3 things that confuse me about the Alberta election

I’ve never voted for the NDP before, but I will in this election. That might turn some of you off, but bear with me for a minute.

I said in my last post* that I wasn’t feeling brave enough to write about the Alberta election scheduled for April 16. Maybe you’re wondering: what’s to be brave about? Well, I don’t like conflict – and despite having previously credited my family for being kind during tough discussions, there have been a couple recent incidents that suggest we may need more practice.

Still, in the spirit with which I started this blog, I’m trying to understand other perspectives. (Note I did not say I’m always succeeding!) Try as I might, however, there are three things I find very confusing about this election:

  1. Why are people assuming that Jason Kenney/UCP equates to pipelines and economic successes?

I spent about a decade doing corporate communications for three different oil and gas companies. During that time, I was involved in lots of work that called on the (Conservative) provincial government to recognize the vastness of our oil sands resources, and the need to get them to market. Many of today’s UCP candidates and party members were on the receiving end of those messages…but they didn’t get any pipelines built. We also sent the same messages to Ottawa, where Jason Kenney was a federal cabinet minister at the time. But he didn’t get any pipelines built either. Meanwhile, the NDP in Alberta listened to Albertans and began fighting for pipelines hard enough that they’re battling another jurisdiction of NDP-ers.

Beyond pipelines (because WOW, am I getting sick of talking about pipelines), there’s the wider economy. If we put aside Albertans’ aversion to sales tax (and we shouldn’t put that aside, because it means we’re ignoring the fact we’re beholden to oil prices set by global markets, not the Alberta government), people seem most concerned with debt.

Personally, I’m not as worried about the last four years of provincial spending, because I believe certain types of spending can keep an economy going during tough times, and I also believe that spending on infrastructure today can save a lot of headaches later. But I also took high school social studies, so I understand that just as my beliefs are well-subscribed, so is an opposing view about austerity. That debate was established a long time ago.

But even if you believe differently than me: have you seen this image from a UofC economist that compares our debt levels to every other province? Based on this graph and the NDP’s plan to balance the budget by 2023, how is it that I’m supposed to believe the sky is falling? Whose message is that?

  1. Who do we elect if it’s not the person already doing a good job?

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “Rachel Notley was handed a pretty awful situation to work with, and she’s done a really good job – but I can’t vote NDP.” Ummm…isn’t the whole point to elect the person you think is working hard and doing a good job? Are we so tied to the identity of certain political parties that we vote for them unthinkingly? To my mom’s credit, she recently shared a thoughtful article about the problems that can come with political parties. And you don’t have to look much further than south of the border to see what happens when people put party identity before values.

Fortunately, I’m also proud to know other people who – despite being long-standing Conservative voters, members, and donors – have stepped forward and said they’re not going to vote the way they usually do. When I ask why, they talk about not trusting Jason Kenney and not agreeing with his values. Interestingly, some of these Conservatives actually know Mr. Kenney on a personal level. But I digress, so let me back up and be more concise: I’m proud to know people who are putting their values ahead of party colours.

  1. When did it become okay for leaders to be accused of breaking the law?

This question goes beyond Alberta, but that doesn’t make it any less important. And when it comes to the Alberta election, I find things especially bewildering. I thought the accepted narrative from 2015 was that we voted out a 44-year government full of people who were acting too entitled. So, now it’s been 4 years and that same party’s members are okay with their “leader” winning his position by (allegedly) playing dirty enough that the RCMP have been called in to investigate? I really don’t understand how or when that became tolerable.

As centre-right journalist Jen Gerson wrote, “The 2015 election should have served as a tonic for the right in this province — an opportunity for reflection, reform and generational change. Is that what we wound up with? Is that what this United Conservative Party represents?”

So where does that leave us?

Questions aside, we need to decide who to vote for. And as far as I can tell, the choice of UCP is only crystal-clear if your top priority is that governments hold anti-abortion and/or anti-LGBTQ sentiments. But I actually don’t think there are very many people in that category, so casting a ballot may require some more thought.

