Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party released a 114-page platform detailing how they would like to go to war with Albertans. “Job creation” programs that just hand giant tax breaks to corporations! “Cutting red tape” by rolling back labour regulations! Repealing overtime pay entirely! Suing higher orders of government for fun! Conspiracy theories about foreign interests land-locking our oil! Outing gay kids in schools to their parents!
Kate: Yeah, you do not like to see it.
[“Hello Calgary” plays]
Kate: The Alberta Advantage is a bi-monthly political commentary podcast that offers analysis on Calgarian and Albertan politics from a left-wing perspective.
Kate: Hello and welcome to The Alberta Advantage, my name is Kate Jacobson and I will be hosting today’s episode. Joining me are Team Advantage members: Stephen:
Stephen: Hey, everyone.
Kate: And Tyler:
Kate: So today we’re going to be doing an overview of the platform of the United Conservative Party of Alberta. As you may or may not be aware, we are currently undergoing a provincial election here in Hell, which we live in, and the United Conservative Party is one of the two parties that has a reasonable shot of forming government and they have released a platform. It is 114 pages long and it sucks ass.
Tyler: It’s death. It’s ego death.
Kate: It’s pretty bad to read. So, we read all 114 pages of it so you don’t have to, and we’re here to bring you the highlights of Hell World, which is what they are proposing. It is pretty much just a manifesto for Hell World.
Elaine: It’s cartoonishly evil.
Kate: The one thing that’s interesting about this is that it is actually more evil than I would have guessed. I think about the Ontario election that Doug Ford won and he basically won it by refusing to release a platform, and kind of letting people impose whatever politics they imagined onto him, and then of course after he won he’s doing the usual class war shit, anti-union, cuts to public education, no new safe injection sites, etc. etc.
But that was pretty much absent from his campaign to become Premier.
Jason Kenney has taken an opposite approach, which is just putting all the shit that sucks ass that we hate in a document for us to read.
Tyler: Full-on austerity levels of policy here. Completely mask off conservative policies.
Kate: To me, it speaks to the fact that they think this election is going to be such a cakewalk that this is basically a coronation for King Kenney, that they think they can do whatever they want and put whatever they want in this platform and it doesn’t matter.
So without further ado, let’s get into the document itself. And one thing I want to start with is actually something that I think is really interesting, and it’s kind of the preamble to this document. So, the United Conservative Party released their platform on Saturday, March 30th at the Spruce Meadows Horse Sports Venue which is owned by the Southern family, who are the billionaire owners of ATCO and noted conservative donors. Two bad tastes that taste bad together.
In the platform, there are five main points, and they are a job creation plan, repeal the carbon tax, stand up for Alberta, get our fiscal house in order and protect quality healthcare and education.
So the United Conservative Party has long promised that the first thing they will do in government is repeal the carbon tax. Now, we here at the Alberta Advantage are not huge fans of the carbon tax, we have criticized it before as being insufficient and as making everyone pay instead of just the polluters, although of course it’s important to note here that Alberta’s carbon tax does have a redistributive mechanism built into it, and I think that’s probably one of the most positive things about it, is that it is, in some ways, a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Carbon in this province is not being priced at a level which will have an impact that in my mind justifies the amount of political capital that was spent getting the carbon tax, as well as nowhere near the impact that we need to have to actually deal with climate crisis.
Tyler: Yeah, it’s just enough to piss people off on a day-to-day basis, and make it a winning political issue the UCP can put as one of the main things in their platform, but not enough to actually achieve the goals they wanted to achieve.
Kate: That said, Jason Kenney does not want to repeal the carbon tax so he can, like, expropriate and wind down big energy companies as we would like to do. He wants to repeal the carbon tax because of pure, unadulterated ideology. So, the UCP characterizes the carbon tax being repealed as basically a tax cut for everybody. This ignores the fact that 60% of households in Alberta get a refund of some kind anyway, whether it’s a full refund or a partial refund. So this repeal basically only benefits top-income households.
So here’s some more things the UCP says about the carbon tax, they estimate this will create 6,000 jobs, and they use the example of a sawmill that spent $500,000 on the carbon tax because it forgot to file under large emitters exceptions. So they’re using the example of just some total fucking idiots. It’s worth pointing out that their assumption is that the mill would have hired 10 people instead, with that money—
Tyler: Absolutely not.
Kate: Which is absolutely not how any business on the planet has ever worked, and the thought that they would hire more people with that money, instead of just returning it to their shareholders and whatever fucking ghoul owns this this sawmill is absolutely ludicrous. Why do people think tories are good at economics when they clearly have never read a fucking book in their lives, and believe shit like this?
Elaine: It’s absolutely insane to me how there’s been this type of job creation that’s reliant on the government helping businesses when these businesses are the people who lost the jobs in the first place and, like, people are asking the government to assist these businesses who have cut these jobs to bring these jobs back.
