Pandemic? What pandemic?
In Premier Jason Kenney’s Alberta, the pandemic isn’t just retreating, it has been defeated.
“Such a joy to connect with Albertans during Canada’s first major event after the pandemic,” said a jubilant social media post last week from Kenney after he visited the Calgary Stampede.
Saying “after the pandemic” was no slip of the keyboard. Kenney chose his words carefully, including being sure to point out the Stampede was the “Canada’s first major event.”
Alberta was the first province to lift virtually all pandemic restrictions on July 1; the first to get more than 70 percent of eligible citizens vaccinated with one dose; and, now, the first province to declare we’re in a post-pandemic world.
This is Alberta exceptionalism, Kenney style.
And, boy, does Kenney need to be seen as exceptional these days. His popularity plummeted during the pandemic – from a high of about 60 per cent in support in 2019 to around 30 per cent now, according to the most recent polls.
The pandemic, of course, is not over – as health experts are quick to point out.
The number of cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically in Alberta (and other jurisdictions) thanks to vaccinations, but the pandemic is still with us, even if it is a shadow of its former self.
At the same time, countries including France are re-imposing restrictions as the number of Delta-variant cases surge and experts talk ominously of a fourth wave among the unvaccinated.
Ironically, Kenney’s optimistically misleading view of Alberta being in an “after the pandemic state” might actually put the province at risk of enduring more variant cases. The province’s vaccine rollout, doing so well just weeks ago, has stalled. After hitting 70 per cent of Albertans with their first dose a month ago, the rate has increased by a trickle to just under 75 per cent despite the government announcing a vaccine lottery with cash prizes and exotic vacations.
There are a multitude of reasons for the slower uptake including lack of access to clinics in rural areas and suspicion of the vaccines — but you have to think that Kenney talking about the pandemic in the past tense has some people wondering why they’d bother to get a shot now.
Therein lies a Catch-22 for Kenney among his Conservative supporters who have rankled at pandemic restrictions from the beginning.
Tell them the pandemic is over and they’ll see no reason to get vaccinated. Tell them the pandemic is not over and he’d have to maintain pandemic restrictions, further aggravating his conservative base.
For the base, the big issue is politics, not pandemics.
Right-wing voters are disappointed in Kenney, not just because he imposed what they considered draconian COVID-19 measures, but because he backed off on his war with the federal Liberal government during the pandemic.
Well, that war is back on.
Kenney is holding a referendum vote this October, in conjunction with Alberta’s municipal elections, asking Albertans if they want the federal equalization program scrapped. Never mind that it’s a federal program paid for by federal tax dollars, Kenney is arguing that equalization is unfair to Alberta (even though Kenney himself was part of the Harper federal cabinet that amended the equalization formula a decade ago).
Kenney has dusted off the anti-Trudeau rhetoric, once again accusing the prime minister of “openly campaigning against Alberta” in the last federal election, even though the federal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline and has committed to twinning the pipe so Alberta can get more energy products to the West Coast for shipment internationally.
But Kenney is loath to give his political nemesis any pats on the back. This reluctance reached petty heights, or lows, on July 7 when the prime minister held a news conference in Calgary with Mayor Naheed Nenshi to formally announce the city’s $5.5-billion Green Line LRT project. Neither Kenney nor anybody from the Alberta government attended the news conference even though the province is kicking in $1.5 billion.
Kenney’s office said the announcement was just a rehash of previous announcements. That’s true – but when has a politician ever shied away from re-announcing projects when there are headlines to grab?
Kenney apparently didn’t want to be seen helping boost Trudeau’s profile on the eve of a possible federal election.
On a more practical front, Kenney’s anti-Trudeau feelings could prove costly to Alberta’s parents, particularly those in the large urban centres, who are keen on the federal government’s $30-billion plan for a $10-a-day daycare system.
Both British Columbia and Nova Scotia have signed on to plans tailored to their provinces and Alberta insists it is in negotiations, but Kenney’s initial response in April was to dismiss the federal plan as a “nine-to-five, government-run, union-operated, largely-urban-care” system. Predictably, the Alberta government is also upset with the federal government’s plan announced this week to begin consultations on a “Just Transition” plan to help Canadian workers energy workers get ready for a future less dependent on fossil fuels.
“The federal government’s intention to hastily phase out Canada’s world-class oil and gas industry is extremely harmful to the hundreds of thousands who directly and indirectly work in the sector, and will be detrimental to Canada’s economic recovery,” said Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage Tuesday in a deliberate misreading of Ottawa’s intent.
