Alberta Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

In the Westminster Parliamentary system, the Throne Speech is supposed to set out the government’s direction, goals and policy for a new session of the legislature. 

The one read by Alberta Lieutenant-Governor Salma Lakhani in the provincial Legislature in Edmonton yesterday appears to have been written for the next 45 days.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

That is, up to April 9, when Premier Jason Kenney faces his fractious and unhappy party, down in the polls and displeased with his performance, at a leadership review in Red Deer. 

After that, it may require some revisions if the United Conservative Party hopes to form government again.

In the meantime, Mr. Kenney will stand or fall on the decision of the UCP’s raging, religious, reactionary rural MLAs – so they and their supporters got a lot of what they wanted in yesterday’s Throne Speech, and they’ll likely get it in tomorrow’s Budget too.

The Throne Speech emphasized policies at the core of the ideological dogma of the hard right, with something to please dominionist Christian evangelicals, market fundamentalist privatizers, cryptocurrency and financial deregulation nuts, and even would-be Alberta separatists. 

According to the speech, the UCP is still determined to grab your Canada Pension Plan and replace it with an Alberta pension easier to use as play money. The dream of a more-pliable provincial police force to replace the RCMP lives on as well.

Both those ideas come straight from the pages of the notorious Firewall Manifesto penned by Stephen Harper, Ted Morton, Tom Flanagan and a handful of their less memorable sovereignist pals that was sensibly tossed in the recycling bin by premier Ralph Klein back in 2001. 

However, the wording of this part of the speech was vague enough to allow a strategic retreat if opposition is strong enough. “Consultations will be completed on the prospect of an Alberta Provincial Police Force and the government will continue to examine a possible Alberta Pension Plan as potential reforms to strengthen the province.”

Former Alberta premier, now Opposition leader, Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Nowadays Mr. Harper is the ideological éminence grise of the Kenney Government, so it’s no surprise the party’s roadmap includes a couple of schemes to try to undermine the Liberal federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

It’s mildly ironic that back when he was prime minister, Mr. Harper would have tolerated neither the speech’s plan to pressure his government to accept Alberta’s “elected” senators nor to reopen constitutional negotiations on Canada’s equalization formula. 

Taken at face value, the Throne Speech calls for extensive privatization of health care through “chartered surgical facilities in order to reduce wait times that have grown during COVID” to be the government’s first priority of the session.

“Our surgical reform initiative will more than double the number of surgeries that Alberta performs in private surgical facilities,” Mr. Kenney said revealingly a few days ago in a far-right online publication. “They will be publicly insured, but they won’t be union-run hospitals.” (Emphasis added.) 

This, of course, won’t reduce wait times unless Mr. Kenney can figure out a way to clone surgeons – although that hardly matters since the true objective, as Mr. Kenney admitted, is to undermine public health care. 

But with enough money up front, it may appear to work well enough in the short run to fool a few voters, so this policy could survive after April 9. 

Ammolite, soon to be our new provincial gemstone – count your blessings (Photo: Wikipedia).

It will also, of course, open the deep pockets of private medical services companies to the dark-money PACs the UCP will need if it is to overcome its lagging fund-raising effort compared to that of the Opposition NDP. 

A personal hobbyhorse of the premier is splintering education, with more public money for private and religious schools and less for public schools. This too got ink in the Throne Speech.

The speech also signals Mr. Kenney’s long dreamed-of frontal assault on the Alberta Teachers Association. A new law “will ensure that investigations into teacher misconduct are conducted by an independent body, ending the conflict of interest which allows the union representing teachers to regulate its own members,” it promises.

This will infuriate the ATA now, but in the long run it will lead to the creation of a militant teachers’ union that is sure to be more of thorn in the side of future governments than the ATA ever was, with its comfortable relationships with successive Progressive Conservative governments. 

There will also be plenty of cash for oil patch boondoggles like “clean hydrogen energy” and “carbon capture,” especially if the federal government can be bullied into the bankrolling them.

Former premier Rachel Notley, now the leader of the NDP Opposition, criticized the government for being “focused on their friends, their political grudges and doubling down on their failed policies that have cost us countless jobs, that failed us during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has piled cost after cost onto Alberta families.”

The speech offers no help for Albertans struggling with soaring electricity bills, auto insurance, income taxes, property taxes, school fees, post-secondary tuition and interest on student debt, she noted. 

