Alberta Politics
Jason Kenney, in his video press release this morning (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta video).

Layoffs one day, billion-dollar pipeline giveaways the next — it’s not easy keeping up with the Kenneys!

Posted on March 31, 2020, 3:57 pm
7 mins

Keeping up with the Kenneys will make your head spin.

Yesterday, the Kenney Government was justifying the layoffs of 26,000 public-sector education workers by claiming there are limits to Alberta’s capacity to borrow during an economic downturn caused by a global pandemic.

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This morning, it was bragging about creating 6,800 jobs by giving $1.5 billion right now to a private company and being prepared to spend up to $6 billion more next year to subsidize construction of the KXL Pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

If this sounds to you like gaslighting — an intentional strategy to manipulate us to question our own reality and sanity — it does to me too.

Finance Minister Travis Toews justified Saturday’s massive layoffs of school board employees by saying “it’s absolutely incumbent on us as the government to ensure that we’re moving resources to the greatest need.”

Alberta Medical Association President Christine Molnar (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

His press secretary, Jerrica Goodwin, laid out the argument in detail, telling the CBC’s Janet French there are limits to Alberta’s capacity to borrow during an economic downturn. “Alberta’s credit rating has seen downgrades, and the province cannot print more money, she said,” the CBC reported.

Premier Jason Kenney justified this year’s “equity investment” in Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. and next year’s huge loan guarantee to “kick-start” the KXL Pipeline as “steps we must make now to build our future focused on jobs, the economy, and pipelines.”

“We cannot wait for the end of the pandemic and the global recession to act,” he said in the government’s news release. “Today we are moving forward with a project that is essential to our future prosperity.”

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta video).

The news release claimed the pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast will create 6,800 jobs in Alberta. It also declared the project will generate $30 billion in tax and royalty revenues for future generations of Albertans and Canadians. The first claim might be true; the second strains credulity. Mr. Kenney described the massive borrowing by the province as “a wise investment,” and predicted Alberta would be able to sell its shares at a profit.

Work commences tomorrow, April Fool’s Day.

Observed University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe on Twitter this morning: The announcement demonstrates Alberta’s “massive borrowing capacity and strong balance sheet.”

“Any prior statement by government that they face such constraints (which was one motivation to lay-off education staff) was completely false,” Dr. Tombe added.

To illustrate the level of the government’s gaslighting, remember that on March 15, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange promised Albertans that “school authorities will receive their full allotment of funding for the 2019-20 school year.” But there was no mention of that when she blindsided school boards with the order for what may be the largest single layoff in Canadian history Saturday afternoon.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Also note that, according to this morning’s news release, the KXL deal “is the culmination of six months of negotiations.” So even while Mr. Toews and his aide were piously claiming Alberta was short of cash and credit, the pipeline giveaway was signed and sealed, awaiting only delivery.

Well, get used to it. Everything will change again tomorrow, so stay awake!

Meanwhile, in the midst of the global pandemic cited by Mr. Kenney today as justification for the huge payout we couldn’t afford yesterday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s war with the province’s physicians proceeds apace.

Finance Ministry Press Secretary Jerrica Goodwin (Photo: Twitter).

In an extremely troubling message yesterday, Alberta Medical Association President Christine Molnar described her efforts last week to persuade the Kenney Government to put its attack on the province’s physicians earning capacity on the back burner until the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

After making several written requests last week to meet with Mr. Shandro, she said, yesterday “we received his response stating that the government intends to proceed with the remaining elements of the framework on March 31.” That is, today.

“I share your extreme frustration and disappointment with this decision,” Dr. Molnar said. “Adding further disruption and uncertainty to a health care system already under unprecedented pressure from COVID-19 is simply irresponsible and not in the best interests of the health care system and our patients.”

“On a personal note,” she continued, “I am deeply concerned by the tattered state of the current relationship between the province and its physicians. Somehow the physicians of Alberta have become the enemy of a government frustrated by its circumstance. During my 44 years of medicine, I have never seen anything like it. We have tried talking and reasoning with them. Some have tried yelling at them and shaming them. Others have just stopped trying or are on the verge of giving up.”

She promised to “soldier on for our patients,” but one wonders how many doctors really will.

Under the circumstances, the government’s determination to pursue this attack is almost literally insane. Which explains, presumably, why they would like to make Albertans think it’s us who are crazy.

14 Comments to: Layoffs one day, billion-dollar pipeline giveaways the next — it’s not easy keeping up with the Kenneys!

  1. John T

    March 31st, 2020

    The actions by the UCP are so insane that I wonder how unwell Kenney actually is. I am not joking.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      March 31st, 2020

      Fear not John. Check the closet for your answer.

      All kidding aside, Kenney has a history of cruelty. It started in San Francisco and has continued ever since.

      Reply
  2. Abs

    March 31st, 2020

    So in the grand delusion that Kenney asks us to believe, 6,800 potential jobs in the future are worth more than the 26,000 actual jobs terminated yesterday, and thousands more that will end tomorrow. Because they are oil jobs. And oil is worth less than nothing.

    I don’t get it. I can’t see the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    Reply
  3. TJ

    March 31st, 2020

    it seems just a short while ago that this government was feeling an urgent need to bring in legislation to allow electors to recall MPs. I would encourage them to follow through on that urgency.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      April 1st, 2020

      We don’t need recall legislation.

      The French didn’t have it in 1789. The Americans didn’t have it either in 1776.

      Democracy is people power and not elite oppressor power.

      Reply
  4. Just Me

    March 31st, 2020

    All things considered, while I have called Kenney a sociopath, it’s become apparent that he may also be bipolar. I’d like to tag Tourettes on him as well, and judging by his crazy accidental and comical email outburst concerning Thomas Lukaszuk, I think there’s enough evidence to add that as well.

