Alberta Politics
Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s news conference on referendums (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Confronting reality, Kenney Government puts off plans for referendums on grabbing CPP, creating provincial police force

Posted on July 16, 2021, 2:17 am
7 mins

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has dropped his plans for referendums on taking over the Canada Pension Plan and replacing the RCMP with an easier-to-control provincial police force. 

For now. 

Finance Minister Travis Toews at yesterday’s news conference (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

But these two unpopular remnants of Stephen Harper’s notorious sovereignist Firewall Letter in 2001 will likely live on as long as the former Conservative prime minister, sent packing by Canadian voters in 2015, remains the éminence grise of the Alberta government.

At a news conference yesterday morning, Albertans learned they would get to vote only on Mr. Kenney’s meaningless referendum to change Canada’s Constitution to permit the national equalization program to be dismantled, which ain’t gonna happen, and on whether or not they’d like to have permanent daylight savings time.

The referendums, along with Alberta’s constitutionally questionable and easily ignored Senate candidate selection vote, will be held during Alberta’s province-wide municipal elections, which are scheduled to take place on Oct. 18.

The votes will cost millions – an interesting spending priority for a government that pleads poverty to roll back nurses’ and other health care workers’ salaries, despite their sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. At least if Albertans want to send Mr. Kenney a message to stop wasting money on meaningless Senate votes, they can cast a ballot for Duncan Kinney, the only Senate abolition candidate.

Given the UCP’s difficulties lately reading the room, though, even this small amount of caution was mildly surprising.

The polling on the CPP takeover, which Mr. Kenney seems to want so badly he can almost taste it, must have been spectacularly terrible to stay his hand. 

Still, Finance Minister Travis Toews made it clear the government isn’t giving up on the idea of turning the CPP into a giant slush fund to prop up fossil fuel industry in the face of global recognition that planetary heating is an actual thing.

Senate abolition candidate Duncan Kinney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“It’s critically important that we do our work to ensure that Albertans are well informed, so that they can make a well-informed choice when we take this to referendum,” Mr. Toews told the news conference. 

“We look forward to putting this important decision on the table when the time is right,” he was quoted saying in the government’s news release.

Translation: They’d elect the NDP for sure if we dared to try a stunt like this right now. We’ll gin up some propaganda and see if we can fool them later. In the meantime, this’ll keep the separatist loons in caucus quiet. 

Meanwhile, Premier Kenney sounded very much like a fellow trying to think of a way to steal a hot stove when he mused about only allowing voters likely to agree with him to vote on the policing referendum.

“One possibility would be to invite only Albertans who are policed by the RCMP and who would be directly affected by this to vote on it,” the premier said, sending jaws plummeting all across the province. “I think a strong argument can be made that it’s only those who would be directly affected who should have the ultimate say.”

Former prime minister Stephen Harper (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister).

For a man who says he’s devoted to preventing the cancellation of history, it’s astonishing Mr. Kenney seems to have missed the phrase no taxation without representation, as the expensive scheme to set up a provincial rural police force would certainly have to be bankrolled by urban taxpayers.

Well, as we say so often in Alberta these days, you can’t make this stuff up. 

And despite the premier’s assertion that “they both hold enormous potential for a stronger and more prosperous Alberta,” it’s hard to see how either handing Albertans’ retirement savings to a management company with a history of mediocre performance or setting up an expensive vanity police force would have that effect. 

Nevertheless, the government is willing to spend supposedly limited taxpayer funds to hire consultants to write reports to promote these dubious schemes.

As for the equalization referendum, its success depends on the widespread misapprehension of how equalization works in Canada – something the UCP government does nothing to correct and often encourages. Hint: Equalization payments come from all Canadian taxpayers’ federal income taxes.

Mr. Kenney tacitly admits the vote will be meaningless by claiming a positive outcome will “maximize our leverage as we fight for a fair deal on all fronts and fight for a strong Alberta economy.”

So, what’s the actual leverage here? That the UCP will bring Drew Barnes back into the fold and move on to outright threats of separation? 

The question proposed seems to be intended to let Premier Kenney off the hook for having been a senior cabinet minister in the Conservative federal government that drafted the current equalization formula: “Should Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 – Parliament and the Government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments – be removed from the Constitution?”

