Who knew that higher salaries were part of the Alberta Advantage? 

Bigger paycheques! One of the ads that will be appearing at Vancouver transit stops soon (Image: Government of Alberta).

At Monday’s press conference announcing his vanity “Jason is Calling” advertising campaign in Toronto and Vancouver that will attempt to lure members of the Laptop Class to move to Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney bragged about how wages are higher in Alberta. 

Actually, the $2.6-million ad blitz is officially named Alberta is Calling, but if you listen to the recordings, it is in fact Jason who’s making the call. Go figure! Maybe he’s looking for a new job in telemarketing when his current position ends this fall.

Bullet No. 1 in the press release published Monday by the Alberta government to tout the ad campaign was: “Highest average wages and lowest taxes in the country.”

“Alberta workers continue to have the highest earnings across all provinces,” the release enthused a few paragraphs down. 

“Alberta’s $1,251 average weekly earnings (May 2022) are the highest in the country (and) according to Statistics Canada’s 2020 Canadian Income Survey, released in March 2022, Alberta families earned a median after-tax income of $104,000 in 2020, which is more than $7,000 higher than Ontario and nearly $10,000 higher than families in British Columbia.”

Travis Toews back in the day: “On average, Alberta nurses make 5.6 per cent more than in other comparator provinces. … Alberta can no longer afford to be an outlier” (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

There’s even a transit ad that will be appearing in Toronto and Vancouver that boasts, “Bigger paycheques. Smaller rent cheques.”

But bragging about how Albertans are paid more than other Canadians is a weird flex for a man who spent almost all of his political career in Ottawa and Alberta whinging about how Alberta’s high wages were a bad thing, and how something needed to be done to ratchet them down. 

This is the guy who campaigned for premier by calling for cuts to the NDP’s $15 minimum wage, whose pre-pandemic “Blue Ribbon Panel” was struck in the fall of 2017 to set the stage for legislated wage rollbacks for public sector health-care workers, and who prosecuted a war with doctors over – what else? – pay cuts.

Throughout contract negotiations with Alberta’s health care unions in 2021, Mr. Kenney’s government aggressively pushed Alberta Health Services to demand wage rollbacks for nurses and other trades and professions on the grounds their pay was above the Canadian average. 

Here’s Travis Toews, then Mr. Kenney’s finance minister and now Mr. Kenney’s presumed choice to replace him as premier, in a press release published on July 6, 2021: “On average, Alberta nurses make 5.6 per cent more than in other comparator provinces. This costs Alberta approximately $141 million per year at a time when our finances are already stretched.”

“Alberta can no longer afford to be an outlier.” 

Danielle Smith, promoter of the “Alberta Suicide Act,” opener of the “constitutional abyss” (Photo: Facebook/Danielle Smith).

All through those long negotiations, Alberta’s nurses kept telling the government that nurses’ salaries here were higher than the Canadian average because everybody’s salaries here are higher here than the Canadian average. Back then, nobody in the Alberta government wanted to listen.

And now Mr. Kenney and the UCP are bragging about it?

Well, the only explanation is … that was then and this is now.

How likely this campaign is to attract the kind of internal immigrants the UCP is looking for – skilled trades people and the sort of folk we used to call Young Urban Professionals as Mr. Kenney calls the Laptop Classes when he’s mad at them – remains to be seen.

It won’t be very successful as long as the pages of the national media are full of dire warnings about UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith’s “Alberta Suicide Act,” including overwrought columns in respectable newspapers about how “Alberta is on the verge of a constitutional abyss.”

Potential immigrants probably don’t need to worry about plunging into that particular abyss if they’re contemplating a move to Alberta, though. 

Anything the United Conservative Party cooks up under Ms. Smith, the leader of the Great Floor Crossing of 2014 who is now thought to be the candidate most likely to succeed Mr. Kenney, is much less likely to end in tragedy than in farce. 

But still, they might want to think about the long-term prospects of the international bitumen market or even to the high oil prices buoying up the UCP government right now, mainly thanks to the war in Ukraine, which one of these days will end.

