Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s news conference (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

If the United Conservative Party Government was serious about protecting Albertans from soaring fuel prices, it could move to temporarily control the retail price of gasoline and diesel fuel.

Big fuel retailers would scream bloody murder, and market fundamentalist think tanks would suffer the vapours, but there wouldn’t be much they could do about it. Canadian provinces have the power to regulate fuel prices if they choose to use it.

Finance Minister Travis Toews (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

That might not result in Albertans paying much less for fuel over the long term, but it would certainly buffer us from the sudden increase in world oil prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions regime being imposed on Russia by the West.

Instead, Premier Jason Kenney, who with provincial coffers suddenly filling up thanks to circumstances out of Alberta’s control may be warming to the idea of a premature election, has decided to stop collecting the province’s 13-cent-per-litre fuel tax.

“Stopping the provincial fuel tax puts money back in the pockets of Albertans when they need it most,claimed Mr. Kenney, although the biggest impact will be to keep profits flowing into the pockets of fossil fuel companies, a policy unlikely to translate into many new Alberta jobs. 

Appropriately enough, this decision to forgo provincial revenue so that Big Oil can keep its profits intact is set to take effect on April Fools Day. It will continue until the price for West Texas Intermediate crude dips back under $90 US per barrel, the premier promised in his election-style announcement yesterday. 

In addition to being a scaled down Kenney Pennies version of Ralph Klein’s legendary $400 “prosperity bonus” in 2006, the scheme announced yesterday provided a nice opportunity for Mr. Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews to whine about the federal government’s carbon tax, which is scheduled to rise 3 cents to 11 cents on the same day. 

Since the biggest factor by far in the retail cost of fuel in Alberta is the world price of oil – never mind that the crude refined in Alberta comes from right here in Wild Rose Country – blaming carbon taxes for Western Canadian price increases is pretty silly. 

But in addition to giving the UCP a chance to win back a few votes and maybe save Mr. Kenney’s political hide at his upcoming April 9 leadership review in Red Deer, screeching about carbon taxes also co-ordinates nicely with Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre’s campaign to lead the Conservative Party of Canada and move it even further to the right. 

Opposition NDP Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Meanwhile, the NDP Opposition’s response to this suffers from some of the same flaws as the government’s scheme. It essentially endorses the UCP’s policy and calls for more of the same. “The UCP’s latest plan falls well short of what’s needed,” complained Opposition Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley in a news release. 

The NDP put forward an emergency motion in the Legislature calling for the 13-cent-a-litre tax to be suspended immediately instead of waiting for April 1. 

Why not call for a temporary price cap to protect Albertans from the spike in world prices? The stuff comes from here after all, and as Finance Minister Toews lamely pointed out, the government can’t force the fuel retailers not to jack up their prices to transfer all or some of the lost tax revenue directly into corporate profits.

“We’ll be monitoring it,” he promised yesterday’s news conference. “We will put pressure on gas retailers to ensure that they’re passing along this tax saving to consumers.” Seriously, though, no one believes this will actually happen. 

But having endorsed the government’s bad idea, the Opposition isn’t really in a place to criticize it later as the cracks in the plan become more apparent. They own it now, just as much as the government they’re paid to oppose.  

Former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason, now retired (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason observed in a tweet from his Okanagan retirement redoubt: “Oil company price gouging is the issue, not taxes. Alberta needs the revenue to offset the transportation and environmental costs associated with the use of petroleum fuels.” (He was responding to a tweet from NDP infrastructure critic Rod Loyola, which has been deleted.) 

No matter what you’ve concluded from recent polls, the next general election in Alberta won’t be a cakewalk for the NDP. They’re going to need offer up some policy of their own, and not just accept the premises of the UCP’s shaky arguments. 

So how about returning utilities to true public ownership, which would cost less and deliver more than the UCP’s market fundamentalist approach, which is delivering skyrocketing electricity prices?

That would more meaningful and effective than the three months of $50 electricity rebates Mr. Kenney also promised to deliver yesterday. 

It would be a bold and popular policy for a party with a real chance, but no guarantee, of forming government.

Mr. Kenney, this cancel culture nonsense has to stop!