In other words, don’t blame me for Alberta’s economic problems, blame the constitution. This is misdirection at best. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney demands in effect that other Canadians pay for Alberta’s irresponsible low-tax policy and poor economic planning. This may keep the UCP’s base happy here in Wild Rose Country, but it’s unlikely to do much for Alberta or Albertans.

22 Comments to: Confronting reality, Kenney Government puts off plans for referendums on grabbing CPP, creating provincial police force

  1. Dave

    July 16th, 2021

    Yeah, CPP and provincial police will have to wait for now, while Kenney tries to figure out a way to make them more popular or how to disenfranchise enough skeptical voters, or perhaps some combination of both.

    Ironically they would actually be more meaningful questions to ask than about a constitution one province can’t change unilaterally or a Senate seat no province has the power to fill.

    So, the UCP seems to gravitate towards the more meaningless symbolism lately. I suppose it may provide some distraction from real things that do make a difference. Funny the supposed populists never had a referendum on whether we wanted to put a billion and a half or so into a politically doomed pipeline project.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    July 16th, 2021

    The last thing we need is an Alberta Pension Plan (APP). The UCP were shoddy at handling pension money through AIMCo, and lost $4 billion of it this way. For around 13 years, AIMCo was also looking after the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. The UCP lost close to $2 billion dollars from that fund money. Teachers in Alberta had their pensions taken over by the UCP and it was put into AIMCo. Why would Albertans trust the UCP to look after the pensions of Alberta? Remember the head honcho of the UCP happened to be in the CPC cabinet, and the income trust fund disaster happened. $35 billion of people’s life savings was never to be seen from again. An Alberta provincial police force is a ludicrous idea. It will increase municipal property taxes very much. The head honcho of the UCP happens to be under investigation by the R.C.M.P for election related shenanigans, and wants to avoid punishment and prosecution. A referendum on equalization is so senseless. It’s a big waste of money, and it shows the head honcho of the UCP is absent minded about something that he had a hand in reformulation, when he was part of team Stephen Harper and the CPC. It is also a pathetic and weak deflection on the UCP’s continual path of financial destruction and shady ways. Also, if the conservatives in Alberta continued to get the oil royalty rates, and tax rates that Peter Lougheed was ensuring we got, and were not doing very pricey shenanigans, the province wouldn’t be in the precarious predicament it is now in. Hundreds of billions of dollars isn’t there, due to bad oil royalty rates, the abandoned oil wells issue, losses from very abysmal corporate tax policies, and the most pricey blunders. This is what Alberta gets when pretend conservatives are put in charge.

    Reply
  3. Tom in Ontario

    July 16th, 2021

    “…Finance Minister Travis Toews made it clear the government isn’t giving up on the idea of the turning into the CPP into a giant slush fund to prop up the fossil fuel industry…”

    Maybe UCP readers of albertapolitics.ca could assist me in learning more about their pension scheme. Let’s imagine I worked for three years in Wild Rose Country, all the while paying into the CPP. Under the proposed Alberta Pension Plan, would I be forced to withdraw my three years of CPP contributions and fork them over to the Alberta plan? Would I have enough credits to qualify for a pension in Alberta? If so, would the payout be the same as if I were still a member of the CPP for those three years? Would my CPP have to be reduced because it had lost that money? Could I tell Jason Kenney, Finance Minister Toews the rest of the brain trust to take their Alberta Pension Plan and stuff it down the nearest abandoned oil well?

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      July 16th, 2021

      “…and stuff [the APP scheme] down the nearest abandoned oil well”. At least there, Kenney’s idiotic plan might do some good by reducing a methane leak.

      Reply
  4. Bob Raynard

    July 16th, 2021

    Mr. Kenney might be on to something with his idea of only counting some people’s votes. For the equalization vote I propose a qualifying question: Does the Alberta government write a cheque to Ottawa for its equalization payments? Then if people can’t answer it correctly they clearly don’t know enough about the topic for their vote to matter.

    Reply
  5. Just Me

    July 16th, 2021

    You know, the funniest thing about Premier Crying & Screaming Midget is that he’s kind of ADHD when it comes to leading.

    On the one hand, he’s all filled with powerful resolve and Churchillian bluster when he’s determined to get what he wants. But the second he gets a whiff that he’s about to get run over, he turns tail and gets a cautious and thoughtful, like an adult. No wonder his base doesn’t trust him.