Kate: And you know what, they didn’t lose those jobs. Majors in the Alberta oil sands were bringing in record profits for their shareholders the same time they were laying off like a third of their labour force during the downturn. So it’s not like these jobs just kind of got up and walked away, and it’s like, “Well, who knows what happens, better try a tax cut.” We can see exactly what happened, which is that they found a way to cut their labour costs by automating people’s jobs out of existence and they did it. And because the companies own the means of production and we don’t, it means that people are out of work and they’re shit out of luck.
Tyler: And most of those jobs just aren’t going to come back—
Stephen: Yeah, no a lot of those jobs end up getting automated out in 2014 during some point during the crash, so they’re not coming back.
Kate: So one of the last things the UCP claims about this carbon tax is that it would save small businesses $5,400 on average just by eliminating part of their tax burden, but the NDP actually reduced small business taxes by a third, so from 3% to 2% in order to offset the carbon tax, small businesses will actually come out ahead.
The other fun thing about this UCP carbon tax section is that one of the reasons we have a carbon tax in Alberta that is imposed provincially is because if we do not have a provincially-imposed carbon tax, we will have a federally-imposed carbon tax, as per legislation from Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. Basically, provinces in Canada have the option to impose their own provincial taxes, which means the money from the tax can be used internally for projects as determined by the provincial government, and if they don’t, the federal government will impose them. The carbon tax is actually going to fund some things that are great, like the carbon tax is funding the green line expansion in Calgary and that’s absolutely incredible. Jason Kenney, though, has a great get-around for this problem of if he repeals the carbon tax, the federal government will impose one, and he is going to sue the Trudeau government.
Elaine: Huge brain energy right here.
Stephen: Yeah, ‘cause you can just do that, right?
Kate: So that pretty much sums it up for the carbon tax, but don’t worry, who likes paying taxes? Nobody! Especially the large, multinational corporations who will be the only Alberta domicile legal entities to actually receive a tax cut from the UCP government.
Stephen: Oh, good.
Kate: Bully for them. This is their job creation plan platform plank, and it is that they will enact a job creation tax cut — sounds fake, but okay — that reduces the tax on job creators — again, sounds fake — by one third, from 12% to 8% over 4 years, creating at least 55,000 new full-time jobs.
Stephen: $900,000,000 whole in revenue, as well.
Tyler: Yeah, it’s really bold to call something a “job creation policy” when there’s not a single thing in it that guarantees any jobs are actually created.
Elaine: And it’s so strange because when I think of stuff that actually creates jobs, it’s diametrically opposed to what Jason Kenney wants, like actual public infrastructure, like—
Stephen: State investment.
Tyler: Yeah, essentially this is going to be just a huge transfer of profit to the bottom line of publicly-traded oil companies. And the majority of that profit is actually going to be realized in countries like the US, and not in Canada.
Kate: This is also really unpopular, and I think it’s worth pointing that out. One of the reasons the NDP won in 2015 is that Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives promised tax increases on income tax and service cuts to offset deficit from plummeting oil royalties, but they weren’t touching that 10% corporate tax rate. And that was super unpopular, people were like “Why do I have to pay more taxes personally, and why do my hospitals and my hospitals and my public transit systems get worse, so we can leave multinational corporations a loan and leave their profits alone?”
So, it’s incredibly, incredibly unpopular and it does surprise me to see it so brazenly said in the platform and I think this goes back to something Stephen said earlier which is that Jason Kenney is an idealogue and this platform is pushing very much conservative ideology, trying to push the Overton window really, really attempting to rewrite Alberta’s political landscape.
Kate: The other thing that’s really bad about corporate tax cuts is it creates this race to the bottom, where everyone is trying to have the lowest taxes so they can be the most “competitive” and it’s really, really problematic in that way.
Elaine: They’re catering to people who don’t give a shit about you, do not give a shit about the province. It’s catering to hostile overlords, essentially.
Tyler: It’s also very weird to be in a race to the bottom with yourself.
Kate: Yeah, Alberta’s corporate taxes are currently at historic lows and further cuts are pretty unlikely to increase economic activity, especially since tax cuts are not being linked to any type of requirements that the money actually be spent in Alberta. So, it’s not like your taxes will be cut by X% when you go to file them if you do X Y and Z, it’s just “Your taxes are cut by this much, hope that money stays in Alberta! Hope you don’t all just take it to your shareholders in Houston, but we wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop you, we’re just the government with a complete monopoly on the use of violence!”
Stephen: Hide it in your fucking tax havens which we don’t even look into.
Kate: One of the other key parts of the job creation plan that I’d love to get into is the Open for Business Act. This is about how we should all learn to love our bosses more, while they give us less money.
