Alberta's Deplorable NDP
If the Trudeau government's draconian measure to force provinces to eliminate coal by 2030 wasn't enough of a blow to the back of the head, Albertans are grappling with a concussion from their NDP government's plan to throw $1.3B at the effort. The province's NDP government has agreed to pay Capital Power, TransAlta and ATCO a total of $1.36B, or $97M per year until 2030, to shut down six coal-fired power plants. As a result, the province's coal industry will put more Albertan's out of work and heating costs will rise for all Alberta households.
While Rachel Notley and Marg McCuaig-Boyd take solace in knowing that their government pensions will protect them, the rest of Alberta continues to deal with a flooded labour market that's sure to eventually decrease salaries and wages for everyone but government employees. The days of labourers and employees having the upper hand are long gone. Alberta's unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country and employers have the luxury of picking and choosing the most qualified candidates at lower costs. This means that thousands of Albertans are applying for dozens of jobs per week and not getting any results. It also means that thousands of laid-off Albertans have been forced to take lower paying, lower quality jobs – if they've been lucky enough to find a job at all. Most of these Albertans view their situations as temporary, but more are starting to lose hope as the days go on.
Albertans are in pain, but their government isn't on their side. Instead, Notley's government is more concerned with leading an ideological crusade to save the planet from Alberta's negligible, inconsequential contribution to global CO2 emissions. Unemployed and struggling Albertans are the casualties left lying on the battlefield, wounded and begging for help. The ones who haven't caught on yet are starting to realize that help isn't coming. It never was. From the moment Rachel Notley stepped foot into the Premier's office, the radio was turned off and the distress signals were muted.
Ontario's ambitious climate change plan isn't offering any lessons to Rachel Notley. Or, Rachel Notley just doesn't care. Ontario and its taxpayers have been suffering under soaring hydro costs for over a year. In July, an executive director for the United Way in Ontario, Francesca Dobbyn, told Global News, “We've talked to people who've had medical emergencies. A man who had a heart attack told our staff it would be financially better for his family if he had passed away rather than survived.”
“The man's rationale? His medical equipment used too much electricity and pushed up the cost of the family's hydro bill. Dobbyn said things have become so bad for certain residents that this has evolved from an issue of social housing and affordability to one of public health and safety.” – Brian Hill, Global News
By axing cheap coal power, Alberta's energy market won't be as viable. The costs of upgrading combined with the rising demand for heat will cause prices to rise. Solar and wind energy are expensive and their outputs are much lower. Add a provincial carbon tax to all of that and it makes Alberta's future even darker – pun intended. By next year, that tax alone will have added over $400 to your annual expenditures. According to the Canadian Press, the number is around $443:
“Alberta has put forward legislation to implement its multi-billion dollar carbon levy, with new estimates hiking the cost to families to as much as $443 next year. Opponents, however, estimate it will be about double that.
In the April budget the government estimated the direct cost for a couple with two children to be $338 in 2017. However, the government has now estimated the indirect cost of the tax, representing the expected amount that business owners will pass on to customers.” – Canadian Press, May 25, 2016
The industrial revolution was truly progressive because it lifted everyone out of poverty. Putting people back into poverty is regressive. Paying to help put Albertans deeper into poverty is beyond regressive, it's vicious and destructive. Rachel Notley's NDP government has gone far beyond environmental activism. Her government has expressed animosity and resentment toward Albertans. A government with good intentions doesn't impose a carbon tax and then use $1.3B of its people's money to expedite their descent into poverty and depression. At a time when people are struggling, a government with good intentions holds off on expensive environmental initiatives to put its people first.
According to Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey and the Canadian Association Of Petroleum Producers, nearly 50,000 jobs were lost in Alberta between December 2014 and April 2016 alone. Most of those jobs were in mining, forestry, quarrying, and oil. Those numbers have been climbing and – in June – the CBC picked up a report about an entire Alberta town losing its status as a municipality:
“The population of Grand Cache was 4,319 in 2011 according to the latest census but has reduced significantly in the past two years after nearly a third of the town's jobs were lost.
Grand Cache was built in 1969 as a service town for the coal industry. In December 2015, Grand Cache Coal laid off 220 workers and shut down operations. Earlier that year, the company cut 175 people when it suspended surface-mine operations.” – Ariel Fournier, CBC News
From the very moment the Notley government took office, it became clear that the next four years wouldn't be about serving all Albertans, it would be about sticking it to the 60% who cast their votes for someone else. Having been born and raised in Saskatchewan, I'm familiar with the socialist tendency to punish and destroy enemies of the ideology. Saskatchewan's NDP government often scrapped infrastructure spending for rural communities that voted for someone else, while snidely blaming the opposition for bills and initiatives that were designed to fail. The same thing has been happening in Alberta with the NDP's betrayal of rural voters in Springbank, who were assured that their properties and ranches were safe.
To get elected, the NDP ran on a platform that didn't include increasing the costs of running a family farm, expropriating farm land for a dam and implementing a carbon tax. But, as soon as they took office, that's what Albertans got. The Springbank community, just west of Calgary, was assured that plans to confiscate and buy their land to build a dam would be scrapped under an NDP government. Unfortunately, Springbank decided to support another party that was also opposed to the Springbank dam, so the new NDP government restored the plan to dam the community. A majority of Alberta's other rural communities chose to vote for a different party as well, so the new NDP government decided to make owning and operating a farm more expensive and burdensome under Bill 6.
Anyone who knows the NDP, knows how they operate. The NDP has always relied on voter amnesia and desperation. The closer Alberta gets to the next election, the more polite and less destructive the NDP will try to appear. All of their most regressive policies are likely done for now. As they did in Saskatchewan and BC, the NDP will play nice until they get re-elected. While they're playing nice, they'll quietly extend a hand to labour unions, welfare lobbyists and environmentalists. They'll build their army of foot soldiers for the next election, while using union resources to recruit and propagandize. What Albertans are witnessing is new to Alberta, but it's a tried and true method that has worked for every successful NDP government in the past. NDP governments have traditionally thrived in bad and stagnant economies, because people and voters are at their most vulnerable during tough times. It's during these times that people become more open to handouts, unions, safety nets and social programs – all things the NDP uses to build its base during economic downturns. To keep their base strong, NDP governments always work to sustain a certain level of economic stagnation with a few small upticks to get people inspired at the right times.
Notley's deplorable government will take every bit of credit for any economic uptick between now and the next election. Alberta still has plenty of oil infrastructure, so when the price of oil rises again, a lot of that infrastructure will be rebooted and put back to work. The bad part is, there are probably a lot of non-partisan Albertans who will be encouraged enough by the economic uptick that they'll feel less compelled to give Notley the boot, or less compelled to even bother voting at all. If Notley's government gets re-elected in 2019, this will be why.
It's difficult to imagine 600,000 Albertans voting for the NDP again. Their election and the high turnout were one of those rare electoral instances in which a vast majority wanted change. When the electorate is hungry for change, it's usually the incumbent government that suffers. If nothing changes, 2019 will be another election of change and a bad one for Notley's NDP. However, it's likely that the economy will improve slightly and people will become more complacent again. By 2019, more people will be employed as a natural consequence of higher oil prices, some semblance of progress will emerge, hope will return and people will forget. That's exactly what Rachel Notley is counting on.
It'll be up to the rest of us to remind Albertans of how hard Notley tried to set Alberta back just to achieve her ideological objectives and to stick it to unfriendly rural voters. With current NDP policies in place, Alberta will never return to full prosperity. Any uptick we see between now and 2019 will be nothing compared to the full restoration we would have seen without an NDP government.