By David Yager
The replacement of the Justin Trudeau Liberal administration on election day would be a huge positive development for our industry and our country.
The only option on the ballot to the Liberals that can win enough seats to form a government is the Conservative Party of Canada under leader Erin O’Toole.
I am writing this article because I fear too many of my fellow Albertans and Canadians are going to vote for some other party than the only one that can replace Trudeau.
Please vote with your wallet, not your heart. Here’s why.
The most important issues for the country, and the ones talked about the least during this campaign, are economic. Why? Because the current government doesn’t care. Trudeau summed it up best on the campaign trail when he stated, “I don’t think about monetary policy.” This surprised no one who works in any aspect of a business, industry or financial sector exposed to international markets, competitors or capital flows.
The above chart summarizes the Liberals’ indifference to economics, monetary policy or international investment. It was created in April 2020 by National Bank Financial which wrote, “Canada has gone ‘all in’ when it comes to using its fiscal firepower to fight the coronavirus.”
So did every other country on the chart, but not as much as the Liberals.
Trudeau government policies have chased hundreds of billions of investment dollars from the oil sands and Canada, cancelled or obstructed major export pipeline projects, crushed domestic and international investor confidence, and rekindled the long-dead western separatist movement.
When Trudeau was first elected in 2015, the federal debt after 148 years was $612 billion. After campaigning on balancing the budget by 2019, instead the Liberals added another $100 billion to the total debt before the pandemic.
Then the Liberals borrowed hundreds of billions more. In Trudeau’s first six years in office the federal debt increased by nearly $500 billion, or 82%. The projected ceiling before it quits rising is $1.4 trillion.
Regrettably, this is not a campaign issue for Canadians. As stated in the budget and the Liberal campaign platform, the plan is to borrow and spend even more. Balancing the deficit someday – any day – no longer even merits mention. Nor is the reality that higher taxes on everyone and everything are inevitable.
What has happened to Canada? This perplexes us all. New Brunswick public administration scholar Donald J. Savoie released a book in 2019 titled Democracy in Canada – The Disintegration of Our Institutions. The outside back cover summarizes his findings.
“Canada’s representative democracy is confronting significant challenges. At the top of the list is the growing inability of the national government to perform its most critical roles: namely mapping out collective actions that resonate in all regions as well as enforcing these measures.”
Highlights from the cover precede my comments.
- “Parliament’s failure to carry out important responsibilities.” This reflects the increasing concentration of power in the office of the Prime Minister and Premiers and a handful of selected non-elected advisors, not the people on the ballot.
- “An activist judiciary.” Laws and final policy decisions are increasingly set by the courts, not the representatives we elect.
- “Incessant calls for greater transparency.” This includes a growing focus on the minutiae of why and what government does at the expense of the bigger picture and overall objectives.
- “The media’s rapidly changing role.” The internet has changed the modern media’s influence on politics and our lives much more than most people appreciate.
- “A federal government bureaucracy that has lost both its way and its standing.” This also applies to the provinces. Modern government has become larger, politicized and increasingly self-serving, leaving many wondering who works for who.
Savoie compares the intended foundation of the country and its constitution to how it actually works today. Or doesn’t work. The more you study this subject, the more discouraging it becomes.
Under the Trudeau Liberals, national energy and climate policy is ultimately set by the Prime Minister, a small group of like-minded ministers, and unelected, hand-picked environmental activists. They are shaping the future of the world’s fifth largest oil and gas producer in their own image.
As a result, Canada is the only major hydrocarbon producing jurisdiction in the world that is trying to extinguish its most important resource industry, oblivious to the devastating impact it is having on the economy, regional discontent, and interprovincial divisions.
An activist Supreme Court is increasingly interpreting the constitution in ways that block resource development, thereby overruling other constitutional and legal provisions that put resource control in provincial hands and make the inter-provincial transportation of resources the responsibility of the House of Commons.
The public debate about all major policy issues has deteriorated from “we” – the greater good of the nation – to “me” – 37 million individuals in different regions who put their own interests first. This has drastically changed the priority of national public policy issues from macro to micro.