Stephen: Bill number 2. Second thing they’re going to do, they’re going to scrap the carbon tax and they’re going to do the Open for Business Act.
Kate: So, one of the labour reforms that the NDP brought in is something called “card check legislation”, and it’s fairly common in other Canadian jurisdictions, and what card check legislation means is that if you are participating in a union drive at your workplace, and a certain percentage of the employees that will form the new bargaining unit sign union cards, which is to say they sign cards saying they want to be represented by X union, you don’t have to go to a vote. This, of course, really levels the playing field between the workers and the bosses because going to a secret ballot really in many ways just gives more and more time for the bosses to intimidate the workers, either covertly or overtly, as well as to basically do propaganda to their employees who are, at many times of the day, a completely captive audience for them. So, repealing that would be a huge blow to Alberta’s labour movement, particularly in sectors that haven’t traditionally had high rates of unionization, so food labourers, retail labourers, restaurant industry labourers. These are sectors that really, really benefited from card check legislation and that will really, really be damaged by the United Conservative Policy’s promise to remove it.
Stephen: One of the trickiest things you can do is try and organize your workplace, and this is just one way of making successful campaigns more and more rare.
Tyler: Another part of the Open for Business platform is finding a way to roll back some of the good improvements that the NDP made in the minimum wage. So, we went from the lowest in the country to the highest in three years, between 2015–2018. So we increased t from $10.20 to 15 bucks an hour. So, you know, credit where credit is due there. But they do want to actually decrease the wage for people 17 and under to $13/hr. Very cool to do to people who can’t actually vote in an election.
Elaine: And who are, in some instances, considered a vulnerable population. If you’re a teenager who’s working, this myth of “teenager who’s just trying to make extra pocket money for whatever” is not really even the case anymore. There’s plenty of teenagers who need those jobs to live.
Tyler: Or help support the family, too.
Stephen: It makes already precarious employment more precarious because now, you have a 17-year-old who will get paid much less who’s ready to start tomorrow, so.
Kate: Yeah, it basically creates a reserve army of scab labour.
Stephen: Exactly, super normal, also what they’re trying to do here, I think, is see what we’re willing to accept, in terms of rolling back wages, instead of just being like “we’re gonna lower your wages.”
Kate: Yeah, it’s very piecemeal, more than the other parts of the Open for Business Act is that they’re going to strike a committee to examine the impact of minimum wage increases and whether this tiered wage between the regular minimum wage and the youth minimum wage should also apply to alcohol servers, so that’s anyone who serves alcohol.
Stephen: Yeah, this is fucked up.
Kate: Some other things that are really bad for the union movement in Alberta is they will restrict the ability of unions to engage in political action without individual members opting in, this is basically in the platform, I assume, because Jason Kenney is tired of Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan being rude to him on Twitter dot com. And it will also allow the labour-relations board to give legal support to whatever dumbass wants to fuck over his own union.
This sounds really just, like a nothing thing, but this is the first step to getting right-to-work legislation, this is how they get it in all American states, is you find some dumbass who wants to fuck over his own union, and will get paid very, very handsomely to do it, and they basically pursue a court challenge about the right to participate in a workplace and not be part of a union, even though it’s a closed-shop industry or workplace. And that’s how you end up with right-to-work legislation, so in my mind, they’re absolutely opening the door for that type of thing. Once again, as someone mentioned, really just kind of testing to see what will be accepted and what will be fought back on, I think, by Alberta’s labour movement.
Kate: Probably the most astoundingly awful thing that is included in this Open for Business section is that the UCP will repeal overtime pay entirely. Prior to the NDP, when you worked overtime, you get banked hours, so say you have an 8-hour day and you worked 10 hours, you get 2 hours of banked hours. So, before the NDP came in, banked hours could be taken as time in lieu at a 1-to-1 ratio, you work 2 hours of overtime, you get 2 hours off, or they got paid out at a 1-to-1.5 ratio. So, you worked for 2 hours but you got paid out for 3. Employers, of course, really prefer that you did the former with your banked hours, because it costs them less money. So, what the NDP did is they closed the loophole so that banked hours were either taken off or paid out at the same 1-to-1.5 ratio. So, for every hour you work of overtime, you get 1.5 hours either paid out or as time in lieu. The UCP is basically going back to that pre-2015 loophole and they actually had the audacity to say “that doesn’t mean your employer will ask you to take banked time instead of paying you out.” And it’s like, have you ever worked, like a fucking job in your life? Of course, your employer is going to pressure you overtly or otherwise into taking the time off in lieu instead of getting the overtime paid out. Like, hello.
Tyler: And in a province where so much of the key jobs revolve around overtime, there’s just such a large amount of workers who are going to be directly impacted by this.
