Anybody But Conservative, 10/23/19. Reproduced with permission
“Ok, Alberta. Lets talk. We’ll start and then we hope you can help Canadians outside of your beautiful province understand why you are so frustrated because a lot of us can’t see it and don’t understand the angst you are experiencing.
Like all complaints, it must start with the money. In 2017, during the worst of the Alberta recession, median after-tax income in your province was $70,300. So the median income decreased from a high of $74,200 in 2014 to $70,300 in 2017. It’s understandable you would be unhappy about that. Nobody wants to see their income decline 5% in 3 years.
Lets look at it from the perspective of a non-Albertan. Even in the worst part of the recession, your median income was still $7,600 higher than Ontario (12.2%) and $10,500 more (17.7%) than the national average. Certainly, we can understand why you’re not happy with lower wages, you are still, by far, the wealthiest province in Canada.
Looking at the unemployment rate, we can see it sits at 6.6%. While that is 1.1% higher than the national average it is far lower than Newfoundland and Labrador at 11.5% and all of the maritime provinces. It’s also far lower than high of 9.1% Alberta experienced at the height of the recession. Recoveries from recessions take time but it seems like Alberta is well on it’s way to an unemployment rate below the national average once again.
Based on recent statements by Conservative leaders, the blame is being put at the feet of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Alberta Premier, Rachel Notley. This seems extremely unfair to people outside of Alberta.
To start, the Alberta recession began in 2014 while the Conservatives were in power provincially and nationally. So, it is extremely unfair to blame Notley for the previous 40 years of Conservatives in Alberta and Trudeau for the previous 10 years of Harper Conservatives in Ottawa. To outsiders it seems like the blame falls solely to Conservatives if blame is to be assigned.
A common refrain is that Trudeau is threatening national unity because he hasn’t done anything for Alberta. Again from an outsiders perspective, it seems like Trudeau has done a lot of things to try to help Alberta but gets nothing but criticism from Alberta politicians. Much to the dismay of progressives outside Alberta, Trudeau bought a pipeline to show his commitment to Alberta but was still met with criticism because no matter what he does, he gets criticized. I can tell you that many Trudeau supporters would have said screw it, and not continued to try engaging with Albertans but, to his credit, he has persevered.
At the height of the recession, the Trudeau government made changes to EI to help Albertans. He enhanced benefits, granting up to 70 weeks of coverage to long-tenured employees in 12 regions with high unemployment.
If you want to assign blame for the recession, you should look squarely at the 5 largest oilsands companies who laid off 20,000 employees despite making large profits.
The five companies paid $31.76 billion in dividends to shareholders over the period, including $12.56 billion after the oil price crash in 2014.
In 2017, the Big Five transferred a total of $6.2 billion to shareholders ($4.16 billion in dividends and $2.04 billion in share buybacks) and had residual savings of $7.3 billion, while paying out $4.72 billion in taxes and royalties to all levels of government.
The aggregate gross profit of the companies in 2017 was $46.6 billion, which was close to the Alberta government’s revenue of $47.3 billion.
The rest of Canada gets it Alberta, you love oil and gas but maybe oil and gas doesn’t love you if they so easily layoff workers while making large profits. If you don’t want the companies laying off so many people while making such large profits then you have the power to regulate those businesses. You have the power to set royalty rates for the province. You have the power. Don’t blame Ottawa for your mistakes.
Since year 1 of his term as Prime Minister, we have listened to complaints that Trudeau doesn’t care about pipelines and was doing nothing to get them built. Many non-Albertans would have been happy if that was the case but Trudeau has continued to try and get the Trans Mountain expansion built.
Amazing, that in 10 years of Conservative government nationally and decades provincially, there was barely a peep of complaint about pipelines not being built but in the first year of a Liberal government in Ottawa, people were demanding pipelines be built immediately. It hardly seems fair, particularly when Trudeau will have expanded pipeline capacity far more than the Conservatives did in half the time.
The Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project is expected to come into production in December 2019 and will expand export capacity by 370,000 barrels per day. No Stephen Harper project came close to this number. Why is it that we continuously hear that Trudeau is failing Alberta and failing the oil industry and nobody ever mentions the Line 3 expansion built during the Trudeau government’s time in office. The government has had to work to overcome obstacles in Canada and the United States to get this to completion.
From a non-Alberta perspective, it seems like if people are frustrated, it should be with the oil companies who make huge profits and lay off tens of thousands of workers and with Provincial Conservatives who have squandered your resources over the last 40 years. That’s right, we heard you loud and clear in the 70s that the oil resources belonged to Alberta and not Canada. It’s one of the reasons we don’t have as much interest in exploiting every last drop as you do. 100% of oil royalties belong to the Province of Alberta.
Fair enough. Even though we have no stake in those revenues we are extremely frustrated by Conservative mismanagement. We look at Norway which took similar reserves and turned it into a $1 Trillion reserve fund that has made every person in Norway a millionaire and then we look at the Alberta Heritage Fund that has only $18 billion and wonder how you squandered it all.
We are amazed that Ralph Klein is a provincial hero when he literally bought people with their own money, giving $400 of ‘Ralph Bucks’ to Alberta residents…money that was earmarked for the heritage fund….money that would have meant $5 billion more for a rainy day in the heritage fund.
Non-Albertans get frustrated about the 100,000 orphan wells in your province that could cost taxpayers $70 billion to clean up because Conservative governments haven’t collected more than about $2 billion from companies to clean them up. We get frustrated that the environmental liability from the oil industry could be as high as $260 billion and you have no money set aside to clean it up. We get frustrated by plans to dump the tailings ponds directly into the Athabasca River because your “Clean” energy can’t be dealt with in a responsible or cost-effective way.
89% of electricity generated in your provinces comes from fossil fuels, 50% of the total is from coal. Jason Kenney stalled the plan to phase out coal and says no to a carbon tax. For people concerned about climate change and a future for their children, this is disturbing. It’s why people outside Alberta and Saskatchewan didn’t vote for Andrew Scheer. He had no climate change plan. Jason Kenney has no plan to deal with climate change. He doesn’t seem to care and that frustrates non-Albertans. Not only is he not trying but he’s playing political games thumbing his nose at the rest of Canada.
We get frustrated by politicians like Jason Kenney who know your province needs to diversify its economy, yet he froze the Alberta Investor Tax Credit, a program successful in attracting tech start-ups and then leaving them in a lurch when the credit is no longer available. This should be a provincial frustration, not something to be taken out on Trudeau. He didn’t freeze this program. Trudeau didn’t lower the minimum wage of youth workers and won’t reduce the wages of servers. That’s all Jason Kenney and that lowers wages across the board in the province.
Ok Alberta, we get that you are frustrated but so is the rest of Canada. We see that you have the highest incomes in all of Canada and an unemployment rate barely above the national average even as you come out of a recession and we wonder, what’s so bad?
We see that Conservative governments did very little to build pipelines over the decades but the moment there is an NDP government in Alberta and a Liberal government in Canada, the pipelines need to be built immediately and apparently everyone is out to get Alberta. And despite the fact Trudeau will have expanded pipeline capacity more than Conservatives did in half the time, you still complain the Federal government doesn’t care about Alberta.
Non-Albertans care about the environment but it doesn’t seem like the majority of Albertans give a damn and certainly aren’t prepared to do anything about it despite the fact your emissions are many times higher than the national average.
Ok Alberta, help us understand. What has the Federal government done that’s so bad you’re prepared to break up the country?”
Part 1 Conservative Economics Gutting Fiscal Capacity
Part 2 Conservative Economics
Part 3 UCP Economics Alberta
Part 4: Conservative Economic rhetoric is Gaslighting
Equalization and Alberta
Gaslighting an entire Province: Alberta