Finance Minister Jason Nixon and Premier Jason Kenney at Mr. Kenney’s recent cabinet shuffle (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

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.

Alberta Pollster Janet Brown, forecasting good tidings for the UCP (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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. 

Political scientist Duane Bratt, a favourite media commentator (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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. 

Travis Toews, one of two UCP leadership candidates said to have given an anti-vaxx group’s leadership debate in Olds a miss last night (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

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. 

Leela Aheer, the other one (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“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! 

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21 Comments

  1. It must be a bittersweet moment for Kenney, who was desperately trying to hang on until improving finances made things easier. He almost made it, but many in the UCP realized even with better finances he was too unpopular to likely be able to turn things around. They were probably right about that.

    I believe who the UCP chooses next will have a big impact on how they do in the next election. A good choice could help them a lot, a bad one could remind everyone why they didn’t much like the UCP for the last year or so.

    Its hard to say who they will choose, but it seems to me they are still not interested in being a more moderate party any more than they were when Kenney won.

    They have a few candidates who could appeal to urban and moderate voters, but their chances of winning the leadership seem slim. They have some that might not scare these voters too much and several that probably will.

    It seems to me that while basking in their economic good fortune the UCP risks becoming too self indulgent. They are playing to the base, talking a bit more about separatism or some version of sovereignty association than most Albertans are comfortable with.

    So perhaps good economic times, however long they last will allow us to cover the extra costs of policing or tax collection some in the UCP seem eager to pursue. However, just because we have improving finances doesn’t mean it is a good idea to waste money again.

    As we seem to repeatedly say, let’s not foolishly waste our money this time.

  2. We should be having alot more money, had these pretend conservatives and Reformers not sabotaged what Peter Lougheed did for us, when he was getting the right oil royalty rates, collecting the proper corporate taxes, and not constantly being involved with the most priciest shenanigans. Alas, we don’t, and it’s because these pretend conservatives and Reformers were doing the opposite. When the price of oil spirals down, the usual blame game will continue. It’s Rachel Notley’s fault, along with Justin Trudeau. They have destroyed the oil industry in Alberta! Or Alberta has given money to Ottawa, or to Quebec, and we that’s why we have nothing! Then they make brutal cuts to our core services, like to our healthcare and education, just so they can make the excuse that the system isn’t working, and we must privatize it. It’s really baffling how many people continue to keep falling for their lies. This poll is nothing more than a farce. It’s very sad that people can’t see right through this poll. Apparently, the head of this polling company has conservative ties. It might not be so surprising to see results like these.

    1. Anonymous sadly there are enough stupid Albertans dumb enough to believe their lies and re elect them. I never dreamed that Ralph Klein could keep on destroying us while these fools kept letting him do it. Even members of Klein’s own family tried to help us stop him.

    2. I’d like to dismiss Janet Brown’s poll as a “farce,” but I can’t. Remember, her company has consistently tried to account for the way Con voters apparently refuse to answer polls—but they do show up on election day. Maybe they get scared because of the other polls that show the Other Guys might win.

      The poll says over half who responded would “consider” voting UCP. Ms. Brown also cautioned that people are more willing to “consider” voting UCP when they don’t know who the leader will be. Whoever takes over from Kenney (see my comment below for more on that), some UCP supporters will be disappointed. Enough to vote Wildrose? We’ll have to wait and see.

      Notley will have to work very hard to overcome the “who cares, we’re rich again” tendencies in Alberta. I hope she and her team are working on a solid, sound and financially conservative platform that’s heavy on “You deserve better, and we can afford it now.”

      1. Mike: Ms. Brown has an excellent record of getting it right, and not just in Alberta. She argues that poll results consistently underestimate the conservative vote, and not just in Canada, and tries to account for that. Her results, I would argue, indicate that she is onto something. We ignore her polling results at our peril. DJC

    3. I wish it was just Albertans. Canada grows the majority of the world’s mustard seeds, makes barely any mustard. Canada fells trees, then sells raw logs to other countries, then buys paper and lumber. Canada exports raw ores and buys cell phones. Canada exports bitumen and imports oil. Canadians spend half their lives complaining about the money they don’t have and the other half trying to get hired helping oligarchs steal wealth and resources from Canadians.