Kate: Yeah, so, for example, I work a non-unionized job as a bookkeeper in the non-profit sector, and I do work overtime on occasion, and my workplace does not pay out banked overtime, so I always get it as time in lieu, and this means for people who are in my situation, that I am now getting 50% less time in lieu. It is a massive “fuck you” to workers in Alberta. The other thing about this repeal of overtime pay is that it basically removes the disincentive that exists in the 1-to-1.5 ratio, and in my opinion, that’s one of the key parts of the 1-to-1.5 ratio in overtime, is that you shouldn’t have a business that relies on your employees working overtime all the time. Working overtime fucking sucks. It is awful, it erodes your quality of life, it completely eats away at the time you have to eat and exercise, and spend time with your family and participate in your community and all of those sorts of things. So, to me, incentivizing businesses to not ask their employees to work overtime is an intrinsic good.
I also think this weakens the trade union movement because most people in trade unions have collective bargaining agreements that will have some kind of overtime provision. But, by making this something that has to be negotiated by every single union in a collective bargaining agreement rather than being part of minimum standards means that its something that every union has to put on the negotiating table instead of another ask. Because this is just the minimum standard that apply to everyone, you don’t have to negotiate it and you can negotiate something else for your workers. So, it is absolutely a way to undermine unions, it is a huge “fuck you” to workers in Alberta and it blows! You hate to see it, folks.
Stephen: You hate to see it, but your boss gets enormous tax breaks, so it all works out.
Kate: The last thing in this job creation plan is a red tape reduction, which is a pretty classic bad thing. The only source the UCP cites on why Alberta has too much red tape is the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, who are a right-wing lobby group who have never in their fucking lives found a worker with too few rights that they can complain about.
Tyler: Yeah and I think the worst part of this legislation is there’s the “one in, one out” for new regulations that they put in the platform, which is exactly what it sounds like, if you want to add any regulations, you have to take another one off the table. So, presumably—
Elaine: That is insane.
Tyler: Yeah. So, presumably there may be a day where new regulations are needed, but that means something else that was protecting workers or the workplace is getting chucked out.
Elaine: And all of this red tape signalling is just code for trying to get Albertans to think that the government is inefficient and it spends inefficiently, when in reality they’re not trying to op efficiency or make the government allocate funds more appropriately, it is only about cutting public infrastructure. That is all that it is about.
Kate: So another thing the UCP believes is that the NDP and their dastardly ideology is hurting public infrastructure investment because they don’t do P3s. P3s are public-private partnerships that — those are the three Ps of the eponymous title — and they are super bad. They are basically a way of privatizing profit and publicizing risk, so the public takes on debt and risk and the private sector takes on profit. They are massively inefficient, they always cost more than just doing it through the public sector would’ve been, and they are often ways to get around things like the public sector’s requirement to use union labour, things like that. So, really just not great, Bob, you hate to see it!
Stephen: Again, just more of the decades-long neoliberal project of just undermining the public sphere in any way possible by opening it up for profit because transit, education, et cetera.
Tyler: It’s one of the kind of perfect crimes of capitalism too, is these P3s because most of them are services that were government-owned previously because they’re naturally something that should be owned by government, so there’s not usually other market choices to get around using these things, so they can cut costs, make the services crappier.
Kate: So in Alberta, years of tory governments — 44 years of tory government to be precise — have really underinvested in public infrastructure like highways, schools and hospitals. The NDP have been somewhat ambitious in addressing this deficit, however, that is ideology, which we would never have in this province. And instead, they should do something that is completely free of ideology, which is immediately privatize all these public assets. The other three of these main kind of planks that exist in the platform are standing up for Alberta, getting our fiscal house in order and protecting quality healthcare and education, which we’ll get into a bit later. The second major section of this platform is on public services, social issues, that kind of stuff. Pretty much repealing GSA legislation, despite promising not to. Increasing the private delivery of healthcare services, no new safe injection sites, loosening restrictions on nonprofits that provide services, particularly religious ones, the privatized delivery of surgeries, expansion of charter and private schools, tough on crime — which is a huge racist dog whistle — property rights legislation, democratic reforms like recall legislation, hate crime changes that will give money to buy graffiti removal and security cameras and requiring free speech laws on university campuses.
So in the interest of not making this podcast episode two hours long, which is how long it would be if we went through every shitty thing in this platform, I’ve asked everyone to pick their least favourite piece of policy from this platform, and we’re going to discuss why it sucks ass. Tyler?
Tyler: No new safe injection sites. Just purely killing people. Literally, there are lots of reasons why they are tough to manage and require a lot of attention to be effective and to work really, really well. But that requires funding and it requires the government to partner with these programs. But just cancelling them or not building any new ones, that is literally, especially in the biggest opioid epidemic that we’ve ever had in this province, a death sentence for hundreds of people.