“Albertans cannot trust the UCP with health care,” Ms. Notley continued. “And when it comes to schools, we see nothing to support public education at the same time they are moving to make a massive shift to private education.”

On the plus side, though, we’ll get a shiny new official gemstone: Ammolite. It’s said here that iron pyrite – better known as Fool’s Gold – might be more appropriate, but let’s take our blessings where we find them! 

And remember, thanks in no small part to the Vladimir Putin, oil prices are up right now – possibly not for long, but perhaps long enough for Mr. Kenney and the UCP to make sufficient unreasonably optimistic forecasts after April 9 to sell their re-election bid. 

A word on the quality of UCP speechwriting 

One of the unexpected benefits of Alberta’s NDP government from 2015 to 2019 was that documents like throne speeches and budget speeches sounded like they were written by adults. 

The UCP has been slipping back toward the purple prose characteristic of the Klein years in Alberta, when throne and budget speeches sounded as if they were the work of someone’s beloved 11-year-old grandchild who thought Alberta was the very, very best place in the whole wide world. 

Lt.-Gov. Lakhani must have burned with shame to read the florid peroration of today’s effort, which was immediately subject to a certain amount of well-earned mockery on social media. 

“Prosperity and opportunity are returning to Alberta. There is space again for big dreams – the kind of dreams that thrive where the prairies meet the mountains. Where opportunities are limitless and everyone’s full potential can be achieved.

“The clouds are breaking and the sun is starting to shine through.

“A stronger and more resilient Alberta awaits for all of us.

“God save the Queen, and may God bless Alberta.”

And may God preserve us from drivel like that! 

Remember, it’s not Ms. Lakhani’s fault. The Speech from the Throne may be read by the vice-regal personage, but it is written by the commoners in the Premier’s Office.

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18 Comments

  1. Nothing like an impending deadline with ones fate in the balance to focus the mind. So, Kenney now is very focused on saying what those in the UCP, whose support he needs, would like to hear.

    Of course, how much of all this Kenney really means is anyone’s guess. At one time he seemed passionate about a grassroots guarantee to his party as well, or perhaps that was just acting. Also, the weasily language like consultations, conveniently provides him with an out, if this stuff later proves too unpopular with voters in general. At least Kenney did not say he was a true Blue Conservative one day and then turn into something quite different the next. He is a bit more savvy at maintaining some image of consistency with his party.

    I suppose how successful Kenney is in 45 days partly rests on if his party is willing to give him another chance not to mess up. As for expecting the Feds to bankroll some of his grand ideas, I suspect he will have to drop his legal actions and overall belligerence against them first.

  2. Anyone with even an ounce of common sense knows what the UCP are up to, and it isn’t any good. The UCP will do even more very pricey shenanigans and also do what Ralph Klein wanted to do, with the privatization of health care in Alberta. The UCP, like their hero, Ralph Klein, loves supporting their rich corporate friends, and shafting Albertans with bad oil royalty rates, and bad corporate tax rates, but Albertans struggling to get by, and preserving our essential public services just aren’t their concern. Alberta is out $575 billion from these bad oil royalty rates, and is also out $150 billion from the bad corporate tax rates, and bad tax policies, as well as being $260 billion more in the hole to deal with the abandoned oil wells situation in Alberta, all caused by Ralph Klein. If anyone recalls, the head honcho of the UCP was part of Team Harper’s cabinet, and the income trust boondoggle happened. $35 billion dollars of people’s life savings just disappeared forever. The UCP also made $4 billion of people’s pension money disappear forever. I wouldn’t trust the UCP to have an Alberta Pension Plan. More money for carbon capture. The Alberta PCs threw away $2 billion on that. Alberta did have a premier that was very identical to Peter Lougheed, with Rachel Notley. Getting the right oil royalty rates, the proper corporate tax rates, and preserving our essential public services, like Peter Lougheed did, is the best way to go. The y won’t do that, but Rachel Notley and the NDP would. These phony conservatives and Reformers simply aren’t there for the benefit of Albertans. The Governor General’s throne speech resembled poetry, more than anything else. It seemed like scripted platitudes from the UCP.

