What 7 mandate letters tell us to expect from the UCP government
The return of policies Premier Danielle Smith refused to campaign on and more.
The past few weeks saw a slow trickle of mandate letters from Premier Danielle Smith outlining expectations for her 25 cabinet members.
I decided to look at seven key ministries — finance, health, justice, energy, environment, education and advanced education — to see what the government has in store for Albertans.
I’ve also included the names of the relevant NDP shadow cabinet members so you can see who is tasked with holding the ministers to account in the Legislature.
Broadly speaking, we can expect the UCP government to entrench reliance on fossil fuel revenues, lock up unhoused people, and move full-steam ahead with the privatization of health care and education.
All of this is to be expected, but the mandate letters offer the first glimpse of how the government specifically plans to achieve their ends.
Nate Horner, Minister of Finance
NDP finance critics: Shannon Phillips (insurance and pensions) and Samir Kayande (fiscal responsibility)
Horner’s July 13 mandate letter lists his first order of business as revising the Alberta Taxpayers Protection Act to require future tax increases be approved in a referendum — Smith’s signature campaign promise during May’s election campaign.
University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young called this legislation the “Keep Alberta Dependent on Resource Revenues Act" in her What now?!? newsletter.
Another election promise Horner is expected to fulfill is establishing a new 8% tax bracket for people who make less than $60,000 a year. Promise made, promise kept, as a certain former premier was fond of saying.
Then there are the matters Smith expressly chose not to campaign on during the provincial election.
Horner has the thankless task of dealing with the question of whether to create a new Alberta Pension Plan. The Fair Deal Panel Jason Kenney sent across the province in 2020 to catalogue various grievances against the federal government recommended the province hold a referendum on creating its own pension plan.
The mandate letter instructs Horner to consult with Albertans “to determine whether [emphasis mine] a referendum should be held to determine whether a referendum should be held to establish an Alberta Pension Plan that will increase pension benefits for seniors, reduce premiums for workers and protect the pension interests and benefits of all Albertans.”
Combine the government’s Pollyannaish description of a provincial pension plan with the reality of its unpopularity, even among UCP supporters, and you get a sense of a referendum’s likelihood.
Although the Fair Deal Panel notably advised against Alberta going its own way on tax collection, Smith instructed Horner to look into the “feasibility and advantages of” creating an Alberta Revenue Agency and develop a “detailed strategy for its implementation should our government choose to pursue it.”
Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health
NDP health critics: Luanne Metz (emergency and surgical care) and David Shepherd (primary and rural care)
Fortunately, limiting abortion access isn’t on the July 18 mandate letter for the former president of Red Deer Pro-Life, who served as the province’s education minister from 2019 to earlier this year.
But if you read between the lines, privatization is clearly on LaGrange’s agenda.
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