Kate: Basically, what is in their platform is that they won’t have any new safe injection sites unless there is extensive consultation with the surrounding community, including business owners—
Kate: Things like that, which is basically just a way of ensuring these safe injection sites—
Tyler: Won’t happen—
Kate: Will not happen, Tyler is absolutely correct. And it is just worth pointing out, like, safe injection sites save lives.
Elaine: You can’t get clean if you’re dead. And in order to keep these people alive, we need public infrastructure like safe injection sites.
Stephen: Again, like we said, safe injection sites are going to be… They’re talking about consultation with small business owners, once again, we’re finding that pattern re-emerging where expansion of charter and private schools, who Kenney has for a long time been allied with, is good friends with John Carpay who is currently challenging, trying to fight for the rights for religious schools, etc. So he’s going to create opportunities for people to profit off of education—
Elaine: Which is wrong—
Stephen: A theme emerges, right?
Kate: Yeah, we’ve covered this extensively, I cannot recommend enough our interview with Barb Silva from Support Our Students, a really amazing organization doing great work about the importance of publicly-funded and publicly-delivered schools in Alberta.
Tyler: I think one thing that’s important in the policy, too, it’s not as though we’re just going to take a neutral view to them, it actually says in the platform that they’re going to treat charter schools as priorities above other possible uses for surplus public school infrastructure.
Stephen: And lastly, I think Sean actually put it really well when we’re talking about, again this gets couched in choice, you get to choose the school that’s perfect for you kid, and it’s like, I don’t wanna fucking min-max my kid’s education.
Stephen: I want a strong public system.
Kate: As a parent, I imagine you don’t wanna have to spend all of your free time, resources and energy trying to, like, navigate an incredibly complex system, which is only more difficult if you are working a minimum-wage job, or if English is your second language or if you are a newcomer to Canada, you want to just be able to choose the public school that is in your neighbourhood. And that public school should be amazing, it should have language programs, it should have music programs, it should have science programs, it should have food available for kids and it should be accessible and available for everyone. No one, no one should be turned away from that school. But that’s not something you can choose under the current system, and this UCP proposal is putting us in the exact wrong direction.
Elaine: I think my least favourite was the discussions of “tough on crime,” which usually lead to things like increase in correctional officers throughout the province and police state-funded services as well as changing criminal justice law in general to moving towards a more punishment-oriented system than a rehabilitation- or a restoration-based system. So, when we’re talking about these policy implementations, the people who are getting harmed by this are people who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, largely people of colour, especially Indigenous people, people with addictions problems, people with mental health problems. So, when we start saying “we need to get tough on crime,” there’s a lack of awareness that there is fundamental problems that are not just the criminality of what these people are doing. And changing policy surrounding that is only going to create more recidivism and create more crime in a lot of senses.
Kate: I think especially on the prairies, with our legacy of really violent settler-colonialism — and I’m thinking about the murder of Colten Boushie by a white settler in Saskatchewan and the way he was able to get away with it because of white anxieties and settler anxieties about rural crime and being “tough on crime,” and the way in which this language is always used to justify racialized terror against Indigenous people, and also against black people. Just this week in Edmonton, a police officer was caught on video violently beating a black man who was in mental distress. So, it is a dog whistle to these things, and it is just really disgusting to see in a platform.
Elaine: Extremely disturbing.
Stephen: But it’s there, I think, in the platform, because it wants to appeal to the type of people who are cheering on the Humboldt Broncos driver getting 15 years in jail, like it’s…
Elaine: It’s a dog whistle.
Kate: Nora Loreto was right—
Stephen: She was fucking right—
Tyler: She’s always right.
Kate: So, my least favourite section here is the property rights legislation section, which is just assembled from the trash can of ideology. And I am just going to read it out to you because it is so fucking funny to me. It’s on page 87, if you want to find it yourself, it’s under “Restoring Public Trust on Property Rights.”
“In Canada, no explicit right to private property exists in our constitution.”
Stephen: Yeah, that slaps.
Elaine: Is that the end of it?
Kate: “This has led to government abuse of property owners.”
“The abuse has included false premises for expropriation,”
“Low compensation offers,”
Kate & Elaine: I wish!
Kate: “Devalued property compensation offers that do not account for improvements,”
Tyler: Go off!
Kate: “And government freezing part of a private property with regulation but offering no compensation.”
It is just about, like, proposing an amendment to the constitution to enshrine property rights in Alberta, and just like, jacking off about how much they love private property. It is extremely representative of the “Kenney as an idealogue” frame we talked about earlier, where like, you know Jason Kenney is reading John Locke. You know he’s reading Edmund Burke and is just, like, Jason Kenney’s getting very excited over the idea of private property. He loves it.