    The Wilberforce Project threw their lot behind Kenney when he sent the right messaging to them about defending their pro-life public policy agenda (Meaning defending the rights of the pre-born and to hell with everything else.) Can the Wilberforce Project trust a premier who can’t decide whether he’s going to commit to their cause or not? I wouldn’t if I were them.

    One wonders what the O & G industry is thinking about their boy Kenney right now? Kenney has made a lot of promising to this industry, including solving their financing situation with pension funds. Now that Kenney has decided to can his determined resolve on this issue, is there any reason for them to trust him now?

    Reply
  6. Just Me

    July 16th, 2021

    You know, the funniest thing about Premier Crying & Screaming Midget is that he’s kind of ADHD when it comes to leading.

    On the one hand, he’s all filled with powerful resolve and Churchillian bluster when he’s determined to get what he wants. But the second he gets a whiff that he’s about to get run over, he turns tail and gets a cautious and thoughtful, like an adult. No wonder his base doesn’t trust him.

    The Wilberforce Project threw their lot behind Kenney when he sent the right messaging to them about defending their pro-life public policy agenda (Meaning defending the rights of the pre-born and to hell with everything else.) Can the Wilberforce Project trust a premier who can’t decide whether he’s going to commit to their cause or not? I wouldn’t if I were them.

    One wonders what the O & G industry is thinking about their boy Kenney right now? Kenney has made a lot of promises to this industry, including solving their financing situation with pension funds. Now that Kenney has decided to can his determined resolve on this issue, is there any reason for them to trust him now?

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      July 16th, 2021

      I suspect that the small-time guys in Calgary (you know, the ones who got rich selling oil companies to each other while Ralph Klein was king) are bitter, and inclined to blame their court jester, Jason the Worst, for not keeping his side of the deal.

      (“Which deal?” This one, reported by Scott Harold Payne in January 2021:
      https://scottharoldpayne.com/the-end-of-alberta-conservatism/ )

      Naturally the oil guys blame Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley as the cause of all their problems. Jason is #3 on their list, I suspect. He should be Petroleum Enemy #1, according to this (2020) editorial by Markham Hislop.

      https://energi.media/markham-on-energy/kenney-ucp-may-be-worst-energy-government-in-alberta-history-well-done-sir/

      (In April of 2020, Mr. Hislop believed Kenney’s gamble of $1.5B cash and $6B promises to TC Energy for the Keystone XL pipeline looked less risky than it did some five months later. I didn’t agree then, but hindsight is always 20-20.)

      The bitumen CEOs might be a bit more forgiving these days, now that Kenney has rushed through his corporate tax cut—reducing the rate from 12 to 8% in one year instead of four. This left Cenovus et al way more liquid cash to speed up the automation programs—which cut 11,000+ jobs from the O&G sector in 2020 (as per Hislop). But Kenney’s bombast hurt them much more often than it helped.

      I haven’t heard any cries of outrage from Cenovus et al, or even from CAPP, but I’d bet there will be a LOT of lobbying to keep Kenney from beaking off about oil and pipelines for the next while.

      Reply
  7. Abs

    July 16th, 2021

    So here’s a question: why is the referendum giving us a choice between seasonal MDT and permanent MDT? A real choice would be between seasonal MDT and permanent MST. Why on earth would Albertans want to align themselves permanently to Saskatchewan time, making us two hours ahead of B.C.? Albertans have far more ties to B.C., as many more people travel and vacation there. Many B.C. border towns align themselves to Alberta time now, but that would probably end if the time difference increased to two hours. Surely more than 4.4 M people in Alberta do not have to make this shift because of little Lloydminster, population 19,645 on the Alberta side of the border. Lloydminster has done just fine in the past, when we did have permanent MST. In short, I think this whole question is a distraction. I will vote “no” to Saskatchewan time.

    In the meantime, I am laser-focused on the number of civic election candidates who have tax cuts as their key platform issue. This has a distinct UCP ring to it. Will we see kamikaze candidates in our October civic elections?

    Speaking of October, Quebec always comes to mind. Why did Jason Kenney threaten to take child care away from the parents of Quebec yesterday?

