Alberta’s agriculture and forestry minister leads way in fiscal responsibility in province’s new budget
The United Conservative Party of Alberta is taking getting the provincial government’s fiscal house in order seriously.
Leading the way in fiscal restraint in Alberta is 31-year-old Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen.
A group of nearly 100 Edmonton protesters made Santa Clause’s naughty and nice list, with Premier Jason Kenney not making the cut for the “nice” list this year.
The light-hearted protest, which took place Saturday at the steps of the Alberta legislature, included handing out home-made coal, each having written on them a message about the province’s climate plan.
Event organizer Stephen Buhler, a member of the group Climate Justice Edmonton, told CBC that the tongue-in-cheek event was held to bring “some humour to these really, really dark times.”
When talking about the Premier, Buhler says Kenney “has been a bad boy this year, and we think he deserves coal for Christmas.”
The protest was intended to be for those who had been directly impacted by the province’s budget, including those who say they’ve been affected by budget cuts.
“The best thing [Kenney] could do is stop the austerity, stop the cuts. Not cutting these vital services that we all rely on. I think it’s super, super important,” said Buhler.
In response to the protest, the United Conservative Party’s official Twitter account posted that the protesters for Climate Justice Edmonton are “a group the NDP march with who are firmly committed to keeping our ‘fossil fuels in the ground.'”
“We won’t apologize for being proud of our energy sector and fighting for pipelines!” the tweet concludes.
Response to the tweet was mixed, with some loving the bold post from the party, and others criticizing it.
“We would like to remind everyone that it’s okay that Albertans can think differently. In fact, it makes us stronger,” said user Mark Malowany in a reply to the post. “There is no need to be obnoxious or argue unnecessarily around Twitter. Let’s celebrate together as Albertans.”
The Conservative Party of Canada’s convention has been delayed until Nov. 2020 because of the announcement from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer that he was stepping down to spend more time with family after failing to defeat Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the Oct. election.
A Saturday news release from the CPC explained that the convention would be postponed until Nov. 14 and that the National Council made the decision by vote on Friday.
At first it was believed the leadership vote would take place at the convention in Nov., but Conservative Party representatives told CBC Radio Canada that the day of the leadership vote still hasn’t been decided by the party.
So far reports have said prominent MPs Erin O’Toole and Pierre Poilievre are considering runs in the race to replace Scheer as CPC leader. There have also been sources saying former defence minister Peter MacKay is also weighing whether to run.
After the election Scheer has said he would stay on as leader, but in the aftermath certain factions called for him to stepdown. At the same time news was breaking that the party approved covering the cost of Scheer’s kids’ private school tuition, Scheer announced he was stepping down. It’s since been reported that the party approved $900,000 in expenses for Scheer as leader, $700,000 more than typically is given to the leader over the same time period in the past.
Former interim leader Rona Ambrose, former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are other prominent politicians the media are speculating could run to replace Scheer.
Without mentioning 71,000 jobs the Canadian economy shed in November, Finance Minister Bill Morneau stood in the House of Commons’ West Block foyer on Monday to announce a measly tax cut that would provide earners of $50,000 “with tax savings of close to $300 in 2023.”
Twenty million Canadians would benefit said Morneau, of the Liberals proposed increases to allowable personal income before taxes from $12,300 to $15,000.
In the wake of disastrous fall job figures reported last week by Statistics Canada, the minister touted “the lowest levels of unemployment we’ve seen in a very long time, but as we know, there continues to be economic anxiety and economic challenges.”
Asked about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s demand for A Fair Deal for Alberta within Canada, banner advertisements purchased for the front page of today’s Ottawa Sun and Citizen editions, Morneau said he hadn’t read them yet, “but I will have a meeting with the Alberta Minister of Finance this afternoon and we will listen.”
“It’s important to listen, to consider their challenges. Their challenges are true. So we will listen and work together to improve the situation across the country, including Alberta,” said Morneau.
Across the street from Parliament, Kenney was about to address the Canadian Club in specific terms about the anxiety and challenges his province faces, having shed 175,000 jobs since 2015–18,000 in November alone – on the cusp of meetings with Morneau.
“There cannot be a strong Canada without a strong Alberta… our ability to play that role in the future is at risk. That puts Canada’s prosperity at risk,” Kenney warned during his speech, reiterating the province’s “net contribution(s) of $630 billion to the rest of Canada since 1961”, by way of federal income tax transfers.
By Kenney’s estimation, this wealth transfer from Alberta, which the federal government redistributes to other provinces in the federation equalled $55,000 for each man, woman and child in Alberta.
The Alberta premier went on to outline “the fair deal” his province seeks includes “a firm and fast deadline for TMX… and to make it a priority to bring First Nations into the project as an equity partner as soon as possible.”
As three separate indigenous groups are lined up to buy a stake in the existing 1,150 km pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. and a proposed $7.5 billion expansion, Morneau and the government have been silent on such a deal, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise last June for unlimited Indigenous ownership.
On this front, the Alberta premier lines up squarely behind federal Conservatives; either want more tidewater pipelines and new environmental legislation (bills C-69 and C-48) repealed, what Kenney and his Ottawa cohorts label as pipeline killers.
Scrapping this legislation–C-69 that revamped resource project assessments and 48, the northwest coast oil tanker ban–said Kenney, would allow the province a freedom “to develop our resources at a fair market price.”
Kenney has been beating the TMX drum for some time and shortly before Trudeau’s summertime green light for the project, the premier issued his demands in another ad-buy, this one splashed on the front pages of the Globe and Mail.
“Let us take seriously these challenges in a province that has done so much (for Canada). Let’s not make the mistake of diminishing or deriding (them),” Kenney told the Canadian Club on Monday morning.
Less than an hour earlier at Morneau’s tax cut scrum, the overall benefit was cut down to size in a brief back-and-forth with Mona Fortier, the Middle Class Prosperity minister and associate minister of Finance.
Reporter: “Have you looked at how much it’s going to save a person on their pay cheque? It’s at $300 a year. What’s that per pay cheque?”
Fortier: “Well, you know with this pay cheque will help to–with the $300 or $600 for families it will help ends meet and help families have access to more activities after school.”
Reporter: “It’s $11.50. Everybody knows…”
Fortier: “Well it’s still money that is combined with all of the measures that we’ve put in since 2015. It will help families cover some costs that they want to send their kids to camp or to put money aside for retirement.”
The United Conservative Party (UCP) appears to be preparing for a fight for increased autonomy with the Trudeau government.
In their first annual meeting, members voted on through informal straw polls on a series of issues aimed at getting a “fair deal” from the Trudeau government.
From the province’s potential tax collection agency to the police force, trade relationships, pension plan, and firearms watchdog, members voted in large groups to support autonomy and further pull away from Ottawa.
A panel weighing those ideas is to complete its report by March 31.
“We are not seeking a special deal. We are simply seeking a fair deal,” Premier Jason Kenney told party faithful.
While not backing the secession movement, Wexit, the move to fight for autonomy is not surprising. Polls have placed Alberta’s desire to potentially declare independence close to if not higher than the separatist-prone province of Quebec.