And they might also want to ponder the prospect of what having their Canada Pension Plan savings hijacked by the Alberta government to prop up the petroleum industry might do to their retirement security.

Then there’s the state of education for their kids if the UCP’s 1950s curriculum remains in place – and the possibility that there won’t be any nurses in the local hospital when those kids are born, if indeed it’s still open.

Plus, of course, if Conservatives are still in power when  the latest boomlet goes bust again, count on it that austerity will immediately be back on the agenda. 

Prospective new Albertans will get the picture.

Other than that, as we say out here in the New West, “Fill yer boots!”

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18 Comments

  1. This well-worn Alberta Uber Alles sentiment pops up every time it’s convenient to do so, and usually when is serves the purposes of politicos who have gone to great lengths to break anything even remotely resembling a stable civilization in Alberta.

    Alberta is hard done by, so slash the public services, reward the so-called “wealth creators” with even more benefits, and blame PMJT for everything. That narrative always serves well when the UCP wants to rile up the rural rubes in their voting base; but what happens when the opposite is confirmed, that Alberta is the wealthiest of all the regions and everyone living has more than anyone else in Canada? No worries. Blow that trumpet as well, and may be no one will notice the first deception, because they are out buying their fourth ATV.

    Of course, now that the whole equalization is theft narrative has been exhausted, it’s time to tell every Albertan that they should thank their lucky stars that the UCP (CONs or Jesus) have protected them from Ottawa’s pillaging hordes and prayed hard enough for another oil boom. (Thanks V. Putin) This tactic has been played so many times, I’m still amazed that no one has clued into it yet. It goes back to the days when then Premier Don Getty, when global oil prices were languishing, he boasted that he would get his “personal friend” Saudi Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani on the phone and ask him to “fix things”. Of course, oil prices would slightly ratchet up and Getty would declare himself a genius.

    While it’s easy to lie to the rest of the world that Alberta is the best place to live, provided you’re unconcerned about a crashed public resources, like healthcare and education. And the living has never been cheaper and easier, until that current oil boom drives up the prices of everything. Treat the rubes like mushrooms and keep them living in the dark and fed shite. No one will catch on because no has for decades.

    Tie all this into Jason Kenney’s desperate campaign to invent the greatest of all legacies for himself, before he exits Alberta. (never to return, of course) Kenney’s chest is going to be puffed up like the Hindenburg, floating over every Albertan, announcing that he is a great man and a most generous god. The man is not going to shut up about the miracles he has worked and the joy he has created. Ron Orr was right all along: Jason Kenney is at the right-hand of God and can do magic. Praise the Lord!

    Ottawa awaits to be saved by the Moses from Calgary-Lougheed, for he calms the storms in Heaven and shites money.

    PMJT just can’t believe his luck is still rolling.

  2. Isn’t Kenney supposed to be leaving very soon?

    I wonder about what this last minute boost of enthusiasm is all about. Trying to influence the UCP leadership race? Trying to spin a legacy of economic success? Trying to justify a few last nice out of province trips paid for by the taxpayers? Trying to remain relevant? Trying to position himself for a possible return to Federal politics? Or maybe, its all of the above.

    Now to be fair some of the candidates running to succeed Kenney do have very kooky ideas that if implemented could be quite damaging both to Alberta’s economy and Kenney’s legacy. Whether they will win or will actually implement what they say remains to be seen, but they seem to have enough support to be concerning. Also recent history has shown us we should not be too quick to dismiss those with crazy ideas. They can appeal to enough people to get into power, even if only for a short period and from there they can do a lot of damage. After all, a premier elected by say 60,000 governing party members has as much power technically as one elected by hundreds of thousands of Albertans.

    I also wonder how much Kenney’s last minute efforts will resonate with party members. After all, almost half of them voted against him in their recent leadership review. It probably would have been higher, if not for a lot of arm twisting, using every advantage his position of power gave him and perhaps grudging loyalty by some members who didn’t see any better alternatives.

