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Kenney says government may not keep balanced budget pledge

As the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19 takes hold across the globe, impacts to trade have been noticeable but the greatest threat to the Alberta budget came over the weekend.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said that with the collapse of oil prices last week that his government may have to forgo its marquee election commitment to balance the budget by 2022-23.

“Our goal has always been to balance the budget in our first term of government,” Kenney said.

“I was always clear, however, that if we were sideswiped by a major global economic downturn, that that could be put at risk.”

The Western Standard could not find anything in the UCP platform or in Jason Kenney’s statements during the election allowing for circumstances under which they would not balance the budget.

“We are being sideswiped by a major global economic downturn,” he said during the press conference.

The premier said that there was a “Plan B”, and that “stimulus spending” and reliance on the federal government transfers were needed.

As the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19 takes hold across the globe, impacts to trade have been noticeable, but the greatest threat to the Alberta budget came over the weekend.

Saudi ARAMCO announced on March 9 that they would unilaterally drop prices by as much as US$8/bbl to Europe, Asian and U.S. markets. The news came after talks between OPEC and its non-member ally Russia broke down on March 8, which sent West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices into a 10 per cent decline.

Markets opened in Asia Monday and saw WTI drop a further 20 per cent, closing at $31.90, more than $10 less than the market close of $42.80 on Friday.

Kenney stated that the government does not have time to revisit the revenue projections before the end of the fiscal year on March 31, but conceded they will take a look at the midpoint and assess both the fiscal health of the province and the effect that the drop in oil prices have on the province’s budgetary needs.

“The fiscal plan is obviously going to be affected by these massive developments in the global economy and in energy prices,” he said.

Kenney said the governing UCP intends to pass the budget that was introduced on February 27th as is, despite its oil price projections being nearly twice where they stood on March 9th.

The differential between the UCP’s projections and current WTI prices could see natural resources revenues nearly vanish from government coffers.

“We cannot predict how deeply or for how long this devastating price collapse or the global coronavirus recession will affect us,” Kenney said.

“The government of Alberta will do everything in our power to protect Albertans from this price collapse and this global downturn.”

NDP Leader Rachel Notley also held a press conference today saying that the UCP needs to adjust the budget and resubmit it because the drop in oil revenue could bring this year’s deficit from $6.8 billion to $11 billion.

The UCP was relying on an average yearly oil price of US$58/bbl in 2020-21, and US$62/bbl in 2021-22.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter for Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
@Mitchell_AB on Twitter

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UCP shuts down NDP anti-independence motion

But when Heather Sweet introduced the motion the UCP refused to give it unanimous consent, meaning it was not debated.

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The UCP on Monday blocked a NDP motion asking for the Legislature to reject independence and support a united Canada.

“Repeatedly, UCP Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes has, without challenge or objection  from Jason Kenney or any member of the UCP Cabinet and Caucus, supported the idea of Alberta separating from Canada,” the NDP said in a release on Canada Day.

“As well, UCP Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan read off a bizarre rant last month in the Legislature in which he referred to other Canadian provinces as, ‘hostile, parasitic partners.’”

Heather Sweet, NDP House Leader, said: “This motion will force Jason Kenney and the UCP to finally take a stand. Fanning the flames of separatism is this Premier’s way of distracting Albertans from his failed $4.7-billion corporate handout, which hasn’t created jobs or drawn in new investment.”

But when Sweet introduced the motion the UCP refused to give it unanimous consent, meaning it was not debated.

“Today, the UCP had a chance to once and for all commit to a united Canada. Unfortunately, they failed miserably. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jason Kenney and his UCP government ultimately want to tear apart the country,” said Sweet.  

In an earlier interview with the Western Standard, Barnes dismissed the motion at NDP politicking.

“I am very, very disappointed the NDP with the motion would try and diminish the role of Alberta within Confederation,” Barnes said.

“It’s part of Rachel Notley’s plan to work with her friend (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau.”

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Barnes said his concern with the NDP motion supporting Canada is it uses the phrase “always.”

