By all accounts, it was meant to be an easy question to predict the answers to in a province suffering from a sluggish economy and unemployment in the energy sector: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?
But what happened was quite the opposite.
Alberta opposition United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney tweeted that query on Friday, following up with, “For so many Alberta families the answer is clearly ‘no’. We can’t afford not to take bold action to bring jobs and investment back to Alberta.”
The tweet prompted more than 600 replies as of Monday morning. Instead of agreements and vitriol, the overwhelming response was from people saying they were, in fact, better off — which led to the Canada-wide top trending hashtag #BetterOffWithRachel.
Of course, many responses came from fellow politicians and politically-minded Albertans. But with an estimated 4,700 tweets sent in the last day as of Monday morning, according to Trendsmap, there were also comments from regular citizens.
Some of the most-engaged responses included comments about a reduction in poverty, $25-per-day daycare, higher minimum wage improving quality of life for low-income workers, more support for LGBTQ2+ people, and few scandals involving the NDP government.
At the same time, other people commented on Alberta’s poor economy amid the low price of oil.
On Twitter, one person said, “The recession was not the NDP’s fault, and it’s not in the UPC’s power to end it.”
One government press secretary retweeted Kenney, saying “The comments on this tweet say it all.”
On Friday — the same day Kenney sent the tweet asked Albertans if they are better off — the UCP leader spoke at the Metropolitan Conference Centre in Calgary.
With charts and graphs flashing on screens beside him, Kenney said by any economic metric — employment statistics, corporate vacancy rates, earnings or housing prices — Alberta is worse off than when the NDP took office in 2015, even after taking into account a drop in oil prices.
Kenney said the New Democrats inherited a difficult situation but made it worse by increasing personal income taxes on the wealthy, boosting corporate income tax, introducing a carbon levy on fossil-fuel heating and gasoline, and bringing in more rules and regulations for employers.
The NDP increased the corporate tax to 12 per cent from 10 soon after taking office in 2015 and boosted personal income tax rates on high earners. They later cut the small business tax to two per cent from three.
In Edmonton, Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said Kenney’s “grim reaper” analysis of the economy does not match reality, especially given that the province has no sales tax.
Rebuilding Alberta’s economy starts with cutting taxes on employers, said Kenney, who added details of his tax plan will be rolled out Monday.
He suggested the plan will include a corporate income tax rate cut because the current rate no longer gives the province any advantage over competitors such as B.C. and Saskatchewan or most of the U.S. states.
Below is a collection of tweets from replying to Kenney and from the #BetterOffWithRachel hashtag.
— With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press