    So, some of the kooky candidates to succeed Kenney have serious credibility issues, with some party members and likely more Albertans, but so does Kenney, lest he forgets that.

  3. 2017? The UCP weren’t in power then, and there was no Blue Ribbon Panel at that time. The UCP are bragging about something which they have nothing to do with, and their policies are actually a detriment to workers in Alberta. Oil is a commodity, and it fluctuates in price. It has been going lower. A recession is predicted to occur in 2023. This is also going to impact those who migrate to Alberta. When they get here, they will want to return to where they came from, or go somewhere else, where it is better off for them.

  4. Come to Alberta, the land of Milk and Honey! Unless the government decides we can’t afford it, then we’re the land of cow dung and stinging insects. At times like those, the well-heeled folks Kenney is calling for right now will be called “greedy elites” by both the government and the locals, and will be derided for not being “real Albertans”. Unfortunately for Alberta employers, the government’s own words and actions since 2019 have been reported widely throughout Canada and will dissuade most Canadians from considering a move here.

  5. Is it not remarkable? Simple Oil of Bitumen and how amazing the results. Life can be that simple.

    And so Jason Kenney reveals what he’s been doing in the dusk of his premiership while observes have been left wondering, after a spate (in spades) of simply remarkable political events, exactly who’s running the government in Alberta: he’s been busy making a presentation of the paradise he is bequeathing to his beloved Canada, especially to his new friends in Toronto and Vancouver who, owing to high real estate prices in those two places (although it’s curious why Montreal or Iqaluit aren’t mentioned for their taxes and price of a dozen eggs), could profit handsomely if they used equity their properties have accrued these last crazy years in lockdowns of their Sodoms and Gomorrahs to come and live like kings with swimmin’ pools ‘n movie stars in Alberta. And if K-Boy can do that, then he can drown out the crashing of his pet provincial project with the mashing of crazily disparate plots— like “The Marathon Man,” The Beverly Hillbillies, and Stompin’ Tom Connor’s refrain form his hit song “The Consumer”:

    “And save a lot of money spending money we ain’t got.”

    But is it safe?

    To answer that, one needs consider Kenney’s consistently reconfirmed reputation as a political long distance runner, as King KeKangaroo Kenney of the transcontinental political whack-a-mole, and impresario who leaves invitees with the bill. Such a chameleon will attempt to morph effortlessly from, at one moment, Olivier’s Oscar-nominated Dr Szell, the aged dentist and fugitive Nazi war criminal, as he repeatedly asks if it’s safe:

    “Hmmm. Relax, relax, relax. Come on. Open up. Uh-huh. Okay, okay. Come on,”

    —and next moment into Szell’s young, marathon-running torture victim, played by Dustin Hoffman, who doesn’t know what his captor is talking about when he keeps asking the same question over and over:

    ” It’s safe…it’s so safe, you wouldn’t believe it.”

    So there you have it.

    Well, the next thing you know, all the ole Jeds in Hogtown and LaLa Land are millionaires. Their kin folk said [CC several dozen Canadian ethnic languages], ‘Jed, move away from here.’ Said, ‘Alberta’s the place y’oughta be.’ So they loaded up their hybrids and they moved to Calgary.

    Interested migrants from, respectively East to West, the Centre of the Universe and the Holism of the Infinite Multiversal Spheres, are advised to check K-Boy’s math: he has a habit of pretending he lost is spectacles when the waiter arrives with the bill, just after dining, and then saying he left his chequebook in the pickup— just before dashing. These should alert to probable diagnoses of willful innumeracy and/or effective charlatanism disorder. Certainly you won’t be shown the part about the trail of bad blood he’s leaving behind from his relentless war on Alberta’s doctors and nurses—most gallingly waged during a deadly pandemic when provincial hospitals overflowed for months with Covid victims and staff double-shifted until burnt out:

    “That hurt? I know. I should think it would. You should take better care of your teeth. You have [Szell hits the nerve again with the dental probe]…quite the cavity here.”