So, moving right along, about a full quarter of this platform is just about settling grudges over pipelines. And we are not exaggerating at all here. So the first part of this pipeline section is how the UCP plans to build a pipeline. And pipelines are very politically popular in Alberta, this is something the NDP has not missed. The UCP keeps trying to claim the NDP is anti-oil, and boy, would I like to see it, because the NDP convinced the federal government to spend 4.5 billion dollars on a pipeline, plus whatever billions more it will cost to twin it. So, just doing a terrible job of being anti-oil if that’s true. That said, this is not enough pipeline for the United Conservative Party, so the UCP is also going to manage to build all of the cancelled pipelines, like Northern Gateway and Energy East. And it’s worth pointing out that these pipelines are dead in the fucking water.
Stephen: This is political theatre, that’s all it is.
Kate: If you are a voter who is concerned about getting these pipelines built, the UCP doesn’t actually offer you anything tangible, although they promise to be more aggressive about it? This is something that might actually please Albertans, but is likely pretty counter-productive. The NDP definitely went for a more “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” approach, they blanketed Canada with “Keep Canada Working” pipeline propaganda, and it did work. Like, propaganda works, it went from 4 in 10 Canadians supporting the pipeline to 7 in 10, is what they claim. And, I mean, it’s so cool that the government can spend all this money getting one specific political idea into the country’s vernacular, and the one they chose is something that violates treaty, that violates the unseated territory of Indigenous people in British Columbia and that is going to kill us. And that will also cost us a bunch of money. You do not like to see it!
Elaine: It’s really bad.
Stephen: The UCP has promised also to turn off the taps to BC, our most hated enemies, apparently. If they try to block a pipeline, ironically, using legislation the NDP passed.
Kate: The UCP has also promised to sue the federal government over Bill C-69 — nice — which they claim makes new oil and gas projects impossible — nice!
Stephen: Yeah, I don’t want to call it Bill C-69. 69, that is the sex number—
Stephen: It opens us up to mockery, I believe.
Tyler: That’s actually the main opposition to projects to Kenney. It’s like, I love it, I’m gonna just name it C-70 from now on.
Kate: Failing that, they’re going to hold a legally-meaningless referendum on removing equalization from the Canadian constitution on October 21st, 2021, if C-69 isn’t repealed.
Tyler: There’s a great episode of this show about equalization that’s really good, ‘cause I think one of the reasons this is in here and why it’s such a winning issue is because most people don’t actually understand what equalization is and how it works. And this is just another area where they can put Trudeau’s name into their platform and say “we’re gonna yell and scream at him,” which is just a winning thing for a lot of their base.
Stephen: Absolutely, it’s all kayfabe, that’s all it is.
Elaine: This is a “woe is Alberta” signalling.
Kate: I also find it funny that the solution to getting pipelines built through other provinces is to do things that will piss off other provinces.
Stephen: Yeah, you’re going to set up a war room to just call BC idiots.
Kate: So right after the UCP details their way to get pipelines built, but absolutely will not get pipelines built, they have a whole section that just delves into conspiracy theory about standing up to foreign influences. And the war room they’re going to build.
Elaine: It’s extremely strange and quite disturbing how much it is reliant on espousing conspiracy theory in a province that is already very vulnerable to being radicalized.
Kate: Yeah, so in a nutshell, the UCP alleges that foreign-funded environmental groups are trying to landlock Canadian oil by preventing further pipeline construction. Mmuch of this is informed by Vivian Krause, who is a Vancouver-based researcher and writer, and she claims that US-based foundations, supposedly funded by the Rockefellers among others, are behind a campaign to destroy the Canadian oil industry. This is a way to kind of delegitimize any support opposition to pipelines, as presenting it as un-Canadian. Think about that over a thousand people across Canada were arrested protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline. That is a lot of people who are willing to risk police violence and incarceration to stop this pipeline, and it’s really easy to delegitimize them by saying that they are funded by people who are outside of this country who are not part of our way of life.
Jason Kenney literally said the majority of First Nations in Canada are being drowned out by foreign-funded First Nations who are against resource development. It is fucking obscene to suggest that Indigenous people who are protecting the land and protecting the water are doing it because of foreign financiers funding them, and not out of an authentic connection to the land, which the state of Canada stole from them. And then to suggest that energy companies, who are killing us all for a huge profit and are actually foreign-funded, have a more authentic connection to Canada than Indigenous people, is just vile.
Tyler: Yeah, that’s probably one of the worst, you know this section, we talked about before is one of the worst parts of the policy document, and I think has a real potential to be something truly dangerous. And I don’t think it’s an accident that they have been calling it a “war room,” as opposed to like a “PR room” or something like that. It is very clearly intended to make a “Us vs. Them” conspiracy theory kind of come to life through government policy.
