EDMONTON – Jason Kenney's government gave its first throne speech on Wednesday, paving the way for Alberta's reworking and economy and the fulfillment of electoral promises by the United Conservative Party.
While the speech was shorter than in recent years, and avoided partisan attacks, in reality the new conservative US government plans to spend the next few weeks undoing much of the previous work of the NDP government.
Speaking with a crowded legislative chamber, and drawing on the history of Alberta – the province entered confederacy a century ago this September – Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell, open with a paean in spring, "the season of renewal" that "comes with an explosion of irrepressible energy of nature".
On this issue, he outlined the UCP government's plan to renovate Alberta and restore its place within the confederation. Mitchell said the Albertans "voted decisively for the democratic and economic renewal" in bringing Kenney to the prime minister's office, less than two years after successfully joining the two right-wing political parties of the province.
Speaking to reporters from the Alberta legislature on Wednesday morning, Kenney said his government's platform is a "project for positive change".
"The message will be one of renewal," he said.
The UCP government used its throne speech to promise to fix the economy of Alberta, which has not yet recovered after a huge collapse in oil prices that saw 75 billion dollars erased from nominal GDP between 2014 and 2016.
His promises include: scrapping the carbon tax; a "relentless focus" – a shooting at a Kenney-favored campaign line – on job creation; struggle for the control of natural resources and protection of public services.
A budget will be delivered in the autumn, and Mitchell said the government "will engage in extensive public consultations on the best way to eliminate deficit spending while protecting front-line public services".
"We have these fundamental commitments for the campaign," said Kenney. "But there are some problems … where we could benefit from ongoing consultations."
The first throne speech by Kenney is in stark contrast to the final one of the Neo-Democrats of Rachel Notley, who was on fire and sulfur in the lead of the April elections. This is not. It is a measured assessment of Alberta's circumstances, and while it contains hints about what are certainly controversial battles – education reforms, for example – it also contains a heavy dose of bipartisanship.
The message will be one of renewal
"In pursuing these and other initiatives, we will seek unity among the political parties of Alberta, where possible to speak with one voice," said Mitchell.
Even the usual sobriquets are missing; Bill C-69 is not the law "no more pipelines", as Kenney loves to say, but rather legislation that "threatens the exclusive jurisdiction of Alberta" over natural resources. Kenney's $ 30 million "war room" on energy policies is modestly referred to as "an agency charged with proactively telling the truth about how we produce energy." The carbon tax is still debatable, but it does not get the "work" kill "prefix here.
Kenney explained that the 2000-word speech should be a return to an older, shorter, less partisan and more traditional throne form of speech.
"I simply don't like trying to put in the words of the Queen's representative an entire hour of partisan rhetoric," said Kenney. "It underlines the commitment of our government to renewing decorum and civilization in the assembly and in our politics".
However, in his comments to journalists, Kenney spoke more passionately, including about the carbon tax.
"If Justin Trudeau's government tries to impose a federal carbon tax on Alberta, we'll see it in court," he said.
There are some problems … where we will benefit from ongoing consultations
Notley promised that the NDP would not back down without a fight and slammed Kenney for a throne speech that referred to women, minorities, LGBTQ people and disabled Albertians.
"It is clear that this government has gone to work diligently, putting every quadrant available and thinking a lot about how to prepare Alberta, for twenty years," said Notley. "The Albertans should be ready – this will hurt."
The speech of the throne also suggests reforms for education and health care. And there is mention of a couple of provisions on justice, the law next door to save the girl on human trafficking and Chiara's law, the legislation on domestic violence.
The speech ended with a tribute to Alberta and the Albertanis.
"The scale and pace of social and economic progress in Alberta over the past 114 years exceeds that of virtually any other place in the world," said Mitchell. "The political forces that hinder this inevitable destiny today are external and temporary".