‘Leading thinkers’ to set Alberta’s new economic course lickety-split – and you’re not invited

Premier Alison Redford eyeballs an uninvited visitor to the province’s economic summit. Without the password, you’re not getting in. Below, Premier Redford and Deputy Premier Tom Lukaszuk present their bona fides at the door. Actual Alberta politicians may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below them: The premier’s communications director, Stefan Baranski.

In just 10 days, “Alberta’s leading thinkers, key industry, non-profit and academic leaders, Members of the Legislative Assembly and passionate citizens will gather together for a spirited discussion on Alberta’s future.” You’re not invited.

The government announced yesterday in a terse yet effusive press release that the economic summit Premier Alison Redford promised in her “State of the Province” Address one week ago will take place on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

But don’t worry about having to give up a day of your weekend – only the usual suspects will be invited, plus 87 citizens chosen one each by their MLAs.

I’m pretty passionate about this stuff myself, so I’ll be waiting by the phone for my call from Finance Minister Doug Horner, who happens to be my MLA. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Meanwhile, Rome may not have been built in a day, but thankfully Alberta’s future can be – at least for a year, as this event has been billed a “first annual” in the press release from Ms. Redford’s communications director, Stefan Baranski.

“This summit will be a very important opportunity to discuss the economic challenges facing the province while also offering potential solutions for Albertans,” Mr. Baranski’s press release stated.

And thanks to your absence, Dear Readers, there’s no danger a crazy idea like a fair progressive tax system will be suggested to replace the Ralph Klein flat tax that the Calgary Herald, fearless champion of the overdog, likes so much.

Indeed, the absence of anyone on the invite list whose views haven’t already been thoroughly vetted is presumably the key to the success of this aspect of the “conversation” Premier Redford promised to start with us all in her SOTP message back on Jan. 24.

Lots of ideas have already been floated by people with connections to the right people – going after physicians’ compensation, going after teachers’ compensation, going after public service compensation, to name but a few – so it’s not hard to guess what will emerge from this glorified one-day seminar, which will feature four moderated panels, “each consisting of three to five participants with unique perspectives on areas relevant to Alberta’s fiscal framework.”

Topic areas will be as follows:

  1. Alberta’s economy, and the need for cuts
  2. Balancing expectations on the services Albertans need when things have to be cut
  3. Alberta’s revenue mix, and why we won’t change it when we can just cut stuff
  4. Responsible spending, including the need for cuts

The bit about the cuts doesn’t actually come out of the press release, I just threw it in to be a smart aleck, but you get the idea.

In fact, yesterday morning Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk was already telegraphing the government’s pre-summit plans for cuts via Twitter.

Meanwhile, while there suddenly seems to be some sympathy for the idea of an Alberta sales tax in Alberta Progressive Conservative circles – as well as among the deepest of the Globe and Mail’s deep thinkers – don’t count on this one being part of the government’s post-summit playbook. Too risky given all the opposition from the unwashed masses of both the right and left in the form of the Opposition Wildrose Party (no new taxes) and the NDP (no new regressive taxes).

Anyway, thanks to Mr. Klein, who was God’s gift to Alberta’s ultra-rich, it can’t be done without either passing a controversial new law or holding a doomed referendum.

Ms. Redford also briefly floated the idea of a return to health care premiums – which were cancelled by premier Ed Stelmach in 2009. That too would be unpopular, but at least could be re-branded and passed off as a user fee and not the regressive tax it in fact would be. Still, yesterday it appeared to have been judged too risky and dropped as well.

Getting back to the one-day, four-panel summit that will solve Alberta’s economic woes, if you’re not invited and are still anxious to take part, according Mr. Baranski – who managed George Smitherman’s campaign to be mayor of Toronto shortly before Rob Ford, that city’s answer to Ralph Klein, was elected – you can participate through social media, details to follow.

You can watch the Youtube video, I guess, or read the Tweets. Just don’t say you weren’t consulted!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

3 Comments on "‘Leading thinkers’ to set Alberta’s new economic course lickety-split – and you’re not invited"

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    Climenhaga’s ‘Summit’ post is further documentation of AB’s citizens being sidelined by the corporatist governance of AB maintained by AB’s unelected elite groups/interests and the groups’ elected representatives, i.e. the AB government.

