Alberta Premier Danielle Smith during her tire-repair-shop news conference yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of poor-quality UCP video).
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith during her tire-repair-shop news conference yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of poor-quality UCP video). Credit: United Conservative Party / United Conservative Party

The United Conservative Party’s big “economic diversification” announcement yesterday, delivered by Premier Danielle Smith in what looked like a tire-repair shop, sounded like an uninspiring revival of former premier Jason Kenney’s “Alberta is Calling” subway advertising campaign in Toronto last fall. 

It’s doubtful Kenney’s lame subway stunt attracted many skilled workers to Alberta, and it’s even less likely Smith’s performative offer of small signing bonuses and modest tax credits for professionals willing to move to Alberta and tax breaks for students if they’ll stick around after graduation will have much impact either. 

Still, we’re in an election campaign now, and a premier needs to look busy every day, especially since she needs an excuse not to answer questions about stuff she’s said in the recent past. 

It’s hard to imagine health-care workers who struggled through the pandemic and continue to cope with the ongoing chaos in Alberta’s health-care system will be all that impressed with Smith’s promise to give a $1,200 “Alberta is Calling signing bonus” to skilled workers in occupations facing labour shortages if they will agree to move here from other provinces. 

Human nature being what it is, the reaction in Alberta is likely to be, “All we get is your thanks for our service? What are we? Chopped liver?” 

It’s also hard to believe that a piddling $1,200 one-time payment and the promise of a modest tax credit down the line will persuade many professionals to move here when, to put this in cruder terms, other places are willing to pay registered nurses and other health-care professionals much bigger sums to relocate.

According to the fine print, to qualify for the small payment, you have to be registered and working full-time in a fairly limited list of professions or be an apprentice or certified journeyperson in a recognized trade. 

And face it, for health-care workers in particular, after four years of the United Conservative Party government, Alberta doesn’t look like an attractive destination. No doctor or nurse is going to make a decision to move to Alberta based on this bonus.

If you worked in health care in Alberta through the pandemic or if you’re working here now in Alberta’s packed emergency rooms — where the CBC’s wait-time tracking charts show waits are growing longer again, regardless of the supposedly miraculous work of Alberta Health Services’ single UCP administrator — you get bupkes.

As for the graduate retention tax credit, it’s tiny when it’s spread over seven years.

So this one is mostly fluff with very little substance. 

The NDP responded with mild sarcasm and moved along.

“We’re so glad Danielle Smith has decided to borrow so much of our economic plan for a better future,” said Nagwan Al-Guneid, NDP candidate for Calgary—Glenmore. 

Research firm publishes statement correcting UCP misuse of its conclusions

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, the UCP has been claiming an NDP plan to get Alberta to net-zero carbon output by 2030 “is the most expensive election promise in Alberta history,” and will cost $87 billion. 

With former UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean as the frontman for this claim, the party said it was basing its conclusion on a report by a Vancouver-based research company that was completed for the UCP caucus last month. 

In what is surely an unprecedented development, Navius Research Inc. published a statement on social media to “set the record straight” on what its report really said. It provided a link to the report, which the UCP had chosen not to publish. 

“The cost to Alberta’s economy reported in the media today is more than double what our model suggests it will be,” Navius said in a tweet published Wednesday. 

In a saner world, the UCP would have apologized for its error and moved on. Of course it did no such thing, and Smith still insists its conclusion is right and the authors of the research the party was quoting don’t know what they’re talking about.

Troubles grow for JCCF lawyers who hired peeper to follow judge

On Wednesday, The Canadian Press reported that lawyers John Carpay and Randal Jay Cameron face charges by the Law Society of Manitoba resulting from their admitted use of a private detective to follow a judge presiding over a case they had brought on behalf of a group of churches that objected to pandemic public health orders restricting their services in 2021. 

Carpay and Cameron, both associated with the so-called Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms in Calgary, also face criminal charges in the bizarre affair in which Justice Glenn Joyal, Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench, was followed around by their peeper. 

Back in Alberta, Premier Smith would probably be just as happy if no one remembered how back in September last year, she collected GoFundMe donations to finance a screwball COVID-19 lawsuit, and then, when she abandoned the scheme to pursue the leadership of the UCP instead, donated about $60,000 to Carpay’s JCCF

Now, about the premier’s bad ink

Now, about Premier Smith’s regrettable tattoo, images of which surfaced online yesterday, it is profoundly to be hoped, by parents of young adult children and Biblical fundamentalists familiar with Leviticus 19:28 in particular, that this will not encourage a campaign bad-ink race. 

The Breakdown podcast has offered, well, a breakdown on what the premier’s ink is supposed to mean – basically, “freedom” in Sumerian cuneiform.

As a result, apparently, the sketchy symbol on Smith’s arm looks like it might have been sketched with a Sharpie pen. It’s favoured by libertarian nutbars and is used as the logo of the Liberty Fund, a U.S. foundation associated with radical anti-environmental nuttery among other causes. 

To most of us, though, it just looks like a tattoo of the type generally associated with the phrase, “Whatever was I thinking?”

Let’s not make this a requirement for public office. Can we all get on board with that? 

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...