There were two speeches at the Alberta Legislature yesterday!
The Speech from the Throne was long, boring, unpersuasive, evasive, unoriginal, and weirdly aspirational in a way that defies the growing international consensus about the role of fossil fuels in global climate change.
Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani looked bored and possibly distressed by the contents of the speech she was required to read to open the 31st session of the Alberta Legislature, and spoke so softly at times it was often hard to hear her over the Legislature’s primitive streaming application.
The Speech from the Gallery, by contrast, was concise, frank, loud enough to hear without amplification, and – while it may not have been the intention of the speaker – could turn out to be a more accurate prophecy of Alberta’s future than the one in the official disquisition.
After starting with an embarrassing pro forma attack on the federal government for allegedly trying to wreck our Albertan way of life along with some threats to use the United Conservative Party’s constitutionally meaningless Sovereignty Act to show the feds a thing or two, the Throne Speech predicted a sunshiny future of perpetually balanced budgets, ever lower taxes, a Heritage Fund stuffed with new billions, “consequences for criminals,” “flourishing new industries,” “massive infrastructure improvements,” affordable housing, more doctors, and Alberta’s emergence as “the greenest energy producer in the world … whether that be conventional, non-conventional, renewable or otherwise.”
Why, in only a decade, the government’s overheated speechwriter enthused, Alberta will have a population of 10 million souls!
Quoting Ronald Reagan (who was in turn quoting JFK, who was borrowing a page from the Bible) the speech continued, “the best and brightest from all over the world will continue treating this province as a land of promise – a shining city on a hill – where those willing to work hard and contribute can realize their and their families’ greatest dreams.” (Emphasis added.)
Well, as I’ve said before and will surely have the opportunity to say many times again, you can’t make this stuff up – but, this being Alberta, someone else will always do it for you.
By contrast, the Speech from Gallery, or perhaps from the floor of the Legislature judging from the photo in the Edmonton Journal, involved an unidentified person standing on a chair shouting “We need to stop new gas! We need to stop new coal!”
Say what you will about the outburst, the protester shouted clearly, and made his point without requiring listeners to wonder what he meant.
The Sergeant-at-Arms, dashing across the livestream, looked as if he might stroke out. (I hope he’s OK!) Speaker Nathan Cooper appeared nonplussed.
I’m sure the UCP MLAs who supported the border blockade at Coutts and the occupation of Ottawa last year – Shane Getson! Grant Hunter! c’mon down! – will be suitably appalled at this breach of Parliamentary decorum.
Seriously, though, whoever invited the still unidentified protester will have some ’splainin’ to do.
However, I’m certain that if the uninvited speaker’s wishes come true – as well they might – it will be the result of a decision of the market, not one made by an Alberta legislator of any party or persuasion.
Indeed, as noted by the International Energy Agency – a respected organization notwithstanding Premier Danielle Smith’s recent disputations – that decision is already being made around the world even as the UCP Government constructs a fantasy future for us to contemplate.
Returning to the Throne Speech, it was interesting both for its omissions and commissions.
There was no direct word about Premier Smith’s scheme to hijack half of the Canada Pension Plan investment fund, and there were no details of her government’s plans to bust up Alberta Health Services. Those will likely be the most significant and controversial matters to come before the Legislature in this session.
There was, though, backhanded acknowledgement that the government has bungled both electricity rates and auto insurance, where gouging by private-sector providers is running amuck.
This will be hard to fix if the UCP truly expects be able to “to work collaboratively” with the corporations involved.
The speech also promised more dough for private schools and home schoolers and “hundreds of new police officers,” while plans for ineffective and probably unconstitutional mandatory “treatment” for drug users proceed apace.
As for economic diversification, well, the Smith Government is determined to dive headfirst into the business of picking winners and losers. Or, as the speech put it, “incentivizing the creation and growth of new industries and opportunities.” What do you want to bet, though, that the new industries and opportunities are all tied to oil, gas and coal?
Finally, if you’re worried about health care, you should be. “The government will have more to say in the coming weeks on additional action to decentralize decision-making and move additional health resources and professionals to the front lines,” the speech said.
Well, Happy Halloween. Things are likely to get more ghoulish in the Alberta Legislature from here on, and while there won’t be many treats, there will be plenty of tricks.
Meanwhile in Saskatchewan …
Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, which doesn’t even have a Sovereignty Act of its own, Premier Scott Moe has ordered the province’s Crown-owned gas utility company to stop collecting the federal carbon tax used to heat homes starting on New Year’s Day.
As University of Alberta economics professor Andrew Leach pointed out, Mr. Moe is instructing SaskEnergy officials to commit a criminal offence. They’d be smart to ignore him.
University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young has a good commentary on this on Substack.
“Ironically,” Dr. Young observed, “the Alberta premier can’t issue a similar order because there’s no crown corporation responsible for selling natural gas to customers in Alberta. It’s not every day a conservative premier is secretly jealous that she doesn’t have a crown corporation handy!”