It’s your turn

To properly hold our elected representatives to account, Albertans need to get involved. With an election looming in the next year or so, it’s time for Alberta conservatives to recognize an important opportunity. A cohesive effort to put our best foot forward and offer the public choices that come from our experiences is imperative. It’s your turn to get involved and decide who will advocate for you and your fellow Albertans and not just for a small special interest segment.

As the elected member of the Alberta Legislature for Drumheller-Stettler, I feel personally accountable to every resident in the riding. That accountability came of my own free-will when I allowed my name to stand for the election in the 2012 and 2015 general elections. My responsibility and accountability is to every constituent – with no exceptions, regardless of what part of the riding they live in, rural or urban.

On December 17th, 2014 my decision whether to cross the floor with the 11 other MLAs was not something I was willing to consider. Ultimately, the decision was not mine to make. I remembered who put me in the seat and I respected their wishes. For me to arbitrarily change the vote of the majority of the people of this riding, would have been undemocratic and therefore not something I considered doing.

In recent years Albertans have been on the bad end of some very undemocratic decisions and actions by elected people we have entrusted to be in charge of our province and country.The lack of respect for democracy and accountability towards Albertans has been met with cynicism and anger from voters, leading to a feeling that the average Albertan has no influence or voice on issues that affect them personally; thus creating a deficit in democracy within Alberta.

An example of this deficiency in democracy is the lack of free votes in the Legislature by Government MLAs and the expectation for them to ‘tow the party line’ without question. The NDP failed to mention their carbon tax before the last election and their MLAs one and all shirked the responsibility given to them by the electorate, by blindly voting in favour of it. This government’s elected representatives vote in favour of Bills presented by the government, with little regard for the wishes of their constituents.

The right of the electorate to duly elect their representation without interference or manipulation should never be undermined by anyone. Special interest groups, regardless of how they present themselves, have always tried to have special influence in elections and legislative functions. Unfortunately, these special interest groups have a very narrow field of political vision.

It is wise to be mindful that the electorate have certain reasonable expectations of their duly elected representatives and that they hold the pencil and the ballot at the end of the day. In 2015, conservatives learned that very valuable lesson, and for the majority of us we received that message.

With the battle scars of having been through the 2015 election, Alberta conservatives have another marvellous opportunity to stand up and get involved if they hope to change the ideological crash course this province is on.

Let’s not waste this opportunity on special interests!

Unnecessary pain

The law of unintended consequences is a rule articulated by reputed economists, who point out that the actions of people and, especially of government, will often have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. It seems that Rachel Notley’s NDP government simply does not consider the concept that unintended consequences can have real detrimental effects on real people.

The cost of Alberta’s electrical energy is a shining example of how what was perceived to be in the public interest can go horribly wrong. Recently, the Drumheller Stettler constituency offices have received several calls concerning the negative consequences of this government’s energy policy, proving that typically and unfortunately, unintended consequences often land at the feet of our most vulnerable and those least equipped to handle them.

These calls are coming from single mothers, the disabled, and seniors, which indicate that Alberta’s legislators have failed when it comes to securing reasonably priced energy. It is very disheartening. The calls are relaying that some folks now have to decide, ‘do I eat?’ or ‘do I have electricity?’ By no measure can this current situation be considered a success.

Up until now, the NDP government has generally resorted to blaming the previous government or another level of government for these problems. But doing so will not keep anyone’s lights on or heat a home, and it definitely will not feed anybody. After three years in office, they’ve talked about the sky high cost of utilities, but have done nothing to alleviate the burden of utilities on those who can least afford them, in Drumheller-Stettler the problem is getting worse!

What would reduce Albertans struggling is if this government cancelled its crippling carbon tax. What would also help is not shutting down power plants early. Before this government came to power, it had secretly decided that it was going to phase out coal and shutdown our most efficient, cleanest-burning power plants, decades ahead of the federal government’s deadline. The existing federal deadline had Alberta phasing out 12 of our coal-fired generating plants by 2029.

We knew the generating plants were nearing the end of their lives in many cases anyway. What the NDP did was demand, insist, and force six of the newest and most efficient coal power plants to be shutdown well before the federal agreement allowed. Some of these coal plants were practically brand new! Keephills 3 was supposed to run to 2061 and Genesee 3 to 2055. This secretive ideological decision cost Albertans $1.4 billion just so that we can shut these coal plants early and convert them to natural gas.

Taking more reasonable and moderate measures would help keep hard-earned money in people’s pockets, and lessen the burden when it comes to utility costs. As Legislators, it is imperative that we all remember that real people suffer real consequences that affect their lives and their families; regardless of whether the consequences were intended or otherwise. It matters very little to the senior sitting in the dark or a single mother wondering whether she can keep lights on or feed her children.

