Happy New Year!

Derek Fildebrandt, in 2016, was mocked for the way he anticipated the carbon tax (Photo: X/Derek Fildebrandt).

It’s too late, alas, for me to advise you, my fellow Albertans, to race out to your neighbourhood gas station and fill the tank of your giant pickup truck to the brim, maybe throwing an extra couple of jerrycans into that cargo bed you never use for anything else.

If you were on the ball, I’m told, this small New Year’s Eve inconvenience could have saved you a ten-spot!

Alberta’s gas-pump fuel tax returns this morning – 9 cents of it, anyway – reimposed by the supposed tax cutters of the United Conservative Party because they need the money. 

Actually, it’s pretty hard to dispute the argument made by Finance Minister Nate Horner on Dec. 19 when he announced that 9 cents per litre of the 13-cent fuel tax would be back at the gas pumps as soon as 2024 began.

“Alberta’s fuel tax is a predictable source of provincial revenue, helping to offset the volatility of other revenue sources,” Mr. Horner pleaded in his statement, accurately enough. 

Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“As a stable component of Alberta’s revenue mix, the fuel tax helps fund programs and services Albertans rely on,” he continued. 

Arguably, it never should have been removed for that very reason – God knows, with our tax regime in this province, there’s precious little about our revenue stream that can be described as stable and predictable. Obviously, from the perspective of running a modern province properly, this is a serious flaw. 

But the last UCP premier, the now nearly forgotten Jason Kenney, just couldn’t resist the temptation to promise Albertans his government would halt collection of the tax in April 2022, in an effort, presumably, to bolster his chances in the UCP’s then swiftly approaching leadership review vote. Well, there’s no need now to ask how that turned out, is there? 

The UCP government led by Premier Danielle Smith, who replaced Mr. Kenney, extended the tax holiday at the start of 2023, in advance of a spring election, and again last June. 

The problem now for Premier Smith, Mr. Horner and the UCP isn’t that the policy of keeping the gas tax doesn’t makes sense, it does, but that the optics suck.

Former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Removing the tax was justified as a response to the post-pandemic affordability crisis that continues to be pushed hard as an election issue by the Opposition federal Conservative Party, which nowadays is joined at the hip to the UCP. 

So the return of the tax had even the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, normally a reliable political ally of the UCP/CPC, grumping about the reimposition of the nine cents per litre on the price at the pumps this morning. “It’s mindboggling that she would hike the fuel tax back up now,” the organization’s Alberta spokesperson carped the same day as Mr. Horner’s announcement, directing his complaint at Premier Smith. 

There’s also the UCP’s continuing hysterical campaign against the federal carbon tax. Notwithstanding the province’s unsettled jurisdictional claims, this will look to most folks who have to fuel up their vehicles as much the same thing – only without a rebate. 

The reaction on social media, naturally, was predictable. 

Derek Fildebrandt in 2023 (Photo: X/Derek Fildebrandt).

“Danielle Smith’s Gas Tax will cost hard working Alberta families AT LEAST $371.80/year,” said one commenter on the social media site previously known as Twitter. “Danielle Smith PROMISED to make lives ‘More Affordable’ for Albertans … Promises Made Promises Destroyed … Life under the UCP gets worse. Thanks Danielle.”

Having been mercilessly mocked for a New Year’s Eve 2016 tweet bragging about how he’d filled up his pickup just before the carbon tax took effect, and also before prices dipped a little soon thereafter, former Wildrose and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt was back at the pumps yesterday doing the same thing. 

Opposition finance critic during the years the NDP was in power, the publisher nowadays of an alt-right online news and commentary site proved at least that he’s more consistent than the former Wildrose Party leader who now occupies the Premier’s Office. 

Either that or he’s just a glutton for punishment. 

He also appears to have a nicer truck than he did in 2016, and a few extra jerrycans. 

CLARIFICATION: My link to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s whiny news release about the Alberta fuel tax took readers to the CTF’s similar news release about Newfoundland’s fuel tax. Sorry about the confusion, which was my fault. The link has been replaced with the correct one. But let’s make this a learning moment, because it tells us something about the CTF’s modus operandi, which often involves nearly identical statements about sensible tax policies that are found in several provinces because, well, they’re sensible. DJC

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  1. Smith’s gas tax increase makes the annual Federal carbon tax increment look small in comparison. Well, so much for affordability.

    I suppose the gas tax holiday was nice while it lasted. It really only made sense when oil prices were very high, but hey having a provincial election ensured it was extended quite a bit beyond that. Well, at least it lasted much longer than her electricity rebates that ended before last summer officially started.

