Stuff Still Happens, week 14: Rachel’s kitchen table chat

Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government has been big on doing things differently, or so they say, but this week she went back to the tried and true. At a cost of 90,000 taxpayer dollars, Notley joined pretty much every other Alberta premier in going directly to the public in troubled times with a televised address. Her supper-hour speech was a bonanza for TV stations in Alberta — which no doubt charged the absolute maximum they could for 15 minutes of air time — but provided little of any substance, which was ironic in that it was filmed in her kitchen. The news, such as it was, is that Notley is committed to building pipelines. Jeez, I hope so. She also mentioned that we’re going to have a deficit of $10 billion in the next budget, which was also not news. But what is she going to do about the ballooning deficit? Nothing, it appears, because every government job is safe. “We could choose to slash public services, firing thousands of teachers and nurses … (but) reckless cuts only download the cost of deficits onto Albertans,” she said. OK, sure, reckless cuts would. We need teachers and nurses. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wants to fire “thousands” of teachers and nurses. But Notley, as always, is being very selective. Absolutely keep teachers and nurses … but there are some 200,000 public sector workers. You’re telling me every last job is vital? Job cuts would, of course, enrage her union supporters, so under the righteous guise of saving teacher and nursing jobs, ALL government jobs are now sacred. For example, this job, which is an actual posting for “Community and capacity outreach advisors” for the Status of Women ministry:

The Community Capacity and Outreach Advisors provide specialized expertise and leadership in the areas of:

  • bridging the lived experiences of women and girls to decision making
  • root issues, assessing current approaches
  • strategic policy support, analysis and advice
  • seeking opportunities and innovative solutions to address barriers and promote enablers
  • awareness of systemic and structural barriers being reproduced by Government of Alberta policies and programs

You would be responsible for creating creative, integrated and innovative approaches and tools for community engagement and ensuring Alberta Status of Women stakeholders feel heard, valued and connected to government.

Pay? Between $72,000 and $90,000.  And there is a position in Edmonton, and one in Calgary.

Just how bad are things in the oil patch? Very.

Capital spending in the oil and gas sector in Canada dropped by $50 BILLION over the past two years, the largest decline since the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers started keeping track in 1947. Investment in the industry is expected to decline 62 per cent to $31 billion this year, and the number of wells drilled is expected to fall by 66 per cent. Mind you, 2014 was a banner year for oil; the industry had cash flow of $70 billion, so they’re coming down from a high. This year’s expected cash flow is a mere $17 billion.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world …

The big news this week was the release of the Panama Papers. While it may sound like something you find in a college dorm room right next to a guy’s bag of dope, the Panama Papers have caused an uproar all around the world. Something called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists uncovered a massive network of tax-evasion schemes involving shell companies and offshore tax havens. The massive trove of info includes emails, banking details and client records of 214,488 offshore entities form a Panama-based law firm. According to the papers, a number of famous people are involved. Among those implicated are Russian czar Vladimir Putin (no surprise there) and Icelandic PM Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson (a complete shock; I’m a big supporter of Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson). The story forced his resignation, which reverberated from Reykjavik to Hafnarfjordu. The total estimated to be hidden away in offshore accounts, totally tax free, is some $22.9 TRILLION dollars — equivalent to the combined annual economic output of the U.S. and Japan.

Finally, a reason to be envious of Saskatchewan

The fine people of the flatland province to the east of us had a provincial election on Monday, and it appears the people are pretty satisfied with their government. Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party won a whopping (the actual definition of whopping, by the way) 51 of 61 seats. Those are Peter Lougheed/PC party numbers we used to see routinely in Alberta. It must be nice to have a government that almost everyone is satisfied with, rather than a government that satisfies almost no one. It’s not reason enough to move to Saskatchewan, but it’s a nice bonus.

Speaking of not being satisfied …

The federal NDP is holding its post-election convention in Edmonton this weekend, with Thomas Mulcair’s leadership on the line. You remember Mulcair, don’t you? He was going to be the first NDP prime minister until some punk with nice hair came along and blew him and his party out of the water. And still with losing parties, the Conservative leadership race began this week, with a couple of non-entities (I won’t bore you with their names) entering the race. No need to get too interested in this, in that the leadership convention isn’t until May of 2018.

The front runners are run over

Donald Trump’s ego-inflated election balloon lost a lot of altitude on Tuesday, when the Orange One was beaten, and beaten badly, by the evil Ted Cruz in Wisconsin. There seems to be a feeling that the relentlessly negative press Trump has received — justifiably, considering just how shockingly stupid he is — is finally wearing him down. This is not entirely good news for Cruz, however. With all the attention focused on Trump starting to shift, all eyes will be on Cruz. And those eyes will not like what they see in him. In Democrat land, Bernie Sanders just won’t go away, winning Wisconsin by a big margin. The odds of Sanders being the Democratic nominee have risen, but only from 0.0% to 0.4%. It seems almost nobody likes Hillary Clinton, but she will be the nominee, and the next president. Is it to late to repeal the 22nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution? You know, the one that allows a president to run for only two terms? If Obama ran for a a third term, he’d win in a landslide.


Merle Haggard, 79, one of the greatest, most influential country singers of his, or any other, generation. With Haggard’s passing, the only true country giant left now is Willie Nelson … Ron Wicks, 76, longtime former NHL referee.


By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

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