The independent media that western civilization has depended upon for centuries to provide fair reporting, expert analysis and sober second thought no longer exists. Research. Fact checkers. Commercial rewards for the truth; commercial punishment for getting it wrong. All fading or gone.
The internet and social media are completely unregulated. Anybody can say whatever they want about anyone or anything with complete anonymity. The latest aberration is so-called “deep fakes”, believable computer-generated images and utterances of important people saying things that are completely fabricated. This is dangerous.
As for the non-elected elements of our governments, massive bureaucracies and powerful public service unions that provide essential services are increasingly unaccountable. Unionized government workers now publicly support specific political parties to forward their interests.
The oil industry knows all too well what all of the foregoing has done to our sector and the economy.
How Canada moved from “we” to “me” is explained well in a 2003 book by Gregg Easterbrook titled The Progress Paradox – How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. I read it the first time in 2004 then reread it when I was researching my 2019 book, From Miracle to Menace – Alberta, A Carbon Story.
Easterbrook’s point was simple. All the metrics by which we measure the progress of the human condition are improving everywhere. Health. Nutrition. Education. Wages. Opportunity. Lifespan. Poverty. Child mortality.
Yet he was perplexed by the “progress paradox” – as things got better people kept believing they were bad and getting worse. They romantically long for the “good old days” even though they weren’t as good.
Easterbrook’s key conclusion was that western society had made such tremendous progress in delivering the basics – food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, social services – that people have been able to switch their concerns from what they need to what they feel.
Material needs had been replaced by spiritual needs.
This helped me understand why hundreds of millions of people could focus their attention on what the weather may or may not be like in 20, 50 or 100 years. Clearly, all their basic needs are satisfied and when they aren’t, politicians tell them they don’t have to worry because, if elected, they will do it for them.
It is not your fault. Society is to blame. And Stephen Harper.
This is what drives the so-called “woke” movement and “cancel culture”. None of their vocal advocates are missing any meals. Sure, things are good. But what about how things were? Or should have been? Our society is so prosperous that an increasing number of people are able to be preoccupied with past. And rewriting or extinguishing history.
The point about focusing on the future and the past instead of the realities of today is not enough people pay attention to the deep economic mess and administrative paralysis we have created for ourselves, and the degree to which modern politics have created it.
After six years of Liberal government, Canada’s growing reputation among international investors is a fiscally deteriorating country where you can’t get anything built or done.
In my book I tried to understand then explain modern politics. I opened the last chapter on the section on Carbon Politics as follows.
In 1986 American economist James Buchanan won a Nobel Prize in economics for articulating the Public Choice Theory, a combination of political science and economics. Human behavior in the form of self-interest is a key element of economics. Writing about Buchanan for website Library of Economics and Liberty, economist Jane S. Shaw wrote, “Although most people base some of their actions on their concern for others, the dominant motive in people’s actions in the marketplace – whether they are employers, employees, or consumers – is concern for themselves. Public choice economists make the same assumption – that although people acting in the political marketplace have some concern for others, their main motive, whether they are voters, politicians, lobbyists or bureaucrats, is self-interest.”
Buchanan wrote about how the Public Choice Theory replaces the “romantic and illusory” concept that governments and politicians act for the greater good. In fact, Buchanan asserted that most people in the political process behave just like buyers and sellers in the rest of the world.
The reality today is that a growing number of voters are not interested in politics once they figure out how little impact one vote has on what happens next…Organized groups of voters, or interest groups, are another matter. Jane S. Shaw continued:
Politicians may intend to spend taxpayer money wisely. Efficient decisions, however, will neither save their own money nor give them any proportion of the wealth they save for citizens. There is no direct reward for fighting powerful interest groups in order to confer benefits on a public that is not even aware of the benefits or who conferred them. Thus, the incentives for good management in the public interest are weak. In contrast, interest groups are organized by people with very strong gains to be made from governmental action. They provide politicians with campaign funds and campaign workers. In return they receive at least the ‘ear’ of the politician and often gain support for their goals.
Everybody knows this. What you didn’t know was that explaining it in the lingo of economics was worthy of a Nobel Prize. It is better known as “influence peddling” or “vote buying.” The Public Choice Theory explains why politicians are inclined to migrate to where the votes are. Spending and deficits rise because the players are not using their own money. This is how relatively small groups of people as a percentage of the population can punch well above their weight to create favourable policy and programs and generate grants.
