April 5, 2019 12:51 am
Updated: April 5, 2019 7:12 pm

Alberta Election Fact Check: leaders issue plenty of jabs, but many weren’t totally true

Partway through the Alberta leaders debate, political analyst Justin Archer weighs in on how the leaders are performing. He said everyone was doing pretty well, but no leader was winning a decisive victory.


Alberta party leaders sparred in a debate Thursday night, 12 days before voters go to the polls.

The debate ran the gamut of issues, from health care to the economy, from Trans Mountain to the LGBTQ community.

WATCH: Pipeline debate continues during Alberta leaders debate

All party leaders made claims that could be backed up by facts — and there were plenty of jabs that can’t quite be considered uniformly true.

Here are a series of claims from the Alberta leaders debate that warranted more scrutiny:

David Khan: ‘We support Trans Mountain — we’re losing $80 million a day because it’s not built’ — a claim that has also been advanced by Rachel Notley

The $80-million figure is claimed often — Alberta’s government cited it late last year, around the time it unveiled a “real-time lost-revenue counter” in response to delays on pipelines such as the Trans Mountain expansion. And now the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party is repeating it.

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The government said it arrived at a figure of $84 million using methodology employed by Scotiabank, and that was “revised based on as high as a $45-per-barrel difference between West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Western Canadian Select (WCS).”

The Scotiabank analysis showed Alberta losing as much as $15.6 billion per year, if a discount on Canadian oil from February 2018 were to be maintained.

There are, however, other estimates of how much money is being lost amid oil discounts — the Arc Energy Research Institute last year said oil price markdowns could be costing the Canadian economy as much as $100 million per day.

And G. Kent Fellows of the University of Calgary has done a back-of-the-envelope calculation showing losses to Alberta of as much as $60 million per day, as reported by The National Post.

In other words, the $80-million estimate is high by some counts, but doesn’t quite capture the cost to the whole of Canada’s economy.

WATCH: Rachel Notley highlights economy and diversity during closing

Jason Kenney: ‘The premier opposed Northern Gateway, she gave licence to Justin Trudeau to cancel Northern Gateway… surrendered to Obama’s veto on Keystone XL’

NDP Leader Rachel Notley indeed opposed Northern Gateway in 2015, but made clear that she supports other projects — though she later rethought her stance on the controversial project.

As premier, she has championed the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and openly tangled with British Columbia over its realization.

However, Kenney’s claim that her position gave licence to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cancel Northern Gateway is questionable.

The federal government approved Northern Gateway in 2014, but the project was later challenged by eight First Nations, four environmental groups and one labour union in the Federal Court of Appeal.

That court overturned the then-Conservative government’s approval of Northern Gateway and said Canada fell short in its duty to consult with Indigenous people.

That same court overturned the federal Liberal government’s approval of the Trans Mountain project, for very similar reasons.

WATCH: Alberta party leaders debate relationship with Ottawa and pipelines

Jason Kenney: ‘It’s not true, premier,’ when Rachel Notley said, ‘the leadership campaign of which you were a part is under RCMP investigation’

The RCMP are investigating the United Conservative Party’s (UCP) 2017 leadership race, in which Kenney emerged victorious.

Alberta’s election commissioner had been looking into the campaign of Jeff Callaway, which was alleged to have been launched in an effort to thwart Brian Jean’s candidacy for the leadership and help Kenney win.

Kenney said in mid-March that neither he nor his party had been asked to speak to the Mounties, but that they would “comply fully if we were.”

The UCP leader confirmed later that month that a party lawyer was speaking with the RCMP about the leadership race.

Stephen Mandel: ‘In reality, it’s more like a sales tax, we should call it a sales tax but it’s a carbon tax’

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe has challenged this claim at length.

In a 2016 op-ed for Maclean’s, Tombe said a carbon tax is “no more a sales tax than income taxes are.”

He said carbon taxes and sales taxes have two different purposes — a sales tax is aimed at raising revenue, while a carbon tax is aimed at changing people’s behaviour.

A carbon tax, he said, is meant to correct a market failure — specifically, the damage caused by pollution, and the failure to consider such damages.

Tombe admitted that carbon taxes do raise revenue — at the time, he expected Alberta’s to raise about $2.6 billion per year, “roughly equivalent to the amount of revenue generated by a three-per-cent sales tax” in the province.

But he also noted that resource royalties raised approximately $2.5 billion in revenue in 2015, and those aren’t considered carbon taxes.

WATCH: David Khan highlights tackling debt, creating jobs during closing

Jason Kenney: ‘This government has the worst economic record and jobs record in modern Alberta history, also the worst health care record’

This claim depends largely on what people consider “modern Alberta history,” and which metrics they’re looking at.

