Give Jason Kenney credit for sheer brass!
Yesterday, Alberta’s premier, so recently told by his own party to pack up his stuff and take a hike, was taking credit for the province’s unexpected recent resource jackpot.
Finance Minister Jason Nixon having announced earlier in the day that Alberta will post a $3.9-billion surplus for the 2021-2022 fiscal year that ended on March 31, Mr. Kenney was soon hooting on Twitter about how it was all a matter of the United Conservative Party’s stellar fiscal management.
“Alberta had the first balanced budget in 7 years, ending the last fiscal year with a surplus of $3.9 billion,” he tweeted gleefully last night. “This would not have been possible without strong fiscal management.”
“Promise made, promise kept,” crowed the graphic that accompanied the tweet.
This is a pretty spectacular leap, as presumably everybody in Alberta understands.
For one thing, fiscal management has nothing at all to do with the unexpectedly flush state of the province’s coffers. It’s mainly caused by the sudden surge in petroleum prices driven by apparent end of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
And it’s not exactly a promise kept if anyone remembers that the promise made by Mr. Kenney and the UCP in February 2021 that the province would have a deficit of $18.2 billion in the current fiscal year.
Arguably, had it not been for the UCP’s many fiscal bungles, lost bets, imprudent tax cuts that failed to deliver benefits, and pandemic mismanagement, the surplus could have been considerably bigger.
Alberta Conservatives, quite naturally, are prepared to take credit unironically for the impact of high oil prices on the province’s royalty and income tax income while blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals for their not inconsiderable impact on inflation and family budgets.
That said, the transparency of Premier Kenney’s braggadocio notwithstanding, good luck is probably worth more than good management in politics, and the UCP has an opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to circumstances entirely outside its control.
It certainly provides the government with the opportunity to tiptoe past its self-induced catastrophes in health care and public education and concentrate on the things that really matter to the party’s base and its bagmen: culture wars, privatization, restricting abortion rights, and ending the scourge of gender-neutral washrooms.
Should that happen, of course, Mr. Kenney will doubtless try to take credit for the victory when in fact the evidence suggests that his leadership as so flawed it would have made re-election impossible had he stuck around even with that oil boom all good Albertans have been praying for and promising, this time, not to piss away again.
Never mind that recent polls that show the UCP doing better than it has for months appear to be driven by the fact that Mr. Kenney will soon no longer be in charge.
This, said pollster Janet Brown, whose poll results released yesterday suggested the UCP may be back in majority territory, gives the recently faltering party a “new lease on life.”
Of course, just as Mr. Kenney’s departure has given the UCP a boost, who party members choose to replace him will have an impact on how the battle with the NDP led by former premier Rachel Notley goes in the leadup to the election expected next year.
If the likes of Brian Jean or Danielle Smith, both peddling a sovereignist narrative, were to win, that would take the wind out of the sails of new political groups like the Wildrose Independence Party, Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt told the CBC for its story on Ms. Brown’s new poll.
“But,” he wondered, “what if it’s a Travis Toews or a Leela Aheer win? What does that do?”
Well, it’s safe to say that however former finance minister Toews does, Ms. Aheer won’t be winning anything, probably including her own riding nomination. The former deputy party leader from the UCP’s first heady days in power was the only UCP leadership candidate to condemn the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling eviscerating the constitutional right to abortion in the United States.
Almost certainly not by coincidence, Ms. Aheer and Mr. Toews were reported to be the only candidates not to take part in a UCP leadership debate last night organized by the anti-vaccine-leaning Mountain View Freedom group at the Cow Palace in Olds.
It doesn’t appear as if there was much news coverage of the event, but the organizers have promised they will post a video on their Facebook page sometime soon.
Meantime, it seems likely some UCP MLAs and ministers who have been contemplating a quiet exit from politics in the face of terrible odds may be reconsidering their chances and wondering if they should roll the dice one more time. Health Minister Jason Copping, who long ago told his staff not to expect him to seek re-election, is said now to be reassessing his political career.
Perhaps, no thanks to Mr. Kenney, Alberta will soon be able to get back to its normal role of lecturing the other members of Confederation how to manage their fiscal affairs – privatize everything, for heaven’s sake don’t spend any money on child care, and win the lottery like us!