So, look, just because a major credit rating agency reviewed Alberta’s fossil-dependent economy and issued a downgrade, there’s nothing wrong with the province’s economic strategy. It just means Moody’s Investors Service is “completely factually wrong”, and probably a part of an international conspiracy to persecute the Canadian oilpatch.
That’s the takeaway from Premier Jason Kenney’s response to the Moody’s report last week, prompting CBC columnist and self-described “journalistic gadabout” Graham Thomson to conclude that “Kenney can give a punch, but can’t take one”.
In its report card last week, the ratings agency cautioned that “Alberta’s oil and gas sector is carbon intensive and Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions are the highest among provinces. Alberta is also susceptible to natural disasters including wildfires and floods which could lead to significant mitigation costs by the province.”
Thomson says that’s not an unreasonable conclusion. “In a time of climate change, credit rating agencies are taking environmental risk into account,” he writes. “But Kenney refuses to accept that. For him, this is just one more example of an anti-Alberta conspiracy.”
The premier said Friday that he sees financial institutions, including Moody’s, “buying into the political agenda emanating from Europe, which is trying to stigmatize development of hydrocarbon energy. And I just think they are completely factually wrong.”
“Kenney all but accused Moody’s of being part of the foreign-funded conspiracy he claims is out to landlock Alberta’s oil,” Thomson writes. “Feel free to give your head a shake. Feel free to give Kenney’s head a shake, too.”
It’s a sudden and curious change in tune for Kenney, whose United Conservative Party was happy to quote international ratings agency when they were in opposition and an NDP government was in power, Thomson notes. “We have a government that is showing no signs of controlling their spending and clearly the credit agencies don’t trust them right now,” then-opposition MLA Jason Nixon said in December 2017, in response to a previous Moody’s release.
“The Moody’s report, of course, put the UCP government in an awkward spot,” Thomson says. “This is a government that promised to turn the Alberta economy around with jobs and pipelines. Even though the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is forging ahead, significant job creation is stuck in neutral.
And New Democrats happily rub it in Kenney’s face every chance they get.”
“Albertans have been lied to by this corrupt government,” said NDP House Leader Deron Bilous. “The economy is in trouble and it’s Jason Kenney’s fault. He did nothing to move Trans Mountain forward, although he will claim he did. His policies have failed to create jobs.”
Thomson sees both parties playing the same game of simplistic blame. But “politically, Kenney seems to be the glass-jawed boxer who can give a punch but can’t take one.” And “if he fails to create jobs and/or improve the economy, there will be plenty more punches coming his way from his growing list of enemies that, in Kenney’s mind at least, now includes professional credit rating agencies.”