  3. As is the fashion these days, there was a substantial protest outside the Legislature while the Throne Speech was delivered. The only difference this time is that the bulk of the protesters were likely UCP voters. There is nothing angrier than a mob that was cheated by a bait n’switch stunt. Judging by the content of the Speech, there is a lot more bait n’switch coming from Kenney’s bunch.

    Of course, the Speech paid lip service to the usual tropes, like the unwavering UCP base of religious fanatics and fundamentalist ideologues always demanding the government reshape Alberta to fit their own narrow world view. Kenney is perfectly happy to comply, because votes are good, however they are got. And there’s the O & G — even with record prices, they are still crying poor and coming cap in hand for more of what no one can afford. And Kenney is perfect happy to go along with this as well, because donations are good and only stupid people have kids these days. (And kids don’t vote, anyway.)

    Now that it’s inevitable that Brian Jean will be joining the UCP caucus after the March by-election, everything Kenney does will serve to quiet the opposition within the UCP. He’s not so much a premier as much as he’s a waiter. Of course, Kenney will become indignant about not getting the respect he feels he was born too, and demand Jean show fealty to Kenney’s mastery of the Universe. Oh, and PMJT is the real enemy, anyway.

    The weeks leading up to Kenney’s leadership review will be tense, as there are plenty who believe Kenney has rigged the game. I suspect that there will be a Trucker Convoy in Red Deer on that day, just to let Kenney know that he really is hated by his base. And he’ll blame Trudeau for everything, because that’s his default — as well as everyone else’s position. It’s for that reason that things will not be that cut and dried during or after the review. The UCP likes Kenney, but they hate Kenney as well. If Kenney has a successful review, the opposition to Kenney within the UCP will still exist. And even then he will still try to save his hide by blaming Trudeau and promoting his usually insane demands on Ottawa.

    At some point, the inevitable with have to sink into the Alberta mindset that everyone blames Alberta for the blockades and the province is universally hated, regardless of the flowery nonsense mentioned in the Throne Speech, about Alberta being God’s blessed backyard, or some shite Kenney dreamed up, while bingeing on his mountain of cough syrup down at the Sky Palace.

  4. The Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) is not a union, at least not by BC and Ontario standards.
    The concept of not having teachers investigate teachers for professional misconduct was passed by the nefarious ‘Liberal’ government in BC about 18 years ago, with the same intentions – to make the government created wedge between the BC Teachers’ Federation and the public a little bigger; and to piss the union off. Note: the tactic of alienating the teachers from the public back-fired.
    What was surprising, is that the other professional colleges in BC, at the time ( ie. The College of Physicians and Surgeons did not express concern publicly. But, the BCTF was the only organization affected, perhaps because they became a Union when SoCred Bill van der Zalm was Premier in the late’80’s.
    DJF

    1. Let’s talk about the ATA, and profession-led self-regulation — a topic I know something about, having spent a total of seven years over two terms on the governing board of one such regulatory body under the Health Professions Act, including two years as its chair.

      There are three distinct “swim lanes” to consider. There’s regulation of the profession in the public interest; there’s advocacy for the profession and support for its practitioners in terms of continuing education and so on; and there’s collective bargaining and labour relations, which may include representing individual practitioners in their relations with their employers. Not all such professions do the full-on labour relations thing — lawyers, for example, are rarely employees, and set their own fees.

      How those three swim lanes are distributed does vary; for lawyers, the professional association and the regulatory body may be separate organizations; neither bargains collectively. For physicians and dentists, the regulatory body is separate but the professional association also bargains collectively for fees, so it partially occupies the swim lane that would normally by occupied by a union. In Nursing, unions have been separate from regulatory bodies & professional associations since the 1970s and a Saskatchewan high court decision mandating that the RN Association, whose membership also includes management nurses, could not continue as the bargaining agent. More recently, there has been a growing trend across Canada since the early 2010s to divide the regulatory and professional association functions in all health disciplines, based on a perception amongst both the public and in government that an organization cannot do both with integrity. The latest development on this front in Alberta is the recent evolution of what was the College & Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA), this province’s largest health regulator, into a pure College, CRNA, and the creation of an Alberta Association of Nurses to take on the professional association role. Then, of course, there is United Nurses of Alberta, our host’s day job employer.

      https://www.nurses.ab.ca/

      https://albertanursing.ca/

      https://www.una.ca/

      So, how is this relevant to the ATA? Well, almost uniquely, the ATA simultaneously swims in all three lanes. It is the professional regulatory body for the teaching profession, it is the professional association for Alberta’s K-12 educators, and it is the collective bargaining agent for unionized teachers. The organization claims to keep its regulatory and union roles clearly separated, and that may even be true, but given the trend in professional regulation in recent years, you don’t have to be an anti-union teacher-hating UCP nutter to believe, as I do, that it is unhealthy for the ATA to keep all three roles. I think it is past time for teachers to be regulated by a separate College or equivalent body.

