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Bell: Danielle Smith, what the heck is up with your inflation plan?


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Stop the presses. Take the script back for a rewrite.

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The good news sure didn’t last long.

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Like less than 48 hours.

Premier Danielle Smith goes on TV and tells Albertans her $2.8-billion inflation plan is just the first step, with much more to be done.

The next day, Smith’s point man on the plan, Matt Jones, tells Albertans there IS more to come, some soon and some down the line.

Smith’s sidekick says what we saw rolled out by the premier was “an initial package” of inflation relief, not the full-meal deal.

This would be a good thing to say and a much better thing to actually do because Smith and her crew took the inflation file and decided to pick winners and losers.

All Albertans are equal but some Albertans are more equal than others, to fiddle with a line from the great George Orwell.

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What is worse is the losers, those who got the short end of the stick, those who didn’t score cheques for the new select class of Dani Dollars, were singles and couples with no kids.

And quite a few of them live on far, far more modest incomes than the winners.

Households with a child or children get a cheque if their household income is up to a penny under $180,000 a year.

Seniors and it’s a cheque up to the same penny shy of $180,000 a year in income.

You see, we are told the Smith government considers these folks are feeling the pressure. They are vulnerable. They need the province’s extra help.

The Smith government has a surplus of cash to the tune of $12 billion-plus this year.

They also have enough dough to pay off more than $13 billion in debt, the largest such payment in Alberta history.

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The amount of cash coming from the oilpatch is forecast to be an astounding record-breaking $28 billion!

The poor saps who are left out of Smith’s plan are told to be grateful.

There’s an electricity rebate, they are told. There’s the nixing of the province’s tax at the gas pump for six months, they are told.

Wonder how far that will go when the rent increase notice comes in at $200 a month.

Travis Toews is Smith’s budget boss, as he was former premier Jason Kenney’s budget boss.

Let’s just say, on this day, he is not exactly exuding empathy.

He cranks out bean-counter talk and doesn’t seem to connect to the questions he’s being asked.

He appears not to get it.

When the man is questioned again and again he goes on defence, repeating scripted talking points that don’t become truer because they are repeated.

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Every Albertan is going to benefit. Every Albertan is going to benefit.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Some who should benefit a lot, benefit little.

“It is a very substantial package,” counters Toews.

Again, for some.

“It is targeted to those who are most vulnerable.”

A family with one kid and a yearly income of … let’s say …  $175,000 is more “vulnerable” than a childless couple at $50,000 a year or a single person at $35,000.

Hope that’s not the math in the new school curriculum.

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Alas, the endgame is this. There is NO indication there will be more. NONE. That much is clear. Smith and Jones must not have got the memo.

Somewhere along the way the subject of putting a cap on insurance premium hikes also comes up and Toews figures the premiums haven’t gone up.

It’s hopeless. Guess the insurance company mucky-mucks enjoy the same clout they had when Jason Kenney was premier.

Toews is asked again and again about the winners and losers in Smith’s plan.

The most he will admit is a very, very few may not benefit much.

He is sure we can all find a specific example of the very, very few, as if to say: What does that prove?

Toews adds Alberta is providing more support than any other province.

Last time anyone looked, other provinces don’t scoop $28 billion of black gold in one year.

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Toews says in Alberta we have a “real affordability advantage.”

Why is Charles Dickens suddenly floating into my brain?

Seems some politicians need a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Trevor Tombe, a noted economist, says the inflation-fighting money is coming out of surplus dollars and the incredible windfall from the oilpatch.

A one-time payment to everyone would have been so easy. And added measures for the truly most vulnerable could still be funded.

“It’s fair. If you’re thinking about it as a dividend out of our now-incredibly valuable resources, well then, every Albertan is an owner of those resources and therefore is entitled to such a dividend.”

Shannon Phillips of the NDP weighs in. Talk about shooting fish in the barrel.

Phillips figures Smith’s approach is frantic and chaotic, creating a plan on the back of a napkin, and the Smith government is “perfectly willing to write off entire segments of society.”

Does she think Smith will add more fairness to her inflation plan?

“They don’t know whether they’re coming or going, these guys. They are throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.”

Meanwhile, Smith’s budget boss Toews insists “we’re leaving no one behind.”

Yeah right.

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