Cancel culture Kenney style (Photo: Screenshot of Twitter.com).

Jason Kenney yesterday: “This cancel culture nonsense has to stop.”

Also Jason Kenney yesterday: You’re cancelled!

The latter cancellation was communicated to dozens, possibly hundreds, of Alberta Twitter users, who were informed that they’d been autoblocked by the premier’s account. 

“You’re autoblocked from viewing and interacting with @jkenney’s Tweets,” the social media company’s message explained. “This happened when they were in Safety Mode, and we flagged your interactions as potentially abusive or spammy.”

“Avoid repetitive, uninvited replies,” Twitter added helpfully/not helpfully. 

Notwithstanding claims by the Premier’s Office that Twitter did the deed, Safety Mode is turned on by the account holder. And pushing that button is pretty cheeky coming from the champions nasty attack tweets, the premier’s “issues managers.”

Needless to say, it is particularly offensive when many governments, including Mr. Kenney’s, use social media as one of their primary ways to communicate with citizens. 

Mr. Kenney: Your cancel culture nonsense has to stop!

CLARIFICATION: The federal carbon tax will rise by about 3 cents to approximately 11 cents on April 1st. A missing word – “to” – left an incorrect impression in an earlier version of this story. DJC

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29 Comments

  1. It is not surprising Kenney and the UCP would resort to rebates to offset sky high energy prices. The higher those prices go, the more the Alberta government can afford the rebates and the more pressure there is to do something.

    However, I am not sure this will wash away Kenney’s well deserved reputation of being a scrooge, earned through years of sincere effort and make him Santa over night. Now to be sure any relief is appreciated, but also prices have risen so much that getting rid of the provincial tax will only get prices back to the already historic high levels they were just days ago. It is like trying to stop the tide from rising. It isn’t even that noticeable.

    An old saying about politics is that events can change things, and so they have again. Recent world events have driven world oil prices to breath taking heights. Of course, it has nothing to do with Alberta. We are once again riding the resource roller coaster we all know so well. The ride up can be as exhilarating, as the downward plunge can be terrifying.

    Unfortunately, Kenney and the UCP have done nothing to prepare us for that downward fall that will inevitably come sooner or later. No diversification of the economy or of government revenue streams.

    We could, like some other Petro states do, instead fix a much lower price for our local consumers than the world price, just as we are able to get by without having a PST because we have oil and gas royalties. However, the problem again comes when prices fall perhaps as sudden and unexpectedly as they rose, maybe because of a truce or a peace agreement in eastern Europe. These events are all beyond Alberta’s control.

    Of course at this point, Kenney is just secretly hoping the battles continue to at least early April. However, he not only has to be Santa, but also a convincing one too. At this point the better bet for the UCP still would be to get someone different, who doesn’t have all the negative austerity baggage from over the last few years.

