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To train his political pugilist for the 1992 US Presidential primary and subsequent election campaigns Democratic strategist and cornerman James Carville famously told his contender from Arkansas: “It’s the economy stupid!” Apparently he wrote it on a note and ensured it was ever present in Bill Clinton’s pocket.
His fighter never forgot. Clinton with the help of a Ross Perot-gifted vote split rode the advice and that note to an unanimous decision win.
Truth is, the words on that note are not just a good political device. Their wisdom is the foundational bearing behind any effective government plan.
It is after all the economy that pays for everything. It provides the tax revenue upon which every single public service entirely depends. It provides the fiscal room for tax competitiveness, responsible budgeting; yes even balanced budgeting.
So in this Alberta election the most important question for voters, the illusive ballot question – if you will – is: ‘who has the best plan for the economy?
I admit to a bias here but the answer is Kenney and the UCP and the evidence is objectively clear and on display in their respective platforms and in the existing record of the NDP.
The NDP bought into the social license theory that some self-immolating, indulgence like a carbon tax imposed on its own people and its own economy would swing support Alberta’s way from those who have manifestly opposed the continued existence of the Canadian fossil fuel energy sector.
It was folly from the beginning. What’s more, the decision seemed to give an agreeing nod to those who attack Alberta’s energy sector that they might have been right after all. Premier Notley also supported the feds capitulation on Northern Gateway, was nowhere to be heard or seen as a few of us were fighting for KXL and whose comments on the feds killing of Energy East, C-69 and the tanker ban on Alberta oil C-48 were whispered if said at all.
While I have a great deal of respect for Premier Notley these instances were, in my opinion, fundamental failures in leadership. More seriously, the cumulative effect of policies from Ottawa and Edmonton including the NDP’s failure to defend Alberta’s economic interests have left the oil and gas economy of Alberta trailing the energy economies of Texas, North Dakota, and yes, Saskatchewan.
Here are the latest reported unemployment rates in each of those places.
North Dakota: 2.4%
Granted each of these economies is different, some more diversified than others. It’s worth noting however that there is only one of them that self-imposed the largest tax hike – a carbon tax hike no less- whose leadership allied with a federal government that isn’t sure it wants Canada to have an energy sector, who gave up on pipelines and whose fiscal improbity reached near to Biblically proportioned levels.
Policies matter. Economic policies matter most.
Albertans have to wade through the muck that has been raked in this campaign and there’s been no small amount of it and ask themselves. Who does have the best plan for the economy? Who will fight for our province’s economic interests? Who will place Alberta jobs at the very top of every meeting agenda?
Voting decisions are never easy. They shouldn’t be. But James Carville’s cajun accented admonishment of his old boss can help sort things out.
It’s the economy, stupid.
Brad Wall served as the 14th Premier of Saskatchewan from 2007 to 2018