 

It’s about people not power

Over 2,600 people met in Red Deer to participate in the largest political convention in the 113 year history of Alberta but more importantly to work towards bringing back the advantage that Alberta once had. With the exodus of investment capital leaving Alberta in record amounts, it has never been more important to repeal and reverse the economically destructive policies that have been eliminating what we once called, the “Alberta advantage.”

During his speech to the party members, Jason Kenney asked how many people were attending their first political convention and to the astonishment of many, a third of the people in the room raised their hands. It’s apparent that average Albertans feel the urgency and the importance of repealing economy-crippling policies like the carbon tax. Sunday morning the question was asked directly of those in attendance if they wanted the carbon tax repealed, a whopping 98% voted in favor of the motion.

Jason Kenney set out on a mission to bring back the advantage that drew so many people to make Alberta their home. His vision for Alberta is what has drawn so many people that share that vision of an Alberta that allows us all the opportunity to make our own way.

Prior to the UCP Leader’s speech, former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall addressed the record crowd declaring that “Help is on the way and hope is on the horizon,” referring to the enthusiasm and participation he witnessed in Red Deer. The Saskatchewan Party government that was led by Brad Wall gives us hope that our common sense conservative principles are the tools we need to put Alberta at the top of the list with investors again.

Jason Kenney added that “Albertans have always been determined can-do people,” which is a vision we all know most Albertans share. The average Albertan is looking for a hand up not a hand out; we would rather do for ourselves, which is why our government is committed to fostering opportunity. Jason reminded us all what our focus should be; “This is about people not power,” he reminds us to dream big and to think beyond just becoming government.  Our goal is to stay humble, be disciplined and earn every vote that Albertans feel we’ve earned.

In 2019, a new conservative government will need to hit the ground running to work towards getting the province out of the legislative mud the NDP have us stuck in. Alberta produces the most ethical energy produced anywhere in the world. Production in Alberta is done with stringent environmental regulations that protect and prevent the environment from being damaged. Alberta also respects and protects the human rights of our workers and the citizens of the entire province; yet we are demonized by people determined to eliminate our opportunities.

Jason’s vision is shared by a great many people as we saw in Red Deer and it is also shared by the entire UCP caucus. The experience we’ve gained through the last several years will be invaluable to understanding and legislating what needs to be done.

The path of least resistance

The long awaited spring thaw is finally underway in Alberta, the snow is melting and the run-off in some places is quite substantial. As we watch the snow banks disappear and transform into small streams and rivers, there is one natural law that stands true for all of them; they will always take the path of least resistance. That is the physical path that allows for the least resistance to forward motion.

Investment capital is very much like the water we see running during the spring run-off. Investors who hold the capital that fund large industrial projects, that eventually create the tax revenue through wages and corporate taxes we rely on for infrastructure, also search for the path of least resistance. Like water, when that path is obstructed, they will find a more accommodating route.

When faced with countless illegal blockades by protestors and legal challenges from the British Columbia NDP coalition government, Kinder Morgan has suspended the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion spending on all non-essential activities and related spending related to the project. Creating even more obstacles, B.C. Premier John Horgan has committed to doing whatever his government can to stop the project.

Kinder Morgan Chairman and CEO, Steve Kean stated in the company announcement that “as KML has repeatedly stated, we will be judicious in our use of shareholder funds. In keeping with that commitment, we have determined that in the current environment, we will not put KML shareholders at risk on the remaining project spend.”¹ Unfortunately Premier Horgan fails to grasp that investment capital has no loyalty, and like water, it will follow the path of least resistance.

The shared ideology of the NDP across Canada has created an environment that consistently creates barriers for potential investors; at least that is the message Kinder Morgan are taking away from the current Trans Mountain pipeline dispute.

Kean added that the resistance coming from the B.C. government “leads us to the conclusion that we should protect the value that KML has, rather than risking billions of dollars on an outcome that is outside of our control.” The company has already spent about $1.1 billion on the $7.4-billion project so far and now completion of the project is being seriously compromised.

Like the gravity that causes water to seek the path of least resistance, the Chairman of Kinder Morgan is running out of options for the shareholders and is left with few options to properly protect their investments. Until the notion that Alberta oil and gas should be left in the ground and the reality of what our economy operates on is understood, the path of investment capital will not be traveling through Alberta.

Investors generally understand risk, however when the landscape is obscured with countless unnecessary obstacles, it does not bode well for the future of Alberta. The Alberta government’s new ideological policies have resulted in investment capital being diverted and fleeing out of Alberta. If they fail to get their B.C. counterparts to see the light, it looks like it may go from a trickle to a torrent of vacating capital!