    So, the jump in gas prices to start 2024 will be a real slap in the face to Alberta consumers, who were probably already starting to realize that all of Smith’s talk about affordability was just that. Its probably also not a very good political move now that the Federal Conservative leader has gotten his followers all riled up about carbon taxes.

    We’re also still waiting for Smith to reduce income taxes for lower income people to and that now seems to be postponed indefinitely. So it seems like the only way taxes in Alberta are probably going in 2024 is up. If you were expecting the UCP’s supposed concern about affordability to last much past the recent election, you will probably be very disappointed.

  2. Dunno Dave, but can you still call them “Jerry” cans in these times of woke cancellation? Damn, where is that emoji? Happy 2024.

      1. Good idea for a contest: rename the jerrycan and you could win a pipeline. Prohibited where prohibited. Submit your entry today. Prize must be accepted as offered. More info at 1-888-DANIELLE.

        1. Be careful, Lefty, that number you just made up might be a real number for something completely different. The closest I ever came to being fired by the Calgary Herald (to my knowledge) was for writing a clever headline with a humourous fake 1-800 number that not only turned out to be a real number, called by dozens of people who failed to see the humour in the story, but one that belonged to an oilfield services company based in Calgary. DJC

      2. I really am reluctant to give the UCP monkeys anything to work with.. But I can’t resist! It’s the “Dani Can” tm D. Climenhaga.

      3. DJC— while checking out Derek’s quantative line of ‘jerry cans ‘ (looked rather dangerous to my way of thinking) on the Alberta government website found the limit number and that they are supposed to be strapped in. Hard to tell from the pic but I only see 1 tie to the can on the far right. (TFIC)
        but with the rules it said they were “jerricans” ,but were using the popular jerry cans.

        Also ironic that today Manitoba is dropping the gas tax for 6 mths. Election promise fulfilled; at least Derek’s people there get a break.

        Here’s hoping for a better New Year than the way this one is starting.
        At 9:27 am, Canada’s top CEOs have made as much as the average Canadian makes in a year ($60,600) and on behalf of us pensioners on fixed income that don’t make 1/2 that, it’s a “wee bit” disheartening, to say the least.
        Let them eat cake??

        1. Randi-lee: We could just go with Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister for the time being, at least until I can figure out if the stylemeisteren at The Canadian Press have a preference for jerrycan or jerrican. DJC

          1. Randi-lee and others: I am reliably informed that while the Canadian Press takes no position on this interesting question, the Associated Press seems to prefer “jerrican,” which looks like it should be pronounced to rhyme with American. But it occurs to me that since the jerrycan/jerrican was invented by the Germans for military purposes – hence Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister – and was preferred by the British Army in North Africa because it didn’t require a funnel to use and its pressed-steel design was more robust than the British design, it was soon renamed using the mildly pejorative “Jerry,” for German. So, obviously, we’re going to have to come up with something else. Since “armed forces standard canister” seems like a mouthful and rather too-Teutonic to boot, and since it is not longer strictly accurate anyway as jerrycans are in wide civilian use, I think we should have a group discussion on a more suitable term. DJC

          2. DJC— so to be politically correct, according to “eagle.justrite.com>containers “….gas can= (PFCs) portable fuel container …. though there were some interesting choices for containers, lol. For Derek I’m going with ‘firkin/hogshead ” since he is posting about Whiskey….

  3. The so-called CTF now makes no mention of the Alberta Fuel tax on the opening web page you cite. Digging deeper in their web site, I found Alberta’s re-instated fuel tax mentioned here:

    I wonder if they changed their article after you cited it or are they being disingenuous with their milquetoast wording in the link I cited? I would submit they are “licking the hand that feeds them” or some other part of the UCP anatomy much more than biting it.

    All the best in the new year.

      1. The link you cited in the story is:

        While the “news” link in your note refers to Alberta: https://www.taxpayer.com/newsroom/albertans-paying-higher-fuel-taxes-in-new-year

        Both come from the CTF’s “Newsroom”. I will have to check my adblocker software to see why this happened. It might not be a glitch, more like a feature.

        1. Got it, Kang. Sorry about that. My mistake, nit the CTF’s. It’ll be fixed momentarily. DJC

  4. Goodness, the anti-tax, anti-vax, (theoretically) anti-government UCP misgovernment has raised taxes. Has fiscal reality reared its ugly head in Oilberduh? Whatever will we do?

    After Jason Kenney’s almost-$5 billion per year giveaway to corporations (mostly oil and gas, since they’re among the biggest), it’s inevitable that taxes would have to go up eventually. Starting small with the gas tax is probably least likely to cause more than grumbling among Danielle Smith’s fanbase.

    After all, Smith’s gonna have to pay for more wildland firefighters, 2024’s gonna be another year of drought and fires, and there’s also the R-Star program to pay for. Can’t expect the UCP, the party against deficits (among many other things) to actually borrow the money.