The old saying in politics goes, “Find a parade and get in front of it”. Looking at the changes in Canada so well described by Savoie, politicians quickly figured out how to exploit them to their advantage.
The other political sayings that deserve repeating are, “We get the government we deserve” and “Elections are auctions of goods not yet stolen.”
Exploiting social media, the progress paradox, Canadian regional voting disparities, and organized blocks of votes within single issue interest groups – combined with the generous and frequent application of fear – has changed modern politics dramatically.
Federal election campaigns have devolved from articulating a grand vision for the nation and its people into the near-scientific identification of diverse voter trigger points by issue, region, gender, race, prejudices and income, then cobbling together a highly focused campaign to win enough seats to form government.
The Liberals have been successful for six years by exploiting fear, promising the impossible, substituting emotion for economics, playing one region of the country against another, and masking the true cost of their programs with however much public debt is required to retain power.
Because Canada is no longer a country of individuals and opportunity. At election time our country is a collection of 37 million victims that can be rescued from their personal misery if they just vote properly.
All the “hot button” issues that we are inundated with during this campaign are founded in fear. COVID. Climate. Guns. Racism. Inequality. Abortion, if you can imagine, 33 years after a Supreme Court decision that a woman’s right to choose was clearly protected in the constitution.
So we elect governments that do stupid things. We destroy our own oil industry and make foreign producers rich. We vote for more government handouts thinking it is free and leave the debt to our children and grandchildren. In the name of human rights we remove them. To protect minorities from discrimination we persecute everyone. In the pursuit of economic equity we don’t transfer wealth but destroy it or chase it out of the country.
The policies that could create the most opportunity for the most people are rarely mentioned, especially if they support corporations or free enterprise. The private sector has been branded as a narrow interest group that does not act in the public good. Things we need but don’t talk about enough are lower taxes, sound monetary policy, effective public spending, international competitiveness and stifling regulatory overkill.
That Canada’s economy can and will survive and succeed is taken for granted.
Erin O’Toole and his election team have figured out how the game is played and have put together a combination of 21st century politics and common sense in a valiant attempt to offer Canadians a clear and acceptable alternative to the Liberals.
To do this the CPC has had to compromise what many believe are core conservative values. Much of the criticism of CPC comes from the right, not the left.
The chattering classes are annoyed that O’Toole is promising a form of carbon tax. But the climate change ship has sailed. Big oil producers now all support a carbon tax, but what do they know?
Vaccinations. You soon won’t be able to go anywhere with proof of vaccination, like an NHL or CFL game. Whether this is right or wrong is not the issue. Fear is turning family and friends against each other. O’Toole is valiantly trying to find some middle ground that is not a police state, but he is routinely attacked from both sides.
Spending. Yes, CPC is going to spend too much money. This has been repeatedly proven to be what many voters want. At least until the tax bills arrive. But at least the CPC platform references some set of economic circumstances that would cause the national debt to quit growing in a few years.
Using the proven campaign levers of pushing the right buttons with individual voters, the Maverick Party and People’s Party of Canada are doing exactly the same thing as those on the left; promising the impossible to satisfy the emotional needs of a small percentage of Canada’s 37 million unhappy victims.
Neither will elect a single MP. However, they could drain enough votes from the CPC to allow the Liberals or NDP to win seats they would not win otherwise.
And put replacing Trudeau at risk.
On September 12, respected poll aggregator www.338canada.com had the Liberals and CPC tied at 32% but the seat allocation at Liberal 145, CPC 129. Another Trudeau win.
But PPC was at 6%. Strategic voting by conservatives could theoretically change these figures to Liberal 32% and CPC 38%. And the election’s outcome.
The number one issue on September 20 must be to remove Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party from office. This can only be done by electing a CPC government under Erin O’Toole. The future of the country depends upon it.
Think about that please. Then we’ll be able to deal with all the other issues in a country that isn’t going broke.
David Yager is an oil service executive, energy policy analyst, oil writer and author of From Miracle to Menace – Alberta, A Carbon Story. More at www.miracletomenace.ca