¹ http://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/live-notley-news-conference-on-kinder-morgans-suspension-of-work-on-trans-mountain-pipeline

 

 

 

 

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The failure of social license

Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 until 1990. She was not only the first woman to become Prime Minister; she was also the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 20th century. She set the standard for modern women in politics with her strong will and firm resolve that earned her the nickname “The Iron Lady.”

Prime Minster Thatcher was also known for what some called, “Thatcherisms.” One of her more famous “Thatcherisms” was directed towards the inevitability and futility of socialism;

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

When Alberta’s carbon tax was implemented, the Notley government proclaimed that we would obtain social license which would allow Alberta to develop our energy products and move them unencumbered to the world markets. This social license has unfortunately been completely disregarded by the British Columbia government, who obviously do not share the validity of this mythical social entity.

In the most recent NDP budget, the Notley government reneged on their original promise when they introduced the carbon tax, that it would be revenue-neutral. Their recent budget confirmed that they would be using the carbon tax to balance their books; which effectively transformed it into a provincial sales tax.

The other people supplying the money in Alberta are finding it increasingly more difficult to create that wealth the government needs to create their socialist utopia. The deeper the NDP dig into the pockets of Albertans, the closer they get to the bottom of that pocket, which means they’re getting closer to running out of “other people’s money.”

Last week Kinder Morgan announced it is suspending all non-essential activities on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which is Canada’s last chance to get our oil to tidewater. The shared ideology of the BC and Alberta NDP has resulted in conditions that have eroded the confidence of the investors in Kinder Morgan.

With fewer revenue sources available, the only financial options left will inevitably land squarely in the laps of everyday Albertans. The short-term pain that was promised to bring long-term gain has brought us closer to creating an economically stagnant fiscal environment.

The carbon tax itself has become punitive to the industries that create the jobs that generate the lion’s share of revenues that this province operates on. As investment slows to a trickle, Alberta gets closer to the Alberta government running out of “other people’s money” – your money.

Margaret Thatcher’s famous quote on socialism is now being played out in Alberta and it is doing substantial damage to Alberta’s economy and our reputation in the investment world.

 

Actions, not platitudes

Abraham Lincoln was credited with saying “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” As time passes and the landscape changes in the Alberta Legislature, my comprehension of Lincoln’s statement has become as clear as ever.

When United Conservative Party Leader, Jason Kenney prepared to set a new standard for the Official Opposition in the Legislature, he did so with the intent of representing Albertans with dignity and respect.

“I and our caucus will raise the bar of civility and decorum in the legislature, and in the course of the next 16 months before the next election,” ¹

Jason Kenney

As members of the Opposition it is our civic moral obligation to every taxpayer in Alberta to question the government on their policies and actions to ensure that Albertans get the most from their representation. In that pursuit there are rules of engagement, The Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta². The Standing Orders are intended to maintain decorum and civility in the Legislature as well as direct the proceedings in an orderly fashion.

A good friend once told me that bullies present themselves in various ways, some are subtle, and others are not so subtle. We’ve all experienced some form of bullying throughout our lives both as children and as adults, there is no place for this behavior in your Legislature.

The subject of bullying has justifiably been brought to the forefront in recent years in the political arena. As we’ve seen, there is a difference between respectfully presenting authority and condescendingly presenting authority in the course of debate.

Last week in the Legislature during question period, the condescending presentation brought from the government towards the MLA from Chestermere Rocky View, Leela Aheer and Calgary Foothills MLA, Prasad Panda, reached a new and disappointing low. Government members heckled across the aisle, “are you dumb, are you stupid, did you come to work prepared?”  The need for better decorum is certainly evident.

Our house Standing orders,”23 A Member will be called to order by the Speaker if, in the Speaker’s opinion, that Member, (j) uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder;” explicitly outlines the kind of behavior to be avoided in the Legislature, but the immaturity shown by some members of the government recently has brought the level of debate to a new low.

The point is, this NDP government has the responsibility and honour to represent ALL Albertans and as do all Members’ of the Legislature. We owe it to the Albertans that we represent, to raise the level of discussion and debate to a respectfully productive level. The UCP caucus is committed to delivering on that responsibility and to showing Albertans that we have the dignified character to represent you in a manner befitting the honour.

¹ http://edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/jason-kenney-to-be-sworn-in-as-mla-at-230-p-m

² https://www.assembly.ab.ca/pro/standing/standing_orders.pdf

Timeless principles

In 1965 the great American radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, delivered one of his greatest and most prophetic commentaries entitled, “Freedom to Chains.” In this 53 year old historical piece, he points out that through history citizens have been led to believe that they should trade their freedom for security, something that inevitably will always link itself to higher taxation by the state.

