Alberta Politics
Ron Liepert during his days in Alberta provincial politics (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If you like going to the bottle depot, you’ll love the Conservative carbon tax, says Calgary MP Ron Liepert

Posted on May 19, 2021, 12:18 am
9 mins

I hear that Calgary Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepert – who the Canadian Press kindly described as an experienced Alberta politician – has been using the deposit you pay on a bottle of beer to explain party Leader Erin O’Toole’s carbon tax proposal.

This is a flawed metaphor, but first a word or two about Mr. Liepert.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole (Photo: Facebook/Erin O’Toole).

For years the former broadcaster who once served as Peter Lougheed’s press secretary was thought by many to have been the worst provincial health minister in Alberta history.

I grant you, the current incumbent is giving him a run for his money. But I personally think we should wait for the dust to settle and historians to weigh in before we concede the ground to Tyler Shandro.

Suffice it to say that in the health portfolio Mr. Liepert was so bad … 

(Off-stage voice: How bad was he?)

… He was so bad that he actually made Raj Sherman look good! 

Alert readers will recall that Dr. Sherman was the Progressive Conservative Parliamentary Secretary for health when Mr. Liepert was the minister.

Apparently Dr. Sherman was an excellent Emergency Room physician, but as a politician he had some deficiencies too. It would be fair to describe his tenure in politics as a train wreck.

Conservative Parliamentary Secretary, later Alberta Liberal leader, Raj Sherman (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When Dr. Sherman complained about hospital Emergency Room wait times in the fall of 2010, it annoyed premier Ed Stelmach so much he kicked him out of caucus and sent him to sit on the Legislative time-out chair as an Independent. 

The next year Dr. Sherman crossed the floor to the Alberta Liberals, who were still the official Opposition, and soon proclaimed his intention to seek the soon-to-be-vacant leadership of the party. He succeeded in that ambition and in short order almost single-handedly destroyed the party. 

Still, when Mr. Liepert used to appear in Alberta towns to explain why the Alberta health care system was falling apart on his watch, the seniors who turned out to energetically boo him would often say, “I really liked that young doctor, though. They should put him in charge.” 

I kid you not. I was there. I heard it. 

Good thing Mr. Stelmach didn’t take that advice or Alberta today might still have a provincial Liberal Party and no health care system!

The late Gene Zwozdesky, the Alberta PCs’ clean-up guy (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Getting back to Mr. Liepert, he even had his own cleanup guy who followed him around like a political Mr. Wolf, only friendlier. That was the affable Gene Zwozdesky, who the PCs would send in to clean up the mess when Mr. Liepert had finished smashing the crockery. Mr. Zwozdesky isn’t around anymore, having gone to join the Silent Majority, as they used to say in the 19th Century. 

That’s too bad for Jason Kenney, the current premier of Alberta. The United Conservative Party could use someone like Mr. Zwozdesky. But that, as they say, is another column.

Like most of the PC leadership, Mr. Liepert backed Gary Mar in the 2011 PC leadership race that Alison Redford won. 

But Mr. Liepert tended to fail upward. So, since he had upset education and laid waste to health care, Mr. Stelmach promoted him to the Energy portfolio. When Ms. Redford was sworn in as premier, she moved him to the finance ministry, arguably a promotion as well. He left provincial politics in 2012.

In 2014, Mr. Liepert decided to switch to federal politics, beat the appalling Rob Anders for the nomination for the new Calgary Signal Hill riding, and was soon was off to Ottawa, where every Conservative leader since has had the good sense to keep him well away from the party’s front benches.

Alison Redford in 2011 as she campaigned to lead the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

For a long time now, Mr. Liepert has been barely heard from, except that time he got caught personally doing essential house repairs at his Palm Springs residence during the pandemic.

Now, though, he has resurfaced to tout Mr. O’Toole’s carbon tax proposal by comparing it to a bottle deposit, which for some reason caught the attention of an obviously bored Canadian Press reporter. 

It’s not really a tax, Mr. Liepert says, sort of channeling Rachel Notley, whose NDP carbon levy allowed every Conservative in Alberta to attack her government relentlessly, and eventually successfully.

Well, he could hardly call it a levy, seeing as it really does sort of look a bit like Ms. Notley’s effort, only not as well designed, so he says it’s just like a bottle deposit. 

Apparently he tells this to credulous Conservative voters who phone his office to complain they were told carbon taxes were evil and promised Conservatives would never do anything like that. 

