Kevin O’Leary’s silly salvo into Alberta politics, while not quite as buffoonish as most of what comes out of American presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s mouth, made headlines recently.
Our interest in his supremely unserious offer to invest $1 million in the Alberta energy (oil) sector if NDP Premier Rachel Notley resigns from office lies in the fact that he and his insinuations of blame represent a particular big-business, right-wing outlook subscribed to by a fair-sized contingent of Canadians.
Our concern is that someone like him (a former Dragon from CBC’s popular reality show Dragon’s Den) can be influential, and it’s troubling when such an individual perpetuates a cloud of misinformation.
So let’s address the issue head on. Notley has been premier for only a matter of months, the province was facing a dire economic outlook before the election, and the international price of oil has continued to drop precipitously to almost historic lows.
Is Alberta hurting? Yes. Can the blame be laid at Notley’s feet? Decidedly no.
The price of oil is not something over which Notley and the Alberta NDP have any control.
This price freefall is the principle author of the layoffs and tough times in Alberta’s oil fields. Anyone with half a brain can figure that out.
A move to raise corporate taxes a smidge (which would bring Alberta’s rate in line with the median among Canada’s provinces — oh, those poor, starving multi-nationals) along with talking about trying to get a bigger piece of the pie for Albertans via royalties can’t even touch the real causes of the industry’s pain.
Further, if one really wants to point fingers, there is the very serious question about why Alberta doesn’t have a contingency fund big enough to help them sail without worry through this tough time, after many sunny economic days.
But the right wingers who are conducting the campaign to undermine the current government don’t seem interested in holding the former ruling Conservatives to task, under whose 40 years of leadership all the seeds for the current situation were planted.
They seem uninterested in the truth, either.
O’Leary’s offer to invest obviously wasn’t in earnest, and $1 million would have almost zero impact on the industries involved. But the clear and intentional message was a disparagement of Notley and her leadership.
It remains to be seen how good Notley and the NDP will be for Alberta’s economy. The reality is that to date, she just hasn’t had enough time to make much of an impact. In the meantime, it’s troubling to see the myths being maliciously generated.