Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The Incompetence of Jason Kenney

Jason Kenney is incompetent. He is economically incompetent and now he is demonstrating incompetence in his management of a pandemic. He is arrogant and lacks an understanding of leadership.

His economic strategy is naive, simple, and wrong. He throws money at large corporations in the expectation that they will use the extra cash to create jobs, Forty years of analysis of this strategy shows that what corporations do is: (a) pay dividends to shareholders; (b) increase executive compensation; (c) use the extra cash to invest in technology that will increase outputs with fewer people, and (d) relocate to lower-cost jurisdictions. Before the pandemic, the economic strategy cost some 50,000 jobs. Companies moved to the US and investment shrank. 

Kenney "gave" profitable corporations a $4.5 billion tax break. He invested directly $1.5 billion in Keystone XL and, in addition, use taxpayer money to underwrite an additional $6 billion. It now looks certain that the pipelines will not be built but we will still end up paying for it.

Then there is the $1.5 billion that these fiscal conservatives, so concerned about controlling government spending, "lost" or at least cannot account for according to the Auditor General. 

In a dramatic move - about the first thing he did - was to significantly reduce government revenue. He abolished the Alberta Carbon tax, which netted some $1.4 billion annually.  The tax was soon replaced by a federal tax, as we all knew it would be. Kenney's claim that the court challenges he and his fellow Premier's were mounting would soon put a stop to this do not look to be going anywhere. We still pay but someone in Ottawa decides where the money goes.

Then there are the various boondoggle activities - the $30 million War Room which is about as useful as a bucket of wet snow. The seemingly endless and fruitless inquiry into foreign influences on our energy strategy. Endless Task Forces and Special Inquiries. $4 million to the NHL, a few million here and there.

His advisors happily travel to the US and Europe to attract investors and spend our money on four-star hotels and expensive meals. But there is little to show for it.

He has also made life more expensive for everyone. Higher car insurance, higher local taxes, higher costs of studying, higher loan costs. He is also making rural municipalities eat the unpaid taxes from the oil and gas companies who have not paid for some time. 

His education strategy is another sign of his incompetence. In his drive to "balance the books" (for no real reason that makes sense to any economist), he cuts K-12 budgets and higher education and yet seeks to reskill and upskill the Alberta workforce. As oil and gas decline (they are yet to return to 2014 levels of performance) and the energy transition accelerates, access to skills training and learning is being reduced and made more inaccessible to certain groups due to cost. 

And then there is his handling of the pandemic.

At first, we did well. We had control of the situation (except in Seniors centres and homes) but now - well, we can see. Alberta and Quebec lead Canada in C-19 cases - Alberta will soon surpass Quebec in both cases per capita and our R number. 

He refuses to mandate mask-wearing in rural Alberta, despite the evidence that key rural locations have higher rates of infection than Edmonton and Calgary, showing that he cannot read a data-table or listen to expert advice.

His deal with Restaurants Canada to keep restaurants open with limited seating, his deal with religious groups to permit worship with restricted but large numbers, his willingness to turn a blind eye to Ant-Maskers and Lock-Down protestors, and his unwillingness to accept advice from public health experts all point to a degree of incompetence. He was missing in action for a number of days - how he's back but doing little to stop the spread or flatten the curve.

His defense for his actions - his peculiar understanding of the Charter of Human Rights - also shows that he is not competent to interpret the law.

His tirades against the Government of Canada - now providing Alberta with its second most significant source of revenue and supporting hundreds of thousands of Albertans directly - also suggest incompetence. He claims that the transfer payment system and calculations are hurting Albertan's but did nothing about this twice when he and Stephen Harper introduced the current model. He fails to acknowledge the strong support Trudeau has provided for oil and gas - fixing the legally flawed processes introduced by Harper for environmental approvals and buying a pipeline (now under construction) to get Alberta oil to tidewater and supporting Alberta's innovation infrastructure. 

It is time for some leadership in Alberta. We will not get it from Jason Kenney.


The Cailleach: Another Blogging Ginger said...

I agree that he has done all you say. I disagree with your main premise, however. I do not think Kenney is incompetent. He says the things he does will have a certain outcome, like giving money to corporations to create jobs, because he assumes most Albertans will believe it. He knows it's not going to create jobs. He knows exactly where the money will wind up.

I take the rather more cynical view that what he is doing has purpose. He has an agenda and goals. None of them benefit Albertans. That was not his intention. Based on all the information revealed during the investigation into the UCP leadership race, it appears there was a fairly sophisticated strategy involved in making Kenney leader of the party. It was not politics as usual.

Jason Kenney is a product of years of involvement in far-right activities, from his anti-abortion activism and efforts to prevent men dying of AIDS to have their loved ones visit in San Francisco in the 1990s, to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, to being an MP for the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance Party/CPC. He is ideologically driven.

Everything he has done, if seen through the lens of the Harper tradition, appears to be intended to further hard-right conservative goals. Including social conservative ideals. Removing protection from students who join a GSA, cutting environmental protections, opening areas up for coal mining, union busting efforts, Rewriting curriculum to teach kids "the dignity of work" and learn creationist Bible verses as poetry, removing the word "Public" from schools, de-indexing AISH payments and making it harder to be eligible for AISH, tearing up the doctors' contract, cutting educational spending and firing educational aids and teachers, threatening to fire nurses and other health care workers, privatizing health care support, giving money to corporations, trying to pass a law that would allow doctors and pharmacists and other health professionals to refuse a patient based on "conscience"... He appears to be trying to collapse our health care system so that we will become desperate enough to accept a for-profit model...

It you look at things with acceptance of the idea that he may not be trying to do his best for Albertans, that he may, in fact, have an entirely different set of priorities, what he has been doing makes sense. What appears to be incompetence, I propose, is an ideologically-driven strategy. People assume our government is going to work for the public good. But what if they are not interested in the public good? What if they are lining the pockets of their friends and donors while padding their own bank accounts? All the while, furthering their vision of an austere, theocratic, authoritarian state...

Alberta retired business woman said...

I entirely agree with this analysis - that Kenney is not incompetent but doing things that further his and others' aims - Harper, O'Toole, Ford, and those behind the scenes - there is nothing accidental in all this - he just hopes the majority of the voting public don't catch on before the next election. It is much more concerning and, indeed, frightening than mere incompetence.