15 June 2011

Spend ‘em if ya got ‘em: the Alberta version

In light of the suggestion the provincial government needs a blue ribbon panel of experts to decide how to safeguard the provincial economic future, take a look at what is going on in Alberta.

Conservative premier Ed Stelmach appointed just such a panel headed up by former federal cabinet minister David Emerson.

And, not surprisingly, the Stelmach government is likely to reject all of the panel’s suggestions. You can find an excellent discussion of it in a Jeff Simpson column from the end of May.

The Stelmach government’s decision is hardly surprising given the history of Conservative governments in Alberta since Peter Lougheed left office.  But it is also hardly surprising since the current Conservative administration in this province is basically following the same policy of spending that Alberta Conservatives have been following. 

What the locals haven’t adopted is the low tax, small government mantra of their western cousins.  They also don’t have the enormous oil and gas resources.

What they share with their Alberta relatives is the same fundamental attitudes that the panel identifies as being serious risks:  complacency and insularity.  As you can read on page 16 of the panel’s report:

Alberta has resources the world needs, but we cannot assume the world will beat a path to our door. Boom times can breed complacency. We can forget we are facing stiff global competition, and that our productivity lags that of competitor countries…

The report criticises the fixation with “selling stuff” to people.  There’s a parallel in this province, incidentally, in the drive to build expensive electricity projects at huge cost.  The current provincial government talks about it as a strategic investment but, in reality, it is nothing more than “selling stuff” to people.

What the Emerson panel described as a strategic approach is decidedly different:

We must take steps now to ensure we realize the full benefit of our energy resources and broaden our economic base in the new global context. As we look outward, we must expand our thinking beyond simply “selling stuff” to those who want it.

Now is the time to think more broadly about investing strategically in businesses in other parts of the world, attracting investment to Alberta, becoming part of the international networks that are creating exciting new knowledge and technology, and finding specialized niches we might fill in global supply networks. We must invest in helping Albertans engage with the world and prosper in a global economy, carefully considering how we use our current public wealth to build a legacy for future generations.

Interesting ideas; ideas worthy of further discussion, especially since they harken back to strategic ideas developed in this province almost two decades ago as the way we could move forward successfully in a highly competitive world.

- srbp -


WJM said...

There’s a parallel in this province, incidentally, in the drive to build expensive electricity projects at huge cost. The current provincial government talks about it as a strategic investment but, in reality, it is nothing more than “selling stuff” to people.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Selling power to markets at a market price, that would be "selling stuff to people".

Selling power to ourselves at deliberately high, monopoly prices, that's "selling stuff to ourselves".

That's Albania, not Alberta.

Edward Hollett said...

Ha. Ha.

I get the point but what i was looking at was the largely imaginary plan to use the oil revenues to build a set of dams to make electricity we can sell to mainlanders. That pre-dates the "I-need-an-excuse-to-cover-my-exit" bullshit now doing business as Dunderdale's Folly.

But yes, this is Albania.

You can tell by the way Vaughn Granter speed-read his praise to the supreme and eternal gloriousness of the Great Dunderdale on CBC's free-time broadcast today. It was a speech evidently written by someone else when Danny was in office but he just crossed out the name of one Fearless Leader and inserted he new one. They did it for years in Albania, Iraq, North Korea and other backward-assed bits of the third world.

I am figuring that the caucus staff on the Tory side just sits down and spits out generic ass-kisser speeches and news releases all day. When one of the generic ass-kissers gets sent out to kiss ass as part of a campaign or during polling month, they just fill in the appropriate blanks.

It's only a matter of time before they have a crowd hired to photoshop New Glorious Leader's face into pictures where she wasn't.

All very Orwellian.

All very Stalinist.

All very funny if it wasn't so scary.

Brad Cabana said...

Two big differences between what Alberta is doing and us: 1) They have no debt;and 2)They have a multi billion dollar heritage fund. Our local yocals are not even in the same ball park.

Edward Hollett said...

But how did they get to that point, Brad?

They got there by establishing a fund and paying into it initially and by paying down debt over time.

The real difference is that we have a government that has no plan except to spend wildly.