  3. I’ve always found it to be pretty rich when someone takes credit for something that obviously had nothing to do with any of their efforts. If anything, it was a happy turn of luck that saved them from utter disaster.

    It’s been said to me that in politics optics are everything. And there’s another saying, “When in doubt, claim victory.” It’s like that time when the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV claimed himself to be a “happy genius” when he claimed victory in his conquest of the city of Dunkirk. Well, actually he bought control of the city for a little while, so whatever.

    While Jason Nixon is happily claiming he’s a genius, because Alberta’s financial house is in order, he’s no going to present anything other than that reality. He’s not going to mention that burgeoning oil prices have more to do with Vlad Putin wrecking havoc with Ukraine and global commodities markets. As for Jason Kenney, he’s calling himself the most awesome premier ever and everything bad is still PMJT’s fault. This is the only way Kenney is going to get Toews into the premiership, so pump it up, pump it up.

    Alberta has forever lived by the motto, “Give us another boom and we promise not to piss it away.”

  4. I am congenitally unable to give kenney credit for anything beyond being a scummy, oily, out-for-himself-only piece of human refuse. He even managed to convince those other super-brains fighting to replace him as UCP leader to let him stay on in the meantime while he polished his brass resume and remained the province’s most eligible bachelor.

    As for Alberta in the general way, your last paragraph sums it all up for me. Alberta lives in its own mind and complaining and blaming everyone else for perceived slights has been the modus operandi since the place was split off from the NWT and became a province in 1905. Well, it’s what rich people do, and as the richest per capita province with people sporting demonstrably higher IQs than the rest of the country since petroleum fumes filled the air in 1947, I guess other Canadians need to listen to their superiors!

    As we speak, the cream of Alberta’s intellectual convoyists are converging on Ottawa to screw up Canada Day. Poor old Tamara Lich will however be on proverbial bread and water, the martyr for the put down of the white race and likely to become besties with Pepe Poilievre over the bush telegraph. Hey, imagine those two running the place! Pure bliss. And jason will be made GG for yet another free ride at taxpayer expense.

  5. Typical Conservative maneuver, take credit for something you had nothing to do with and always blame others when things do not go right. Hopefully the general public will not get sucked into this again as they have fallen for the resource revenue windfall way too many times, just to be let down when the price of oil drops.

  6. I’d be surprised if any premier didn’t crow about a budget surplus, and I’m certainly not surprised that K-Boy’s doing it—even though the rise in petro-prices owes nothing to anything he and his party ever did.

    Nor is anyone surprised that the ouster of UCP founder, Jason Kenney, has registered a blip in the party’s popularity, an effect that might well fade as the memory of the man himself does. Perhaps candidates to replace Kenney will keep referencing him to extend the effect. I can see Brian Jean doing it because that’s really all he’s ever done anyway, and, naturally, Danielle Smith, too, who owes nothing to the inter-trim UCP leader.

    With other Independistes polling greater than the UCP’s new margin of preference over the NDP, I won’t be surprised if either of these autonomaniacs attempt to steal such support for themselves—if not for the next government of Alberta. Nor will I be surprised if secessionist talk becomes a point of contention in both party leadership and general election campaigns. Some right-wingers will worry out loud about vote-splitting—unless, naturally, they too subscribe to some level of ‘sub-patriotism.’

    Naturally, anybody who subscribes to either notion of Alberta independence or some kind of unconstitutional confederalism is more likely to believe that the sudden spike in petroleum market prices is permanent, despite the vicissitudes of the Ukraine War (the real cause of price-gouging by the globalized energy cabal) and the viscosity of War-Room bitumen (the real reason for its low-grade value).

    It appears far-rightists are finding their last refuge in the cracks and fissures between federated jurisdictions that these scoundrels threaten to destroy if they can’t, a la Phantom of the Opera, win power democratically. The process—or, perhaps, continuum—is already well-developed in the USA, what with Blue States flouting federal Cannabis prohibition while Red States flout just about everything federal except for fetuses’ rite to bare arms. With the bullhorn of midterm elections readying to amplify American factionalism, and Canadian neo-rightists always ready to ape tRumpublicanism, I won’t be surprised if secessionist faction finds some purchase here, too, nor that the current fad of sloganeering will concoct something like “deconfederation,” just like we have “decolonization.”

