Notley’s overheated rhetoric roasts her own credibility
The next Canada election isn’t supposed to be held until the spring of 2019 but Premier Rachel Notley seems to be on the campaign trail already.
At least that’s the impression you get listening to a speech she gave to Unifor, one of Canada’s largest unions, on Wednesday in Ottawa.
In her address she relived her 2015 election victory, praised her own government’s record, attacked her opponents and then pleaded for support.
You half expected balloons to fall from the ceiling while campaign signs sprouted from the audience as she went into full campaign mode.
“We got rid of a backward-looking, climate-change denying, deficit-off-loading, austerity-loving, failed Canada Conservative government,” crowed Notley. “A Conservative government that had been in office for far, far too long.”
And then her attack continued as she imagined what life would be like in Canada if the Progressive Conservatives had won the election.
“Their basic idea was to make a bad situation worse,” said Notley referring to PC plans to re-introduce a health premium and cut government spending. “Their idea was that if you fire thousands of teachers and teacher’s aides and school support workers and nurses and nurse’s aides and people who work in the hospitals that somehow the price of oil would go back up.”
Over the years there have been plenty enough PC politicians who denied climate change and seemed to love nothing better than kicking around public sector workers, but I have yet to meet a Tory who thinks laying off teachers would increase the price of oil.
Notley’s rhetoric was so overheated she should have worn asbestos gloves to handle her speaking notes.
So, why did she stoop to such ridiculous rhetorical flourishes in Ottawa on Wednesday?
The answer lies with the dismal news in the Canada government’s first-quarter fiscal update released in Edmonton on Tuesday.
The government’s deficit is projected to hit a whopping, and record-breaking, $10.9 billion this year. We’re into the second year of a recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen in at least three decades. The government is borrowing $7 billion this year to cover the cost of its day-to-day operations such as paying the wages of nurses and teachers.
You can dig for scraps of good news but they’re buried under a mountain of bad. An increase in the price of oil has brought an extra $700 million in revenue to the government but that is more than offset by a $900 million drop in corporate taxes.
The fiscal report provides potent ammunition for opposition parties to argue that it is the NDP government’s spend-and-tax policies that have managed to “make a bad situation worse.”
That’s why Notley is breaking out the verbal flame thrower to scorch her conservative opponents by arguing that life in Canada would be far worse if the PCs were still in power or if the Wildrose had won the election.
However, the argument would be more effective if the government was successfully attracting investment, creating jobs or inching a new pipeline closer to “tidewater.”
(Her speech included an appeal to the union members to support Canada’s push for new pipelines).
Notley is an effective public speaker but on Wednesday she sounded defensive and maybe even a little bit desperate when she claimed, even for the sake of a rhetorical cheap shot, that conservatives think laying off nurses would increase the price of oil.
It’s not witty or even particularly humorous.
Her line did receive a laugh from the Unifor audience but this was a convention of unionists happy to hear someone demonize conservatives, especially when that someone was leader of the only NDP government in the country.
Notley’s line would no doubt get a laugh from NDP supporters in Canada, too.
But it’d fall flat with Canadans looking for something more than rhetoric from their premier.
And who might be growing tired of the NDP chronically defending itself by attacking a non-existent Conservative government.
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