Two years into his first mandate, Jason Kenney finds himself the most unpopular Premier in Canada while simultaneously running the largest deficit in Alberta’s history.
Now, more than ever, I think he needs to reevaluate his approach.
Kenney is clearly an old-school politician who loves the partisan thrust and parry. He claims victory for things over which he has no control, he never admits mistakes even when caught red-handed, and he demands nothing less than absolute loyalty from his party.
This is not a new recipe for electoral success; even Justin Trudeau has been elected twice using this approach.
The problem is this managerial style is not particularly useful when it comes to running a province or a country.
In this regard, I believe Premier Kenney needs to stop taking lessons from career government insiders, and start listening to business professionals.
Business owners, unlike government bureaucrats, don’t hold monopolies on the services they provide. They have to compete. They have to produce quality products or services at a fair price, or they go broke. In the business world, inefficiency leads directly to job losses.
Furthermore, business owners have to prove their ideas are viable with well-researched business plans in order to receive financing.
Compare these to the so-called business plans released by governments, which read more like partisan buzzword infomercials, and the contrast is striking.
Most importantly, business owners understand that the customer is always right, and gathering consumer feedback is vital.
In the government world, consultations are often designed to arrive at a predetermined outcome. Meanwhile, MLAs who dare put their constituents’ concerns ahead of the party leadership’s plans are punished.
This is the kind of thinking that led Premier Kenney’s former communications director to publicly huff at UCP MLAs for voicing constituent concerns over lockdowns.
“Some of these folks,” she complained, “wouldn’t be capable of governing a lemonade stand on a hot summer day.”
It was the kind of childish response that could only come from the entitled world of government. But it got me thinking… what if we handed the government over to a business-minded lemonade stand owner for a day?
I suspect government services would improve, taxpayers would get better value for their investment, and the deficit would shrink.
Conversely, what would happen if we put Jason Kenney in charge of the lemonade stand for a day? Given his record to date, I bet the lemonade stand would be broke by lunch and burning through subsidies by dinner.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you want to know what the business world truly thinks of this government’s fiscal management, you need look no further than the credit downgrades issued by S&P, Moody’s, Fitch, and DBRS over the past two years.
Taken individually, they are noteworthy, taken together they illustrate a clear and damning trend.
The Premier, like the old-school politician he is, likes to pretend these downgrades never happened… and that’s the problem.
He needs to take a step back from the partisan sniping of the day, and start listening to people who have a business perspective, something that he clearly lacks.
I’d be more than happy to take his call.
By Independent MLA Drew Barnes, Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew holds a bachelor of commerce degree and is an entrepreneur and business owner with three decades of experience in real estate, construction, property management and ranching.