But that’s the tone of the Alberta government in 2021 when it comes to dealing with the federal Liberals: partisan, pugilistic and plain ornery.
It’s a throwback to 2019 before the pandemic hit.
In that respect, Kenney is right. Politically speaking, Alberta is indeed in a post-pandemic world.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.
Politics This Morning: Final pieces of 2021 vote puzzle expected today – The Hill Times
Politics Briefing: Meet the new Parliament, same as the old Parliament – The Globe and Mail
With remarkable precision, Canadian voters are sending MPs back to Ottawa in virtually identical numbers to the party standings in August when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered a snap federal election campaign.
Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected Monday for a third time and a second consecutive minority government.
As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals were leading or elected in 158 seats, followed by 119 seats for the Conservatives, 34 for the Bloc Québécois, 25 for the NDP and two for the Greens. The People’s Party of Canada did not win any seats and PPC leader Maxime Bernier finished a distant second to the Conservatives in the Quebec riding of Beauce.
The Liberal gain of one will likely change as the 158 seats includes Kevin Vuong in Spadina–Fort York, who currently has a narrow lead over the NDP candidate. The Liberals disassociated themselves from him late in the campaign after a dropped sexual assault charge was revealed. Should Mr. Vuong win, he will likely sit as an independent, but the Liberal Party did not immediately comment on the situation when asked Tuesday morning.
The most dramatic statistics in Monday’s results are the projected seat changes compared to party standings in the House of Commons before the election. As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals are up one seat (including Mr. Vuong), the Conservatives are down two, the Bloc is up two, the NDP is up one and the Greens are down one.
Those statistics do mask the fact that parties saw some incumbents defeated, but made up for that with gains elsewhere.
For instance, two Liberal cabinet ministers were defeated: Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan lost to the Conservatives in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St. Margarets, and Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef lost to the Conservatives in Peterborough-Kawartha.
Yet the Liberals may have made two notable gains in Alberta, where it had been shut out entirely in 2019. Liberal candidate George Chahal won the riding of Calgary Skyview, while Liberal Randy Boissonnault currently has a very narrow lead in Edmonton Centre.
Given the need for regional representation, at least one of the two Liberals from Alberta would be promoted to cabinet. This would create challenges, however, for Mr. Trudeau’s efforts to have a gender-balanced cabinet.
Unlike past elections, it will take a few more days until final results are known. Elections Canada received more than one million mail-in ballots this year, which is far higher than normal. The option was promoted as an alternative for Canadians who did not wish to vote in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna said the counting of those mail-in ballots will begin Tuesday.
“We expect the vast majority to be counted and posted by tomorrow (Wednesday), but there may be further delays in some ridings,” he said in an e-mail.
- Join The Globe’s Laura Stone and Campbell Clark for a live post-election Q&A today at noon ET.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Filling in today is Bill Curry. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
Canada federal election results: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals win third consecutive election, fall short of a majority: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a third straight election on Monday, but fell short of the majority they sought in the snap vote and will return to government with what will effectively be a status quo Parliament.
The Liberal victory left Erin O’Toole’s leadership of the Conservative Party in jeopardy. The Tory leader rose to the helm of the party last year promising to deliver in seat-rich Ontario but he struggled in the campaign with questions on how he would handle the pandemic and wavered on key platform pledges.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have a minority again. What now? The new(ish) Parliament explained: After Sept. 20′s election, the balance of power in the House of Commons is largely unchanged between the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc, NDP and Greens. Here’s what the results show and what leaders say they’ll do next.
After failing to secure majority, Trudeau will face questions within his caucus: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took a risky political gamble, triggering a snap election during the fourth wave of the pandemic in pursuit of a new majority mandate. He ended winning another minority mandate instead.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s ideology shift was not enough to surpass Liberals: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole steered his party back toward the ideological centre of Canadian politics in 2021 and made this shift a key selling point during the five-week election campaign. But it was not enough to win Canada’s 44th general election as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will form the next government.
Jagmeet Singh still holds balance of power after 2021 federal election but NDP doesn’t make major seat gains: The NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh will be returning to Ottawa with its balance of power position intact, but the party’s hopes of major seat gains came up short.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted commuters at a subway station in his Montreal riding of Papineau, where he was re-elected Monday. The Liberal Leader is not scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is scheduled to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. ET in Ottawa.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is scheduled to hold a news conference at 9:30 am PT (12:30 ET) in Vancouver.