    Kenney was angry at Notley for buying extra rail cars to transport sans pipeline bitumen. I think in Kenney’s mind ‘if you don’t go big, go home’ was what was behind his criticism of that scheme.

    Over $1B for a US-based pipeline and loan guarantees in excess of $6B for TC Energy. For a guy who has blind faith in the free-market, Kenney sure likes to mess with it and tries to pick winners and losers.

    But this whole thing maybe too much and too late. KXL was planned when oil was skewing toward $125/bbl and the US had yet to become the world’s single largest oil producer. Now that Canadian Select is diving toward $3.00/bbl and the refinery capacity at the end of the pipeline is unable to refine Alberta’s low-grade bitumen without substantial upgrades, it looks like Kenney is trying to make up his own reality again.

    Of course, it will take two years to build this pipeline, so the world could change again. Kenney’s a gambler and he’s probably praying to every single saint for providence to smile on him right now. Meanwhile, the disaster in Alberta will continue, the destruction will carry on, and the crazy will just become breath-taking.

    Get out while you can.

    Reply
  5. Murphy

    March 31st, 2020

    Chicago Boys model transposed on Alberta. Welcome to Chile of the North! I can’t wait to see Tailgunner Jay’s Hugo Boss military uniform, 22 inseam with pregnancy gusset waist.

    Reply
  6. Keith McClary

    March 31st, 2020

    Kenney is under the delusion that Alberta bitumen produces “1/2 the emissions as the average for North American oil.”
    https://twitter.com/jkenney/status/1222663348069646338?lang=en

    Actually it’s slightly higher than the US average (even the War Room gets that right).

    That’s just to get it out of the ground, not including refining. Bitumen is very carbon intensive to refine into gasoline, etc. If you include refining it’s TWICE the US average. If the US ever gets serious about climate change, they will not be importing our bitumen.

    Reply
  7. J.E. Molnar

    March 31st, 2020

    The political party from hell — doing their job — leading us to hell in a hand-basket?

    Jason Kenney — without a doubt — is Canada’s greatest political charlatan and shameless huckster of all time, now undeniably in a league with supremo gaslighter Donald J. Trump. Alberta MAGA right-wingers like Devin Dreeshen should be beaming with joy.

    Reply
  8. !?

    March 31st, 2020

    https://www.propublica.org/article/coronavirus-er-doctors-nurses-benefits#181503

    “A Major Medical Staffing Company Just Slashed Benefits for Doctors and Nurses Fighting Coronavirus

    Alteon Health, a staffing company backed by private-equity firm Frazier Healthcare Partners, will cut salaries, time off and retirement benefits for providers, citing lost revenue. Several hospital operators announced similar cuts.“

    Reply
  9. Thomas

    April 1st, 2020

    I don’t know where these 6800 jobs in Alberta are coming from. The pipeline starts in Hardisty Ab. which is close to the Saskatchewan Border. Looks like 10 percent in Alberta, 20 percent in Saskatchewan, and 70 percent in the States. Trump said the pipe has to come from the USA. NO WAY 6800 Alberta jobs.

    Reply
    • Just Me

      April 1st, 2020

      And that’s the salient point there.

      TC could not get financing for the project because of its questionable value. So, Kenney steps in with his money bags.

      Judging by the risk involved with this project never making a dime, who in their right mind would finance it?

      There’s also the matter that the bulk of the project is in the US, which will without a doubt impose some very solid USA-Only restriction on material and labour. Remember, Obama did not approve the project because, to paraphrase, “It’s for THEIR oil and NOT for OUR’S.” Trump is not the first to push economic nationalism in regard to this project.

      This project will only serve the interests of TC. Alberta will get nothing for it but pain.

      Using a pandemic to push projects such as this one – and their will be more – is ‘disaster capitalism’ in textbook action.

      I fully expect, as the number of health care professionals leaving the province, if they are not running already, rises, Kenney will make an emergency move to a private healthcare model, practically overnight. He will do this because of the rising numbers of pandemic victims because of ‘community-spread’ will serve as proof of the glaring failure of public health care. Kenney will shame health care professional for abandoning their ethics and demand privatization. And it will happen because Kenney gets everything he wants.

      There will be more disaster-based initiatives coming down the pipe soon enough, and Kenney’s vision of what reality should be will become ever more real.

      But of course he will blame it all on Justin Trudeau because he won the election.

      Reply
  10. Dave

    April 2nd, 2020

    It just doesn’t add up, the provincisl government is supposed to risk money for not much return on a project that is supposed to be solid, while a company that should get a good return on it is reluctant to do so

    I sense a bit of a shakedown by the company of a government that feels it can not afford any more bad economic news now, except that which it creates it all on its own. Perhaps the company helped out the right UCP leadership campaign in the past and that also aided them some – who knows.

    It is a bit ironic that the UCP which seemed to before think Federal government financial support for pipelines was bad, now considers certain government support good. Perhaps they should now call themselves situational conservatives.

    Unfortunately, doctors have somehow ended up on the UCP’s long list of enemies and will probably ultimately end up having to vote with their feet and go elsewhere, where they will be more appreciated. It will take a while for the impact of this to be fully felt. Probably sometime around the next election health care will become a total shambles, much like most of the economy here.

    Mr. Kenney may have to face the next campaign with the unenviable slogan of “Kenney the Job Killer”. I wouldn’t be surprised if before that, he somehow plots an escape back to the safety of Federal politics to avoid the verdict of provincial voters. He is a most slippery politician with an eye for opportunities for advancement or failing that, survival.

    Reply

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