Alberta Can Be Canada's Last Bastion Of Hope

Danielle Smith is on the right track.
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the people discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy--to be followed by a dictatorship.”
– Alexander Tytler

The above quote is attributed to Alexander Tytler. He had another great quote about civilization going through a 200-year cycle that has since become known as The Tytler Cycle. Democracy in Alberta has been officially functioning since 1905, so that puts us at 118 years, perhaps a bit too soon for us to be passing from apathy to dependency as per the cycle, but nonetheless, it feels like we’re arriving at our final destination earlier than anticipated.
Can we arrest this development? Can we turn back the clock?
Perhaps that’s the wrong question. Perhaps a better question is: can we blaze forward and clear a new path?
Alberta could be on the precipice of an exciting and dynamic future. A pioneer toward a brighter and more powerful destiny. This could be the big beginning of something, rather than the tired end, but in order to achieve those goals we need to recognize reality for what it is and recognize that where we are right now is end-stage democracy.

 Fiscal conservatives need to get over their obsession with balanced budgets, eliminating deficits and paying down debt. Without fail, over many decades, at every level of government, Canadians have sold their votes to the highest bidders. They only ever embrace fiscal conservatism temporarily, to be jettisoned as quickly as possible when a crisis passes. Preaching and practicing fiscal restraint for its own sake is pointless when you know your opponent is going to defeat you by calling you a tight-fisted meanie and promising caviar in every pot. And then spending every nickel of budget surplus or borrowing room you created.
– Jeff Hodgson in C2C Journal

When I published this article back in 2016, conservatives bristled. Fiscal conservatism had been such a plank of Canadian conservatism since the 90’s that it was unimaginable to consider that maybe, just maybe, fiscal conservatism (not social conservatism) was the (in the words of Peter MacKay) a stinking albatross around the neck of loser conservative parties across the nation.
I was interviewed by Danielle on her radio show at that time and when I got to the part about how conservatives should purposefully run up the debt to levels high enough that we start jeopardizing our credit rating, she laughed and told me I was breaking her heart. It was a good conversation and I like to think that I planted a seed in her mind that has grown over the years.

Alberta’s finance minister says the government is going to use this year’s projected windfall budget surplus to pay down debt and put some cash in its piggy bank. Jason Nixon says the plan is to make a $13.4-billion repayment on the provincial debt and add almost $3 billion to the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.
“We remain focused on using this surplus wisely to benefit Albertans today and tomorrow, paying down debt and reducing the amount of debt each Albertan carries,” Nixon told a news conference Wednesday.
- Global News - Aug 31,2022

When I heard the news that this was the plan for Alberta’s surplus, I knew trouble was in the air. With an election less than a year away and inflation running at 7%, now is not the time to be grandstanding on making debt payments and squirreling away cash into that Lougheed hubris known as The Heritage Fund. This is the sort of “wrong lesson from the 90s” that conservatives keep making. I thought Stephen Harper losing to Justin Trudeau in 2015 would have shown conservative politicians that voters don’t reward fiscal conservatism with election wins, but I thought wrong.
Danielle Smith quickly corrected Jason Kenney’s error with her affordability package. She decided to spend $2.4 billion on greasing the wheels before an election and the voting public… the public that has discovered that they can vote themselves largess from the public purse… loved it.
Let’s walk through what she has offered.

Seniors and families with dependent children under 18 will get $100 installments for six months for each child and senior.

This is genius. Families with children tend to skew conservative anyway, so this will reward her supporters. By rewarding families with children, she is mobilizing the base. By capping the payments to families with household incomes of $180,000 she ensures that this basically covers everybody, since the average household income in Alberta is about $100,000.
By rewarding seniors, she will mobilize their vote. Old people vote and they vote conservative. This will get them to the polls.
By extending the payments over six months, the $600 will stretch to election day, so people will have many opportunities to collect those payments and associate them with her. The only thing better would be sending out actual, physical cheques with her face on them and a friendly letter from the UCP.