Itineraries for Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party leader Annamie Paul were not immediately available.
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party brace for an ugly war over his shift to the left: “There is little doubt Mr. O’Toole is girding for an internal fight, one that could get very loud and very messy and has the potential to lead to a complete fracture of the conservative movement.”
Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) If this election was a test of leadership, all of them failed: “None of the front-running candidates in this election campaign ventured to engage with challenging ideas, or dared step offside of politically advantageous positions. That bodes poorly for whatever faith the public should have in the capacity of the next government, whatever its specific composition might turn out to be, to capably deal with whatever crisis comes next – be it climate change, or an aging population, or another pandemic – just as long as the tough but necessary decisions risk political penalty.”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on A battle between fear and loathing that both sides lost: “Consider: Had the election been held on schedule, two years from now, the pandemic would (please God) have been long over, the mass vaccination program, with its associated mandates, a distant memory. Without the oxygen of this approaching “tyranny,” Maxime Bernier’s campaign might never have got off the ground. But call an election in the fevered atmosphere of a public-health emergency; spend the entire campaign insisting on the very policy, vaccine mandates, you had previously rejected as “divisive”; steer your campaign straight at the PPC, literally and figuratively, and who knows what profitable mayhem you can create?”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) Trudeau had just enough resilience to return to office, but doubts about his intentions remain: “He looks the same, still, at 49. But six years ago the Justin Trudeau of 2015 was a figure who for many seemed to symbolize good intentions, even for some who weren’t sure about his politics or ability. The 2021 Mr. Trudeau pulled through a campaign in which he had trouble convincing folks he had the right motivations.”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) Erin O’Toole tried to refashion the Conservative movement and deserves another chance to lead: “Moderate suburban voters will support Conservative government. We know that because most provincial governments are conservative, of one stripe or another. Many would vote Conservative federally as well, if they could trust the party: a Conservative Party of fiscal responsibility and individual freedom; a party that takes pride in our country while recognizing where we have fallen short; a party that supports business but understands the vulnerability of workers, that protects property but cares for the earth. Mr. O’Toole bet big that he could build and sell such a party. It didn’t work this time. But he could still be the next prime minister, perhaps sooner rather than later.”
Liberals' bank surtax is 'pandering politics': Former RBC CEO – BNN
A former chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada said the federal Liberals’ plan to slap a surtax on big bank and insurance profits “makes no sense” and called the move a purely “political decision.”
“That type of policy is pandering politics,” said Gord Nixon, who is also chairman of BNN Bloomberg parent company BCE Inc., in an interview Tuesday. “It might sell well in terms of achieving votes but it doesn’t make any sense from a policy perspective.”
The Liberals proposed a three-per-cent additional tax on profits that exceed $1 billion for Canada’s biggest banks and insurance companies as a way to help pay for new program spending, although some Bay Street analysts feel the plan lacks crucial details.
Nixon implied he isn’t necessarily surprised politicians took aim at big banks given his prior experience as RBC’s CEO and president from 2001 to 2014.
“Why the banks? Other than they’re an easy target,” he said. “The banks always deal with political issues.”
He said there are a few sectors, such as technology and grocers, that fared much better than banks and insurers through the COVID-19 pandemic, which suggests the targeted tax has political undertones.
“The banks actually didn’t do very well during the pandemic. You look at the three-year returns on banks, they’re up less than five per cent. The S&P is up close to 15 per cent,” he said. “I’m not suggesting there’s hardship there. But their earnings were very strong the last two quarters, largely because they were reversing a lot of loan losses that were taken when the pandemic first hit.”
Instead of a bank tax, Nixon would rather see policies that help attract business investment and talent, something he felt the campaign platforms proposed by Canada’s major political parties lacked.
“A lot of the issues that needed to be discussed were not necessarily discussed. And I think clearly, the result is that there is no mandate, if you will, given to the Liberal Party.”
Another one of Nixon’s concerns is the ballooning federal debt burden. The Conservative Party was the only major federal party to propose bringing the budget back to balance within a decade.
“We can’t just spend and spend and push that problem down the road. One of the problems of politics – and it’s all political parties – is it’s very easy to spend when you don’t have to live with the consequences of that spending for many years down the road. But there’s always a day of reckoning,” he said. “That day of reckoning is ultimately going to appear whether it’s through higher inflation or anemic economic growth.”
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