"No economic hardship has ever ruined us; no political enmity has ever defeated us; no natural disaster has ever stopped us ... It is our duty and our destiny to renew Alberta’s role as an economic and political leader within Canada."
– Lois Mitchell, Lt.-Gov. of Alberta, on behalf of Premier Jason Kenney.
Alberta's new government opened the first sitting of its term with a hefty agenda in mind and a laser focus on improving the economy.
As Alberta Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell delivered the throne speech on May 22, it became apparent that some of Premier Jason Kenney's most-touted promises – repealing the carbon tax, creating a more business-friendly environment here at home and fighting federal bills that threaten Alberta's resource sector – are going to be dealt with in short order.
With a comfortable majority government, Kenney's UCP caucus doesn't really have to worry about wooing the opposition, which is shaping up to have quite the bark but in practicality will have very little bite.
Some of the UCP's early goals will also be some of the easiest to achieve. Whether you agree with the carbon tax or not, there's no denying that Kenney's mandate from the majority of Albertans is to repeal it like he promised he would.
The same goes for his various business-boosting plans: few people would argue against cutting red tape, for instance; and Kenney's proposal for corporate tax cuts was well publicized before the election.
Not much heavy lifting will be needed there.
Some of Kenney's less-popular promises will come down the road, the most controversial of which might turn out to be his planned changes to education legislation. The focus of that debate will no doubt be on how gay-straight alliances and protections for LGBTQ students are affected, since the Education Act Kenney plans to proclaim weakens protections for LGBTQ students and teachers. Given his history of opposing LGBTQ rights, any platitudes he might offer about protecting these students rings fairly hollow.
The ripple effects of Kenney's planned education reforms will spread beyond GSAs. In April, he rolled out a plan to introduce language and math testing for children in grades 1, 2 and 3, and reintroduce provincial achievement tests for Grade 3s. Perhaps those young children, some fresh out of Kindergarten, will ace their tests after they're finished with nap time.
There is no reason to think Kenney won't follow through on his party's myriad promises. Like him or not, he's proven he does what he says. He came to Alberta on a mission: he set out to merge two conservative parties, become the leader of the party that resulted from that merger, and ultimately become the province's next premier.
He'll probably successfully encourage businesses back into Alberta and successfully roll back protections for LGBTQ students as well.
In the throne speech, Mitchell spoke about renewal.
"Renewal is the animating theme of my government’s immediate legislative priorities," she said.
With Kenney at the helm, Alberta will undoubtedly see a renewal of traditional conservative values, focus and thinking, both good and bad, for better or for worse.