Harvey relates the story of what he calls the “Pioneer creed.“ “I believe in God, my country and myself.” That acted as inspiration for early settlers to North America. These guiding principles were all the incentive they needed as they set out with no security into a vast unknown territory. These courageous settlers clearly were not looking for someone else to look after them; they were only looking for the incentive to seek what they saw as an opportunity. They didn’t demand anything; they saw only the optimism of the situation and set out to grasp what they saw as an opportunity that lay in front of them.

In his 12 minute broadcast, he traces the history of escalating taxation and the role it played in the devastation of the once great civilizations in China, Spain, Greece, and the Roman Empire. He makes the connection and explains how these civilizations succumbed to the lure of security through taxation, a security that they ultimately never achieved. They didn’t want opportunity, they wanted security, and the government gave them chains, and they were secure!

Incentive for individual achievement isn’t fostered by government providing anything other than the opportunity to realize a person’s abilities and full potential.  One of the most tragic things in life is unexplored potential and ability. Without that incentive to explore an opportunity, unfortunately these things are all too often wasted.

The recent Albertan NDP budget has further diminished any incentive, by moving further down the path towards government reliance that eliminates opportunity, as the burden of Alberta’s record debt mounts. A tried and true principle is that debt has never been conducive to providing opportunity, which in turn, limits the investor incentive required to ultimately create opportunities.

Albertans had a lot in common with the early pioneers who set out with little more than an opportunity and a wagon loaded with incentive. History has shown that the people of Alberta will, when given the incentive, use the freedom of opportunity to create their own security and provide for themselves. Further continuation of the NDP insistence of an increased tax burden will only serve to escalate a downward cycle that will seriously deter any incentive towards self reliance.

There’s no disputing the fact that some principles are timeless when it comes to being successful; principles that will undoubtedly always apply. A key principle on the road to success relates to being proactive, you can wait for opportunities to pop up in life. Or, you can go out there and create your own opportunities. The latter is definite and much more empowering.

Like principles, Albertan’s desire to be self reliant will never change, but in order to be self reliant, incentive has to exist.

NDP budget drowning Alberta in a sea of red ink, By: Drew Barnes

Drew Barnes is the United Conservative Finance Critic. His response to the Alberta Government’s 2018 Budget is as follows. 

Coming into the 2018 budget, Finance Minister Joe Ceci indicated that this year’s edition would feature “fair and compassionate” fiscal restraint. Now that we’ve seen the document, I think it’s safe to say he missed the mark, yet again.

There is nothing “fair” or “compassionate” about this government’s ideological policies that have created a fiscal train wreck the likes of which our province has never seen. Just look at the numbers. Budget 2018 projects a deficit of $8.8 billion for this year alone. At a time when families across Alberta are making tough decisions to live within their means, the NDP spending frenzy continues, increasing another 5.4 per cent this year to a record $56 billion. This includes borrowing $1.9 billion just to pay the interest on this debt. The NDP admits that under this fiscal plan, it plans to run Alberta’s total debt up to $96 billion by 2024, effectively handing the bill for all this spending to our children and grandchildren. There is nothing “fair” or “compassionate” about that.

Furthermore, the budget does not include a realistic plan to return to balanced budgets. In order to balance the books in five years, the NDP is banking the completion of three new pipelines, an amazing $6.6 billion increase in non-renewable resource revenue, and a 67 per cent increase to the carbon tax.

I’ll give Minister Ceci this: he rarely hits the mark, but he’s nothing if not consistent. One year ago the Minister brought in a budget promising to “create good jobs, make life more affordable, and protect the services families depend on.” As a result of that document, Alberta currently has the country’s highest unemployment outside of Atlantic Canada, and an ever-increasing carbon tax is making life more unaffordable for everybody.

As for services, the government is doing a fine job of protecting cushy jobs in the bureaucracy, but protecting the actual services? Not so much. Take, for example, healthcare. Our province has never spent more on healthcare, but the end result is longer ambulance response times, longer wait times for patients, and hundreds of thousands of people who can’t find a family doctor.

Sound fiscal management is a core responsibility of government. It’s not an issue of politics; it’s an issue of competency. Over three consecutive budgets, this NDP government’s track record for futility is unmatched in Alberta’s history. The problem is this: every time the NDP misses the mark, you wind up paying the price.

Broken trust

Last week in the Legislature under the leadership of United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney Albertans learned that their government has no definitive ceiling in mind for the carbon tax.