      The ATA can probably continue to keep the association & union functions, since Principals and Vice-Principals are union members not “management”, but the protection of the public against those few teachers that are offside with professional conduct needs to be a distinct role carried out by an autonomous organization.

  5. I’ve got a great idea drive the doctors out of the province by accusing them of being over paid, then when you’ve created this delayed surgeries mess by the way the COVID situation was handled increase the cost of health care for the people with privatization, while he slashes corporate taxes to benefit his rich friends. I wonder how stupid Kenney thinks we are? None of us are dumb enough to believe that there will be no increase cost to patients. The money has to come from somewhere.

    When Klein tried to pull this stunt a retired doctor pointed out that it was a great way to take the public health care system away from the public and put it into the hands of the rich, you can bet it won’t be long before the money comes out of their own pockets, creating a nightmare for the rest of us and a much longer wait time. It will also destroy the public health care in rural Alberta . Doctors will never stay in rural Alberta if they can make a lot more money in these private clinics and hospitals in the cities.

    1. ALAN K. SPILLER: It’s easy to put two and two together for certain people, including me. You will recall how Ralph Klein didn’t look after rural hospitals in Alberta so well. There were ones that were either shut down, or others were so poorly maintained. Ralph Klein’s cuts to healthcare in Alberta was to foster the excuse that the healthcare system in Alberta is broken, and that we must privatize it. As I recall, the UCP had created a highly paid Blue Ribbon Panel, stacked with all their pretend conservative and Reformer friends. Janice MacKinnon was among them. She was an MLA and cabinet minister, under the Roy Romanow NDP administration in Saskatchewan. The NDP government there had to try and rectify the intensive and extensive financial damage done by Grant Devine’s PC government. In an attempt to fix up the financial picture for Saskatchewan, Janice MacKinnon looked west to Alberta and saw what Ralph Klein was doing, with his slash and burn style of austerity. Mike Harris, the PC premier of Ontario, was doing something similar, with very harsh cuts, which also cost people their lives. Janice MacKinnon got the rural hospitals in Saskatchewan shut down. These Ralph Klein style slash and burn austerity measures ended the NDP’s rule in Saskatchewan. The head honcho of the UCP wants to find a way to privatize healthcare in Alberta, and that’s blatantly obvious why he put Janice MacKinnon on his Blue Ribbon Panel. This is absolutely shameful, and lacks any sense.

    1. DFJO The answer is simple. My late father was a Power Plant Engineer and everything he said would happen has happened since Ralph Klein privatized the system. It opened the door for the power industry to gouge the people, just like dad said it would. With Klein’s approval massive fees were added to our bills to help the rich executives become a lot richer. It just so happened that some had been involved with Klein’s phoney Conservative party.

      When Notley was elected she put a cap on the amount we could be charged to stop this gouging, and this fool Jason Kenney removed it so he could help his rich friends once again screw the people out of their money and that’s where we are at today.

  6. How can I escape from the constant UCP blather echoed by PostMedia and talk radio? Where in the world can I be free of this constant drip-drip-drip of political drivel? Oh, I know. Tonga! There’s no internet in Tonga! Wait, what’s that you say? They just reconnected Tonga’s internet? Noooooooooooo

  7. So, Alberta spring ??
    Like what was happening outside the doors while the speech was going on. And Jason has now joined Justin on the fflag??
    Glenrose Rehab Hospital will be accepting bitcoin donations –Canadian Blockchain Consortium…. Koleya Karringten=cofounder /CEO of Absolute Combustion ….
    So I don’t understand the “hydro carbon” energy , but is there a correlation here ?

    And I find it “fascinating” that with all the media coverage that JT got for “offensive” remarks, I haven’t heard boo about the ,-.beyond belief – remarks made by Z.Aboultaif , correction, I heard he’s lost two voters for sure, accompanied by some rather colorful language.