Yeah, says Mr. Liepert, but with our, uh, carbon deposit, you get money back, so you can use it to buy stuff that will pump even more carbon into the atmosphere! Or something. 

Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mind you, unlike your typical bottle deposit, you don’t actually get to choose what you get to spend this credit on – someone connected to the Conservative Party will be doing the deciding for you. And if you want to save it for your retirement because Mr. O’Toole’s friends in Alberta want to take your pension away, well, sorry, you’re outta luck. 

Rather than resisting a carbon tax, in other words, Mr. O’Toole is just retreating to a place where he can “make the case for a rebranded one that does as little as possible,Max Fawcett explained in the National Observer last month.

And Andrew Leach, the University of Alberta economist, described the O’Toole carbon tax as “an economically flawed administrative nightmare with many privacy implications, all to avoid the perception that he’s proposing a carbon tax.

Plus, you don’t get to enjoy whatever it was that came in the bottle. 

But other than that, sure, it’s sort of like a bottle deposit. 

The scary thing about this, if the recent media reaction is anything to go by, is it just might work – both to sell Mr. O’Toole’s ridiculous idea and to sell Mr. O’Toole himself as a potential PM. 

If it did, Mr. Liepert could very well find himself back in a position where he could start wrecking stuff again, this time at the national level. Now that’s scary! 

CORRECTION: Premier Ed Stelmach promoted Mr. Liepert to the Energy portfolio, premier Alison Redford promoted him again to the Finance Ministry, and he left provincial politics in 2012. Mr. Liepert’s complicated resume was confused by your blogger in an earlier version of this story.

16 Comments to: If you like going to the bottle depot, you’ll love the Conservative carbon tax, says Calgary MP Ron Liepert

  1. Bill Malcolm

    May 19th, 2021

    I hate bottle depots, they stink of rancid beer. So when I go there I give my empties to whatever soul first trundles up with a stolen supermarket shopping cart, piled as high with used bottles and cans as any Thai motorcycle with family and worldly possessions. Takes but two minutes waiting usually. Of course, they’re not impressed with used Stella Artois bottles, they’re only worth half of a good Canadian one, a nickel instead of a dime. Oh well, you can’t satisfy everyone. Naturally to buy the brew in the first place, the province of NS charged me the same for the bottle deposit as a Canadian one. Screwed again!

    O’Toole’s carbon tax with its creation of a private bureaucracy to keep track of yer HarperEnviroCreds or HECs, is a scam. You get your carbon tax refund on your income tax whether you deserve it or not with the Liberals. Cost to administer — nothing. O’Toole will need his private company hordes paid minimum wage to count up personal credits and decide whether you can cash them in on a Chinese-made electric lawnmower. So EFFICIENT for the small government no red tape Con boogaloos who claim they’re star business types. Nah, it’s job CREATION in the private sector, they say. And yet another avenue to spy on the individual citizen. No thanks. I got an already filled out with my details Canadian Energy Centre petition form emailed to me last week, so Google sells info — all I had to do was press send and I would have joined the hornswoggled millions dunning Trudeau for merely being alive. That email was personal data theft to my way of thinking. Thanks, Jay, the War Room spies on Canucks, what an accomplishment.

    Never heard of Dr Sherman or Mr Liepert before. Now I have, I wish I hadn’t. Learning of such past rampant incompetence is hard to take these days, because so many Cons and UCP drudges are today straining hard to beat all records on health and economic fronts. It also confirms my suspicion that there is a neverending supply of dolts manufactured in Alberta, perhaps more per capita than anywhere else in the country, although Sask and Man and Northern Ontario run it a close second. And so says my bro living in the fair city of Calgary, lo these past four decades, and now wondering in his early retirement how he trapped himself there in the thin air by the lure of no PST and low provincial income tax compared to us in the real East. That’s Down East where we slaughter live lobsters by boiling them alive!

    Reply
  2. Dave

    May 19th, 2021

    Gee whatever happened to Mr. Liepart? For such a bull in a China shop, he seems to have led fairly a charmed political life until now. Pugnacious, somewhat like golden boy Kenney, until Kenney came to Alberta and the gold was revealed to be fools gold.

    I suppose part of the reason Liepart has survived politically is he was never put in charge of everything and his bosses were able to restrain him or pull him back when things started to get broken too much. Meanwhile all those you mentioned around Liepart – Stelmach, Sherman, Mar Redford and Zwodesky, their political careers came to a bad end and yet somehow Liepart continues on.

