Alberta Election 2019

Division unites Albertans under a vision for their future and Canadian confederation

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Premier-elect Jason Kenney shared the story of meeting a 17-year old boy three years ago at a rural Alberta gas station, who asked him to please hurry up with the next election. Mr. Kenney responded that the timing wasn’t up to him, but he was doing the best he could to prepare. Tears welled up in the boys eyes – he said, my father’s been unemployed for many months and he’s starting to get depressed, and I’m the only source of income for my parents and four siblings. Mr. Kenney said he’s thought about that boy every day for the last three years and it’s people like him that the United Conservative government will fight for.

An astounding record 72 percent of Albertans voted in the provincial election on April 16 with overwhelming support for a majority UCP government. The advance polls saw triple the turnout from the 2015 election, an indication that a change in government was coming. With these early votes still to be counted, the UCP sit at approximately 63 seats out of 87 in the legislature. The official and only opposition in the legislature are the NDP at approximately 24 seats – all other parties completely shut out as the Liberals lost their only seat and the Alberta Party lost their three, despite offering a full slate of candidates for the ballots. Albertans were exceptionally clear about the direction they want and that is conservative governance.

The UCP is a brand new party with most of its candidates new to the political game, though not in their professions, under experienced leadership, suggesting an interesting dynamic to come. In particular, legislative debate will be interesting because the NDP changed their public tune while in government to that of supporting (in rhetoric only, not in action) petroleum development and will now have no choice but to remain supportive or mute on the topic as official opposition, lest their hypocrisy become even more evident and lose further seats in the next election.

Over the past several election cycles, the left-wing has pushed the narrative of fear, hate, and division to the repulsion of most voters. On Tuesday, Albertans solidly thumped that narrative in favour of what really matters – facts, integrity, and a strong, transparent agenda and vision for the economic and social well-being of not just those in the province, but as Mr. Kenney conveyed in his speech, for all Canadians, including those who are Indigenous.

In a direct appeal to Quebec’s Premier for collaboration between the two provinces, the Premier-elect spoke at length in French that the two leaders must find common ground to strengthen the self-sufficiency of both economies. Two years ago, TransCanada pulled the plug on its proposed Energy East pipeline, which would have both provided the eastern provinces with oil and natural gas from home instead of foreign dictatorships and opened a market to Europe, due to opposition from politically charged federal regulators, local politicians, and paid environmental activists.

Premier-elect Kenney gave a taste of his leadership style over the next four years by directly calling out the foreign sources of anti-Canadian funding that have targeted energy production and infrastructure, in addition to other industries such as fishing – the Rockefellers, Tides, and the Suzuki Foundation among those in his sights for potential legal action. Another was Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has stonewalled energy infrastructure projects and introduced a carbon tax that only harms individuals and economic competitiveness while doing nothing to protect or improve the environment. The scene is set for another showdown between Alberta and a noxious Trudeau Prime Minister, and as an adversary, Justin is nowhere near as tough or clever as his father was.

Outgoing NDP Premier Rachel Notley had focused on name-calling and division, pressuring the wrongful ejection of two UCP candidates – Randy Kerr and then Caylan Ford – even going so far as to slander Mr. Kenney regarding the two without facts in the televised leaders’ debate. In the case of Ms. Ford, the NDP showed the extent of their dishonesty when they slandered her as a white supremacist, when the truth is Ms. Ford was manipulated and blackmailed by a sociopath connected to Press Progress – a propaganda organization for the left. How utterly disgusting and hypocritical for the left to claim championship of women while simultaneously smearing a reputation that may last beyond the election. It also highlights the mainstream media’s inability to conduct quality journalism and refuse to publish stories without even scraps of evidence. As all the losing parties lamented in their concession speeches, the UCP need to prove they are better – absolutely, and they can begin by righting the wrongs endured by Mr. Kerr and Ms. Ford. Premier-elect Kenney’s character will be tested and judged as much by his accomplishments for Alberta as the manner in which he treats those who are loyal to and supportive of him.

