Opinion: Alberta politics could use some moderation

By David Marsden

Moderation in all things. It’s a goal many of us keep in mind as we begin a new year, and it’s certainly an aspiration our provincial leaders should take to heart.

Rachel Notley too quickly tried to transform Alberta when the NDP ended four decades of Conservative rule in 2015. Now, Premier Jason Kenney is determined to speedily upend all the changes that Notley implemented during her four years of power.

Kenney was largely elected last spring on a promise of balancing Alberta’s budget. He’s taking steps to accomplish that aim, but has made a number of other controversial changes, including rolling back the minimum wage for younger workers, embarking on a lengthy review of supervised drug consumption sites and removing protections for workers on small farms.

Some of Kenney’s measures, such as no longer inflation-proofing payments to the severely handicapped, may influence the government’s ability to balance the books to a small extent, but they can be seen as mean spirited.

What difference does a wage cut for young hospitality workers really mean to those who own our restaurants, after all? Very little, but for those who must absorb the reduction in pay, the impact is significant.

Kenney should keep his eye on the prize — putting Alberta back in the black — and avoid the risk of creating a backlash among those who may doubt the government’s purposefulness.

Moderation is a lesson Notley would have done well to have learned. Early on in its mandate, the NDP launched a review of energy royalties that sent shock waves throughout the investment community, only to discover the amount of money companies contribute to provincial coffers was fair.

As the owners of the energy resource, Albertans “receive an appropriate share of value” from royalties, Dave Mowart, who chaired the $3-million review, determined.

The NDP brought in a convoluted carbon tax that directed money to questionable purposes, quickly set on a path of imposing a hefty minimum wage and increased corporate taxes.

The NDP added scores of public-sector workers and ran up alarming deficits, all while Albertans employed in the private sector were losing their jobs by the thousands.

Simply put, the NDP was tone deaf to the majority of Albertans. The Kenney government risks creating the same impression, if it continues to do too much too quickly.

Notley may have served a second term if her actions had been more moderate. Kenney should recognize the danger of taking too strident a course and instead stick to a simple, defensible agenda: balancing the books.

Notley doesn’t seem to have learned anything from being trounced at the polls. She said at Christmas there’s no way of making the government better, and that its replacement is the only solution.

“We need to take back our province and get it back on track. I’m a leader and so that’s what I’ve committed to do,” said Notley.

Take back the province on behalf of whom, one wonders? The less than 33 per cent of voters who cast a ballot in favour of the party?

For his part, Kenney should ensure he’s moving the province forward for the benefit of all Albertans, not just those with an axe to grind.

Again, moderation in all things.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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