The United Conservative Party and Premier Jason Kenney have been the opposite of subtle when it comes to their support of Alberta's oil and gas sector.
Elected on a promise to return jobs and prosperity to the oil and gas sector, the UCP have gone all-in to deliver on that promised vision. They above all others know how to return to the good old days of the Alberta Advantage.
Their wisdom has brought to Alberta a $30 million war room to defend the sector and attack those who speak out against it, a huge cut to corporate tax rates to generate jobs and investment in the economy, and throughout it all they have maintained the source of all our problems has been their political rivals. Between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals to opposition leader Rachel Notley and the provincial NDP – the responsibility for the current complex reality that is our provincial economy lies squarely at their feet, or so we are told.
They say Alberta has a spending problem and by addressing that situation, they will balance the books.
Not even a full year has passed since they were elected and week-after-week Albertans are faced with a steady stream of cuts, changes and decisions that we are told are in our best interest whether we like them or not. We are told we have a spending problem and these measures will rein it in.
Yet recent global events – a massive crash in oil prices that sent stock markets into a frenzy coupled with a worldwide outbreak of a novel coronavirus – will be total game changers in terms of the direction we have been heading as a province.
It is time that this government finally recognize that Alberta has a revenue problem. If the premier's remarks earlier this week that all options are on the table to address this emerging crisis are sincere – then it should include a provincial sales tax.
The holy grail of the UCP political agenda has had the carpet pulled out from underneath us all. Between reduced travel as a result of the coronavirus and a global price war – it would be a stretch to try and blame Notley or Trudeau, or the UCP for the situation.
What Albertans need are solutions that diversify the economy and support other sectors like agriculture, tourism and renewable energy.
With comments from at least one minister over the past year that economic diversification is a luxury Alberta cannot afford because oil and gas are the priority for our entire economy's success – the current government is responsible for putting all our proverbial eggs into one very fragile basket.
This political direction and the policies that have flowed from it will only exacerbate the economic downturn we are currently heading into.
For a place like the Bow Valley, which has an economy based on tourism, the current situation is a double whammy.
Not only will international and national travel be affected as a result of the coronavirus, but with the oil and gas sector further compromised due to the global price war this valley can expect to see less regional visitation as well.
We have weathered this type of storm before with SARS, 9/11 and the 2008 global economic downturn – all of which sent economic ripples into in our tiny corner of the world.
At the end of the day, the wellbeing of humanity as it grapples with this new virus is more important that short-term visitation and we are grateful that in this province due to the advantages we have had that there is a solid social safety net and strong public health care system to protect Albertans in the wake of what is likely to be a global recession and possible pandemic the likes of which we have never seen before.