Jason Kenney’s Government Has Big Shoes to Fill

Can you really make everyone happy by spreading the anger equally? Jason Kenney, Alberta’s Premier, seems willing to give it his best shot. The deep-rooted differences between those crammed into a “united” conservative Party have carved out Kenney’s path to more likely resemble a minefield than a hiking trail. Losing out to the NDP in the majority of Edmonton ridings only added to the contortions Kenney must now perform as head of government to appease both the broad spectrum of his Party members as well as those who were adamantly #NeverKenney.

From the social conservative appointments to cabinet to the Blue Ribbon Panel (the name still makes me think of a random group of folk whose annual aspiration is to judge pies and pigs at a county fair) to the appointment of a much less experienced Ed Whittingham, Jason Kenney looks like he’s willing to make everyone a little happy in order to keep them from revolting. Credit where credit is due, keeping the rabid partisans from rattling their cages will not be an easy task but Kenney looks to be making a concerted effort.

The real test will come when the cuts are announced. In a bid to play to the corporate interests who either did finance the conservative Political Action Committees or can be wooed to do so next election, Kenney promised a whopping 4% reduction in corporate taxes over the next four years. It’s a bold move for a province so deeply in debt. 

To spite the diversification process the NDP’s Climate Leadership Plan financed (which was a beacon for green energy ingenuity fleeing Ontario) Jason Nixon, Minister of dismantling Environment and Parks, noted in a press conference today that a Kenney-led government will not support solar projects; which is no surprise. 

In addition to the $30 million dollar “war room” that will likely cause more environmental pushback than this province has ever seen, the made-in-Alberta carbon tax will be replaced with the federal carbon tax on June 1, adding another billion dollar hole to the provinces revenues. 

Enter the Blue Ribbon Panel. 

In order to balance a budget after promising to cut revenue, the Kenney-led government will have to cut spending. And not like we needed to cut spending before but cut spending to accommodate willful cuts to current revenue. Because even though some businesses claimed that confidence was back the day after Kenney’s Party won the election, it’s not really back. 

Oil companies are still struggling and new investment will likely hold off until they see what a Kenney government will offer them. When you announce there’s going to be a fire sale a few months in advance, savvy buyers will wait to see how low prices go. 

The province of Alberta has been touted as the last place any business would want to invest by Mr. Kenney himself for the last two years and everyone knows that desperate times call for desperate measures. So the question is, how low will Kenney go to attract big announcements? 

During the first week after his election, Kenney claimed he had been “receiving calls from CEOs who… want to invest in Alberta“. But here we are, over a month later, and there has been no announcements of incredible new investment. And sure, some people might say that billion dollar deals take more than a few weeks to put together but Kenney had no qualms about taking credit for the $5 billion dollar sale of WestJet only weeks after the UCP formed government. Although if he hadn’t won the election, it would be just as likely he would have claimed it was another example of investment fleeing the province.

Jason Kenney, thanks to his own rhetoric, has very big promises to fulfill. Some are rightfully skeptical about his ability to keep them: if the problem was the NDP government, then Kenney should find success simply by not being an NDP government. If, however, investor confidence had little to do with the government and more to do with a change in the global investment climate, Jason Kenney may not find a very welcoming Alberta after all. 

This post contains fact and opinion.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

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Twitter: @Mitchell_AB for all the commentary; @thisweekinAB for posts