PDD, AISH and income support recipients will also get the cash installments

For some reason the UCP government has always had an irritation about AISH. There’s a conservative ideology that believes paying people to do nothing is bad, and that’s true, but most people on AISH aren’t able to do anything, so you may as well pay them to do nothing so they can do nothing comfortably and with dignity.
This is Assured Income for Severely Handicapped, this isn’t “Uncle Jim strained his back” now he’s pretending he can’t work forever.
Pay them. Pay them more! Their families will be grateful and having 60,000 grateful families will impact the ballot box on election day.

The government will suspend all of the provincial fuel tax for at least the next six months. Right now, there is a discounted tax of 4.5 cents per litre on gasoline and diesel. Thereafter, the province will adjust the provincial gas tax depending on the price of oil, as in the existing relief program

The problem with this is that people don’t associate savings at the pump with UCP policy. There’s no direct line to people’s pocketbooks. The price of gas fluctuates wildly week-to-week, sometimes even day-to-day.
You also run the risk of gas stations pocketing the difference, although I believe there’s enough competition out there that the profit margin at the pumps is basically zero, so it will be felt, but only in a trickle-down sort of way.

As previously promised by Smith's predecessor, Jason Kenney, the government will re-index provincial tax brackets to inflation. The move makes it less likely that a worker would be penalized on their taxes when receiving a slight bump in pay

This is good, but it doesn’t win votes. 54% of people don’t even do their own taxes, they just hand their stuff over to some guy and then he punches it all up and then they’re magically told whether or not they have to pay more money or get some extra cash back.
If it’s “get some back” people treat it like a lottery win, having no clue how or why they are getting it back.
Still, it’s good to reduce tax burdens in general, but Danielle will receive no credit.

The government will re-index for inflation, AISH, PDD, income support, the seniors benefit and the Alberta Child and Family benefit starting in January 2023

These benefits are specific enough that the people getting them, will be watching for the changes and comparing the increases year-over-year. They’ll be mostly switched on enough to know that Danielle is doing it and they’re skirting with poverty severely enough that every increase will be noticed.
These increases need to be maximized democratically by motivating people to vote, and more importantly, vote out of fear of having what they already have, taken away by an NDP government who didn’t do enough back when they were in power.
Motivating and facilitating the voting process needs to be a priority for these groups. It doesn’t help to buy their votes if they can’t get to the polling station or don’t know how to vote once they get there.

An increased rebate on electricity bills for consumers that total $200 per household

Again, this isn’t explicit enough. We’ve already had rebates on energy bills. I noticed $50 off my average bill and had to open the pdf and look for the rebate in order to confirm.
This isn’t good optics if you’re trying to purchase voter goodwill. People need to be made aware. Hopefully Smith will send out cheques.

Smith pledged to "limit spikes" in electricity prices in winter and continue with a promised natural gas rebate program that would kick in if the price exceeds $6.50 per gigajoule

Nobody will know that the government is suppressing their bills. They’ll just be pissed off that the bills are as high as whatever they are.

Invest in food banks and expand low-income transit passes

This was a good play and it helps undercut the “UCP is Scrooge” mantra that is chanted from the progressive left. It will help people who need help the most, but best of all it will help to brand the UCP as compassionate in the eyes of middle-class women highly beholden to virtue signaling.
So, with an affordability package amounting to $2.4 billion from a surplus of $13.2 billion, this still leaves $10.8 billion on the table.

