rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Bold and transformative it's not, but budget may still resuscitate Alberta Tory dynasty

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Alberta Finance Minister Robin Campbell

Do you feel as if your life has been fundamentally changed by yesterday's budget?

That was the real money question of the Alberta provincial budget, the first we've seen since Jim Prentice became premier.

Taxes are up, but not too painfully -- especially if you happen to be a teetotalling millionaire who doesn't smoke. There's a measure of progressivity in the income tax, which despite being a "temporary" measure will probably never go away. Any fights with the province's public sector unions have been postponed far into the future. No one should be fooled the new health care "levy" isn't really just another tax, destined for general revenues, but the branding is holding for now. There will be 1,700 jobs lost at Alberta Health Services, potential big trouble, but the minister of health, Stephen Mandel, and the CEO of AHS, Vickie Kaminski, are whispering reassuringly no front-line jobs will disappear and there will be no layoffs. There's even a promise money will eventually start to flow back into the Heritage Trust Fund.

Bold and transformative, this is not -- but it does kick all the 43-year-old Progressive Conservative government's most serious problems well down the road.

A bad-news budget it is -- but is the news bad enough for anyone to lose any sleep over?

And never mind that new PC leaders have promised it all before -- sometimes a promise is all it takes to get what you want.

The lead-up to the budget tabled yesterday by Finance Minister Robin Campbell -- the portentous predictions of earth-shattering changes in an era of perpetually low oil prices followed by soothing promises that management of the province's troubled finances is in the hands of thoughtful, responsible people until prices rebound -- were all an exercise in expectation management.

If Albertans conclude today their lives haven't changed all that terribly much, then Prentice and Campbell will have won their bet, can reasonably hope an election will go their way, and will likely call one in the next few days.

If it angers Albertans in significant numbers -- because some folks wanted bigger cuts and no tax increases and others wanted bigger tax increases and no cuts -- then they will have lost their bet and the PCs' electoral future will be clouded.

In that case, even though they've prepared for a quick election, the Prentice Government might hold off -- although, if they do, there's a good chance voters will like this budget less the more they get to know it.

Of course, it's hard to tell in the immediate aftermath of a Budget Speech just which way the wind is blowing. Representatives of the groups that show up at the Legislature for the media feeding frenzy that inevitably follows such major political events tend to emphasize the negative, and yesterday afternoon's was no exception, as you can read and hear for yourself.

Acting Wildrose Opposition Leader Heather Forsyth complained the budget contains the largest deficit and the largest tax increase in the province's history -- which is true.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley noted the premier's reluctance to raise business taxes for his corporate friends and funders and argued a health care system in shambles can hardly afford $160 million in cuts in a year -- which is also true.

But the PCs can claim amid the clamour with a ring of plausibility that if everyone is complaining, they must have hit the sweet spot!

The chickens will come home to roost when the cuts start to bite, especially if the government really does try to run the province according to user-pay principles. But if the electorate is sufficiently inattentive -- and no one can claim Alberta voters have paid much attention in the past three or four general elections -- the clucking sound won't be audible until well after the next vote.

And while Albertans may be annoyed at this or that, the smart money says most of them won’t lose any sleep about fundamental changes to their lives. In other words, Prentice and Campbell will have won their bet. 

So here's a prediction: If Danielle Smith can win her PC nomination fight in the Highwood riding on Saturday without the premier having to intervene on her behalf, while the memory of this budget is fresh in party members' minds and on the same day the hapless party she once led tries to pick a leader, the Tories are probably home free.

With a little guidance from their pollsters, the PCs will contrive to call an election as soon as politically possible -- say, right after the Easter break on April 7, notwithstanding former premier Alison Redford's constitutionally unsound "fixed election period" law.

Then they'll schedule the election as quickly as they can after that, in the first full week of May.

And if we're not careful, we’ll face another massive PC majority and someone will have to tell Albertans to take a look in the mirror if they want to see the cause of their problems!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.