For me, there’s one thing about the election I don’t find confusing at all – and that’s the need to consider people who stand to lose a lot more than I do.

So, like I said, I’m voting NDP. Not only do I think Rachel Notley has done a great job in a tough situation (tough because of economic factors from outside Alberta, and also tough because of what she inherited from the Conservatives), but I’m also okay with voting for different parties — based on issues and values that will be important long after we get another pipeline.Maybe There's More


*My last post was about a family who needed support, and there have been some updates there. Sadly, the mother passed away. In better news, the people working with the family met their fundraising goal. Thanks to everyone who gave consideration or funds to this cause.

31 thoughts on “3 things that confuse me about the Alberta election

  1. Jocelyn Stevens

    I can understand your thoughts on questions #1 and 2 but I’m having a hard time understanding what you mean by #3. Do you mean that leaders are above the law? Cause I can’t buy into that. And that is one of my concerns with the shadiness of Mr. Kenny, but it also makes me question the lies of people in the NDP camp. I feel that AB party deserves the most respect but unfortunately they are not in a position to win this election.


    1. No, I don’t mean that any of them are above the law. That was my point…shame on me for not making it well enough, I guess!
      I don’t know of any NDP folks who are being investigated for criminal things, so I’m not sure that’s quite the same. But it’s no secret that people have trouble trusting politicians of all stripes…and I get that.

      I think if you want to vote for the Alberta Party, you should. Parties get taxpayer money based on how many votes they get, which helps them get stronger for future elections. Something to think about if they’re who you feel is most deserving.


      1. Don Dubitz

        I think we should all vote for the Alberta independence party that way we can get her independence from Auto off and save ourselves 40 billion dollars in transfer payments that we sent to Ottowa and we can keep that right here in Alberta. With that amount of money we can probably even pay each of people that live in Alberta a dividend the same as they do in Alaska. I’m voting for AIP in order to keep all our tax money at home.


      2. Cj

        Way back when we (Canada) started deficit spending it took the same nonchalance about a wee bit of deficit spending. Today non of that deficit spending has ever been paid back “in the good years”. It simply is a robbing of our unborn generations to heap debt onto them, and it is completely unethical. The left always wants to spend someone else’s money, even if it’s the children’s. Can’t pay? Then don’t play. Want to play? Then pay your fair share. Every year the taxes collected should equal taxes spent (with a little to savings) and during tough years we spend the savings, not spend into debt. Stop robbing the children!!


      3. I agree it’s really important to look into the future. As someone fairly young myself (relatively speaking, I suppose), and still hoping to have children, I am worried about a lot of things for the future. But debt isn’t as high on my priority list. There are more difficult issues to fix than debt, when you start considering problems year-over-year.

        For example: lack of quality education ends up costing us for generations. Lack of healthcare funding in previous governments (think back to blowing up hospitals in the 90s) has left us ill-equipped to provide services, including those that required us to adapt to increasing mental health challenges. Threats to the environment are another thing that become a long-term challenge for today’s children.

        As I said in my post, I have a different way of thinking about debt than some people, but it’s still within a very well-established school of thought about the need for social and infrastructure spending. We can disagree about this point, but please: consider that I am one of “the children” being “robbed”, and the robbery is related to more than money.


      4. Cdr. Guyn

        I’m completely in agreement with Cj in that intergenerational debt is a huge issue. A couple of additional points though; first, spending in tough times has been proven to be an effective economic strategy, as was seen when Franklin Roosevelt helped end the Depression with infrastructure spending under the New Deal. The problem is that governments should then run a surplus in the good times, to pay down the debt, which they’ve rarely done in the modern era.

        My second point would be the fallacy that left-wing governments tend to run up debt, when it’s usually the complete opposite. For example, Ray Romanow (NDP) inherited a $14 billion debt from the conservative government in Saskatchewan, and paid it off (almost miraculously given the economic conditions) by implementing austerity measures. Stephen Harper, on the other hand, ran budget deficits for at least six years in a row.