    Nor will I be taken unawares that, as a result, an increasing number of journalists will be getting used to referring to Canada as a federation, “confederation” being the verb which describes the act of a new member joining, or confederating with, a federation.

  7. This is the same crowd that blamed Rachel Notley for the drop in the world oil price. Why aren’t they crediting her for the rising oil price now? Following this logic, surely Jason Kenney should have given credit where credit is due. “Thanks to Rachel Notley…” When the crash inevitably comes, will it be Rachel Notley’s fault again?

    1. Unfortunately, this is a bipartisan phenomena: good things are caused by us because we good, bad things are caused by them because they bad. For example, if the Liberals weren’t in power, they’d be trying to tie inflation to the PM whether it’s reasonable or not, and if the Conservatives were in power they’d be the ones pointing out that current inflation rates are beyond the control of any Canadian PM.

  8. Since Rachel and Justin were blamed for the world oil price crash ongoing since 2014 by some on the right – they must have omnipotent powers to be able to control the world price from before they were elected. The same folks now seem to be really quite since the world price of oil has risen over the last few months. Shouldn’t they be congratulating Rachel and Justin now for the provincial surplus? Perhaps it is because they now realize that Rachel and Justin don’t control the world price of oil? That can’t be it can it?

    I wonder how many in the UCP brain trust are praying for the price to remain high until May 2023?

  9. I want to congratulate all you guys on figuring out the difference between a true conservative and a reformer, you certainly have. Isn’t it too bad many Albertans weren’t smart enough to do it while Klein was putting us in financial ruin by deliberately destroying everything our hero Peter Lougheed had created for us? I can assure you from being a Royal Bank manager our Heritage Trust Fund would have been massive and this inflation crisis could have been taken care of by financing our municipalities properly like Peter Lougheed did. We shouldn’t be paying any provincial taxes and our property taxes should be next to nothing and like Alaska we could have been receiving annual oil dividend cheques like theirs that have totalled some $46,000. for every man woman and child since 1982. Lougheed put us on the path to make it happen and these phoney conservatives Reformers starting with Ralph Klein destroyed it.

  10. So Jason Kenney’s claiming he’s a financial genius because Putin’s war drove up oil and gas prices. That, plus the fact Ralph Klein’s old “1% royalty” deals on bitumen-project construction have finally expired. Between them, the Guvmint of Oilberduh is once more rolling in cash.

    Even more money with which to break things. Yay.

    Kenney’s chutzpah is on a par with the classic story of the man who murdered his rich parents to get their money—and told the judge he deserved clemency because he was an orphan. Kenney’s utter shamelessness in claiming this credit would be breathtaking, if it wasn’t expected. Let’s admit, it’s pretty typical of any politician to take credit where it’s due to someone else. The only unusual thing is the sheer size of Kenney’s latest pile of BS.

    Even worse—a majority of Oilbertans will forgive and forget whatever Kenney did to them, now that “we” (i.e., the oil companies) are rich again. Travis Toews just got a YUUGE boost to his chance to become King of Oilberduh. Only the outsiders, Brian Jean and Danielle Smith, have a shot at beating him. The other contenders just became window dressing, nothing more.

  11. What I founding interesting in a recent interview with Brian Jean is that if Towes become premier, Kenney will never leave. That maybe the assessment that many already have. For the time being, Kenney has nothing to look forward to outside of the Premier’s Office, so elected Towes merely assures that kenney will remain as the shadow premier.

    In an interesting turn, Jean also said that Danielle Smith’s claim that Ottawa can be simply ignored is not the “mature” position for a premier to take. Jean pointed out, interestingly, that it’s the culture of endless confrontation with Ottawa, and often the personal gripes, that pollute the discussion. Jean put it out there that anyone other than himself means more of the same.

    While taking the Jean Charest approach is better than clinging to Skippy crypto-bro personae, I’m not sure if the perpetually angry are willing to accept rational and mature leadership. Some people just want to be angry forever, but the rest just want to move on; but it appears that anger is like a drug that gets the heart pumping and the mind racing; too many are addicted to it.

  12. So could there be a possible link between kenney the ucpea and putin. Is it actually the uccp united communist collaborator party. Boycott the uccp end putin’s war.

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