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UCP plans to pass budget with oil projected at twice current prices

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Alberta’s UCP government does not intend to revise its budget in the face of a major collapse in global oil prices that leaves its projections potentially billions of dollars short.

Alberta’s benchmark oil price – West Texas Intermediate (WTI) – crashed to US$32/bbl at the same time as the Alberta Legislature debates the UCP’s second budget, which relies heavily on oil reaching US$62/bbl to fuel an $8 billion increase in annual revenues.

With a price sensitivity of $355 million in government revenue for every one dollar change in the price of WTI, Alberta faces the prospect of seeing its resources revenues virtually wiped out.

Addressing media on Monday afternoon, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the government still intends to pass the budget as is because there is “no way to know what the impact will be”.

The price collapse comes after a price war instigated by Saudi ARAMCO forced prices down, and the global outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19 softened international trade.

“Energy is the largest sub-sector of the entire Canadian national economy,” Kenney said.

“It is by far Canada’s largest export industry – hundreds of thousands of Canadians depend on the energy sector directly for their livelihoods and all 36 million Canadians benefit from it – at least indirectly.”

Kenney pointed to the planned $7 billion in infrastructure spending, the $100 million dollar loan to the Orphan Well Association.

“All options” are on the table he said, include borrowing for capital infrastructure spending, stimulative tax relief, asking the federal government for more money, and corporate welfare for job creation projects.

“All options” do not include raising revenue through further tax increases beyond those already in Budget 2020. Kenney said he could not “imagine a dumber thing to do” within an already fragile economy.

“What we will be doing is looking at spending that can immediately have an impact on the economy to mitigate this global downturn.”

“It’s too early for us to map out a plan because this collapse in oil prices has happened just in the last 24 hours and the acceleration of the global downturn instigated by the coronavirus has only taken place in the last three weeks.”

Alberta governments have a long record of overshooting oil prices in their budget projections, however the recent collapse was not predicted by analysts.

Kenney said his government – with the support of 13 other [sic] provinces and territories – is still asking for the retroactive removal of the fiscal stabilization cap. He said it is particularly important for the future because removing the cap on the fiscal stabilization program in the future.

“We will continue to demand that the cap be lifted in the future,” Kenney said.

“If we end up losing billions of dollars in revenue, that would become a very material need on the part of this province.”

Kenney reiterated that even during the economic downturn, Alberta contributed a net $20 billion net to confederation.

“Albertans have been good to the rest of Canada – it’s time to see the rest of Canada return the favour.”

Kenney also said the government will be forming an emergency economic advisory committee that will be chaired by Dr. Jack Mintz from the University of Calgary and would have more information on panel members later this week.

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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