The provincial government’s economic dashboard showed Alberta’s gross domestic product (GDP) at $327.4 billion in 2016.

That was lower than the peak of $338 billion in December 2013, but it was up from $313 billion in December 2015.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate sat at 7.3 per cent in February, though that wasn’t the highest monthly rate under their tenure.

READ MORE: Alberta election fact check — UCP claims NDP’s plan killed 48,000 jobs in 4 months

The unemployment rate hit 9.1 per cent in November 2016, higher than it had been in any month since June 1994, when the rate hit 9.6 per cent.

Alberta’s unemployment rate is undoubtedly high, but so is its employment rate — at 66.5 per cent, it was Canada’s highest “by a wide margin” in February 2019.

As for their health care record — the UCP has attacked the NDP for increasing wait times for surgery, and their numbers, derived from Alberta Health Services, are correct.

WATCH: Alberta leaders debate getting provincial finances back on track

Stephen Mandel: ’40 per cent of the children on the street are from the LGBTQ community’

This figure is backed up in Canada and the United States.

A report released last year by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada showed that approximately 40 per cent of teens who are experiencing homelessness identify as LGTQ2S.

Meanwhile, research out of the U.S. shows that as many as 40 per cent of homeless youth there are LGBT.

Rachel Notley: ‘[Jason Kenney] has a member of his party that equated the Pride flag with the swastika’

At a November 2018 conference put on by right-wing media outlet The Rebel, UCP member and Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms founder John Carpay said the following:

“How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism? Again, you’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility towards individual freedoms.”

Carpay subsequently issued a statement in which he tried to clarify his remarks.

He said he was talking about the nature of totalitarianism when he referred to both the rainbow flag and the swastika, and “unintentionally drew a broad comparison” between the two symbols.

Carpay said such symbols have been abused in ways to undermine freedoms such as free speech.

“I should not have done so, and I apologize,” he said.

WATCH: Stephen Mandel highlights opportunity, fairness and tolerance in closing statement

Stephen Mandel: ‘We really need to increase our game, increase our enrolment, we have 45,000 under the average enrolment in post-secondary’

Mandel wasn’t clear about where he derived that statistic, but analysis of post-secondary enrolment as a share of the school-aged population shows Alberta trailing every province except for one.

Global News ran this analysis by taking the total number of post-secondary enrolments in each province and then dividing them by the population aged 15 to 39 years old.

This was broadly consistent with a general post-secondary school-aged population that was identified in an age composition study from 2010.

The analysis showed that just over 13 per cent of Alberta’s post-secondary-aged population was enrolled in a program.

That was below the total for Canada (18.4 per cent) and tied with New Brunswick (13.2 per cent) for the lowest in any province.

The average across the provinces was 17.09 per cent — so yes, Alberta’s post-secondary enrolment is below average.

WATCH: Jason Kenney highlights jobs, economy and pipelines in closing

David Khan: ‘Both the UCP and Alberta Party have talked about privatizing health care’

“Mr. (Greg) Clark was on (Global News Radio 770 CHQR) last week suggesting that (the Alberta Party) would look at privatizing some parts of the health-care system,” Khan said during the debate.

Former Alberta Party leader Clark joined The Morning News on 770 CHQR on March 21, 2019, to discuss his party’s position on Alberta’s health-care system.

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The Morning News host Gord Gillies asked Clark whether the Alberta Party would look at the use of private labs and shutting down Edmonton’s planned superlab.

“Absolutely,” Clark told Gillies. “In that specific lab project, the first thing we would do is make sure we haven’t gone too far, to make sure it wouldn’t cost more to shut it down than not.

“We wouldn’t have gone down that path in the first place. We would have stayed on the private side.”

Clark also mentioned that his party would look at outsourcing “non-core services” like laundry services.

When asked how the Alberta Party would use private health care to support the public system, Clark seemed open to that idea.

“I won’t say a definitive no,” Clark said. “I will say the Alberta Party is totally committed to a public health-care system. We need to make sure we maintain equal access and we need to focus on quality and access. But we also need to look at creative ways of reducing costs.”

During the debate, Mandel denied that the Alberta Party supports a two-tier health-care system.

“I don’t know where you heard it from. Maybe you were smoking things you shouldn’t have been smoking,” Mandel quipped.

“Our party supports public health care.”

READ MORE: UCP Leader Jason Kenney wants to explore private health-care options

The UCP platform promises to reduce surgical wait times and Kenney said he would put a cap on those wait times by adopting the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative.

“Where, yes, premier, they do use competitive contracting to allow third-party contractors to bid into the system,” Kenney said at the debate. “They’re able to do surgeries for 26 per cent less cost and they’ve reduced wait times by 75 per cent.”

WATCH: Mandel responds to Khan on health care

  • With files from Emily Mertz and Adam Toy

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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