    As reported on Twitter by Tom Ross of 660 News:

    “Help us help you,” Kenney says to Quebec, calls on them to “get out of the way” on things like pipelines.

    Says if Quebec wants to keep it’s “subsidized day care” it better play more fair.

    Are the pancake breakfasts starting to get to him? Too much sun and wildfire smoke? A man who wants to punish children for pipelines is not a man I’d want in charge of my child’s education and school curriculum. Kenney has no power to remove child care from Quebecers, as it happens, but the problem is that he thinks this way. Is it really appropriate to taunt a cultural minority like this, hot on the heels of the news about residential schools that devastated the children of another cultural minority? Children are not instruments of retaliation, not in 2021, anyways. Kenney certainly doesn’t let sensitive issues get in the way of shooting off his mouth.

    Speaking of only allowing people directly affected by an issue to have a say in matters, how does a childless, single Anglo think he gets to pull the plug on child care in another province? Surely a childless man pulling the plug on subsidized child care in his own province is a step too far…and he has done that, folks, right here in Alberta!

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      July 16th, 2021

      ABS, I personally favour permanent Mountain Standard Time. It worked fine up until the early ‘70s, when Daylight Saving Time was imported from the US. DST itself was tolerable, more or less, until George W. Bush tried to save the world from global warming. He did it by adding four weeks to DST. That was in his second term, I think, 2000 or 2001.

      DST year-round would be worse than the changeover, I believe, because it’s harder to adapt to waking up in the dark—and DST in December and January would add an hour of darkness before sunrise. It’s depressing enough already.

      But when Notley’s government asked what Albertans preferred, the response was split between MST and permanent DST. So Notley dropped it.

      Now, true to form, Kenney has eliminated the good decision and presented two others—“bad” and “worse.”

      Reply
  8. DugSlug

    July 16th, 2021

    So by Dear Leader’s logic, as a resident of Edmonton I am not required to pay speeding tickets issued by the RCMP anywhere in rural Alberta – only those I get directly from Edmonton Police. Asking for a friend…

    Reply
  9. Carlos

    July 16th, 2021

    After all the scandals and incompetence we have gone through since these ineptocrats took over and they keep trying to push the envelope when not even 30% cares about what they think. All i care about the UCP is when they are leaving and if they do not I WILL

    Reply
  10. Sheldon

    July 16th, 2021

    Imagine the referendum receives strong support and the whole country gets on board and s 32(6) is removed from the constitution. The federal government will continue to tax it citizens at the same rate. If equalization is abolished then the federal government will have an extra 20 billion or so to spend. None of this will happen, but if it did it would hurt the provinces currently receiving equalization payments and do nothing to help Alberta.

    Our Premier is like a magician who waves around his right hand so the crowd fails to notice what is happening in his left hand. An equalization referendum is a distraction to keep the public from noticing the UCP government diligent efforts to undermine the lives of every day Albertans. Fight with Doctors and Nurses, allow strip mining on the Eastern Slopes, spend 1.3 billion for a pipeline that doesn’t exist, spend hundreds of million to buy out a private companies upgrader shares, reduce corporate taxes on profitable companies by a billions a year and so much more.

    The equalization referendum is the red cape being waved in our faces so we forgot how the government is gutting our future.

    We can send a message to our Premier by voting to keep the principle of equalization in the constitution. If the public refuses to be distracted and votes against the Premier’s attempt to distract us we will let him know we won’t be fooled again. And there will be one less issue for the Premier to needlessly fight with the federal government instead of working to improve Albertans lives.

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      July 18th, 2021

      Sadly, the UCP base is easily distracted.

      I too intend to vote “no” to the equalization referendum–although I’m going to read the question VERY carefully to make sure they don’t weasel-word it so “no” means “yes.”

      We can send Kenney a second message, with the other useless referendum. Let’s all vote for Duncan Kinney for senator-in-waiting. Follow the link that DJC provided to Kinney’s web site. It’s worth visiting.

      Reply
  11. karl roth

    July 16th, 2021

    In a way i’m glad that Kenny and the UCP are an amazingly dunderheaded and maladroit clown show. They certainly aren’t winning many new converts and my guess is they’re driving away many fence sitters and those that vote conservative out of habit. (apparently there’s nothing that will move rural voters from voting conservative)
    Alberta isn’t the same place it used to be, at least not in Edmonton, Calgary and the bigger centers where 81% of the population of AB live. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Alberta#:~:text=Approximately%2081%25%20of%20the%20population,Canada's%20four%20most%20urban%20regions.