Taking true leadership by seeking definitive answers, Jason Kenney proposed legislation that would prevent any further carbon tax hikes without the approval of Albertans through a referendum vote. Similar to Ralph Klein’s approach on a provincial sales tax, Kenney wants Albertans to determine their own economic future in a democratic fashion.

Jason Kenney tried to make the Premier and ministers come clean about future plans to further raise their job-killing carbon tax. Similar to the approach the NDP used shortly after being elected in 2015, they’ve chosen not to include Albertans in the decision to implement new taxes or new tax strategies.

United Conservatives are committed to holding the government to account and protect Albertans best interests. It is imperative that to fulfill our role as advocates for Albertans, we dig deep to determine where the government is headed and to keep Albertans properly informed of the government’s intentions.

Prior to being elected, the NDP did not disclose their true intentions of creating a tax on everything by way of the carbon tax. It even appears that their own party faithful were painfully unaware of their intent. Now when asked in the Legislature, they have no intentions of disclosing how high they intend on taking their economically unsound plan for Alberta’s future.

The real issue with this government comes down to trust. What a government says is just as important as what it doesn’t say. Not disclosing or otherwise intentionally omitting details creates an atmosphere of mistrust and that’s just how constituents of Drumheller Stettler who I have spoken to are feeling about the carbon tax and the NDP’s failed social license.

It’s also troubling that when pressed for answers into the allocation of the funds collected and how the NDP Government has reduced Alberta’s carbon output, there is little to no information disclosed. In search of more answers, Calgary Foothills MLA and Energy Critic, Prasad Panda asked, “how much is the government paying to the Balancing Pool to cover the purchase of these carbon offset credits? What’s the secret number?” (Hansard March 12th, 2018)

The rhetoric coming from the government side of the Legislature on their carbon tax and failed social license inevitably ends with accusations of “climate denial” that is a “dead-end for Alberta.” (Hansard March 12th, 2018). Albertans are quickly realizing that the only dead-end is taxation plans that scares away investors and jobs, and create consequences for those who can least afford it.

Albertans deserve better, they deserve full disclosure about where their government is going prior to being elected, anything short of that is just broken trust.

  Long on rhetoric but short on results

The spring legislative session officially started on Thursday with the Throne Speech. The United Conservative Party Caucus is ready to bring forth common-sense ideas to the legislature and hold the government to account.

 

The NDP attempted to paint a rosy picture of Alberta’s finances and economy at the third quarter update, despite economic indicators and discussions with Albertans suggesting otherwise. Economic indicators forecast lower unemployment, economic growth and a $1.4 billion drop in the deficit with no credible plan to get back to balance. The NDP Government appear to be unaware of the damage they have done to Alberta’s economy and hard-working Alberta families.

 

The NDP Government’s declaration of victory on recent trade disputes is full of rhetoric and short on results. Premier Notley said, “Brad Wall banned Alberta license plates… we fought back… and Alberta won.” On the British Columbia trade dispute she said, “BC tried to ban our oil… we fought back… and Alberta won again.” (Edmonton Journal, march 3) In the BC trade dispute, the NDP Government now realized the BC NDP plan to use ‘death by delay’ to kill the KinderMorgan pipeline and have started to follow the United Conservative lead.

 

United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney has been clear from the start and said there must be consequences if BC were to stop the construction of the TransMountain pipeline:

 

“If the B.C. government, through dilatory measures, stands in the way of the construction of the approved expansion of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, then there will be consequences. We need a premier who will make that clear to B.C. and Ottawa, like Peter Lougheed did in the early 1980s. The Mayor of Vancouver says he wants a carbon free economy by 2040. Maybe we should help give him a carbon free Vancouver by 2020.” (Leadership debate, Sept. 20, 2017)

 

Kenney’s suggestion of cutting the supply of oil to BC was mocked by Premier Notley:

“I think some of the suggestions that have come from Mr. Kenney are starting to look a lot like the suggestions that come from President Trump, south of the border, quite honestly. He’s approaching and recommending a very isolationist view of how Alberta should engage with the rest of the country.” Rachel Notley (CTV, Dec. 3, 2017).

 

The role of the Opposition is to hold the government to account, which is what the United Conservative Caucus will do. While the NDP Government try to paint an unrealistic picture of Alberta, United Conservatives will stand up for Albertans and common-sense ideas. The United Conservative caucus has launched a website to allow Albertans to communicate and bring forward the issues they would like to see raised in the Legislature

 

You can use the following website, www.YourVoiceAlberta.com to bring forward your ideas and concerns. This is just one of the innovative ways United Conservatives are standing up for everyday Albertans, and giving them an opportunity to make their concerns known.