    1. He did call himself a “potlicker”, which is one of the terrifying Yule Lads, and probably closer to the truth.

  2. I have seen the current price of gas yesterday. It’s was $1.65.9 per litre. That is the highest I’ve seen it in Alberta. The carbon tax has absolutely nothing to do with this. Remember that Steady Eddie Stelmach gave Alberta a carbon tax, the first tax of that kind on this continent. The UCP made a campaign promise to remove Rachel Notley’s carbon tax, and reversed that campaign promise. For many years, oil companies were clamoring for having a carbon tax, to help deal with environmental issues, like climate change, and Rachel Notley respected the wishes of the oil companies. I also see a leadership review coming up for the head honcho of the UCP is coming on April 9. Notice how this temporary removal of Alberta’s $0.13 per litre fuel tax begins on April 1. I thing this is a very crafty vote buying scheme by the head honcho of the UCP. It isn’t anything else. It reeks of political desperation. I have seen this type of thing before in Alberta, under premier Ralph Klein, and more than once. Ralph Klein’s disastrous policies were so bad, that he had to find a way to keep him and the Alberta PCs in power. The first time was after Ralph Klein deregulated utilities in Alberta, including natural gas and power, which contrary to what Ralph Klein and Steve West thought would make the utility prices, including power, go down, made them go up. Coincidentally, there was a provincial election coming up in Alberta. Perfectly timed before that election was two cheques worth $160 found in the mailboxes of Alberta voters. After that, Ralph Klein easily got the largest majority government he and his PC government ever had, up to that juncture, and the cheques were ceased. I used to know someone. They asked someone we both know why they voted for Ralph Klein. The answer given was those cheques. This person was told that they were bought off with their own money. The second time was when Ralph Klein’s leadership rating was clobbered with a measly 55 percent figure. When you get sloppy drunk, and throw money at the homeless, who reside at a homeless shelter, make a mockery of the disabled, that you inadequately provide financial assistance to, in front of television cameras, berate opposition MLAs, and do other foolish things, it will have an effect on your leadership. Ralph Klein then thought it was a good idea to issue $400 cheques to Albertans. The true conservative, former premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed, rightfully criticized this move. Peter Lougheed said this money should be saved, and he also said Alberta’s Heritage Savings Trust Fund was greatly underfunded. It is. Due to Ralph Klein’s stupidity, Alberta lost $575 billion in revenue, after he drastically reduced Peter Lougheed’s oil royalty rates. There were warnings from others that if oil prices were to collapse, that money wouldn’t be there to help Alberta deal with the impact. Lo and behold, not long after, oil prices came crashing down, due to Saudi Arabia affecting things, like they did in 2014. What will the head honcho of the UCP do when oil prices come crashing down again? The money blown by the UCP on their very pricey shenanigans, such as their $7.5 billion gamble on a pipeline, $10 billion lost from corporate tax cuts, that were supposed to bolster employment, and never have, among other things, and these vote buying tricks, is going to leave Alberta with less revenue. The head honcho of the UCP will then do his usual blame game. Also, I thought the Reform Party types were in favour of not interfering with the market. The head honcho of the UCP is doing it here. If there is an early election in Alberta, Albertans had better smarten up, and not be duped again by these pretend conservatives and Reformers. Unfortunately, the seniors in Alberta tell the younger generations to vote for these pretend conservatives and Reformers, and Alberta isn’t any better off.

    1. Anonymous After Klein did his whining and crying on tv spouting the lie that he had a drinking problem but had quite a lawyer friend of mine told me about a year later that she had a meeting with him and he certainly hadn’t stopped drinking like he promised. He was plastered when he met with her. She agreed with me he could likely be bought with a case of wine , his favourite drink.

      A cousin of mine was a good friend of his and when I turned 21 the two of them tried to get me to join their nightly drinking parties. They continued to hound me and my mother finally told them to stop or she was going to call the police. They stopped and my cousin, at a family reunion apologized to me for what they had done, about six years later. My cousin died at the age of 34 from lung cancer from his smoking and drinking with Ralphy Boy, as we called him. We know what it did to Ralph.

      1. ALAN K. SPILLER: You sure have it correct. A friend of mine also wondered if Ralph Klein was still in the sauce. My dad, a senior, told me that these smokers don’t know what they are really doing to themselves. He lost a sister in law, one of my aunts, from cancer, because of her husband, who is one of my uncles, had refused to listen to medical experts, when they told him to stop smoking and drinking. Lung cancer and liver failure got him. His smoking claimed my aunt, via second hand smoke. She was a non smoker, but her husband’s smoking claimed her life.

  3. He COULD take control of the retail price, but that’s not really the right thing to do, and you know that. This ain’t China YET. Most of us are trying to move AWAY from communism and all the supply management nonsense.

    1. So, what would be the solution, especially for those who were already struggling to make ends meet before the price hikes and who require a vehicle for whatever reason? Human nature being what it is, you know that the retailers are going to pocket a lot of that 17 cents a liter gift, and it will not be passed on to consumers. That is going to force people who were already subsisting on marginal incomes to make some difficult choices, for example, to put fuel in the car, eat, or pay rent. I suppose you could publicly shame the retailers. Not sure how effective that would be.

      I don’t know if price regulation would be effective either; I am not an economist. However, in general, some regulation (rules, price caps, etc) is needed to prevent the social ills that befall any society when capitalism is unbound, greed is rampant, and income disparities become too large. We are worse off because of the removal of prudent regulations that we sacrificed on the altar of capitalism and the free market.