    —or about the SoConical grade school curriculum he tendentiously asks teachers to endorse:

    “Simple oil of cloves and how amazing the results. Life can be that simple. Relief [Szell holds up the bottle of clove oil] …or discomfort [holding up the dental probe in the other hand]. Now which of these shall I next apply?” [cue the Jeopardy FX]

    Be sure not to miss the irony of K-Boy appealing to the same “Eastern Bastards” whom Alberta bumper stickers once recommended be left to “Freeze in the Dark” and these very same violent Old-Growth-Antifa-hugging-pipeline-protesting radicals out to the communist Left Coast against whom Alberta once threatened to boycott their bong-wine.

    But are Kenney’s assumptions safe? As a West Coaster myself, I can attest that the trend has been, for quite a few years by now, Albertans moving out here. I’ve lived and worked in Alberta a number of times myself. Many new West Coasters are retirees from Alberta who now own their own Left Coast places and aren’t much in the market —or probably the mood—for K-Boy’s real estate nostrums, at least not seriously. Besides, after waiting several decades to grow that Tilley-shaded ponytail and finally exhale that toke of field-hemp-of-yesteryear, they’ve made new buds out here and are likely to stay glued to their deck chairs while pay-palling donations to a cosmic number of Save-The-Whale orgs. Jason making some cool giggles.

    Anyhow, if Kenney really expects ringing response to his benevolent offer, the market fundamentals he so often extols as founts of freedom and democracy should just as quickly respond to the booming demand presumed and result, in net effect, in proffered real estate savings going west as fast as blippity-blimps of bitumen barrel prices. In other words: don’t hesitate—hurry and get yours now before it’s too late! [while quantities last.]

    One should really wonder why Alberta real estate prices feature such a steep gradient with other regions of the country if the province’s economic prospects are as glowing as Kenney says. And one should also consider what extent provincial government policy has contributed to this curious anomaly, a beautiful and promising Canadian federate struggling with so many problems…And wonder especially what the currently governing UCP party has done to actually discourage people from migrating to Alberta, and even to leave Alberta. Nota bene that the salesman is none other than the creator of the UCP, its first leader, one who became premier, but one who was voted out by his own party only three years into its very first mandate. He just might have ulterior motivations for presenting life as just that simple. But you can’t blame a guy for trying.

    Remember: “The decision is in your hands. So take your time…and tell me…

    …is it safe?…”

  6. I wonder how many ignorant seniors are believing it after Kenney ran off their doctors when he to tried to blame them for the high cost of health care. It’s been well known fact for years that Albertans have enjoyed the highest wages at every level.

  7. Since I’m already here, I keep wondering what else Danielle Smith will get up to in the coming months, when she’s not tearing down Canada and leaving it in a smoking ruin.

    It seems likely she will outlaw Covid vaccinations, forcing those who are waiting for the new one to travel out of province to get one. But why stop there? Why not get rid of all vaccinations, especially the childhood series? The polio virus showing up in wastewater elsewhere is not a concern because we’re not monitoring it yet. Monkeypox? Whatever. So what if you need a travel vaccination for your winter holiday? Haven’t you babies had cholera before?

    How will $400 pay for a person’s health care needs for a year, especially if they don’t believe in naturopaths? What’s the cost of a broken leg? Will some vitamin supplements fix that?

    When will the new cancer treatment centre be razed and converted to condos? Smith did say that cancer up to stage four doesn’t need medical intervention. That should send a lot of doctors packing.

    There’s SO much more that we’re all about to lose. This is just the beginning of the chaos. All you come-from-away people thinking about stepping into this rattlesnake pit have a choice. Stay away, or face the consequences of that decision. It’s those of us who are already here that I’m worried about. We didn’t vote for this in a general election. We will regret whatever brought us to this province, even if it was our ancestors in another century. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

  8. “That was then and this is now.” Not quite, friends. There’s also the factor known as “That was THEM and this is US.”