    In 1993-1995, Mark Lisac documented/described the explosion of these sorts of managed processes in making his argument that Klein and Alberta’s corporate class thus transformed AB into a modern form of a corporatist state.

    Context below from Lisac.

    excerpts from “The Corporate Province, Chapter 9 in The Klein Revolution (1995) Mark Lisac’s political analysis from 1993-1995

    =======================

    p. 141 “When I look at the way things are going and write about a drift toward a corporate state I mean a different method of government, not just a government influenced by business.”

    p. 152 “…he clearly ran a government in partnership with business ­­– government as joint venture.”

    p. 159 “…an “opaque and mystified form of oligarchy.” ” ( this is re Alberta’s particular form of corporatism. S.G.)

    p. 141 “…make it easier for part of society to impose its will on another part.”

    p. 142 “…Klein and his government were changing democracy in Alberta. They were building new structures to drape a velvet cloak over dissent.”

    p. 144 “Officials and cabinet ministers controlled invitation lists. The controlled the agenda. The controlled the information booklets…”

    p. 144 “… the organizers always picked the people who reported on the small workshop sessions. Control was built in at every level.”

    p. 146 “… a corporate directorship acting behind the facade of the government.”

    p. 157 “There was a progressive blurring of the lines between government administration, private groups or businesses, and the Progressive Conservative Party. The blurring had been a feature of Alberta politics for many years. But it was spreading.”

    p. 157 “More and more, when I had call to write about “the Conservative Party,” it felt instead that I should be writing about “the Party.”

    p. 158 “It was tough trying to create a partnership while making sure that some of the partners had a controlling vote.”

    =======
    Lisac makes it clear that corporatism in the sense he is applying to AB, is that of a state where groups rule the province in joint venture with the government when he writes ” a different method of government, not just a government influenced by business.” p. 141

    What’s happened in a corporatist polity like AB, is that the source of legitimacy for government/governance is transferred from the citizen to unelected groups.

    And as AB’s history of tax policy, royalty rates, drilling and logging wildlife to extinction, etc… it’s clear that the most powerful groups get what they want from government.

    Citizens can vote based on political marketing campaigns funded by the vested interests, but between elections government organizes the negotiations among, and negotiates with the corporate groups, all our public policy re taxes/spending/industrial extraction on public lands.
    Conflict of interest is now a foreign language to Alberta’s elites.

    Bottom-line: this corporatist governance system is opposed to a citizen-based democracy.

    That would be citizen-based democracy where elected representatives actually discuss the full range of public policy options directly with the citizens with respect to serving the common good of AB. e.g. a full return to a progressive income tax regime ought to be up for discussion.

    Instead what we get as citizens is a short list of policy options that the corporatist elite has vetted before any of the various forms of managed/rigged-public consultation process gets underway.

    Sam Gunsch

  2. Tom Fuller says:

    If we proles aren’t welcome at the “Economic Summit” (and my invitation to the World Economic Forum at Davos didn’t show up, either), we can at least participate in the Redford government’s web-based “build your own Alberta Budget” survey (http://www.budgetchoice.ca/2012/). Scoffers will try to dismiss this as a particularly coercive push poll, intended to soften Albertans up for yet another round of cuts to the public service, but I think it’s a stroke of genius – turning the budgeting process into an on-line multi-player role-playing game (or whatever the kids call those things these days). Assuming my avatar (Chlorox, the Elf Warrior) I vote to cut services to children and seniors, and lay off everyone at Environment. For reducing expenditures by 23%, I get 5,000 special bonus points, and can claim the magic axe of Steve West, lost for lo these many years.

    I haven’t had this much fun since I spilled the beer on my Atari and shorted out Space Invaders.

  3. Tom Fuller the Redford government’s web-based “build your own Alberta Budget” survey billed as your choice is your choice from a limited list of options. One option not offered is raising oil and gas royalties. A quote from Wikipedia “Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed towards influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side …”

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