Like all Throne Speeches, Alberta’s November 29 installment is a broad statement about government priorities. One clear message from this missive is that Alberta won’t be prioritizing generational fairness any time soon.
Most of the commotion around the Speech concerns the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act that Premier Danielle Smith considers necessary to save Albertans from climate, resource development and other constraints imposed by Ottawa.
The proposed Act raises all sorts of constitutional questions, to be sure – and they are worrisome enough. But on top of this, it raises the specter of Alberta retreating from climate action, especially the hard-won federal carbon price.
Since carbon pollution and other climate risks don’t stop at provincial borders, Alberta’s actions will affect all of us. Younger Albertans and Canadians should be particularly concerned, since the burden of climate adaptation rests mostly on their shoulders, thanks to the slow pace of action by the generations that precede them. The promise in the Speech to suspend Alberta’s fuel tax is a worrisome signal about the direction the province intends to follow on pricing pollution. But it’s false economy – and generationally unjust – to think we can solve current affordability pressures by scaling back climate commitments.
The Throne Speech acknowledges that affordability is front and centre for Albertans, as it is for all Canadians. But no reference is made to the largest cost of living – housing – or how Alberta will contain worrisome trends towards rising prices witnessed earlier this year. The province is fortunate to have held onto greater housing affordability than jurisdictions like Ontario and BC, but resting on these laurels isn’t enough. Alberta’s political leaders should commit to protecting this asset, to ensure that hard work continues to pay off more in Alberta than in many other places.
Also on the affordability front, the Speech is conspicuously silent about moving the province towards $10 a day child care. With child care frequently costing parents another rent or mortgage sized payment, a pan-Canadian affordable child care system is the single-most important development for the financial wellbeing of young families in recent memory. It’s not enough for the Alberta government to dismiss child care as another area in which the federal government is “intentionally interfering” while saying nothing about how the province will have the backs of families.
As part of its response to inflation, Alberta is spending $2.4 billion to give $600 to each child under 18, each Albertan receiving disability benefits, and each senior. These groups are considered by the government to have greatest need for income support to cope with cost of living increases.
The idea that seniors across the board are among those most in need is questionable at best. Today’s retirees enjoy more wealth (especially housing wealth) than those before them, and are less likely to have low incomes than other age groups. Meanwhile, those employed in minimum wage jobs – including many young adults – aren’t eligible for this extra support at all. With payments set to end in the same month as the provincial election (coincidence anyone?) it seems that the UCP thinks there are more votes forthcoming from seniors than from younger people struggling with lower wages, rising costs and deteriorating wellbeing.
Gen Squeeze will be there for the Alberta provincial election, with our first ever Alberta Voters Guide! Follow us on socials @gensqueeze or join us to make sure you get the latest on issues like housing, health, and the environment that are sure to make an appearance in 2023 party platforms.