        This graphic kind of sums things up: https://www.taxpayer.com/media/CoverStory24-27WEB.pdf. Trudeau senior was the worst debt culprit, but conservatives Mulroney and Harper both increased the debt substantially. The only one to decrease it was Paul Martin, a Liberal. Here’s another discussion of the same issue: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/want-to-cut-public-debt-bring-in-the-leftists/article25663385/.


      1. I’m not sure that votes are ever wasted, but I appreciate the post you’re making.

        If I’d written a longer post, I’d have space to say that I also appreciate the NDP approach to social spending…but I decided to stick to writing about the “things that confuse me” rather than reiterate platform points that others could probably articulate better than I can.

        Thanks for reading!


    2. Melissa

      I think that point is referring to the people who choose UCP being OK with politicians who are under investigation – blindly following just because of colour, and ignoring character -why are they ok with that?


      1. Debora Connolly

        So now that the election is over, how fo you feel about how you categorized Alberta’s voters as blindly following? 55% chose UCP with the highest voter turnout than we’ve had in 45 years! NDP needs to learn that Albertans easily saw through the smear and frivolous allegations made against the UCP candidates. They found friends within the RCMP who would initiate an “investigation” knowing that it would not result in conviction but the NDP could use it to try to trick the voters into voting NDP. The NDP was not hired to be opposition by Albertans. They are just in the legislature because Edmonton public servants and union reps voted for them. They were lied to. They were told they would all lose their jobs. They voted for their own interests and not for the good of the province. How silly! As if we didn’t have excellent health and education before 2015! The NDP was an accidental government.


      2. Many people believe what you wrote here, and many other people believe the same to be true of the UCP — that they are the ones to “trick”, “lie”, and manipulate Albertans.

        But you asked how I feel. And it makes me really sad that my fellow Albertans are so split and polarized that these two different beliefs can be held simultaneously.

        And I feel even more sad that instead of being a gracious winner and trying to find ways of connecting with your fellow citizens, you decided to leave this comment. We need to come together, not promote further division.


    3. CF

      I agree with one point. We should pay fair taxes. That goes right up to the corporations. Why are we giving them tax breaks? They should pay just like the rest of us. And if they did, we could pay for important things without going into debt. People have a short term memory. 44 years we had a government that taxed low and spent high. We have nothing to show for it other than hospitals falling apart and bursting at the seams, schools that are overcrowded, and poorly maintained infrastructure. Corporations got really rich on the backs of hardworking people and then they left when times were tough in Alberta and went to where the money is. To top it all off you have allowed a candidate who is being criminally investigated convince you that all the damage to this province is because of the NDP’s. It amazes me how attached people are to a party and are willing to vote for someone like Kenney even if it means going against their own moral compass. On a small scale, we are doing exactly the same thing as the USA did with Trump. You vote for the party even if the guy is a criminal, cheat, liar, homophobic, and the list goes on. I could have voted for Brian Jean but I will not in good conscience vote for Kenney. The NDP has a plan, they have shown how they are bringing the debt down every year. They have shown how they have diversified, they have shown how they have increased jobs, and they have shown that they are fighting hard for the pipelines. A government will take on debt to stimulate an economy when it is going into a recession. Prentice would have done the same thing and even said he would have to do just that. The NDP can’t fix in 4 years what another party ruined in 44 years. And yet PC/UCP voters continue to vote for a failing party….why?….. because that is the only party they have ever voted for. Tough to break a habit….especially if it is a bad habit.


  2. Cdr. Guyn

    Another well-reasoned, clearly written, and important post, thanks Kelli!

    Your first point is excellent, and sums up a key issue in this election. There’s no doubt that most of the current economic malaise in this province (which by the way is not nearly as bad as public perception) was due to the collapse in world oil prices around 2014, beyond the control of any of our politicians. But that problem was made worse by the price differential for Alberta oil, making for a situation in the last couple of years where despite the world price climbing dramatically, our own price dropped. That issue was definitely in the control of our political parties; the various Conservative governments of the last 40 years failed to build pipelines that would have allowed access to new markets. Rachel Notley, in four years, is on the verge of getting the hugely important TransMountain expansion in place.

