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Of coffins and nails
Some people should be very afraid.
This Week in AB
I used to tune in to Danielle Smith’s radio show on 770CHQR. Granted, I may laugh out loud more than most people because I am a total word nerd and I have a slightly twisted sense of humour but the station briefly had an intro for her show that I will never forget: “There’s two sides to every story — then there’s Danielle Smith’s.”
I’m also very visual — if I hear something, I immediately get a visual — it is both a blessing and a curse.
The visual I got after I heard that intro was of Smith out in space. Like “way out”. It’s important context, I think.
Danielle Smith: she of “Alberta’s 16% of the national population should totally get 53% of the entire Canada Pension Plan if we move to a provincial plan”; of “these random people who have zero medical expertise are questioning health policy enacted after a unique viral outbreak that has killed millions and I think we need to hear more” fame; and she who suggested cancer was completely within a person’s sphere of influence before stage four and therefore didn’t really need to bother a doctor with their problems — and this is a sadly small list — claims she will not “engage in fantasy thinking”.
Add it to the list, I guess.
This particular infraction was with regard to how Alberta could possibly manage a massive change to our electricity generation in 12 years.
Would you be interested in how long it took Alberta money to throw money at our oil and gas industry?
“The oil fever spread quickly and more than 500 Calgary oil firms were launched in the following weeks…”
100 years of Alberta oil: How an industry was born; Calgary Herald, 2014
Political will is essential at the best of times and, right now, the will in Alberta to support industries which will be competitive with oil and gas borders on non-existent.
Recall that oil and gas majors are neither expanding nor hiring at the same levels they have in the past, yet new projects in green energy are flush with investment capital, just waiting for their approvals so they can start building.
Competing for oil’s market share with lower-priced energy options for Alberta consumers.
Yet, here we are, in the middle of a moratorium the Alberta government placed on new green energy approvals, watching our Premier on her hands and knees pumping tires for the oil industry.
Read. The. Room.
The UCP delivered their Speech from the Throne on October 30 and it was only marginally puffed up with fantasy thinking.
First off, the speech claimed that Alberta’s population is projected to hit 10 million within the next 27 years (many thanks to Holly Hoyle for providing the math so I can spare you all from my sad attempts).
On the plus side, the UCP looks to be planning to rapidly increase infrastructure spending to accommodate these numbers that the government was not expecting prior to the speech.
“If you build it, they will come.”
Other honourable mentions from the Throne Speech are: more “choice” in education (uh-huh), streamlining kids through K-12 for specific jobs (not cool), and championing trades so that parents and students understand apprenticeship training is “as valuable as other types of post-secondary education”.
If you’ve sat through this rant before, please accept my apology in advance.
ANY POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION THAT HELPS YOU REACH YOUR GOAL IS VALUABLE.
If you want to be an aviation mechanic, law school will not help you reach that goal. If you want to be a doctor, your masters in economics will not help you reach that goal.
And regardless of how much you might want your kid to do something that you think is worthwhile, they’re the ones who have to do the work and show up, so it shouldn’t be too much to ask that our K-12 system set each one of them up for success in whatever career choice they decide to make.
But I digress.
The UCP promises more police, more addiction rehabilitation spaces, more power to enforce the law against people with addiction, more doctors, more nurses, and more spaces in post-secondary — ostensibly to help make these promises materialize.
They’re also going to tackle affordability in areas like insurance (NDP 2.0?), utility costs that are “free from market manipulation” (this is something they like to throw at hydro, which we could have, but lack the political will to incentivize as much as oil and gas), while promising balanced budgets, paying down debt, and a return to regular deposits into the Heritage Fund.
All while simultaneously lowering taxes, of course.
Adding insult to mathematical injury, Bill 1 of the fall sitting is the “Alberta Taxpayer Protection Act Amendment” —which will require a government that we elected to make decisions on our behalf, based on the plethora of information they can access, to pay for a referendum to ask us to weigh in on whether they should be allowed to increase a tax in this province.
The handcuffs really add an extra something to that Alberta Premier costume; no?
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The final nail
“Liberals shooting themselves in the foot while the foot is in their mouth.” ~ @putzeh
Walking back the carbon price on home heating oil was pretty much the worst policy decision the federal government could have made for a number of political reasons but especially in terms of policy.
Everything I know about carbon pricing I learned from Trevor Tombe, and everything I know about the politics of carbon pricing I learned from the Alberta NDP, Preston Manning, and the current iterations of both the UCP and the CPC — in that order.
First of all, carbon pricing is a consumption tax. It’s essentially a behaviour modification mechanism — like taxes on cigarettes and alcohol — you only pay more if you don’t modify your behaviour.
It’s also referred to as a sin tax.
“Sin” as in “this individual behaviour increases costs for everyone else and we’d love it if you’d choose not to do this, but it’s totally up to you because you’re paying for it”.
Maybe calling it a “freedom tax” would go over better in certain circles.
When the Liberals announced they would pause the carbon price on heating oil for three years it was a slap in the face to every other Canadian.
I debated this with Andrew Perez again on CTV’s The Debate Friday after it was announced.
The question set to us was: is this decision about politics or policy?
Let’s entertain the notion that it was about policy. We would all appreciate if a government took the repercussions of policy decisions into account. That’s all I’ve got.
Where this position loses ground is the fact that Canadians from coast to coast to coast have raised concerns about the tax on home heating since the federal backstop was put in place in 2019.
Sure, you can argue that it was incentive for provincial governments to put in their own policies but what incentive is there, really, for a provincial government to create new, unpopular policy when they can just accept the federal policy and point their fingers at them instead?
Aside from the fact that a provincial government can direct funding back into their own jurisdiction to help their constituents make the shift, I mean.
As noted on The Strategists in their October 29 episode, the feds could have added a benefit to get financial assistance to switch from heating oil. Lots of benefits exist to target specific issues, even geographically, and few people would have complained because the general policy still would have remained the same for all Canadians.
Now, it’s exempting a very few (even in their own provinces — around 24 per cent within the four provinces that make up Atlantic Canada) from a policy that applies to every other Canadian household — just as winter begins to settle in.
The political problem with pausing this particular policy is that it reeks of vote buying. And yes, I’m sure I’ve also jumped on the argument that until Albertans are willing to change their votes, they won’t be the ones getting the ear of the Prime Minister.
If that wasn’t already enough, the Liberals somehow managed to make things worse with their release of an “elect more Liberals if you want policy exemptions” communications strategy.
Instead of giving them leverage with the messaging that Liberal MPs get things done it does the exact opposite; every Canadian with a Liberal MP who will still see the carbon tax on their home heating bill (spoiler: everyone who isn’t using heating oil) are basically being told their MPs didn’t work hard enough to get them an exemption.
I cannot facepalm enough.
With the CPC gaining steady ground on the Liberals for months, it’s only going to get worse for the Liberals as we get deeper into the coldest darkest days of the season. I don’t make predictions often but I’d hazard one now: Trudeau’s leadership won’t see springtime in Canada.