    To any reasonable or reasoning person Kenny et al. are so obviously and thoroughly incompetent and incapable of governing this province that they are a cautionary example of why not to vote conservative . . . period.
    Importantly, it affects the Federal conservatives by influencing how they are perceived by voters across Canada.

    Until the right wing whack job, republican influenced, free market fundamentalist and hard line social “conservatives” leave the Federal conservatives they’re going to have a tough time and Kenny/UCP is making it tougher.

    This largely Harperite gang isn’t leaving, where else are they gunna go and have a chance at being in power ?

    sadly, all this at what cost to Albertans. siGh

    Reply
  12. St albertan

    July 17th, 2021

    I ran across this the other day in the Washington Post. I’m not sure if people who don’t subscribe will be able to see this, so I’ll post some quotes from it if I can figure out (more likely get my grandson to) how to do it. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/15/canada-conservative-party-erin-o-toole-shambles/ Now my caring family members will copy and paste here some highlights. I think they mean that the dumb side of the Harper regime has delivered a death blow. Manitoba is desperate. Ontario is praying. Alberta? Well from where I sit (most of every day now) Jason Kenny has been the polar opposite of what they needed. From the original “And while Harper managed to unite, govern and lead a quarrelsome group to victory, there’s no indication that anyone since him has the same capacity — or will anytime soon. The current leader isn’t helped by unpopular, incompetent leadership by conservative premiers in Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba.”

    Reply
    • St Albertan

      July 17th, 2021

      It’s been pointed out to me (by my ever patient grandson and daughter) that if I have more to say I should say what I have in mind before the “enter” button is pressed. Well, I have at my age a lot to say! I want an outside neutral party to explain to me why owning rail capacity after Bidens rejection of Tump’s approval was a bad call? Kenny broke that rail car deal before Keystone X was cancelled, even though it was the perfect hedge.

      Reply
      • Dave McCormick

        July 18th, 2021

        Being from BC, I think I might qualify as being “an outside party”, but I can’t really claim to be “neutral” when it comes to Kenney or more fossil fuel development…..(almost full disclosure)… But my observation is that Kenney took that action cancelling the rail car deal in clear violation of the standard long-honoured edict that one shalt not count those chickens before they are hatched, or, in Jason’s case, even laid. Shooting off his mouth isn’t the only thing Jason seems to do “from the hip”.

        Reply
        • St Albertan

          July 20th, 2021

          I am glad that someone replies to me. I might mount a rebuttal, but I only want some small acknowledgement that all that effort to mine all that value meant something. I spent my life doing it.

          Reply
  13. jerrymacgp

    July 18th, 2021

    On the subject of the RCMP versus a new Alberta provincial police force, I wonder why nobody here — neither our host nor any of the other commenters — seems to be examining the matter from the perspective of “defund the police” or the broader policy question of whether the RCMP should retain its contract policing role in the provinces. We are all so disturbed by the prospect of Jason Kenney potentially having what is essentially his own private army for the suppression of dissent, that we aren’t seeing the national picture.

    If the RCMP withdraws — or, more likely, dragged kicking & screaming — from contract policing, Alberta will need to form its own provincial police force for rural areas and smaller cities without their own municipal forces, referendum or not.

    https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/rcmp-facing-systemic-sustainability-challenges-due-to-provincial-policing-role-1.4952188

    https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/june-2021/time-to-rethink-the-rcmp/

    https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-rcmp-is-broken/

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rcmp-contract-policing-defund-1.5626544

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rcmp-racism-report-committee-1.6068970

    Reply
  14. David Grant

    July 18th, 2021

    As per usual, I agree with David C’s analysis and our “sense of victimhood” seems to keep blinding us searching for meaningful solutions to our current situation. The fact Albertans don’t really understand(or don’t want to understand)the current realities is truly mind-boggling. In terms of the future referendum, I might vote for Duncan Kenney on this one even though I don’t think a reformed senate that is based on proportional representation is a good idea. As long as we reform our system that will be enough.

    Reply

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