    Another big issue is the carbon tax. It’s actually a relatively minor amount of revenue, if you look it up, but has huge implications because it allows us to show that we’re aware of and are attempting to address the global carbon emission problem. Doing so gives us a much better chance to market the oil sands, especially in terms of building pipelines. The fact that Jason Kenney plans to scrap it could actually be disastrous for the future development of petroleum in this province.

    It’s also important to remember who is the most dangerous enemy of the Alberta energy industry. Not Trudeau, not the NDP. It’s American oil interests, both competitors like shale oil producers, and the refineries that made huge profits by paying us $11 a barrel when the world price was at $70. They don’t want us selling oil sands production anywhere but the USA, as we’ve seen with respect to the millions of dollars that American oil companies have spent financing protesters to block B.C. pipelines.

    So, all in all, it’s pretty clear that anyone who cares about the importance of protecting the interests of Alberta oil companies and their workers, should be voting NDP.

    And finally, I’m now aware that I’ve boorishly posted a comment longer than the original article, but I’m too lazy to go back and edit anything.


    1. It may be a long comment, but those are all really good points (in my eyes). As I said to Thrina, there’s more I would have liked to say if I wasn’t sticking to my “things that confuse me” theme.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to one day find myself writing a whole post about carbon taxes. It continues to blow my mind that large, profitable oil companies see carbon taxes as one of the most effective ways to proceed on the climate change file…and yet that point has apparently not resonated with some citizens.


  3. Murray

    Well said, Kelli. I agree with everything you’ve written. Unfortunately I cannot convince my closest friends, who are all PC, of any of this. I usually vote Liberal, to my detriment in this province. But if Notley is getting the job done, let her stay!


  4. Tom Barrett

    A very well written and reasoned commentary Kelli. The UCP is becoming as lowbrow and full of kooks as the Wild Rose Party. The NDP has its flaws but they are the only acceptable alternative that has a chance.


  5. Coreen Calkins

    1. What about the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline that Rachel Notley prevented from getting built, saying “It was not the right decision” ? How is that promoting pipelines? And then she talked about a royalty review that had investors hightailing it out of Alberta. She also shut down a coal mine and hundreds lost their jobs. It’s great to diversify the economy, but not by debilitating the strongest industries we have. Jason Kenney works with oil, gas and coal companies to promote the industry and investment. Oil companies can research and look into greener alternatives if they are making profits because they know as well as anybody that renewable resources are the future, but we’re not there yet. Green energy is very expensive to produce right now. It doesn’t make sense to cripple our oil, gas, and coal industries now as Notley has done.
    2. I don’t know many people who think our premier has been doing a good job. She has put our province into billions of dollars in debt that we may never recover from and taxed us higher when people throughout the province were already suffering massive job layoffs. NDP supporters will argue that investment in infrastructure was badly needed, but not when thousands of Albertans were already out of work and hurting. The ones who weren’t out of work were those who worked in government jobs and highly overpaid.
    3. The NDP have been covering up allegations against two of their MPs, so they are not free from scandal.
    I honestly don’t know why anyone would vote NDP this coming election. Rachel Notley keeps making promises that she can’t keep, especially in regards to pipelines.


    1. Mogens Albrecht

      1. Rachel Notley prevented the Enbridge Northern Gateway project? All by herself? Please provide some documentation for this claim – I can’t find any. As for her agreement that it was cancelled, she is correct. The Kinder Morgan project should have higher priority.
      2. Notley HAS been doing a good job. She has been supporting people laid off, which I’m pretty sure Kenney wouldn’t. And she is no more responsible for the global economic situation than Kenney. If you are afraid of debt, maybe you should leave Canada – Alberta has the least debt (as percentage of GDP) of any province. She has worked hard to recover from decades of infrastructure neglect (by Conservative governments). If you don’t like debt because it will cost in the future, maybe you should consider the even higher future costs of neglected infrastructure. Besides, improving infrastructure puts Albertans to work – Kenney’s austerity doesn’t.
      3. Your information about pipelines is a bit out of date. The hard work Notley has done is paying off – approval of the pipeline was announced less than two weeks ago. The pipeline that Kenney as Federal cabinet minister wasn’t able to get started. If you somehow believe that Kenney will be able to get a pipeline started, history shows otherwise.
      4. Kenney’s big item for his campaign is “No carbon tax”. I think this could be an intelligence test for his supporters. You see, if Alberta scraps its carbon tax, then a Federal carbon tax immediately takes effect. Albertans would still be paying a carbon tax, but it would be controlled by the Federal government, not the Alberta provincial government. Could be something like the Equalization Payments that a lot of people are complaining about. Including Kenney.