    I doubt the bottle depot analogy will help the Federal Conservatives much, but it is probably not too damaging. If anything it just highlights how confusing and muddled the Conservative carbon whatever you call it, just don’t call it a tax, is. However, we sort of already knew that.

    It is probably not a good sign the Federal Conservatives have slipped up now and let Mr. Liepart speak. I wouldn’t be surprised if yet again Liepart is soon surrounded by political carnage, but somehow gets through it relatively unscathed. He seems to have a knack for that.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    May 19th, 2021

    Ron Liepert was working for Peter Lougheed. What’s awful, in every sense, is that Ron Liepert never paid attention to how Peter Lougheed was governing Alberta properly. Ron Liepert was a very bad MLA, in the Alberta PC cabinet, and in the Calgary provincial elections, he was constantly reelected. Ron Liepert was part of the Alberta Royalty Review Committee. $575 billion dollars has been lost for Alberta, when the oil royalty rates Peter Lougheed was getting were abolished. To make matters even worse, the Alberta PCs didn’t ensure the oil companies cleaned up any damage they made, and Albertans have to pay a whopping cost of $260 billion for this. Two of the less than stellar legacies of Ralph Klein. Ron Liepert did nothing to get things back to the way Peter Lougheed had them. He didn’t want to face any accountability, and went on the political gravy train to be a CPC MP, and replaced a useless CPC MP, Rob Anders. People still elected Ron Liepert, which is bizarre. In the province of Alberta, the very serious failures of the Conservatives has been forgotten, and here we are again with the UCP. Ron Liepert was in Ed Stelmach’s cabinet, and Ed Stelmach saw to it that Alberta would have the first ever carbon tax in all of North America. Stephen Harper happened to like what Ed Stelmach was doing, with his carbon tax. At one point, Stephen Harper did state that he would impose a carbon tax, starting at $65.00 per tonne, increasing from that level, and then he backed away from that. Also, there were oil companies who were saying they wanted a carbon tax to help deal with the matters of greenhouse gas emissions, and combatting global warming. The NDP provided what the oil companies were asking for. The UCP snuck into power, and they had a campaign promise of scrapping Rachel Notley’s carbon tax. For a lack of a better word, the UCP lied, and basically gave Alberta a return to Rachel Notley’s carbon tax. Another possible influence on this has been Preston Manning. Preston Manning has come out in the open and said he does endorse having a carbon tax. The CPC didn’t support Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax, and wanted no carbon tax. They’ve changed their minds once again. In Alberta, the UCP think they can take the federal Liberal government to court over their carbon tax. This is an absolute waste of money, which is something that the UCP knows how to do quite well. It’s shameful how Albertans are duped so often by this bunch.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    May 19th, 2021

    The UCP have already fumbled on a pension issue. $4 billion of it is gone, never to be seen again. The premier of Alberta, (that’s up for debate on the legitimacy of his position), used to be in the CPC, in their cabinet. People’s own life savings disappeared into the void, from an income trust fiasco, that was something like $35 billion. We should know better than to trust Conservatives with our retirement, but many people in Alberta simply cannot see that.

    Reply
  5. Abs

    May 19th, 2021

    Did aliens land while we were all in our pandemic burrows? Between this and yesterday’s soupçon of drones tracking us in provincial parks, I’m beginning to think so. Maybe things will sort themselves out while we hide in our dens for the fourth wave. Here’s hoping!

    Reply
  6. TENET

    May 19th, 2021

    Alberta has spawned its share of right wing loonies, opportunists, incompetents, and dilettantes.

    Reply
  7. Keith McClary

    May 19th, 2021

    “privacy implications”
    It doesn’t have to be a computerized system. They could hand out paper “Green Stamps” or “Greenbucks”.

    Tomorrow you have a choice of drones, anti-Alberta extension (with no funding again, how do they do it!?), the S&P downgrade, the IEA’s “leave it in the ground” or the record-high number of 691 COVID-19 patients in hospital.

    Reply
  8. brett

    May 19th, 2021

    O’Toole’s polling numbers are getting worse in the key areas of Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic.

    And it is no wonder. I think he may have the same political advisors as Andrew Scheer had.

    The Conservatives carbon tax announcement was a disaster that was really aimed at party stalwarts rather than undecided voters. It is a gift ‘that keeps on giving’ for the Liberals. Liepert’s comments are proof of this.

    Why on earth did O’Toole simply not make a statement that the Conservative policy on carbon tax had changed?