    Speaking of R-Star: it’s officially the Liability Management Incentive Program. Let’s invert the middle two words and call it “LIMP.”

    Theoretical footnote: I say Smith’s government is “theoretically” anti-guv’mint because Smith promoted more MLAs to cabinet or semi-cabinet or pseudo-cabinet positions than any other premier in Alberta’s history—and probably Canada’s history, too. Whether all those ministers, deputy ministers, associate ministers, assistant to the deputy ministers, associate of the assistant to the deputy ministers, or whatever, actually DO anything to earn their salary top-ups is an open question.

    1. Doug Ford did something similar here in Ontario. Conservative graft or the conservative politicians welfare system, you choose.

    2. Mike J Danysh: I think that putting in this gas tax reprieve was a dumb move by the UCP, and very costly. It was supposed to help with affordability, but will have a future cost. Oil prices are not expected to see an upwards direction, and I’ve even heard about the possibility of $40.00 oil coming. Where will the UCP get back the lost revenue from, and how will they compensate? My guess is through more foolish austerity. The UCP have already done a whole bunch of major mistakes, that have cost us billions of dollars, so this adds to it. For every single dollar drop in oil prices, that’s half a billion dollars lost. The USA fracking is also increasing, and this is going to undercut what is happening in Alberta, with the oilsands. Par for the course, Danielle Smith and the UCP will point their fingers at Justin Trudeau, and Rachel Notley. What are your thoughts on this? Hope you have a Happy New Year.

      1. Hi Anonymous. I’d heard recently that some African, ex-OPEC country (Algeria? Nigeria? Of course I didn’t bookmark the story) had refused to cut production. But I can’t see one country “cheating” on its quota affecting global oil prices significantly.

        The US, on the other hand, is big enough to affect world prices–IF they can bring enough wells on line fast enough. I don’t read oil industry journals, so can’t comment beyond this. If it’s true, though, it means the world will need much higher carbon taxes FAST–because that’s the quickest way to convince people to find ways to burn less fossil carbon.

        I’m convinced that, either by decarbonization, or by US/ Saudi/ Russia flooding global markets with cheap crude, Alberta’s bitumen industry’s days are numbered. It’s the messiest, most expensive, most carbon-intensive source of motor fuel around. Sadly, the Alberta government is so utterly captured that subsidies, tax holidays, loan guarantees (think carbon capture) and outright gifts are inevitable. It’ll take more guts and more brains than any premier since Peter Lougheed has displayed to tell the oil guys to shut up and pay up.

        1. Mike J Danysh: Basically, how things are going, is that the bigger fish end up swallowing the smaller fish. Alberta happens to have a very costly type of oil to extract and put into the market. It is the most costliest type of oil out there. Danielle Smith and the UCP can’t blame Rachel Notley, Jagmeet Singh, and Justin Trudeau for any of this.


          What are your thoughts on all of this?

          1. Sorry, but what makes you believe Smith et al WON’T blame Trudeau and Notley? (They don’t seem to mention Singh very much, unless he disappoints them by not yanking the rug out from under Trudeau.)

            The links you provide seem to support my belief that bitumen will be the first fossil fuel to go. I’d just add that, as intelligent people see how the world is decarbonizing (at last!), the greedy ones who got rich in the fossil-fuel industry will double and triple their efforts to get richer.

      2. Oh yes, your point about “austerity.” It’s inevitable. I’m actually astonished that Smith dared to reinstate (some of) the gasoline tax. There’s no way in Hello or High River that she’ll raise corporate taxes to recoup some of Jason Kenney’s idiotic and useless losses. Yes, yes, Covid, yes businesses needed help, yada yada. The most notable effects of Kenney’s Tax Kuts ™ were that corporate profits rose and one oil—or pipeline, I forget—company skipped town for the US.

        Danielle Smith will continue to follow her Republican conditioning, and blame various victims of UCP stupidity for their problems; AHS is only the start. Every time she breaks something, she’ll try to privatize it “because businesses do it better.”

        We’ll have even bigger bills to pay once Smith is turfed out of government. God only knows how much it’ll cost us to repair the damage Smith, Cooper and Parker will cause.

        1. Mike J Danysh: Even though they can’t blame Rachel Notley, Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau for what is happening, based on factors that are beyond their control, they still will do that.

  5. Hello DJC,
    Needed a fill-up yesterday anyway, so saved a couple of bucks, compared to the new price to-day. On, the other hand, on a totally irrelevant note, I prefer the colour of Derek’s old truck. Red is a nicer colour for the truck.
    All the best to you and fellow commenters for 2024.