Kate: I think the anti-Indigenous rhetoric and the foreign finance rhetoric tie really neatly together because they are both ways of saying that “You are not part of our nation.” Foreign finance here as a dog whistle for Jews, because the Jew is inherently, like, an othered category within western Capitalism. And Indigenous people because the state of Canada is premised upon the genocide and the destruction of Indigenous people, their cultures and their way of life. So, it is a way of saying if “You are a real Canadian, if you are really part of our nation state, you would support pipelines.” And it’s so unbelievably insidious.
And I’m going to say this because I don’t wanna get sued and libel chill is a real thing. I’m not trying to suggest that Jason Kenney is personally anti-semitic, or that he personally hates Indigenous people. I’m sure Jason Kenney has plenty of Jewish friends, I’m sure he likes them very much, I’m sure he fuckin’ loves Israel. But the fact of the matter is that dabbling in these conspiracy theories is extremely dangerous.
Tyler: That’s a kind of strangely very scary constant theme with a lot of these policies, the GSA, the safe injection sites, this, is there’s a real chance that these policies lead to people dying.
Elaine: Oh, 100% yes.
Kate: I’m thinking about that awful pundit who wrote that “People are going to die protesting this pipeline,” like, you—
Stephen: Oh my god, that’s chilling, yeah. It was a banker? Or wasn’t it?
Kate: The passive voice in it, the people are going to die—
Tyler: People are going to mysteriously die, somehow.
Kate: It’s like, no, the Canadian state is going to kill people who are protesting the pipeline, most likely Indigenous people who are subject to mass amounts of state violence in Canada. Like, kids are going to fucking get hurt by this GSA repeal, drug users are going to die without safe injection sites, like this is not a fucking game. Every single one of these policies has a cost associated with it, and it is very high. It is often people’s lives.
Stephen: And yeah, you said GSAs, they save lives.
Elaine: I can’t believe how sort of proud they are, they talk about this war room and it’s not just kind of a subtle, lowkey thing that they’ve introduced into their platform—
Kate: It’s a key plank.
Elaine: Yeah, it’s a key plank and because it is, like we said, obtusely dangerous. Like, I can see how dangerous that this kind of thing is, and I’m an idiot.
Kate: Some other things included in this is they will create a 10-million dollar litigation fund for First Nations that sign onto energy projects, presumably so that they can sue other bands that do not. They will subsidize the legal cost of oil companies that sue environmental groups, challenge the charitable status of nonprofits that criticize the oil industry. It’s worth pointing out here that this is a tactic that the Harper government used federally to environmental charities. They will launch a public inquiry — which I will would read as “which hunt” — to accuse critics of taking “anti-Alberta foreign money.” They will ban foreign money from funding third party political action committees, which is pretty fuckin’ rich coming from Jason Kenney, who used Pax extensively to dodge election financing limits and then refused to disclose his donors, despite promising he would. Also, they would fire Ed Whittingham from the Alberta Regulator, I guess ‘cause he’s not an oil industry lobbyist. Seems like a bit of a weird personal grudge to put into a platform, but who am I?
Stephen: Yeah, a public inquiry is just actually absolutely chilling because it’s a way to silence critics, attack free speech, like going after journalists, they’re going to go after, yeah.
Kate: So in conclusion, the war room is something the UCP is incredibly proud of, it’s something they’re running on, it’s something they want to highlight, it is incredibly dangerous, incredibly irresponsible and absolutely reprehensible.
Elaine: And you should be extremely disturbed that they are proud of it.
Tyler: And, I think another just another disturbing thing is just frankly how little media attention this policy has received? A lot of the other ones have received negative attention, for good reason. But this one has slipped under the radar, because I think it does take a slight extra bit of thinking to connect it to the really horrible shit.
Kate: The other reason it’s probably received less media attention is that NDP cabinet ministers repeat these same talking points about foreign-funded environmentalists. Deron Bilous, who was the New Democrat minister for economic and trade development, was repeating these same talking points about it. So, this is something in which there is complete hegemony in the province, there is no way to vote against the oil industry in Alberta.
Stephen: In Alberta democracy, absolutely not.
Kate: So one of the last main planks of this awful document is all the stuff about fiscal responsibility and the debt. So, the UCP has hammered the NDP for fiscal irresponsibility, for running a deficit during a recession, and this anti-debt mania has a really long history in Alberta. Discussion of it is always in the abstract, so the debt is “ballooning”, it is “growing”, etc. It’s worth pointing out also that large debt really isn’t the issue, the ability to pay it is. Debt is an extremely small percentage of our GDP and about 8%—
Stephen: Debt to GDP ratio.
