June 24th, 2018

MLA Report: Albertans deserve better than decline now, burdens later

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on April 21, 2017.

Ogden Nash, humourist and poet, astutely noted that “Some debts are fun when you are acquiring them, but none are fun when you set about retiring them.”

Most Albertans looking at the eye-popping deficit and debt numbers from the latest budget will agree that some less-than-fun times in the future are the price we pay for fiscal irresponsibility today. Taking from the future to live lavishly in the present is a choice that will always catch up to us eventually.

The NDP government will add another $10 billion in debt to our existing sea of red ink, the size of which will reach $71 billion by the time they are through with us in 2019-20. Interest payments by this point will reach $2.3 billion per year (if our credit rating does not slip further).

These numbers almost seem to lose all meaning; it’s difficult to even begin to imagine what such vast sums mean in real world terms. When broken into personal sums, the numbers take on more significance. If a $71 billion debt were split amongst every single person in Alberta — adult and child alike — each one of us would owe a $16,000 share.

Ah, but at least debts can be fun when you’re acquiring them, right? Well, not entirely. If the example of Alberta’s current state of affairs is any indication, the fun times aren’t all that great, either. Government irresponsibility over its spending always seems to lead to a more insatiable appetite for citizens’ dollars. When savings cannot be found within, they will cast their gaze outwards as we have already seen: Higher personal and business taxes, increased fees, carbon taxes.

The net result of this lack of restraint and excessive interference in the economy has been predictable with lowered investment, increased unemployment, and families left with less. The NDP’s advisor on energy policy and devout eco-activist, Tzeporah Berman, has admitted that moving away from our traditional energy industries will mean “managed decline.”

Meeting with the people I represent, I begin to see exactly what managed decline truly looks like. I spoke to one woman whose grown children — strong, capable, skilled young adults — have been unable to find work despite over a year of active searching. They have something valuable that they can contribute to their communities and the desire to give their best, but simply no opportunity to offer it.

How many others in our province have found themselves in similar situations as the government continually transitions our economy from one of advantages to the new reality of “managed decline?”

Current actions such as new regulations capping oilsands production, or costly meddling in power markets, or heavy-handed carbon taxes ensure that our decline is indeed managed here in the present day. The least we can do for our province is to take steps that avoid making such decline a permanent fixture well into the future.

I mentioned that there are kids alive today who are not even voting age, but who will owe a $16,000 chunk of debt all the same. It is heartbreaking that the government should be taking from them to cover its mismanagement, but let’s not forget that such debt and interest loads will take from our future selves, too. When we set about retiring these debts, it won’t just be our children and grandchildren who feel the sting.

Albertans are facing the double-whammy of having heavier burdens placed upon them while, at the same time, having less prosperity to work with. Taxes and “managed decline” today, debt and difficulty for the future.

The future is not set in stone. We can change our path. We can give the people of this province the opportunity to thrive today and get our recklessly inefficient government spending back into balance. “Managed decline” is a choice that we can reject.

Drew Barnes is the Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA representing the Wildrose Party and Shadow Minister of Energy.

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