The media continued to push their narrative of how divisive the election was. No, only the NDP and the media were divisive because it’s the only game plan they know. Albertans, who have been suffering under years of prolonged economic recession without much hope that the compounded situation of provincial, federal, and foreign obstruction would change, demanded and manifested an opportunity to restore the Alberta Advantage. Canadian confederation has weakened as Alberta has suffered. It’s time to unite behind a positive and fact-based vision for the highest and best interests of all Canadians and deny the politics of division going forward.

Albertans reject nasty, divisive politics but the NDP still haven’t clued in

Albertans woke up to an electoral hangover on May 6, 2015. It was spring, but the air and skies were tinged with cool and grey. The entrepreneurial heartland of downtown Calgary was stone-faced with a noticeable mute in the air as everyone mumbled denials that they themselves had voted for the far-left New Democratic Party, with its socialist and communist roots. Yet somehow the province had just elected its first new majority government in forty-four years under now-Premier Rachel Notley.

The Progressive Conservatives, who had guided Alberta’s government uninterrupted since 1971, threw away their final chance at salvation when Jim Prentice became leader. They begged him to restore their fortunes then refused to change their ways and ensure Prentice had a real chance to make things right. Albertans had realized during the 2012 provincial election that the Wildrose Party were too negative and not their cup of tea, later reinforced by Danielle Smith’s shameless, egotistical, and somehow unironic (considering the foundations of her Wildrose caucus) floor-crossing in 2014. This decision, along with the unfortunate gender optics of Prentice’s rebuttal to Notley in a televised debate that “math is hard” (particularly the NDP-implemented Discovery Math method) turned Albertans off. Stop with the bickering and get on with the job, was the sentiment.

The NDP were the only other party with a full slate of 87 candidates for the 2015 provincial election. So, every Albertan who wanted to make a point chose the ballot box as their vehicle of silent resistance and thought they would be the only ones to mark a protest vote with the NDP. Good morning, Wednesday.

Four years later and Alberta is now days away from choosing their next Premier and government. An NDP television commercial shows a middle-aged man sitting in his kitchen talking about how he had always been a PC voter, but geez – there’s something he just can’t put his finger on, about something non-descript about that Jason Kenney, and so, what the hell, he’ll vote for Rachel Notley because at least with her he knows what he’s getting. Except he doesn’t.

Few things rile Albertans’ anger like mention of a sales tax, unjustified in the country’s economic engine, yet the first thing Premier Notley did was introduce a carbon tax that, in practice, is a sales tax, despite not once mentioning it during the election campaign. Make no mistake, Notley knew early on in the 2015 campaign – as Prentice did – that she would become the next Premier and would be calling the policy shots.

We do know that Notley can neither tout the benefits of her four years in government nor the same for another four, amid the deep entrenchment of an economic crisis and the human suffering that goes along with it. Instead, Notley put out a commercial alluding to some vague bad-ness about Kenney, outright defamed him in the televised debate – and doubled down on her comments when Kenney challenged her – and kicked off the election with a horrible smear campaign deliberately intended to damage the reputation of one of the United Conservative’s star candidates, as well as her replacement.

‘White supremacist’; ‘misogynist’; ‘sexist’; ‘racist’: it is increasingly evident, as moderate liberal politics disappears and is replaced by inflammatory far-left proponents, that when politicians do not have facts on their side they engage in divisive, actually hate-filled campaign tactics and rhetoric (anything they disagree with from conservatives is always “hateful”). As always, the mainstream news media is willingly complicit in this race to the bottom by throwing qualified individuals under the bus on a scrap of something rather than the truth of everything, desperate for attention as people stop believing them, too. If Albertans actively showed their displeasure at these sick games before, their reaction will only be stronger now in context of rising unemployment, suicide, foreclosures, and taxation through the roof from all levels of government.

This election, strategic voting must be forward-thinking, not premised on disillusionment over the past. Deny the fearmongering NDP your vote and their accompanying satisfaction of believing corrosive, name-calling politics works. If you don’t want to support the UCP, then look to the Alberta Party – they also have a full slate of candidates who would likely make complementary allies of a UCP government or coalition, rather than adversaries who accomplish little of value.