    “THEM” is the evil, unionized government workers who extorted high wages out of the guv’mint that was struggling to be fiscally responsible (ignore that little man ranting about corporate tax cuts of almost $5B per year, and $7.5B loan guarantees for a pipeline to nowhere).

    “US” is hard-working private sector employees, cheerfully doing their jobs and growing the economy, raking in big bucks and buying huge houses and huge trucks while they enjoy the Alberta Advantage.

    Obviously, US is way better than THEM. Right?

    Everybody forgets the way Ralph Klein’s royalty-rate holiday drove a multi-year construction boom (AKA “the Crazy Years”). Alberta became a black hole for tradespeople and professionals of all sorts, driving up wages, driving up housing prices–remember how real estate doubled from 2004 to 2006?–all because exploding construction and companies outbidding each other for skilled labour drove up ALL wages.

    Then came 2008, and the collapse of the American bad-debt Ponzi scheme, AKA “the Big Short.” That global crisis burst Alberta’s construction bubble, too. Wages in the private sector fell, as they always do when a boom goes bust. Union wages were frozen, not slashed, thanks to collective bargaining power. Non-union working stiffs got jealous and, of course, blamed the unions.

    But “that was then and this is now.” The Covid crisis has created a shortage of workers–mostly because 1) low-wage workers doing sh-t jobs for low wages had time to find better jobs for better pay, and 2) skilled workers had time to wonder, “Is this what I want to do with my life?” and, if the answer was “No,” to look for other work—or to retire, if they were really lucky (I was).

    Where does that leave Alberta now?

    Factor in damage done by the UCP to Alberta’s universities, and the exodus of professionals (mostly doctors and nurses, and has anyone bothered to count others?) due to Kenney’s RepubliCon stupidity. Now suddenly Alberta’s a GREAT place to work! Lots of jobs! High wages! Yaayy!!! Ignore that noisy woman who’s threatening—or promising—to wreck everything and make the Kingdom of Oilberduh into a cheap copy of a privatized, right-to-work (actually, “starve”) Republican state.

    So sure, Jason can have his last hurrah and one more chance to bask in the spotlights’ glow. Never mind the snickers, groans, eye-rolls, jeering and the sound of one hand clapping.

  9. Reading Andrew Coyne’s latest commentary about the state of the CON partisans leaves me with the impression he’s had enough of their Trumpian hijinx.

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-alberta-is-on-the-verge-of-the-constitutional-abyss/

    So, now Danielle Straitjacket, seemingly, wants to declare unilateral independence, throw together her own Alberta-style vision of reality, and tell the critics to STFU. So much for respect being a two-way street. At this point, the only people who are jumping onto this bandwagon are the mega-church goers and those who are plugged into US-style #MAGA talk-racket. FreeDUMB reigns and blame PMJT for everything.

    Coyne’s comments since the FreeDUMB Convoy tried an insurrection in Ottawa have cautioned the Skippy Pollivere and the CPC from going down the #MAGA road to certain oblivion. But his words are falling on deaf and dumb ears: the CPC has no intention of listening because they are now rage-addicts. Rage addiction is a fascinating affliction because it seems to be everything at the moment. All any career aspiring politico needs to do is linked the rage of the masses into an agenda that accommodates all that unlimited anger. What can go wrong?

    Long-time Republican scion, Liz Cheney, has been driven from her very safe nomination in the very red state of Wyoming because he was not loyal to Trump. In fact, she spoke reality to his twisted fantasies and paid a ‘UGE price for it. I’m sure the Skippy and the CPC’s wannabe GOP wing are looking at the building temperature and thinking that it would work in Canada, reason be damned. Now that the FBI have become targets for armed reprisals because — wait for it — President Trump has done nothing wrong because nothing the president does is illegal, the potential for political violence in the US is that much higher. As the November midterm elections approach, the tempers should blow and the CPC will surely be excited by it.