    I think there’s finally been an awakening of the general public, to what a seemingly tiny minority ,have been trying to get people’s attention, to what is happening in “OUR ” country ,before we lose it ..Right now I’m not very optimistic, the rabbit hole is a very scary analogy.

  8. Theoretically, in an alternate universe, privatized hospitals could be unionized because of a successful organizing drive and subsequent certification, so I am not sure how Kenney can truthfully claim that they won’t be unionized. But, as usual, he is not being truthful. Rather, he is sending a dog whistle to his base telling them that he is using this strategy to do some union busting of his own. I suspect that privatization of health care and union busting are his main goals, not improving the lives of Albertans by reducing wait times, even if private clinics were an effective solution, which I doubt.

    As for the purple prose in the throne speech, I could not agree more with your analysis, DJC. Absolutely execrable and cringeworthy drivel.

  9. To [sort of] quote George Carlin: “It’s called the {Alberta} dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
    And further, to paraphrase Dr. Foth (Alan Fotheringham), ‘Two rules of Canadian governments: [a] Provincial governments blame Ottawa for all the problems; [b] Provincial governments always squeal for more money from Ottawa.’
    It should be clear now that the system of education the current Alberta government wants is a system that manufactures obedience; which is the best step to get to fascism.

  10. Socialized healthcare has shown its weakness during the pandemic.

    Our current system, paid for primarily by the federal government taxes(eg the tax payers), with a goal of equal healthcare across the country just means that healthcare is underfunded and over salaried.

    Government employees set the price for the salaries of other government employees, who have to dither with fairness and union propaganda and the various levels of government compete for their employees services as well as their votes. The perfect storm for political rent taking, vote buying and salary escalation and nobody losses.

    Except for the tax payer.

    I notice there are few politicians in Canada comparing the US to our system during the pandemic, I wonder why:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-01-06/hospital-bed-shortage-shuts-down-canada-while-u-s-stays-open

    Dont worry, its the progressive media writing it. They love the CDN system and of course they draw their own conclusions that dont make sense, “colectivist ethos” rules all, even though the science doesnt support such a conclusion.

    1. This article really speaks about poor management in the health care system, not whether a single payer public health care system is superior or not. It is really too complex a topic to get into here. But, suffice it to say that were we funding health care at 1980 levels and had the same ratio of ICU beds/100,000 people we would not have found our health care system so stressed.

    2. Alright Bret, let’s see how much more effective the US health care system has been over the Canadian health care system during the Pandemic. The USA has 334 million citizens, Canada has 38 million, a little more than 1/9th that of America. The Americans have had 80 million cases of Covid-19 and approximately 966,000 deaths for a fatality rate of 1.2 percent. Canada has had just under 3.3 million cases (less than 1/20th of the USA) and 36,000 deaths for a fatality rate of 1.1 percent. In other words the mortality rate for both countries’ health care systems are nearly identical. So your criticism of Canada’s health care during the Pandemic is bunk. The statistics I am quoting are for February 24, 2022 from Worldometer.info. If you look at the numbers for the countries in Europe, whose health care systems are quite socialistic you’ll find the UK which recently left the EU had a mortality rate of 0.86, France with 0.61. Countries in the EU can get healthcare anywhere the Shengen Area. Then there’s Norway, the most socialist of them all and not in the EU. I believe they include dental in their health care. With a population slightly larger than that of British Columbia, their Covid-19 mortality rate is 0.13. So it seems the more central government is involved in health care, the better health care is.
      As for boots on the ground, my parents who are in their mid and late ’80s used to winter in the USA for 20 years until February 2020 and our eldest daughter, a former Alberta resident for 9 years who did her MSc at the University of Lethbridge, has been a resident of the US for the past 6 years and is married to an American. Their experiences are that the USA health care system is great if you have the money or your employer takes care of it. It’s not scientific, just an opinion.
      Your unscientific, opinionated rant against the Canadian health care system sounds similar to the whiny, spoiled, wealthy brats who pretend to be self made and are all libertarian when they’ve never had to suffer in life. Our health care system has been under attack since the Mulroney years from the right side of the political spectrum yet it’s the one thing that has kept me and many others Canadian. Take it away and we in Canada become a cheap facsimile of a US state. And I have options to leave while others don’t, so you can take that to the bank.

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