Elec­tion will be in May — and beer will be on the agenda

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - GRA­HAM THOM­SON Com­men­tary gth­om­son@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/gra­ham_jour­nal

Here’s a lit­tle scoop for you.

Alberta’s pro­vin­cial elec­tion will take place in May 2019.

At least that’s what Premier Rachel Not­ley seemed to sug­gest the other day while speak­ing to jour­nal­ists.

She wasn’t talk­ing specif­i­cally about the elec­tion date, but about one of her favourite top­ics: bash­ing United Con­ser­va­tive Party Leader Jason Ken­ney.

Not­ley was tak­ing a shot at Ken­ney’s prom­ise that he’d not only scrap Alberta’s car­bon tax af­ter win­ning the next elec­tion, but he would also join in a le­gal ca­bal with Saskatchewan and On­tario to fight a fed­eral car­bon tax.

“We need to think about folks who start mak­ing plans for when the peo­ple of Alberta elect them into a po­si­tion that they don’t cur­rently hold 11 months be­fore­hand,” Not­ley said Tues­day. “Be­cause what I will say is I was here in 2015 and part of the way we won the elec­tion was we said, ‘You know what? The ar­ro­gance and en­ti­tle­ment of the past, that’s not a thing that’s cool.’ And Al­ber­tans said, ‘That’s not re­ally a thing that’s cool.’

“And maybe Mr. Ken­ney ought to change his dial just a lit­tle bit there.”

Never mind Not­ley’s colour­fully sim­ple anal­y­sis of the last elec­tion, look at what she said about the next elec­tion.

We are “11 months be­fore­hand.”

So, it would seem the elec­tion will be held in May of next year.

Not­ley didn’t men­tion a date or give any other de­tails.

Of course, any­body fa­mil­iar with the province’s elec­tion guide­lines knows that Not­ley is sup­posed to hold the elec­tion some­time be­tween March 1 and May 31, 2019. So, the fact that she would hold it in May is not ex­actly Earth-shat­ter­ing news.

Well, I did say this was a lit­tle scoop.

What might come as a big­ger sur­prise is that beer is be­com­ing a cam­paign is­sue.

Ken­ney has said he wants the gov­ern­ment to end all tar­iffs and sub­si­dies on beer.

He is tak­ing par­tic­u­lar aim at the grants given to Alberta’s craft brew­eries un­der a pro­gram that this week was deemed by a trade tri­bunal to be un­fair to brew­ers out­side the province. (The Alberta gov­ern­ment is re­view­ing the rul­ing and says it will make changes, but in­sists it will con­tinue to sup­port lo­cal craft brew­ers).

Ken­ney is em­brac­ing beer as an is­sue be­cause a prom­ise of cheap pints seemed to help Doug Ford’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives win the On­tario elec­tion last week.

“Doug Ford is go­ing to make beer cheaper in On­tario,” said Ken­ney. “I’m go­ing to do ev­ery­thing I can to do the same thing in Alberta.”

Not­ley was quick to la­bel Ken­ney’s “no tar­iffs, no sub­si­dies” stance as an at­tack on Alberta’s craft brew­eries.

“Once again he is stand­ing up for brew­ers in On­tario,” said Not­ley.

“(Beer prices) are go­ing to get ex­pen­sive if you drive our lo­cal beer in­dus­try out of busi­ness, which is ac­tu­ally what his cur­rent plan ap­pears to be fo­cused on do­ing.”

She sug­gested Ken­ney’s “Free the Beer” idea to pro­mote free trade in beer in Canada is naive.

That’s be­cause every province jeal­ously guards its lu­cra­tive mo­nop­oly on the im­por­ta­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of beer, wines and spir­its. In Alberta, for ex­am­ple, that’s done through the Alberta Gam­ing and Liquor Com­mis­sion.

When the prov­inces signed a Cana­dian Free Trade Agree­ment last year, al­co­hol was specif­i­cally left out of the deal.

No province seems in­ter­ested in tear­ing down the bar­ri­ers to trade in al­co­hol.

And a “Premier Ken­ney” could not uni­lat­er­ally im­pose free trade on beer.

“You can’t have free trade with only one per­son at the dance,” said Not­ley.

“It’s a lit­tle bit like show­ing up at a coun­try dance and try­ing to two-step by your­self.”

As premier, Ken­ney could cer­tainly ful­fil his prom­ise to scrap Alberta’s car­bon tax.

And he could join in a le­gal fight against Ot­tawa’s threat to im­pose a car­bon tax on prov­inces that don’t have one.

Ken­ney has dis­missed Alberta’s car­bon tax as noth­ing but “po­lit­i­cal the­atre” and a tax grab.

For her part, Not­ley has said Ken­ney’s prom­ise to fight the fed­eral plan is po­lit­i­cally empty be­cause con­sti­tu­tional ex­perts have said the chal­lenge is likely doomed to fail­ure.

And on it goes.

Get used to it.

This is what the next 11 months will look like.

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