Jason Kenney had a plan for Alberta. But after two years and a pandemic, is his province still with him?

EDMONTON —Jason Kenney has been talking about a radically different Alberta for years.

It is a province with a booming oil and gas sector, with pipelines that send the province’s energy wealth everywhere. It is a province that no longer sees its federal tax dollars used to fund services for other provinces through the Canada offset formula.

You have your own pension plan, not the CPP. And your own police force.

On Friday, the prime minister’s plans for an Alberta to get a “fair deal” within Canada took another step forward as the province evaluated a study outlining the path to establishing a provincial police force and ousting the RCMP.

The report, completed by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP for the government, looked at what it would take, and the cost, to establish a provincial police force, similar to those in Ontario and Quebec.

The study did not make a recommendation one way or another, but the United Conservative government said the report indicates that the plan is “realistic, cost-effective and worth serious consideration.”

“The Alberta government is committed to the safety of all Albertans, no matter where they live,” Kenney said in a press release.

“A much stronger model of community policing, with closer integration of social services and indigenous peoples’ participation in governance, has real potential to improve policing in Alberta.”

The report said that it would cost Alberta hundreds of millions of dollars more to establish and run a provincial police force, but could ultimately provide more cost-effective law enforcement.

It says that it costs Alberta about $ 500 million a year right now to pay the RCMP and that the federal government contributes $ 170 million.

The report added that if Alberta decided to go it alone, it would cost about $ 735 million each year in addition to $ 366 million in start-up costs.

The Kenney administration says it will consult the public on whether to proceed.

The police report is the latest result of a “fair dealing” model that Kenney introduced years ago while touring Alberta campaigning for prime minister.

At the time, Kenney relied on anger at Ottawa to gain support for his future government, calling them the saviors of oil and gas, champions of the fight against Ottawa’s invasion of Alberta’s economic interests, and fighters for the Liberty. for a province with a growing separatist sentiment.

But that was in 2019.

After a global pandemic that, according to many critical reports, was mishandled by the Kenney government, he no longer preaches from a raised pulpit to a unified choir.

His personal popularity is the lowest among the country’s prime ministers and members of his own party have begun to publicly demand his resignation over myriad issues.

With his personal political fortunes dwindling, Kenney has stood firm in his fierce vision for his province, though the weather has affected it as well.

A referendum on equalization was held in conjunction with the municipal elections, and a majority of voters supported removing the principle of the program, which provides federal money to struggling provinces, from the constitution. However, experts noted that Kenney’s low turnout and low popularity would not bode well for convincing the federal government to negotiate on that front.

The anti-Alberta activity report also fell this month. Kenney launched it to investigate alleged disinformation campaigns by an environmental organization that received foreign funding. He also wanted the public inquiry against Alberta to look into whether they had taken any illegal actions.

The report found no wrongdoing by environmental organizations and could not say how much money from foreign sources was used in activist campaigns targeting Alberta’s energy sector.

Meanwhile, rural crime has been a concern for Albertans for years.

The Fair Treatment Panel, comprised of the UCP’s MLA and other experts, traveled the province throughout late 2019 and into 2020, hearing from people on a variety of topics, including the police.

The panel’s final report said Albertans expressed “frustration with the RCMP bureaucracy” and recommended that the province establish an Alberta Police Service.

If Alberta adopts its own force, the transition would take up to six years to complete, according to the report.

A statement Friday from the National Police Federation, which represents about 20,000 RCMP members in Canada and about 3,500 in Alberta, criticized the idea.

“To our surprise, the report appears to recommend the implementation of a policing model that is currently in place under the existing RCMP model: stating that it will cost Albertans nearly 30 percent more once established, plus additional transition costs during several years, ”he said.

“There is simply no meat on this bone.”

At a press conference on Friday, Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was asked how the province would offset the $ 170 million the federal government currently provides for policing.

Madu did not give an explanation, but said that if it goes ahead, “it will not cost the municipalities more than what they are currently paying.”

“At the end of the day, I’m sure it will be the same amount or less than what we currently spend on the RCMP,” he said.

However, the NPF said Madu refuses to “acknowledge that moving to an Alberta police service means losing more than $ 170 million in annual contributions from the federal government.

“Albertans deserve to know the full and true cost and community safety impacts of this idea,” he said.

With his initiatives developed, for better or for worse, and making his way into public discourse, Kenney now faces a reckoning with his critics.

The United Conservative Party has a leadership review scheduled for spring 2022 and its popularity among Albertans has dropped from 61 percent when it first took office to 22 percent in October, according to a recent Angus Reid poll.

Whether a proxy war with Ottawa helps or hinders Kenney’s future with voters remains to be seen, but all eyes on Alberta are on the pandemic and the government’s response to it for now.

With files from The Canadian Press


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