For the Albertans lucky enough not to feel the pit of their stomach every minute of every day, consider your neighbours when you vote on Tuesday.

Section 3 | Lougheed’s Progressive Conservative Dynasty and Challenging the 'Eastern Bastards'

Series: Political Myth and Consequence in Alberta

  

Myth is powerful. Leading up to Alberta’s 2019 provincial election, the story Albertans have told about themselves and been told by others since becoming a province is firmly connected to events transpiring today.

The following interpretation of Alberta’s dominant political and cultural history highlights and traces the contextual, defining features and nuances in the evolution of Alberta’s identity through reconstruction, as Albertans seek to rise from the ashes once more at the ballot box this spring.

This series will be featured in the following sections:

1.       Foundations of Alberta’s Conservatism: Confederation to 1935

2.       The Social Credit Generation: 1935 to 1965

3.       Progressive Conservatism: Lougheed and the Oil Boom

4.       Return of Ideology: The Wildrose Alliance Party

5.       The Re-Merge: Jim Prentice to the United Conservative Party


Lougheed’s Progressive Conservative Dynasty and Challenging the 'Eastern Bastards'

In 1965, Alberta’s revamped Progressive Conservative Party elected a new leader in Peter Lougheed. The 1967 election produced the election of Lougheed and five other Conservatives, proposing many alternative policies and approaches to Social Credit, including consistently questioning the myth of Social Credit providing good government. The provincial election of 1971 would bring in a new era of Alberta politics with a majority Progressive Conservative government with 49 seats under Lougheed to Social Credit’s 25. Lougheed’s first piece of legislation introduced was an Alberta Bill of Rights. The PCs won 69 seats and 62.5 percent of the popular vote in the 1975 election and won 74 out of 79 seats in the 1979 election, kicking off a four-decade-long dominance in Alberta politics and back-to-back majority governments.

A moderate by international standards, Lougheed enraged petroleum producers by retroactively changing the royalty maximums written into long-term petroleum leases, causing a sense of betrayal in the oil patch. The Seven Sisters had been generous to Alberta, which had been one of the poorest provinces in the country before the oil boom, but the electorate supported Lougheed’s move.

A month before the Yom Kippur war broke out in November 1973, Ottawa had announced that it would finally extend the Alberta-Ontario pipeline into Quebec, which in 1961 had refused western oil because foreign imports were slightly cheaper and the security of supply seemed irrelevant due to the international oil glut. Now, amid rising prices and market uncertainty, Ottawa asked Alberta producers to voluntarily freeze their domestic price until the end of January. Insult was added to injury two weeks later when the federal Energy Minister Donald Macdonald imposed a 40-cents-per-barrel export tax on crude oil.

The rush of petroleum discoveries in the western provinces through the late 1940s and 1950s were developed in the teeth of persistently low prices. Even so, Quebec refused to buy Canadian oil because offshore supplies were slightly cheaper. The federal government’s provocation aimed to raise money so Ottawa could continue to subsidize increasingly expensive foreign crude to Quebec and the other eastern provinces. Also suspected was to deter exports so domestic supply would be kept artificially high and prices artificially low.

The federal taxation on provincially owned resources was an unprecedented attack and exacerbated inter-provincial tension created by Ottawa, being antagonistic toward the western provinces since Confederation. With an upcoming election, and the Liberal government in a minority position, the goal of the deliberate confrontation with Alberta was to earn votes and popularity in their eastern stronghold. With the Arab embargo in place, Macdonald then raised the export tax fivefold to $1.90 per barrel, costing western producers $1 billion annually.  

The angry Ottawa-Alberta confrontation spawned the widely posted bumper sticker with the slogan, “Let Those Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark”.

In the seven years between 1973 and 1980, Alberta’s Oil Boom brought incredible wealth to the once-destitute province, the oil patch headquarters in Calgary, their employees, and the economy beyond the petroleum industry itself. The cradle of the Oil Boom was the repository of petroleum that geologists called the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, which stretched from the 49th parallel northward on a swath from central Manitoba to northeast British Columbia, to the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Islands.

