On Monday, Alberta’s COVID-19 emergency benefits program came to an abrupt halt.
Barely 80,000 Albertans were able to access the service in the brief time it was available. Applicants complained that onerous ID requirements delayed their applications--pushing many people to Monday and then shutting the door on them entirely. For several days the website was simply entirely offline.
Jason Kenney estimates that unemployment in Alberta is rocketing towards 25%--more than half a million people. Not even a fifth of them were able to get help through the provincial relief program. Echoing back to last fall’s Rutherford scholarship debacle--and the disappearance of Kenney’s ‘grassroots guarantee’ before that--the Premier blamed ‘IT issues.’ But there’s no doubt the administration is happy to have had as few Albertans as possible dipping into their budget.
The opposition NDP pressed the government as far back as last week about the problems with the benefit program but were roundly ignored. The UCP, apparently, had different priorities.
Chief among those priorities was the provision of a gigantic aid package to Montana construction workers and a handful of O&G shareholders.
Last Tuesday Kenney announced that Alberta would be ‘investing’ $1.1 billion in the Keystone XL pipeline, and would be providing another $6 billion of credit on the public’s dime.
The expansion of this pipeline was previously stalled when the Obama administration nixed it, but President Trump had reversed that and given it the go-ahead.
The expansion work on the Canadian side was almost entirely complete already. What construction jobs this pipeline will provide won’t be here in Alberta, or even in Saskatchewan, but for a few dozen workers in Montana. TC Energy, the Transcanada spinoff that owns Keystone, wasn’t actually hurting for funds that badly in the first place--last year they paid out $1.95 billion in dividends to shareholders. This year they’re forecasting dividends of more than $3 billion. Our ‘investment’, buying little more than a handful of construction jobs that aren’t even in Alberta, will go straight into the pockets of rich shareholders.
Jason Kenney continues to put the priorities of oil and gas owners above the needs of working-class families in Alberta. Yesterday, he used the office of the Premier to promote an ‘open letter from oil and gas workers’ calling for even more financial support for o&g companies. The letter, of course, wasn’t signed by workers--it was signed by owners. A few of the big names, for context: Alex MacAusland, CEO of Western Energy Services, whose total compensation in 2019 was over $897,000; Bob Geddes, CEO of Ensign Energy Services, who took home $1.8 million in 2018; and Kevin Neveu, CEO of Precision Drilling, who last year raked in $6.6 million.
The return of Potatogate: recently we reported that under the cover of the corona crisis, the Kenney administration had gone forward with the sale of a giant chunk of Crown land near Taber to an unidentified buyer. Kim Siever tracked down that buyer: Lyle Ypma, owner of SLM Spud Farms, who has been infamously trying to acquire Crown land in the area for years. Ypma’s attempts were stymied in 2007 and 2010 by local opposition but it seems like he found a more receptive government in the UCP. And that’s not surprising--since 2007, Ypma and his family have donated over $100,000 to conservative politicians, parties, and PACs in Alberta.
- An Edmonton Institution prisoner was punished for speaking to the media about COVID-19, reports the CBC. Jonathan Henry was muzzled by authorities at the prison after sharing his concerns with the CBC about conditions there, and the danger they pose given the ongoing pandemic.
- The Alberta Energy Regulator’s new CEO was a central figure in Saskatchewan’s GTH scandal. Laurie Pushor, freshly appointed by the UCP, was at the heart of a scandal wherein politically-connected developers were given far more than the appraised value for 204 acres of land, resulting in them taking nearly $5 million in undeserved public funds. He’ll fit right in at the corruption-ridden AER.