Saturday, November 22, 2008

A greater shame for Alberta

Over the past few years with sky high oil prices, the Alberta government has squandered a glorious opportunity.

The government has spent years raking in record surplusses from mediocre royalty rates while oil companies and a small segment of the population prospered immensely. Unfortunately, over this period the government's royalty scheme produced a small fraction of the billions of dollars that Albertans are rightfully due selling out their environment. At the end of this intense growth period, we are looking toward a fiscal crisis and potential recession no further ahead.

Cuts that were made to social services in the early 90s are yet to be restored. Schools, hospitals and roads are in great disrepair and Alberta's savings have grown insignificantly (much of the money added is likely now lost in the mire of tumbling stock markets.) At the same time, we have allowed unfettered growth which came with a boom in population that our infrastructure was not prepared for and was followed with a boom in addiction, crime and prostitution.

If royalties were appropriate, the growth would have been more controlled and the government would have had more money. There would be less strain placed on provincial services and housing while we would have the money to keep pace with the growing needs and we would have still been able to pay off the debt and sock a ton of money away for the rainy day which is upon us.

But most importantly of all, we may have been able to do some really incredible things that governments can only dream of - like ending child poverty. Instead, we have 1 in 10 children in Alberta living in poverty. This is a complete shame for the handlers of our province.

And now, steady Eddie is giving oil companies a choice on how much they pay in order to prevent a slow down.


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