Progress Report #178
Your weekly update on Alberta politics for August 6, 2019
Congratulations, billionaires! Jason Kenney’s corporate tax cuts are buoying the profits of Alberta’s biggest corporations, like CNRL, which is paying out big time to shareholders like billionaire Murray Edwards.
CNRL isn’t hiring much in the way of new workers with its windfall, but it is buying back its own stock and cranking up the dividends to its owners. A small handful of folks including Edwards will ‘earn’ millions more this year, and in his particular case it’s sure to be a nice complement to the $290+ million that he and his co-Calgary-Flames owners just wrang out of Calgary’s municipal government.
Condolences, everyone else!
Condolences to parents and students who are scrambling after Alberta’s beloved Rutherford Scholarship suddenly and without notice stopped accepting applicants. UCP Minister for Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides says it’s an IT problem and that scholarship applications will be held up until ‘late fall.’ Sounds like ‘after the federal election,’ the same point to which everything seems to be getting delayed these days.
Condolences to physicians trying to provide harm reduction services, who in an utterly dystopian turn are having to turn to GoFundMe to crowd-fund supervised consumption sites in Calgary. All funding to new supervised consumption sites in Alberta is on hold while the UCP government, who more or less campaigned against the sites during the election, subjects them to review.
- To the surprise of very few, Calgary Herald columnist Licia Corbella was outed as a UCP activist last week. “I’m not a partisan,” Corbella wrote back in 2017, days before using her UCP membership to vote in the conservative leadership race. Corbella writes at least a column a week extolling the virtues of Jason Kenney and his caucus, but the Herald has never made note of her affiliation. I doubt anyone who has read a Corbella column is shocked to learn this; as commentator David Climenhaga observes, “the problem with the Herald and Postmedia is not that one obviously Conservative columnist happens also to be UCP member, but that there is so little room in the pages of any Postmedia publication for a diversity views that reflects the company’s readership.”
- The right-wing, pro-corporate/anti-public sector Fraser Institute released its annual report on Canadian taxes last week, and as usual prominent media platforms like CTV, CBC, The Globe and Mail, and others have credulously published it without checking the numbers. Economist Stephen Lautens did. The report–which claims Canadian households pay more in taxes than “housing, food and clothing combined”–is full of all sorts of misleading manipulations: apparently the average Canadian household pays $7400 in payroll taxes and nearly $2000 in liquor taxes, something called a “profit tax” that doesn’t even exist… they even add corporate taxes paid by Loblaws, Bombardier, Bell and others on to the ‘household’ numbers. It’s a crock. Remember: Canada has one of the lowest rates of taxation of any developed country, and of all the provinces we’re the least-taxed here in Alberta.
- Spotted this week at Edmonton’s Heritage Festival: a distressingly militarized police presence. Officers were seen patrolling Hawreluk Park with carbines. Seems a bit much–I don’t recall seeing police at all at the similar and more heavily-attended Taste of Edmonton last month, let alone cops with long guns and tactical gear–but maybe the Festival had some Armed Insurgent pavilion I didn’t hear about.
- AUPE has won a significant victory in court against the UCP by securing an injunction against Bill 9. The legislation was essentially a law drafted by the UCP to break bargaining agreements between the government and several public sector unions–workers represented by those unions were scheduled to negotiate for modest wage increases this summer after patiently waiting through years of pay freezes. The UCP government has already filed an appeal and hopes to overturn the injunction although their odds don’t seem very good. They would prefer these negotiations happen–you guessed it–after the fall election.
- Duncan has recorded another episode of the Progress Report podcast–our guests this week are Abdul Malik, who visits to chat about the anti-choice film Unplanned, and Kate Jacobson from the Alberta Advantage podcast with analysis on Calgary’s arena fiasco.
- The UCP’s anti-environmentalist war room is lumbering forward and has secured its first leader: Postmedia business columnist Claudia Cattaneo.Cattaneo has been charged with “challenging” critics of the oil and gas industry “one word at a time,” which seems like more of a job for Rick Bell, but who am I to make their staffing decisions. Also on the UCP staffing file: Matt Wolf, a major player in the Callaway ‘kamikaze’ scandal, has been hired back to do issues management (that is to say, to fix political problems) for the UCP caucus–work I’m sure he’ll perform with the same delicacy and sound judgment he showed while manning Kenney’s abusive ‘Unite Alberta’ troll account online.
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