ducks in a row including their grassroots organization and implementation using the best ideas and methods from campaigns like Obama’s and Bernie Sanders

    rubbing Kenney/UCP noses in the results of their dreck economic policies and lame attempts at social licence backed up by easily verifiable facts would also be high on my list (very much like all the links you’ve put together for this piece)

    here’s hoping cuz i think enough Albertans are pragmatists and that facts and awareness can open their eyes to the malodorous and malign Kenney/UCP agenda

    to old and cynical to be a true believer in any party but
    think that Rachel Notley and the NDP she leads are centre left with a distinct Alberta outlook and though there have been stumbles and some ineptness along the way they represent a way forward that strives to do good for regular working Albertans along with a social conscience and an open mind/sense of balance re business interests . . . no matter what the crumbum wanna be AB republicans say

  8. Renewal or total annihilation? Alberta Spring is coming. It might look a lot like Arab Spring.

    Never before has Alberta seen a premier like this one: helll-bent on brimfire and destruction, no policies for building up, all about tearing down. Maximum damage, DEFCON 1. Nice timing, since his role model to the south seems to have the same leanings. Maybe it won’t matter in the end, if Il Duce gets his war with Iran. BlackRock has gone sour on fossil fuels, so there’s only one way to bring the price back up again, and war is it. Why have a War Room if you don’t use it?Madmen!

  9. Fortunately, we can look forward to having our morale raised by skilled and enthusiastic commissars, courtesy of our benevolent oiligarchs:
    “‘By taking custody of the education of people who will go on to make decisions of political consequence, the Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management will be of profound service to the nation,’ says the released appendix.”

  10. Smart people don’t commandeer sinking ships. That’s why Ms Ambrose would not be pressed —and why Peter “At-Least-Dogs-Are-Loyal” MacKay has thrown his size-two hat into the CPC leadership hull.

    Jason KeKangeroo Kenney appears to be minding his prime-ministerial aspiration as closely as pundits mind their expectations that he’ll eventually go for it—if a more attractive candidate doesn’t get there first. That was a possibility in last CPC leadership contest—at least until the few moderates (the CPC’s only, remote hope) were summarily dispatched in early balloting while the most extreme candidates doubled down (one of them very nearly won, losing finally on the 13th ballot to a Western SoCon whom some party members might have seen as a moderate—relatively, within the party’s otherwise all too easy hubris, intolerance and increasing bigotry). The K-Boy was smart enough to avoid one-upping greater extremity and, as has been speculated, clever enough to let the eventual winner prove his incompetence at turning a moribund party around, leaving the subsequent leadership for the K-Boy to win.

    That, however, would have to presume the KeKangaroo would or could do a better job at redeeming the brand—either that or convince Canadians that the same old CPC is just what the doctor ordered for dealing with the many manifestations of climate change, reconciliation between Aboriginal nations and Canadian governments, protecting hard won rights and the environment, and defending Canadian sovereignty. Dismissing the latter course—at least insofar as very few CPC supporters in its Western heartland would espouse any of those items— the former course remains the most viable. But if the latter is so unpalatable to the party, how can it be reformed to yield electoral success?

    Certainly many supporters remaining with the CPC advocate expanding bitumen mining and smelting (as if climate change didn’t exist), eliminating Aboriginal “veto” (code for ignoring constitutional Aboriginal rights since there never was any such thing as a “veto”), permanently reducing taxes and regulations by signing trade deals that protect foreign investors’ profitability (never mind our sovereignty), eliminating same-gender marriage and severely restricting access to abortion. But these targets have made the party less popular, and recruitment of extremists (especially anti-immigrant racists) to make up for geriatric attrition and moderates leaving the party has required paying increasingly large tabs for red meat and gin. The pickle, then, is keeping the party together, a leader’s minimum task, by ginning members and potential recruits with policies that make it less popular in the federal context.

    It would seem, then, that Alberta (and its lesser Prairie sidekick next door) would need, a priori, to continue to dominate the CPC in terms of policy, politics, federal seats, and leadership. We already know the KeKangaroo’s central policy (bitumen), his politics (gin and red meat), and his federal seats (BC Interior, Alberta, Saskatchewan), and at least his provincial leadership qualities. Two problems, however, immediately present: about half the CPC’s seats are in the East with its tendency toward traditional Tory mores and solid memory that, since Manning helped smash the Progressive Conservatives, the Western right has had seven leaders (Gray, Manning, Day, Strahl, Harper, Ambrose, Scheer), including the three leaders of the CPC, Westerners all. I should think the KeKangaroo would be weighing Marilyn Gladu’s leadership candidacy very carefully on this account alone: the MP represents Canada’s first oil patch in Sarnia and Petrolia in Ontario where about three-quarters of the CPC’s Eastern seats reside. His sojourn to the CPC’s Ottawa Christmas party seemed intended to impress his co-partisans, half his Alberta caucus in tow, ostensibly, I guess, to remind them of his leadership creds, even if only representing one of the most partisan regions of the nation (and, no, the parade wasn’t intended to counter any delegation from that other most-partisan region, Quebec, because the CPC doesn’t have an equivalent there).

    Secondly, I should think for the KeKangaroo to jump clean over Ms Gladu’s attractiveness and advantage to CPC delegates in the East (she’s also bright and avuncular), he would also want some aspect of his provincial premiership to recommend him to the Eastern half of the CPC party. And that alone would recommend the K-Boy get his big jump done sooner than later, before his provincial policies get too discernibly blamed for Alberta’s economic sadness and social unhappiness which said policies appear destined to aggravate. He might get away with a year (his government will reach that age in April), but I doubt more.

    The CPC leadership might look promising with Ambrose out of the way, but almost anyone from the East is advantaged, especially if he or she espouses moderate views—like Gladu who is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage and doubtlessly no more of a climate change denier than any Albertan CPC member.

    Yet, IMHO, any moderate conservative would see instant success by dismissing the CPC altogether and starting a new Conservative party worthy of the name.

    Maybe KeKangaroo Kenney’s hoping for MacKay to win another doomed CPC leadership from which the Albertan can save the party—just later, when it’s more convenient to the K-Boy’s itinerary.

  11. The present governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan seem locked in a competition about which of the two can ingest the most stupid pills. At the moment I would guess that Vegas bookmakers have given the Alberta side better odds of success. It is time for Saskatchewan to up its game, but the Kenney crew are a tough act to follow. This is in spite of the fact that Scott Moe & Company are no rocket scientists.

  12. Preston Manning along with Harper and the reform party caused more damage to the Conservative party and Canada than one can imagine by invoking their religious believes into this party. Harper along with Manning as his guide believe their personal God told them to invoke their beliefs into the Conservative party and that is why the party is in trouble now. And that is why Canada’s two Bible belt provinces have the lowest satisfaction how things are going in Canada. Harper and Manning don’t want Jean Charest to win the Conservative leadership because their religious ideology may be punted from the party.

    And for Jason Kenney, he has already slashed health care by removing senior’s spouse, if under 65 years of age, from receiving drug benefits under the current health care plan.
    Next will be will be cuts to infrastructure just as Ralph Klein did and Alberta is still trying to catch up on rebuilding bridges and roads.

    And Jason Kenney is already taking credit for the Trans Mountain pipeline after Notley and Trudeau did all the heavy lifting. All Kenney has done so far is give a large tax cut to corporations with some oil companies already moving out of Alberta under his leadership. After all he hired Preston Manning as his advisor and we know what Manning did to the Conservative party and Canada. The previous Progressive Conservative party was not that bad of a political party.

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