The men who managed it were the first generation of postwar, post-Leduc boom professional leadership. Having successfully explored the Basin in the 1950s and 1960s, they knew the sweat and grit of the fieldwork first-hand. They had drilled wells and laid pipelines before graduating to the executive suites in which they recreated the Alberta economy, building a foundation of prosperity of future generations. Before OPEC started ratcheting up oil prices, Alberta was poised for a decade of exceptional growth, with a new energy and confidence in the Canadian oil industry and among the 250 independent explorers and producers. The boom was executed by this group of entrepreneurs who blended roughneck aggressiveness with the practical creativity of western farmers. The oil boom was directly and indirectly responsible for the creation of tens of thousands of jobs in Alberta during the 1970s. At the drilling rigs, it was filthy, back-breaking, dangerous work and the rig was run like a military bootcamp. Young men came of age making lots of money while the work tested their strength and character.

Lougheed inherited his opinion that the first step to a diversified Alberta economy was the production of oil and gas processed at home from his grandfather, Senator Sir James Lougheed, who had invested profitably in Alberta’s first commercial oil discovery at Turner Valley in 1914. Lougheed had a circle of Canadian oilmen with whom he conferred, but even as producers applauded his toughness with the federal government, they took issue with his interventionist mindset and eagerness to tinker with the royalty regime. That said, criticism from outsiders was not welcomed: “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch,” one influential executive told the national newspaper Globe and Mail.

At the closing of the fall session of the Legislature in 1978, Lougheed said he was now convinced that Ottawa, backed by a few other provinces, might try to take over Alberta’s energy resources in the name of national interest. Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau called the long-awaited federal election on May 22, 1979 and campaigned primarily on his plans to patriate the constitution and his government’s economic record – a shaky platform. The public didn’t share Trudeau’s grand constitutional vision and the country suffered from a sluggish economy, double-digit unemployment, rising government debt, and a slumping dollar. On election day, the Conservatives formed a minority government. However, by 1980 the Liberals were back in government with a majority and zeroed in on Alberta to turn around Ottawa’s deteriorating finances.

On October 21, 1980 federal Finance Minister Allen MacEachen and Energy Minister Marc Lalonde of the Liberal government unveiled the government’s National Energy Program (NEP). The Prime Minister hoped to treat Ottawa’s increasing deficit problems with an extra injection of oil money from Alberta, which was already contributing a healthy amount to federal coffers, and he was determined to make his mark on history by patriating the constitution. To achieve these aims, he needed concessions from Lougheed on energy revenue and provincial rights – concessions the Premier was unwilling to make. His government reflected Albertans’ firm belief that they deserved their hard-earned profits as well as a larger voice in national affairs. Therefore, Alberta found itself in direct conflict with Trudeau’s vision of Canada as a nation of two founding peoples held together by an all-powerful central government. Lalonde said it was time for Ottawa to “seize control” of Canada’s energy resources in the name of “fairness to all Canadians.

The Alberta government’s response to the NEP was immediate and decisive; 48 hours after it was unveiled, Lougheed went on province-wide television to inform Albertans that “the Ottawa government has, without negotiation, without agreement, simply walked into our home and occupied the living room.” The federal budget and energy measures were more than just another round of simmering energy conflict between Ottawa and Alberta, explained Lougheed, “they are an outright attempt to take over the resources of this province, owned by each of you as Albertans.” He warned that the federal program directly threatened the constitutional rights of ordinary Albertans.

The Premier fought back hard with high-risk decisions. He announced that over the next nine months, beginning March 1, the province would reduce its oil output by 15 percent. Shipments of oil to the rest of Canada would be cut by 180,000 barrels per day, and $16 billion earmarked for the oil sands and heavy oil development would be re-evaluated and possibly shelved. Alberta would launch a legal challenge to the new export tax on natural gas. After eighteen months and the third round of output cutbacks, Lougheed and Trudeau signed a five-year energy pricing agreement on September 1, 1981, which was not well-received by industry.