Kate: Yeah, BC and Saskatchewan are at about 15%, everyone else in Canada is about 30%, the US is at 108%, the EU at 81.6%. Like, we’re doing better than the UK, Germany, France, Italy, China, Russia, like, very low.
Tyler: Yeah, I think the only country in Europe who is doing better is Estonia. So, I think we’re doing pretty good. And I think that the important part about this is to point out that a lot of discussions about this need to be combatted on terms of what they’re talking about. So, if someone’s saying “Well, our debt is just irresponsible, we need to get our house in order,” if it’s not contextualized like this, people would have no idea. If you just— a random person on the street would think that we are in, like, some insanely unmanageable debt situation, and it’s just not true.
Stephen: When in reality, you should not give a shit about the debt.
Tyler: Yeah, there’s literally no one on the planet, perhaps, that is in a better debt situation.
Stephen: And no one really even fucking cares anyways, on the ground. It’s just an excuse to privatize.
Kate: Yeah, I could not give less of a shit about the debt, and I frankly could not imagine caring about the debt. We have covered this extensively on The Alberta Advantage before, but a household budget is not like a government budget. Your household cannot levy taxes, your household cannot—
Tyler: Print currency?
Kate: It cannot print currency, like, your household cannot print money, take it to your landlord and pay you rent that way, you can’t go to your boss and be like, “I will actually be levying a 20% increase in my salary this year, to cover increased expenditures, etc.” They’re not the same thing, it’s a really clever rhetorical trick that plays on a lot of people’s warm friendly feelings about, like, the nuclear family, and so on. But it is just not based in reality. But debt mania is a huge part of Alberta, remember the fucking debt clock?
Stephen: Oh, yeah the Taxpayers Federation big, dumb clock they wheeled around and all the newspapers covered it? Yeah, there’s not one issue that will affect you or your children less.
Tyler: It’s really important to note that countries across the EU who are in horrible fiscal positions after the financial crash, when they made a lot of private debt public, lots of them put austerity policies in place very, very similar to what the UCP wants to roll out here, and it didn’t work. A lot of countries are in worse positions than they were right after 2008, and it’s just, there’s been a lot of literature written about how these policies actually make things worse.
Stephen: Austerity doesn’t work.
Tyler: Yeah, it doesn’t work.
Stephen: It completely ruined Chile’s education system.
Kate: So, to wrap things up, how does the UCP’s platform compare to the NDP’s, in terms of its existence as a political project? And we’ll be giving the NDP’s platform its own full episode treatment in a couple days time.
Tyler: Well, I think one thing that I’d like to note is just the difference in how aggressive they are to the federal government. Basically, they’ve picked Trudeau as an item of scorn and a lot of their policies directed at him, and I think a lot of it, like we’ve already covered, they know it’s not going to actually get them anywhere politically, or they’re not going to be successful in their lawsuits or in a referendum. But it scores them cheap points now, and that’s all they care about.
Stephen: That’s all they care about, is theatre. Totally.
Kate: The way I see it is that the UCP’s platform is really aggressively platforming a vision of what a Alberta really run on free market, neoliberal, socially-conservative ideology would look like. Really testing some of their more controversial ideas, basically to see what people in Alberta are willing to take, to see what organized social movements and workers movements in Alberta are willing to take and what they can summon up a fight against, so they can make choices if they form government. Whereas the NDP’s platform is… it exists?
Stephen: It’s a thing that exists, yeah.
Kate: Like, it is a document you can read, but it is certainly not advancing a political project in the same way, it is certainly not offering a vision for the future in the same way. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an endorsement of the UCP’s platform — which I fucking hate and think sucks ass — it’s just noting that it is much more politically aggressive.
Stephen: They’re testing us to see how much class war they can actually get away with, under the presumption that this election’s theirs to lose.
Kate: So, in conclusion, if you think listening to this episode sucked pretty hard, just imagine the 114 pages of total ass we have gone through to highlight all of the horrifying and deeply unpopular things the UCP brain trust was apparently stupid enough to publically promise to do, rather than just surprise us with when they got into power.
Stephen: I feel great!
Elaine: Our collective eyes have gone to Hell.
Kate: This is Hell, we live in Hell, welcome to Hell.
On behalf of everyone here at The Alberta Advantage, have a good one, and sleep well!
Stephen: Peace out.
[“Hello Calgary” plays]
Kate: The Alberta Advantage is part of a loose affiliation of left-wing podcasts, hosted by the bilingual journalism collective Ricochet, who you can find at ricochet.media. Our podcast is primarily supported through Patreon by listeners like you. We use the money for equipment and other semi-serious pursuits. And as a thank-you, we send out fun packages with grain elevator-themed stickers and weird tote bags a couple times a year. You can support us at patreon.com/albertaadvantage. Thanks so much for listening, and take care out there.