  10. -;.It’s simple, the Alberta government (no matter which Blue regime head-politician ruled—No one, spoke to the corporate lies of land-re-claimation that was part of the approval for Tar sands in the beginning —so who-which corporate entity is signed as the responsible corporate party to demand action or do we sue and that includes the political party found to be involved in the initial negotiation that walked away once corporations in general had sucked enough of taxpayer responsibility as the end drop when all corporate rats left and taxpayers as usual were left with the now –265 billion dollar clean up figure…Or are asinine almost-like the rest of us –politicians dropping the privatization shit that always is but never taken responsibility for —time to sue and that means the conservatives that time and again set these asinine projects into play —with the only requirement that taxpayers be made to pay for any and all corporate greed –decisions…..?

  11. Seems like half I hear out of the political class in Alberta is boasting about having the highest wages and the lowest taxes in Canada, and the other half is about how Alberta can’t get a fair deal in Canada. I’ve always found it strange that more people don’t line those two beliefs up next to one another and examine them for consistency. Man, if I was in Trudeau’s shoes I’d’ve told Albertans where to go and how to get there years since. It’s not like they can possibly like him any less. When they held their breath and stomped their feet like they were going to separate I’d have told the Conservative party that’s their problem, not mine – how will they ever elect a Conservative PM without Alberta in Canada? Better get out there and clean up your mess Cons! Instead he went the appeaser route; stuck Alberta’s pipeline straight up BC’s butt right after getting elected by promising he wouldn’t do that, forced the rest of the country to pay for it (never mind that he lacked a mandate to do that), no gratitude at all for this huge transfer of wealth from Canada to Alberta. You’d think he’d shat in Albertans’ corn flakes instead of giving them a massive handout against the wishes of the people who actually voted for him. You know what they say, “it’s only welfare when it goes to the needy.” Meanwhile right wing Albertans whine about equalization with no trace of irony or shame. Wasting valuable political capital and alienating his allies trying to help monumentally dishonest and sleazy people who hated his guts for having the wrong last name twenty years before he ever got into politics is one of JT’s biggest own goals IMO. Right winger trolls take a masturbatory delight in posting pics of JT in blackface but those pictures say less than four words: “you,” “bought,” “a,” and “pipeline.”

    If Jason Kenney does somehow attract skilled urban people from the “laptop class,” he’ll immediately have to drive them right back out, along with all those other snowflakes who believe in silly things like human rights, education, climate change, and causality. Can’t have all these wokies making us go brokies right? Also, prudent folks who own laptops will probably google ‘alberta news’ before moving to Alberta, and you gotta think anyone with two brain cells to rub together is going to think “hard pass on moving to Chateau Dumpster Fire.”

  12. “Alberta workers continue to have the highest earnings across all provinces,” the release enthused a few paragraphs down.

    And that is why Alberta workers pay higher federal income taxes, which contribute to the equalization payments. Not because Alberta is sending cheques to Quebec, as Jason Kenney would have you believe.

  13. It is a bit rich to brag about the lowest tax rates in the country after all the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the NDP moved us back to a (modestly) progressive income tax system for provincial income tax. After which, as the NDP pointed out, we were still the least taxed province (and the wealthiest) in the country. Not only that, Prentice’s budget in 2015 had done more or less the same thing.

    Note that the return to a flat tax rate has not happened (yet ! I would not be surprised if it crops up as an election promise by the UCP very soon). During “the great summer of repeal”, the UCP did not get rid of the NDP’s progressive tax bands. Maybe because they were a good idea after all?

  14. For me, it’s one thing alone. Alberta is still a one horse, one trick economy, which is energy from fossil fuels. The economy is unstable still. So to move there is to live with your eggs in one tippy basket. Don’t bother. By the by, the second biggest sector used to be real estate, and that’s another possible bomb. So my friends just don’t do it; unless you like moving a lot.

  15. Typo alert: “… demand wage rollbacks for nurses and other trades and professions and the grounds their pay was above the Canadian average.” Methinks you meant to say “on the grounds” …

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