      Furthermore, just because you introduce some regulation into the free market does not mean you suddenly become like China and are headed down some slippery slope to a communist-fascist dictatorship. And, BTW, in case you hadn’t noticed, China is hardly a communist country anymore. I suppose a totalitarian, highly centralized command and control capitalist economy might better describe it. You may not like China and its policies, but you have to admit that they know how to grow an economy. Pretty impressive performance over the past 30 years or so. I am not saying that is good thing necessarily because it comes at a cost. But, if you insist on labeling China as communist, and you want to use the growth of capital, industry, and standard of living as metrics of success, you might be forced to a conclusion that you might not like.

    2. Here we go again with “communism”, “red” and “China” nonsense. Next you’ll be spouting off about bat soup, just like Jason. Thinly-veiled rascism is all I see.

  4. Seriously unlike what the UCP and their supporters think the ABNDP might not win the next year because they are left wing radicals. The ABNDP is going to lose the next election if they can’t find a winning issue. I sometimes feel that the ABNDP doesn’t want to provide bold solutions because they think these solutions might be to radical for the Alberta electorate. Anyway I feel like the UCP is just going to play find the radical candidates in the ABNDP’s candidate list in the next election in between bragging about the economy and the balanced budget. This
    may or may not be a winning campaign strategy for them. It’s up to the ABNDP shift through the noise if the UCP decides to run this style of campaign next year.

    1. MO: The NDP are left wing radicals. That’s a good exaggeration. Actually, Rachel Notley was very comparable to the government that Peter Lougheed had. The UCP are pretend conservatives and Reformers, who are making Albertans pay for their very costly shenanigans.

  5. Will governments never learn? Many years ago, there was some federal or provincial program that offered quite a generous rebate if you upgraded your old furnace to a high efficiency furnace. Well, it was not surprising that soon after the advent of the program, the cost to purchase and install the furnace went up by some significant fraction of the rebate. Needless to say, this did not end up saving the consumer much money up front; however, the reduced heating bills from the more efficient furnace perhaps dulled the pain over the long term.

    Regulation of prices is the fairest way to ensure that consumers are not gouged in situations like this. But, regulation is anathema to this government’s mindset. The only worse thing they could do is to start offering K-bucks.

    The high price of fuel is an expensive and onerous burden to many and causing a lot of financial stress. So, some short-term relief is necessary for these folks who might struggle because of the high prices in the short term. So, I get why the NDP supports this measure. That said, I am extremely disappointed by the NDP response to support this particular kind of relief. I guess they see this as being politically expedient. Sigh…

    But, I think that our long-term strategy should be to get to the point where, if the price of fuel suddenly spikes, most people say, “meh, so what?” This would, of course, mean that we significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Not likely to be a direction of travel with this government, unfortunately.

    Regarding the cancelling of Bumble’s critics on Twitter, perhaps the immaturity of the issues managers and Bumbles were recognized by an adult in the room and that, if they put the safety wheels back on the account, the issues managers and Bumbles would see fewer tweets that would cause them to rage tweet in response.

    Well, that is pretty fanciful. The more likely explanation is that Bumbles and the issues manager are thin skinned and do not like folks who are critical of their policies, such as our blogger and that pesky Professor Ogbogu who keeps calling on Bumbles on Twitter to delete a defamatory FB post and apologize to him.

    The fact that the issues managers used a configuration setting on the account to automate the blocking of accounts that meet an algorithmic threshold is disingenuous at best. They might believe they can persuasively assert it is the algorithm that is blocking the accounts, and that they are not cancelling their critics: the algorithm blocks you because of your naughty twitter behavior. But most people with an IQ above room temperature can figure out that this is just another dishonest ruse. I don’t expect much from this government anymore, not sure if I ever did.

  6. Suspending the provincial gas tax is short sighted, but low risk given the correlation between provincial revenue and oil prices.

    Pricing gouging in retail fuel would be quite the accomplishment given that it is a liquid market (many buyers and sellers) with high price discovery (outlets post prices and websites like GasBuddy aggregate them) and price transparency (can easily reverse engineer the refining and retail profit margins). The NDP would be experts in the domain given its ties to organized labour, whcih is the ultimate form of price gouging through collusion.

