Brilliant, but a bit too late

The spirited performance of Premier Ed Stelmach during his visit to Red Deer causes one to ask where this guy’s been all this time?

The spirited performance of Premier Ed Stelmach during his visit to Red Deer causes one to ask where this guy’s been all this time?

Stelmach’s emphatic defence of Bills 19, 36 and 50 as enhancements of landowner rights, his emotional hearkening to roots as the son of immigrants who were landless serfs in Ukraine, his defiance of the cost-cutters in building his last budget . . . this isn’t the Ed Stelmach who won the leadership of Canada’s longest-running political dynasty.

In Red Deer, we saw the premier who Alberta had been waiting for, after drifting through the last listless years of Ralph Klein’s 12-year reign.

Unfortunately for the Tories, it’s hard to see how this final-act aria can save the show’s 40-year run.

It’s also hard to see how — with 40 years experience in drafting legislation, and with a civil service that has never worked for anything but the same political master through two career lifetimes — that such a large portion of the province could misinterpret the government’s surface-rights agenda so badly.

How can a group like UPTAG read these bills and conclude that cabinet can deem a farmer’s field ripe for expropriation without consultation, without even having to show need, when cabinet itself is saying the exact opposite?

“This is absolute bull—-,” said the premier during his visit to Red Deer on Wednesday. “It’s not true. Bill 19 gives better landowner rights to farm than ever before. It’s the best landowner protection in the country of Canada.”

Yes, well . . . haven’t Alberta premiers also said Alberta has the best environmental protection laws in the country?

But Stelmach assures us that all information to the contrary is pure misinformation. That would put the land-rights lobby in a league inhabited by conspiracy theorists, hunched over keyboards mining Google for evidence that today’s weather is proof there is no global warming.

“We’re going to set this record straight and we’re going to introduce amendments in the house that, no matter what the lawyer is, cannot misinterpret the legislation.”

If this is true, if we can interpret this to mean landowner rights are going to be enshrined in law better than they are now, that’s terrific news.

Funny, though, that a government with 40 years experience drafting legislation didn’t do that the first time. That a government with 40 years of lessons learned about effective governance could not have communicated their real intentions from the start.

A better performance from Stelmach concerns his determination that Alberta will continue its investments in infrastructure, to prepare Alberta’s roads, schools and hospitals for the next provincial boom. He’s not going to scared off by “drunken sailor” protests, and use reserve funds set aside for this purpose — before we hit a crisis, not after.

This, we like. Ever since Klein obsessed with paying the entire provincial debt in time for the Queen’s last visit, the Alberta government has made our boom-and-bust cycles worse, not better.

Klein shut down spending in hard times, when spending was needed, and opened the taps in boom years, raising the cost of the boom for everyone. Then, crash, everything was shut down again.

Our physical infrastructure and our civic planning resources were totally unprepared for the population boom and rapid development in the days of high energy prices.

This time, it looks like the Alberta government is getting it right. Build now, when it’s cheaper, and we’ll be ready to roll the trucks when industry needs them to move.

But trust has been broken here. It’s just too much to believe that so many loyal Tory voters could feel this badly betrayed, without cause.

This was worth a standing ovation, but it still feels like the show is over.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she has not received an official request from any other school board for a similar move to online learning. (Advocate file photo)
’Operational pressures:’ Calgary schools shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12

School boards can ask to move online for a number of reasons

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Coordination Center of the Russian Government in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. The centre was set up as a line of communication with the whole of Russia for analysing and collecting information, promptly using big data and solving arising problems. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Months after hack, US poised to announce sanctions on Russia

First retaliatory action against the Kremlin for last year’s hack

FILE - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during the “Topping Off” ceremony of the New York Islanders new home, the UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mary Altaffer
Islanders close to selling out inaugural season at UBS Arena

Arena capacity of about 17,000 for hockey

An Uber Eats delivery person carries items near the Japan National Stadium, where opening ceremony and other events are planned for postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with engravings in honor of 1964 Tokyo Olympics seen on the side of the stadium wall behind the fence Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Tokyo. Two top officials of Japan’s ruling LDP party on Thursday, April 15, 2021, said radical changes could be coming to the Tokyo Olympics. One went as far to suggest they still could be canceled, and the other that even if they proceed, it might be without any fans.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Officials say Olympic cancellation, no fans still an option

COVID-19 cases have been rising across Japan

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2020 file photo, co-directors Jim LeBrecht, left, and Nicole Newnham, center, from the documentary “Crip Camp” pose with film subject Judith Heumann during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The disabled have a moment in the Oscar spotlight that they hope becomes a movement. LeBrecht, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, says a golden age for disabled films could come if Hollywood lets them tell their own stories. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
The disabled hope their Oscar moment can become a movement

Traditionally the disabled appear only when an actor seeking an Oscar-worthy role plays one on screen

FILE - Diane Warren poses for a portrait at the 90th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon on Feb. 5, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Warren is nominated for an Oscar for best original song for her work in “The Life Ahead” starring Sophia Loren. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
12-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren hopes for ‘awesome’ win

Third movie adaptation of the 1975 Romain Gary novel ‘The Life Before Us’

Opinion: Waiting 4 months between vaccine doses too long

“It’s not just a matter of potency, it’s a matter of the… Continue reading

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Most Read