  6. Hello DJC,
    On the other hand, the UCP could always do blue, as long as they know how to fill it up.

  7. I do appreciate your blogs, and I hope they can continue, for as long as possible. They are a wealth of great information, in a province, and country, where much of the media is slanted towards these (pseudo) Conservatives, and enables them at every opportunity.
    The CTF is now just an extension of the Conservatives, and rarely will they critique what they do wrong. This gas tax break by the UCP is an absurd move, given how Alberta is tied to oil revenues, which are volatile, because of oil price swings. Now, oil prices aren’t going up. They are going down, and are even predicted to go lower, even as low as the $40.00 range. The UCP is going to do more foolish austerity to compensate. As for Alberta’s carbon tax, it happens to still exist, and the UCP did not abolish it. I hope you have a Happy New Year.

  8. If you own a vehicle which you are tanking up, you really don’t need the extra $375 or $750. The tax might just help some one have a roof over their head, get a bed in a shelter, get medical care, etc. As one American Supreme Court judge said years ago, “I like taxes, they buy me civilization”.
    All these people who object to taxes don’t ever seem to say what services they would give up in exchange for lower taxes. Do they want the fire departments in the province to be cut in half? Do they want the hospitals start charging the same rates as the American hospitals? Roads not to be built or maintained or not snow removal on highways.
    Living in Nanaimo, B.C. we are going to have an 8% city tax increase. The letters to the editor have started their annual freak out. Last yr. paid about $5K and change. As far as I’m concerned its a hell of a deal. I get a police force, a fire department, the streets maintained and cleared of snow, a sewer system which works, clean running water. Then there are the parks, community centers.

    People need to get a grip. No one works for free. All government vehicles need to be gassed up and it has to be paid for. Perhaps its time governments stop subsidizing corporations and increase taxes for them and the .01%ers. The money which as gone to gas and oil in Alberta over the decades would have paid for any number of hospitals, universities which would have turned out more medical care workers, provided housing for the unhoused, etc. the list goes on and on.

    If people don’t want to pay taxes they could check out living in countries which don’t have them or its easy to avoid paying them. Greece almost went bankrupt some time ago because citizens didn’t pay their taxes. Countries in South and Central America try living there as a “average” citizens. People aren’t walking to the U.S.A. for fun.

    Look at it this way, be happy you make enough money to pay taxes. Happy New Year. We will get through this, just as previous generations did.

    1. Hi e.a.f. Your quote reminded me of an exchange from the Lang & O’Leary show some years ago. Kevin O’Leary, he of the billion-dollar net worth and dyspeptic disposition, snarled something like, “Don’t you want lower taxes?!” Amanda Lang replied, “I prefer to drive on paved roads, so…NO.”

  9. The UCP should Stop with this dinky ass stuff and institute a provincial sales tax, which would stabilize provincial tax revenue. Come on Danielle time to put on your boss hat, and junk the dunce cap. Give Alberta a a lasting and worthy legacy before being chucked.

    1. Sales tax, in Oilberduh? Not gonna happen.

      Albertans are famous throughout Canada for wanting all the goodies that governments provide—without paying for them. Nobody here thinks about “free medical care” beyond the word “free.”

      “No sales tax” isn’t a promise, much less a historical condition. It’s a religious conviction. Merely talking about imposing a sales tax is heresy around here.

      Anyway, Danielle Smith has neither the brains nor the guts to impose a major tax. It’s against her neo-Libertarian, “don’t tell me what to do” conditioning. I’m astonished she reinstated even a part of the old gasoline tax.

      1. Mike, I know you are correct in your assessment. However, I put this suggestion out to show how utterly hypocritical the neo-cons are about debt and deficit issues. It is strange in the post war world that the moderate left often rescues capitalism by adjusting taxation policies. I still hold that Alberta is best analyzed as a failing petroleum state btw.

        1. I wish I could disagree, but yes. Alberta is at best a failing petro-state. Smith is running the province like a banana republic, and tribal politics now rules the province.

      2. Mike J Danysh: I remember the talk of a provincial sales tax for Alberta being brought up in 2007. The Alberta PCs had a mistaken belief that Ralph Klein got Alberta in a debt free position, which never happened, and they were saddled with a major infrastructure debt, that was said to be $40 billion. Ralph Klein was also good at doing very expensive missteps, which also cost us billions of dollars, and manipulated balance sheets. The $400 Ralphbucks were condemned by the likes of the CTF (when they didn’t seem to be a Conservative P.A system), and Peter Lougheed, because oil prices could easily end up going down. That’s exactly what happened, shortly after these Ralphbucks were issued, and Alberta wasn’t well off. Danielle Smith and the UCP were also doing things similar to the Ralphbucks, and with lagging oil prices, this won’t help.

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