    The UCP should maintain the austerity path and direct all windfall revenue to debt retirment. The best methods to wean the Province from non-renewable resource revenues would be to eliminate interest payments and resist upward pressures in its burn rate, mostly by restricting growth in health and education spending and taxpayer supported headcount.

  7. The K-Boy’s pretty predictable. When he starts explaining his shell and pea tax game, it’s difficult not to see The Simpsons’ Chief Wiggum explaining the Xs and arrows of some inane team strategy on a chart.

    I just wish he’d get the faux-Edward G Robinson voiceover down pat. At least then it’d be funnier.

    But I betcha he could do an even better Mae West: “Is that the gas tax rebate I put into your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

  8. This Twitter blocking is what malignant narcissists do. They can call you names and attack your character, but Lawd forbid if you stand up to them: they become delicate, overwhelmed creatures crying, “You hurt my precious feelings!” You see, malignant narcissists don’t care one bit about you and your feelings. This is their game and everyone is supposed to play by their rules. The minute the vicious attack dog gets attacks in return, or even mildly rebuked, the childish mind of the narcissist is full of self-pity. Bullies are like that. It’s a one-way street with them. We are dealing with childish minds in adult bodies, men who never progressed mentally and emotionally to the age of reason, or around seven years old. It helps to recognize this.

  9. Hello Anonymous, You make some good points in your comments.

    However, please stop saying that seniors say this or that or vote a certain way. You don’t have a good understanding of how progressive many seniors are. Seniors are intelligent and have seen many different situations during their lives. They are neither stupid or reactionary.

    1. CHRIS: Actually, in Alberta, many seniors are dyed in the wool conservatives. Not all, but many. I know and have known seniors who support the Liberal turned Reformer, Ralph Klein. I also know younger people who thought Ralph Klein was great. Where did they get that from? Their parents and/or their grandparents.

    2. Agreed, Chris. I am, as are most of my senior friends, very politically astute and have been so a good many years. We are both shocked and horrified at the damage this gang of incompetents is wreaking on our beloved province.

  10. That’s funny. Just yesterday my wife stated that she was banned on Twitter by JKenney. She wasn’t sure what she did but she was very amused and convinced it is a badge of honour. (As a side note I reminded her that there is almost zero chance that Premier Randy’s account is actually managed by the Pudgy One himself and is more likely the handiwork of our own home-grown Calgary troll farm)

    As for myself, I have nothing to do with social media whatsoever. Even if I was interested I’m sure I’d be banned on day one. Funny how the so-called champions of free speech/freedumbs are the first to silence critics.

    1. I would find it very hard to believe a notorious control freak like the current premier would give over control of his precious twitter to someone else. I’m sure he has other folks posting on it but I would be extremely surprised to find out he’s not getting those menchies himself.

      It’s been a long time since I was all atwitter but previous to the Kenney coup it was widely believed he additionally had a burner account, Jason LOVES twitter.

  11. It has been noted that every time there’s a reduction in some tax, in a benevolent gesture to give the people a break, the vendors will always raise the price of that item and recover to pre-tax price.

    Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is often quoted by CONs as a virtuous tome on the wonders of capitalism. Of course what these idiots fail to realize is that the only economic system in existence in Smith’s time was mercantilism – not capitalism. And Smith’s book has a second part, where he describes in great detail how merchants conspire to manipulate markets, always toward the end goal of raising prices.

    Gas prices will keep rising regardless of whatever bait and switch game Kenney plays, because the market is used to and expects to pay a higher price for gas.

    1. JUST ME: There will be spinoffs from this vote buying gimmick from the head honcho of the UCP. It’s wasting money that Alberta doesn’t have. When oil prices plummet again, the head honcho of the UCP will point his fingers at Justin Trudeau, or Rachel Notley. Alberta will have more lost revenue. These oil and gas companies will raise prices of gas even further, after this vote buying gimmick by the head honcho of the UCP ends. This will cause prices of things to go up even more, and increase inflation further. If the oil and gas companies can’t raise gas prices, they will lay off employees, to make up for their lost revenue. This will spur a big recession. Albertans won’t be better off.

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