Progress Report #199
Your weekly update on Alberta politics for January 14, 2020
I have to open this edition of the newsletter on a somber note. By now, you’ve probably heard of the horrible tragedy of the 8th, when Iranian air defense mistakenly shot down a passenger plane leaving Tehran. According to the Iranian military, they thought they were under attack by an American missile.
This horrible incident has had a terrible impact here at home. Many of the people who were killed were Canadians, and others had ties here. A lot of these folks were living here in Edmonton. Shayesteh Majdnia is collecting donations towards a memorial service and an endowment fund at the University of Alberta in memory of the victims. If you’ve been looking for a way to send your condolences, this looks appropriate.
I’m utterly shattered by the scale of this disaster. The Middle East has been stricken by too much violence and injustice over the past century for me to recount here. For Iran, and for its neighbours, I hope for justice and I hope for peace.
Stats Canada reports troubling surge of unemployment in Edmonton
LFS data tends to be a bit ‘spiky,’ or high-variance, because it is extrapolated out from a modest sample size. (Stats Canada isn’t literally asking everyone if they’re employed!) So we’ll need another month or two to be fully certain of these numbers. But if they’re true, they’re bad: Stats Canada estimates that Edmonton now has the highest unemployment of any major city in Canada.
It’ll be unsurprising if true. As the capital, Edmonton had a high concentration of public sector workers, and with the UCP taking an axe to budgets everywhere a lot of folks are ending up laid off. Edmonton has taken a bit of a beating under the UCP already, with the provincial government clawing back tax revenue, downloading big costs onto municipal governments, and shutting down several big Edmonton projects like the ‘Super Lab.’
Ironically, the person with ostensibly the greatest power to intercede is an Edmonton MLA–Kaycee Madu, the UCP Minister of Municipal Affairs. But it’s becoming abundantly clear that the minister is more concerned with representing the UCP in Edmonton than he is representing his Edmonton constituency in the government.
- The Rebel Media has doxed one of the lead researchers behind Anti-Racist Canada, a blog which kept track of white supremacist and neo-fascist movements like The Clann and The Base in Canada. Kurt Phillips, whose identity is now out in the open, did incredible work covering this beat–which the mainstream media tended to have neither the savvy nor the inclination to touch–for years, and I’m glad to hear that he will be continuing his work in a more public fashion as a new board member for the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. Other volunteers will continue to maintain the blog site. Some folks have been dismissive of ARC because it looks a little scrappy; let me tell you, as someone who follows these matters, I’ve found ARC to be an excellent and reliable source of information, so if you too are concerned by the Canadian far-right you could do worse than to follow ARC (and the CAHN too.)
- Corporate management information circulars about 2019 are starting to come out, so get ready for more news like this: buoyed by Jason Kenney’s (more-than) $4.7 billion corporate tax giveaway, executive pay at Shaw Communications has gone through the roof. Not a lot of new jobs though. The president of Shaw makes about $9.2 million a year now, an absolute joke–nearly $5,000 an hour. More in an hour than most of us make in a month. Great stuff, very just, very healthy society. According to Shaw’s own management circulars, they’re cashing in for a cool $102 million over the next four years from Kenney’s corporate tax break.
- The Alberta Advantage has an amazing podcast episode this week recounting the story of the great Calgary Herald strike. This is the moment when journalism in Alberta basically broke–when Conrad Black smashed the Herald union with scabs and turned the Herald into the dismal right-wing mouthpiece it is today. And you’ll be familiar with a lot of the characters–Danielle Smith, the war room’s Tom Olsen, Don Braid: they all scabbed during the Herald strike. Shame on them.
- Stephen Magusiak over at Press Progress dug up a real stinker over the weekend–an essay by Jason Kenney’s speechwriter, Paul Bunner, arguing that residential schools were actually totally cool and “motivated by an altruistic desire to help a colonization-shattered people.” Pretty gross stuff. Where do the conservatives find these people? There’s no shortage of them at the up-and-comer level either. Remember Caylan Ford, who’d likely be a UCP MLA right now if she’d said just a little less about ‘white replacement theory’? Or the staffers and Calgary ‘young conservatives’ who were caught working for a white supremacist memorabilia store? Or Phil Schuman, the UCP nomination candidate who tried to set a Nazi Instagram page up with conservative donors? Oof. Just hire some normal people for once, Jason.
That’s all for this week. Please share our newsletter with any friends or family who you think would like political news and commentary from a progressive point of view. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, you can sign up for it here. Donations to support our ongoing work are always welcome and if you’re interested in volunteering with us, just reply to this email.