Jason Kenney warns press conference against specter of public auto insurance

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Did Alberta Premier Jason Kenney just win the upcoming Alberta election for the NDP?

This is a serious question, folks.

Responding to a question yesterday about Alberta’s auto insurance premiums raised by Postmedia political columnist Rick Bell at a press conference on another subjectKenney accused the NDP opposition of are planning to introduce public car insurance!

If only it was true!

“What we want is a competitive market,” a haggard-looking Kenney began to ramble in response to Bell’s question. “And that’s how the market works. We Albertans believe in markets. We don’t believe in socialism.

Kenney went on to describe public auto insurance as a Soviet-style policy.

“In many other provinces, the government has taken control of the insurance market,” he added. “And it didn’t work for consumers. It means you only have one choice, uh-hum, a bit Soviet style, where to go. In many other provinces, you don’t have the ability to shop around and find the right policy for you. So that’s the alternative. I hear that’s where the NDP wants to take the province. I think it would be a disaster. So what we want is more competition and hopefully over time that will bring the rates down. (Emphasis added.)

Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta, Tuesday, April 19

I’m sure listeners across the province were momentarily perked up when they heard the premier’s idle speculation about what opposition leader and former premier Rachel Notley’s New Democrats might have on your mind.

There is no doubt that insurance industry lobbyists have had a similar, but not necessarily as positive, reaction.

After all, there’s a good reason why, when Alberta’s economy is doing well, so many of the pickup trucks you see on your morning commute every day have Saskatchewan plates. Their owners, who live in Alberta and work in the oil patch, keep an address at home so they can pay lower insurance rates in Saskatchewan.

The only choice Albertans have when it comes to auto insurance – notwithstanding the ability to get bills on colored letterhead from a variety of companies – is between the insurance they need and the insurance that they can afford.

Public auto insurance working in other provinces

I imagine that the Conservative premiers of the two prairie provinces to the east of us will not be happy to be accused of leading governments similar in principle to that of the Soviet Union.

I guess both would be happy, for ideological reasons, to also get rid of public auto insurance if they thought they could get away with it.

They know they can’t for the simple reason that their constituents would fire them. After all, government-run auto insurance pretty consistently offers cheaper coverage than the “free market” touted by Kenney.

The Premier of British Columbia, a New Democrat, would have every right to be as offended as his colleagues in Saskatchewan and Manitoba by the Soviet label, but he possesses recently suffered from high public insurance rates in his province – the result of bad policy choices made by a former market fundamentalist BC government, in fact. His government responded by reduce interest rates by an average of 20% Last year.

UCP scrappage cap leads to higher rates in Alberta

Rates in Alberta have risen sharply after the UCP removed the NDP’s cap on insurance rates shortly after being elected in the 2019 election, increasing in some cases as much as 30%.

Albertans recently learned that following the removal of the cap by the UCP, they are paying hundreds of millions of dollars more to insure their vehicles while the insurance industry reaps the benefits, having collected $385 million more in premiums in 2020 than in 2019.

But all the NDP has rather coyly promised is to restore the rate cap that has kept insurance rates from rising too quickly during the party’s four years in power.

So this might be a rare case where it makes sense to do what Kenney suggests. At the very least, it gave the NDP the opportunity to do a little polling and see what Albertans really think about government auto insurance. I would bet the idea is as popular here as it is in Saskatchewan.

Funding for Kenney jobs not keeping pace with costs

As for the real purpose of the rather fuzzy press conference, it was to tout the UCP’s vaguely defined professional training effort, Alberta at Workwhich includes money that would have been spent anyway on post-secondary training and a federal job creation program to which the province provides additional funding.

It’s still kind of cute how Kenney tries to take credit for (liberal) federal spending without really saying where the idea and a lot of the money came from.

The sums of money associated with the Alberta program are substantial – the government is asking for $600 million. It really takes some serious math to see how much fresh money really is and where Peter is being robbed to pay Paul.

NDP Labor Critic Christina Gray noted that “funding for higher education is nowhere near compensating for the deep cuts to programs and steep tuition increases we’ve seen in recent years. “.

“At the same time,” she added, “community and social services funds are for programs that won’t be developed or introduced for at least another year.”

Alberta’s unemployment rate remains the highest in Canada outside of Atlantic Canada.

The press release wasn’t particularly informative, but it did contain canned quotes from Mr Kenney and three other cabinet ministers who all appeared at the press conference – recently demoted Labor Minister Kaycee Madu, Education Minister Senior Demetrios Nicolaides and Minister of Social Services Jason Luan.

Additionally, there were quotes from nine usual suspects trot out for such occasions.

This effort certainly suggests that the UCP is now in the midst of an election campaign.

Alas, while the many quotes from the president of the Business Council of Canada, the Council of Canadian Innovators, and the Edmonton and Calgary Chambers of Commerce may have been rich in enthusiasm, they were scant in meaningful fact.

Still, it raises an interesting question: where the hell was Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer?

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