    Voter’s would respect something like that (well perhaps not some redneck ALberta types) . Instead, they come up with the bottle return nonsense that political pundits, columnists, and voters will keep pointing to as the height of absurdity.

    Ron Liepert is flogging a dead horse. The train has left the station on this one. He is embarrassing himself and embarrassing the Party. Voters may not be very bright but they are not so stupid as to believe Ron’s nonsense.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 19th, 2021

      “I think he may have the same political advisors as Andrew Scheer had.” Well, not all of them. Mr. Kenney hired Brock Harrison. DJC

      Reply
  9. brett

    May 19th, 2021

    I believe the the political team in O’Toole’s office must have really been hitting the bottle when they came up with this one.

    Perhaps those empties gave them their idea for this nutty, admin heavy, unworkable carbon tax plan. And yes it is a carbon tax.

    On my tax return this year my spouse got a $735 or so tax credit in lieu of embedding carbon tax. Fast, efficient, ‘no bottle returns.’ The whole thrust of the tax is to provide incentives for change at the producer lever.

    Hard not to argue with a carbon tax when the largest oil companies in the US have recently endorsed it as the way forward. As have the major Canadian producers.

    I guess the federal Conservative Party and the UCP Party did not get the memo.

    Reply
  10. Carlos

    May 19th, 2021

    Liepert should not be allowed to run – who the heck wants that useless carcass ?
    Liepert is a good destroyer so send him to the War Room and see if we can get rid of that monstrosity and take all the UCP leaders with him into oblivion.

    Reply
  11. Alan K. Spiller

    May 19th, 2021

    I still remember the American oilmen that I was involved with calling Albertans the dumbest people on the planet for letting the Klein government give away our oil royalties. Don’t you people realize it’s none renewable they would say.

    Those of us who have relatives in other provinces know what laughing stocks Albertans have become for believing all the lies these phoney conservatives keep feeding us while we continue to elect them. Voting only for the conservative name and ignoring what fool is hiding behind it hasn’t made us look very smart.

    There is no question that while they have deliberately helped their rich friends steal our oil and tax money there are a lot of stupid Albertans letting it happen. They have destroyed our children’s future and there is nothing smart about that.

    I have heard a lot of people say that their children have left Alberta to go to school elsewhere and they have no intention of coming back. I have even told mine that if the can get good jobs in other provinces take them they have certainly destroyed Alberta’s future.
    Telling the world that we don’t give a damn about global warming, when the world does care, and going against the wishes of our oil executives, proves how stupid they are. Oilmen think we are going to see a lot oilmen leave some have been working more and more in Texas and New Mexico.

    Gee what surprise the delay of the report to prove foreign corporations are attacking our oil industry has just been extended again, apparently they couldn’t prove it was Bigfoot.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      May 20th, 2021

      It would be a very good horror movie title. Horrific Mess. The UCP have certainly created a horrific mess for Alberta.

      Reply
  12. Just Me

    May 19th, 2021

    When is a tax not a tax?

    When it’s called …

    A user-fee

    A price-adjustment at retail sale

    A levy

    A duty

    A tariff

    A duty-levy

    A duty-tariff

    *From the book of CON Con-isms.

    Reply
  13. Alan K. Spiller

    May 19th, 2021

    The carbon tax we had was working fine and was putting some money in the pockets of seniors who needed it. It has been working in Sweden since 1991 and hasn’t put anyone in financial ruin as the people told me when I was there. These reformers want us to believe that it’s going to financially destroy all of us.
    It doesn’t make any since in bashing the carbon tax that was actually helping some people but ignore the stupid fees that Klein’s deregulation added to our power and gas bills

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      May 20th, 2021

      ALAN K. SPILLER: You are correct. How are so many Albertans not aware as to what has been going on? They were giving praises to Ralph Klein, while he made it harder for everyday Albertans. Utility costs went up, the poor and the seniors were struggling, nurses and teachers were given pink slips, hospitals weren’t looked after, infrastructure wasn’t looked after, the environment wasn’t respected, so much money was wasted on shenanigans, and poor tax policies and the worst oil royalty rates left Alberta poorer. We had political parties like the Wildrose, and now the UCP, who were exalting Ralph Klein, thinking he was wonderful. There was nothing wonderful about what Ralph Klein has done, and there is nothing wonderful about what the UCP are doing, because they are behaving like Ralph Klein was. I don’t know how Albertans are going to be able to put up with what the UCP are doing, for much longer. As time goes on, the UCP are doing more damage.

      Reply

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