By this time, there was a high surplus of crude oil in the international markets caused by falling demand following the 1970s energy crisis and 1980 marked a six-year decline in the price of oil, which reduced the price by half in 1986 alone. Additionally, a severe global economic recession across the developed world that began in the late 1970s left high unemployment until at least 1985 and Canada experienced high inflation at an average of 12 percent, and high interest rates, with the Bank of Canada’s rate hitting 21 percent in August 1981. The Alberta government had wanted to avoid a protracted war with Ottawa and the severity of the province’s response to the NEP was calculated to force the federal government to the table, and it worked. In less than twelve months there was a new deal and Alberta shelved the threatened production cuts.

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s the notion that Albertans were obliged to share their “windfall” resource wealth was the keystone of federal Liberal policy towards the province. Implicit in this argument was the suggestion that Albertans were not sharing their good fortune with the rest of the country, and were, therefore, greedy and un-Canadian. In reality, the federal government confiscated $139 billion in net transfers between 1961 and 1992 from Alberta to the country’s ‘have-not provinces’, specifically Quebec, Ontario, and the Atlantic provinces. By 1985, the NEP and its related tax policies had resulted in this net transfer of wealth from the producing provinces, where 90 percent of this had been taken from Alberta. Th assessment and figures, determined by economist Robert Mansell from the University of Calgary, indicated that Alberta had been subjected to the largest per capita transfer of wealth ever recorded in a democratic nation.

In a 2001 interview, Lougheed reflected that the West had turned against Trudeau after 1968 for three reasons. First, he suffered from a “lack of knowledge” of western issues. Second, his policies catered to his political base in Quebec and Ontario. Finally, “more than anything”, he came across as someone who
thinks he knows it all” and westerners found this offensive. Lougheed said the relationship with Ottawa always seemed to come down to a desire to “control” Alberta: “They see us as being able, physically, to be independent and that means we would have influence with other provinces. When I look back on the Heritage Fund and the Canadian Investment Division, we just thought we should be participating in the Canadian mosaic. But actually … lending money to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland just drove the federal bureaucrats wild. It shook the foundations of their position. We probably, in hindsight, shouldn’t have done that … [but] we though we were expressing our patriotism.

 

Defending Alberta’s Place in Confederation

As Trudeau progressed toward realizing his vision of a federal constitution, strong-willed Premiers fought for the idea of Canada as a federal of ten equal provinces and resisted a constitutionally-entrenched charter of rights, which represented a departure from the country’s English common law tradition and a move toward the French Civil Code philosophy. Though the country would be vastly changed by the 1982 Constitution Act, Lougheed and his allies managed to strengthen the principle of provincial equality and preserve the right of elected legislators to assert their will over unelected judges.

In 1978, after the Trudeau government began threatening to patriate the constitution without provincial consent, Lougheed staked out his turf with ‘Harmony in Diversity’, a position paper that listed Alberta’s 29 constitutional demands. The majority of points asserted the province’s demand for retaining or enhancing its existing constitutional powers, especially as they related to control over resources. Furthermore, Ottawa’s power to disallow provincial legislation or invade provincial jurisdiction during national emergencies would be curtailed, and human rights would remain a legislative responsibility, outside the constitution. Alberta gave two major concessions to the federal agenda: a commitment to subsidizing poor (have-not) provinces through equalization payments and recognition of English and French as national languages.

Lougheed unveiled a new formula for constitutional amendments, proposing that the threshold for ratification be at two-thirds of the provinces representing at least 50 percent of the national population, and that all provinces retain the right to opt out of amendments that directly affected their legislative powers or control over their resources. Constitutional scholar from Simon Fraser University, Edward McWhinney, wrote, “A ‘dualist’ (deux nations) approach to Canadian federalism was replaced by a more broadly pluralist, ‘regionalist’ conception.” On April 17, 1982, Queen Elizabeth II signed the proclamation patriating Canada’s constitution, on Parliament Hill, formally giving the country independence from Britain.


Source: Alberta in the Twentieth Century, Volume Eleven, Lougheed and the War with Ottawa; CanMedia Inc.