Alberta Premier-Designate Jason Kenney speaks at a news conference outside the Alberta Legislature building in Edmonton on Wednesday April 17, 2019, the day after his United Conservative Party was elected to govern the province.
This may be the quietest week of Jason Kenney’s life.The premier-designate hasn’t uttered a public word for days. That will change briefly Friday morning when he meets his new caucus in Edmonton, with some public remarks and a Facebook live stream.Otherwise, he’s in constant meetings on major policy decisions, even as he picks the people for a new cabinet.Kenney’s calls to the cabinet winners will go out on the weekend. That’s the moment of high excitement — or disappointment — as the names become known internally.Behind the political activity, far more planning is going into implementation of UCP policies.The civil service has provided detailed briefing books on budgeting and crucial measures such as axing the carbon tax and proclaiming Bill 12, the act that allows cuts to oil shipments.In the interests of averting chaos, the civil service works up detailed guidance on implementation of promises from parties with a chance of winning.For the UCP — long expected to defeat the NDP — the work has apparently been massive. And complicated.
Robert Wanner (right, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta), held an orientation session at the Alberta Legislature for all new Members-Elect to the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday April 24, 2019 in Edmonton.
Larry Wong /
One upshot is that you can bet that the UCP will delay a full budget until fall.Writing a whole new one for the legislature session that opens May 21 isn’t practical, or even responsible. Spending $50 billion is very complicated.But delay likely means the UCP is stuck with the NDP’s spending plan until the end of June.On March 29 (mid-campaign, and two days before the 2018-19 budget expired) the NDP cabinet passed a special order-in-council for 2019-20.It calls for $11.14 billion of operating spending; $781.3 million for capital and $222.8 million to cover financial transactions.There’s no end-date on the order, but the NDP slated that spending to last until June 30.The UCP could stick with this enabling order for the sake of convenience. But the new government will still have full power to trim or shift the spending.For instance, $228 million was to be spent on environment and parks. Kenney intends to dismantle most of the climate change plan. It’s hard to see the UCP continuing with the same spending level.At the end of June, the UCP cabinet would pass its own order-in-council (or vote interim supply if the legislature is still in session) to provide cash until fall.That could be the moment when we’ll see the UCP’s real intentions for spending. Kenney might use the summer doldrums to give the government a head start on restraint before the full budget in the fall.The eyeball test will be pretty simple. Just compare the NDP plan — spend $12.4 billion in one fiscal quarter — with the new UCP total.On Bill 12, Kenney will do what he promised and proclaim the law the same day he’s sworn in.B.C. will instantly seek an injunction. Alberta lawyers will fight on grounds that the legislation is meant to support energy prices and does not discriminate against any province.Related
That’s true of the law itself. Kenney’s campaign salvos against B.C., however, could hurt that case.Another big policy upheaval is the carbon tax, which Kenney promises to abolish very soon after taking office.The feds will quickly slap on their own carbon tax. Alberta will fight that.But the real challenge for the UCP will be to replace the $1.4 billion the tax raises annually. Kenney has suggested he’ll get some of the money by cancelling rail tanker car leases the NDP negotiated.Essentially, he’d be replacing tax money not yet raised with program money not yet spent. That’s the magic of Canadian budgets.This is only a taste of the challenges involved in an election platform with more than 300 commitments. It will be a ride.Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Heralddbraid@postmedia.comTwitter: @DonBraidFacebook: Don Braid Politics