“We heard it in the Fair Deal hearings and from my constituents loud and clear that there has to be serious discussions about Alberta with a (independence) referendum on the table,” Barnes said.

There have been calls for Kenney to kick Barnes out of caucus for saying a referendum on independence should be on the table for Alberta in any discussions with Ottawa to get a fairer deal for the province.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Treaty 8 chiefs calls for Kenney’s speech writer to be fired

“Chiefs of the Sovereign Treaty Nations are amazed at the level of disrespect brandished by Premier Kenney”

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Chiefs of Treaty 8 on Monday called on Premier Jason Kenney to fire his speech writer, Paul Bunner, over past racist writings.

“Chiefs of the Sovereign Treaty Nations are amazed at the level of disrespect brandished by Premier Kenney who continues to employ an individual who has published anti-First Nation views that are harmful, divisive, dehumanizing and racist to say the least,” Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, said in a statement.

Bunner wrote a 2013 article title The ‘Genocide’ That Failed in which he argued residential school survivors fabricated a “bogus genocide story” for their own financial gain. 

“This article in its entirety is unconscionable. How can Premier Kenney know about this article and overlook the harm it continues to cause? The same way this government and its continued actions purposely ostracize the First Nation’s people! Premier Kenney’s acceptance of these articles demonstrates nothing but racism,” the chiefs wrote.

“The Chiefs of the Sovereign Treaty Nations call upon Premier Kenney to remove Mr. Bunner from his role as speechwriter and ensure that he is no longer associated with the government of Alberta moving forward.”

Chiefs of Treaty Six, the Blackfoot Confederacy, and the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Alberta have all called on Kenney to fire Bunner.

The NDP has been producing, almost daily, examples of what they say is Bunner’s history of writing and publishing racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic articles from the early 1990s to as recently as 2016.

“It’s disgusting that Premier Kenney has defended his racist speechwriter,” said Richard Feehan, NDP Opposition Critic for Indigenous Relations.

“Bunner has spread hatred and racism towards indigenous people and many others through his hateful writing. Kenney has known about this for more than a week. He must listen to the voices of indigenous leaders in Alberta and fire his racist speechwriter immediately.”

In response, Kenney’s issues manager Matt Wolf tweeted about NDP icon Tommy Douglas’ opposition to homosexuality.

Wolf tweet

When asked about Bunner in the Legislature Monday, Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson replied the government was moving forward “with reconciliation.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Trudeau fan and Liberal supporter deciding which media gets bailout money

Another member of the five-person advisory board, Margo Goodhand, was tweeting her support of Justin Trudeau when he was opposition leader.

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Two people who are deciding which media outlets will get hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer bailout cash have publicly praised Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party.

The two advisors regularly attacked the Conservative Party on their social media and openly praised Justin Trudeau before he became prime minister in 2015, reported Ottawa-based political website Blacklock’s Reporter.

One appointee, Professor Karim Karim of Ottawa, in a Twitter comment said Stephen Harper played the politics of hate, Blacklock’s said.

Karim also blasted the editorial stance of Postmedia newspapers, Canada’s largest newspaper chain.

“…it shouldn’t, but the National Post and Postmedia have had a long history of owner interference,” Blacklock’s reported that Karim had tweeted.

Another member of the five-person advisory board, Margo Goodhand, was tweeting her support of Trudeau when he was opposition leader.

“I am not a member of the Liberal Party… but I’m watching new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau these days as he goes up against Team Harper, and I have to admit that I wish him well,” she opined in an article with the title We Need Justin To Silence Bullies.

In April, Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault promised cash for the bailout would soon be on the way.

It will be the second time the feds have sent taxpayer bailout money to the media, after a $595-million financial-assistance program 18 months ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a huge drop in advertising with dozens of newspapers being shuttered, including more than 20 in the Maritimes. There have been at least six publications in Quebec that have dropped Monday-to-Friday print editions, and four have closed in Manitoba. 

Postmedia closed 15 community newspaper in Ontario and Manitoba.

The Western Standard accepts no government monies.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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