The editorial by Alberta premier Ed Stelmach in the Toronto Star peaked my interest. Not because it tries to re-stoke the tired Ontario vs. Alberta debate. Not because it overlooks the reality of oil sands and the disruptive environmental damage that continues. That may be considered offensive but is not unexpected considering the source. Alberta is an economic engine, as is Quebec, Newfoundland,… etc. Alberta has and continues to carry some heavy baggage.
Mr. Stelmach talks of some efforts to lessen enviromental impacts and carbon capture and storage. Yes there have been some small steps in Alberta to reduce emissions and environmental impacts but not enough to change the downward spiral. Carbon capture and storage research and development is in its infancy. It remains to be seen if a solution of “hiding” CO2 underground will work. American big coal have touted this as a potential solution for years. The safety of storing massive amounts of an odorless gases that can asphyxiate seem daunting or near impossible at best. New technology, the geology of the storage sites and time will tell.
Ralph Klein was not a poster child of sound economic development nor is Ed Stelmach. By having no plan for oil sands development, up to 50%+ of Albertas economy demanded most of if not all of employment and other resources. With only modest reinvestment in infrastructure like roads and housing the tide slowly started to turn. The modest royalties during the boom period looked to be eclipsing demand for services. With several years worth of surplus at risk the Alberta government saw this and Stelmach helped to implement an increases to Alberta royalties last year. Now with the price of oil falling and the viability of Tar Sands expansion in jeopordy we have calls for special “royalty discounts” and high profile editorials. Mismanagement of the royalty program alerted the public to the problem at hand and created the pressure to increase rates in the first place. During the period from 2004 to 2007 it was found that Alberta was short paid about $1 Billion per year in royalties. Stelmach wasn’t concerned then since $22 Billion in government debt had been repaid under the old system. Continuing under this flawed logic not paying your taxes would be OK as long as you bought goods and services in Canada rather than while vacationing abroad (the money is still spent in Canada right?) Whatever?!!!
Stelmach misses the point once again. It matters not which province is in the economic lead, we are on the same team. TEAM CANADA. By squandering surplus funds, allowing growth without planning, and failing to protect the business and living environment the premier shows he has little to offer Alberta let alone Ontario. Hmm, what could he and his colleagues at The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships be lobbying for? Surely the runaway blank cheque approach should not form the basis of Public-Private Partnerships as well.
Taxpayers feel the pain of industry windfalls or shortfalls and elected officials should be more mindful of this than anyone. How much tax revenue will closed industries pay into the government? What are a governments costs of benefits paid to those put out of work and who are paying less or no income tax? How real is a deficit in these trying circumstances?
Am I calling for the end of the Tar Sands, the closing of Ford or a planned economy? No, no, and no. Your opinion is welcome Ed but your bias is a little bit transparent. Personally when it comes to infrastructure, resources, and industry I like to see return on my investment. The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships’ Toronto event, which Mr. Stelmach is attending, focuses on Canadian, U.S. and Mexican perspectives on infrastructure. Mr. Stelmach you seem to be running Alberta like a thirsty bloated furnace rather than well tuned engine. Thanks but no thanks. Canadians are calling for a much needed rebuilding of our infrastructure, not another puff of hot air.