Just a few months ago, in September, Jason Kenney’s approval among Albertans was sitting at a comfortable sixty percent. According to a new Leger poll, that number has dropped eighteen percentage points. Now, only 42 percent of Albertans have a somewhat positive opinion of their Premier, compared to 50 percent who have a somewhat negative opinion.

What is behind this dramatic drop in Kenney’s popularity? What has the Premier’s government done in the past two months to affect his approval so significantly? Since September, two key developments have consumed Kenney’s government.

Firstly, there is the austerity agenda that has been central to his government’s plans for the province. The United Conservative Party’s (UCP) inaugural budget slashed funding across the board. Students have been left with higher tuition and less funding for their universities. Disabled Albertans have seen their benefits effectively cut by de-indexing. Hundreds of nurses are being fired as a result of budget cuts. More than 7000 public sector workers are expected to be laid off due to Kenney’s austerity policies.

The decreases in public spending will amount to a functional 20% cut when including population growth and inflation. Analyses by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests that Kenney’s budget will result in a 4.8% drop in GDP and will cost over 110,000 jobs. With so many affected by Kenney’s austerity program, it is no wonder that Albertans now have a less-than-favourable impression of him.

All this is compounded by a series of corruption and graft scandals that have rocked Kenney’s government.

In November, it was revealed that the Premier’s closest advisor had used $45,000 of public funds to pay for his trips to the United Kingdom.  The man heading Kenney’s inquiry into climate activists was also outed for handing a $905,000 government contract to his son’s legal firm. Most recently, Kenney fired the elections commissioner who had been investigating the Premier’s leadership race. 

Whatever the reason, it is clear that Kenney’s blank cheque is being revoked. Albertans are losing faith in their Premier at a rapid rate. Alongside the austerity and the graft, Kenney has introduced a radical plan to cut taxes by a third for corporations. While rich executives and big businesses are getting tax handouts, average folks get service cuts and lay-offs. The political and economic elite of Alberta are raking in millions and Kenney expects every-day Albertans to bear the burden. 


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