    2. Angelika Gardeski

      Coleen, your comments are excellent. In 4 yrs the NDP has taken us from a debt of 11.9 billion to over 53 billion. We definitely needed some infrastructure upgrades. What we could have lived without is increasing the amount of civil servants & unnecessary spending. The assumption is that we will come to a balanced budget & start paying down the debt…extremely unlikely in today’s economy. All the money collected by the AB government in 2017 (business & personal taxes, lotto/casino money, etc) did not even cover the cost of our AB health care for that year, let alone anything else. We need to get our oil to market & until very recently the present AB government cared very little about doing that….it took them 3 yrs to realize how important the oil industry is to Alberta’s economy.
      The truth is, at this point in time, we can no longer afford “the Alberta lifestyle” to which we have become accustomed. Our government needs to tighten the purse strings & make significant changes such as decreasing civil servants or cutting wages, increasing taxes, cutting services, etc. None of us really want that, but we may have to go there!


      1. I feel like my original post addresses most of this. But I also feel the comment deserves a response, so please forgive the repetitiveness. I’ll try to be brief: The conservatives have no track record of getting new pipelines built. They didn’t spend on infrastructure or services, which led to the need for the NDP’s more recent spending. I’m glad you agree we needed that, but hopefully you also recognize that new projects require new people to implement them (just like is true in industry). In the meantime, the NDP put an end to over-paying the highest-ranking positions in healthcare, education, etc (these roles were previously given industry-style compensation packages that spiralled a bit). And lastly, it’s still true that there’s only one party with a leader under RCMP investigation. As someone said to me this morning, we want a premier with conviction — not convictions.


  6. Marcel desjarlais

    I stopped reading at “Our” resources… what pains me is that migrant settlers old stock and new can come into OUR native lands unannounced uninvited and help themselves to Our Native lands and resources. Please explain how that is! Meanwhile OUr native peoples whose lands and resources are stolen and exploited while we are oppressed by migrant colonizers…again please explain what gives you such rights?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Truth hurts

    The easiest way to tell me UCP isn’t up for it is by looking at how Alberta hasn’t been preparing for life after oil for decades. Meanwhile Dubai has become a backwater to a major tourist destination or creating research centres like Masdar City.

    Saudi Arabia invested in electric cars. And is busy building the worlds tallest skyscraper. These places had the foresight to realise when the oil runs out, or no one wants it. We’re going to need alternative industries to keep people employed. And Alberta has refused to do that.

    It’s like stop relying on oil so much, because every time the price drops the province freaks out. That isn’t a healthy economy. Use the money from oil to build tourism or research or whatever else. These other major oil suppliers see the writing on the wall, Alberta refuses to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really interesting comparisons, thanks. Your comment reminds me of two speeches from a conference I was at last week (one by a globally-renowned management consultant/business professor, and one by a chief economist). They both talked about the need to adapt and change, said we can’t go back to an earlier time (no matter how nice that might sound to some folks), and remarked that the time during any transition is filled with fear, tension, loss, and uncertainty…sounds familiar.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. David Grant

    Good for thinking through the issues. When it comes to the economic issues, Jason is no more able to get these pipelines built and make these grandiose promises that he had made. The oil industry is changing and anyone who believes that it will employ the numbers of people that it did in the past is simply delusional. Your decision is shread of hope that humanity is redeemable.


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