Fiscal Conservatism Doesn't Sell

Danielle, what are you waiting for?
Purchase this election! Send more cash!
Send everyone a cheque for $1000.00 over the May long weekend (Just before the election). Troll the left by declaring it in honour of Victoria Day, a day to respect and honour the Queen who brought civilization to the world! ($1000 per Albertan would cost $4.5 billion)
Voters will not reward thrift. Fiscal conservatism isn’t compatible with democracy.
I like Danielle and I think she gets it in a way that many unreformed conservatives stuck in the 90's don’t get it. The means to seizing power in our system is through democracy and you must play to the lowest common denominator in order to win. People today are so ignorant and apathetic that you need big, broad action to shake them up and get them to come over to your side.
If you use raw, primal, costly populism in order to win, then you have a four-year dictatorship in which to implement conservative policy that will effect positive change. If you don’t, you won’t.
We aren’t going to get conservative healthcare reform or a provincial police force or non-woke school curriculum or dynamic corporate sectors or safe streets or lower taxes or proper solutions to homelessness/drug addiction or gun rights protection or, or, or, or…unless the UCP wins…and in order to win they need to play the games that are required in late-stage democracy…like purchasing elections.
“Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
– Abraham Lincoln

Danielle Smith has a fight on her hands. She’s battling the unions, the bureaucracy, the media, the public sector, the federal government and everything woke in between. She’s facing an electorate in Calgary, which replaced Nenshi with Gondek. She’s got the entire City of Edmonton in Notley’s back pocket. According to this poll, the NDP are leading in voter sentiment at 47% to the UCP’s 44%. In Calgary, the NDP lead by 10 points!
Most Albertans aren’t conservative, they’re as socialist as the rest of Canada, they just hate paying taxes and don’t mind oil and gas. The 10% of Albertans that are hardcore right-wingers have a disproportionate influence and uncommonly loud voices, but it must be remembered that the centre of Alberta (like Canada) is moving left all the time.
Remember: Voters rejected Social Credit for Peter Lougheed’s big spending Progressive Conservatives. They rejected Lawrence Decore (who campaigned to the right of the Progressive Conservatives) in favour of populist Ralph Klein (who spent like a drunken sailor after his first term was over). When it came time to replace Klein, PC members could have had Ted Morton but instead, thousands of two-minute Tories freeped the vote and chose Ed Stelmach! To my dismay, Stelmach was replaced by Alison Redford, who then trounced libertarian Danielle Smith in the 2012 general! Then we just straight up got the NDP with Rachel Notley which at the time may have been a bridge too far for mainstream Albertans, but nevertheless, here we are again.
The only way to compete with leftward drift inside a declining democracy is to outbid your competition. This is anathema to conservative principles, but it is the current means to seizing power, without which no conservative ends can be attained.
Hyperbole demands that every election is “THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR TIME”, but this next one coming up truly is a fork in the road for Alberta.
Many hardcore conservatives have already given up on Canada in a fundamental way and that hopeless attitude is spreading to the mainstream. Right now, Alberta is poised to be our last bastion of hope for people yearning to escape things like Covid tyranny and high taxes and Woke madness. If we hand the reins of power back to the NDP it will forever blight Alberta in the same way that Allen Blakeney’s second-wave NDP wins in Saskatchewan in the 1970s permanently damaged that province and stifled development for generations.
The next five months need to be a charm offensive. Enough with the Sovereignty act. Enough with the Provincial Police Force. Stop trying to educate people about healthcare reform. (I remember watching Danielle campaign at a senior citizens centre in 2012 and she deep-dived into healthcare reform and cited countries like Austria as examples of success we could follow. Nobody knew what the hell she was talking about. All they wanted promised is that our healthcare will be free and reliable. That’s it.) Stop throwing any grist to the opposition and allowing them to reframe with lies, which then require lengthy explanation.
Just spend.
Spend, spend, spend! Money for everything and everyone. Voters want Santa. They want to know the UCP cares, and the way to show the UCP cares is to hemorrhage money out the door and into people’s pockets.
If it leads to deficits, it doesn’t matter. People don’t care about debt or deficits. Alberta has the highest consumer debt levels in Canada. They want what they want and they want it now, so give it to them! Spend the entire surplus, because if not, the UCP will lose and that surplus will be left intact for Notley to construct the future… a future we will never escape from.

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December 2022