Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So how much does Suncor get?

If you read my post yesterday about the vase distributor you will see here that he has done quite well for himself. I don't want the phrase Alberta Advantage to die, it fits so well for the oil companies.

On a related note, have you ever wondered how much money Albertans lost because of Conservative mishandling of the Heritage Savings Fund. I have. (h/t Alberta: Get Rich or Die Trying)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Martha and Henry pass on - what to do with our inheritance?

Imagine, if you will, that your grandparents were collectors of extremely rare and valuable... oh let's say vases. When they passed on, they left to you a basement full of these vases - more vases than you could possibly imagine.

One day, a vase distributor comes to your door and offers you $10 each for some of your vases. You sell him two and he goes down to the market and sells them for $20 each.

The next day he comes back and says he will buy 10 vases for $10 each. Realising that the extra income means you only have to work part time that day, you sell him the 10 vases. He goes down to the market, where they really like the vases and sells them for $40 each.

Day three - the distributor wants 100 vases (he'll pay $10 each). This means you can take the whole week off. He heads down to the market, where the biggest vase collector has come to buy, and sells them for $100 each.

Before the next day rolls around, your kids suggest that maybe you should charge more for the vases. But since you don't have to work anymore, have a ton of vases left and are reliant on the distributor, you decide not to mess with a good thing and keep the price at $10. The distributor comes by, you sell him another hundred vases and he sells them at market for $150.

Unfortunately on the fifth day, the big collector lost his job and isn't buying anymore vases. The distributor shows up and only wants to buy two vases. It's not enough for you to live off, so either you starve or go deep into debt. Forget about getting a job, there's none left!

Call it simple but the analogy fits for Alberta. In the past 17 years the Conservatives have slashed taxes on corporations and the wealthy, removing all of our sustainable and self-reliant income sources. They've sold off enormous amounts of our non-renewable resource for a pittance while oil companies have walked off with record profits. Worse of all, government has hardly saved a dime.

We need to think about our oil as an accumulated reserve, and every time we cash in one of those barrels we are trading future prosperity for immediate gain. We have a responsibility to future generations of Alberta to not squander this opportunity and to make the most of the money we generate from selling off our oil!

Funny... the conservatives used to talk about sustainability.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Government Plan: Do nothing and everything will be okay.

Smiling Iris, Alberta finance minister, appeared in front of media on Thursday to announce that Alberta will lose 15,000 jobs and carry a $1 billion deficit from 2008/09.

Let's look at the government estimates over the course of the year:

DateRevenueOil (Est)Oil (Act)ExpensesSurplus

April 2008 Budget

$38.6 B



$37 B

$1.6 B

August 2008 - Q1 Update

$46.6 B




$8.5 B

November 2008 - Q2 Update

$39.9 B



$37.9 B

$2 B

February 2009 Update





-$1 B

It will be interesting to see how the revenue and expense numbers fill out when Evans releases her third quarter update next week. If she knows the $1 Billion deficit number, then she likely knows the other numbers and is trying to release information slowly.

What I found particularly interesting though are some of the rose-colored glasses type statements made in the press release.

The province’s economy is expected to recover beginning in 2010 with modest economic growth. Evans said Alberta is well positioned for recovery, with low unemployment and inflation, a strong resource base, a competitive tax regime, an investment- and business-friendly environment, significant financial assets, and a fiscal framework designed to deal with the ups and downs of volatile resource revenues.

“As we emerge from these turbulent times, we will position Alberta to be the engine of the Canadian economy,” she said.

The government has convinced themselves that Alberta is above the rules of
global economics and that this global economic catastrophe is simply a one,
maybe two, year long wave that we can just ride over.

They go on to discuss their plans for weathering the storm:

The Alberta government’s plan for weathering the downturn includes keeping a close eye on government spending, drawing from its emergency savings to protect the programs and services Albertans rely on, continuing to build public infrastructure to support jobs and the economy, and promoting the province to a global market.

These actions include ... maintaining a low and competitive tax environment - which was enhanced this year with the elimination of health-care premiums, resulting in the injection of $1 billion back into the economy. Government will also continue to invest in public infrastructure through the 2008-11, $22-billion capital plan, a commitment that far outstrips that being spent elsewhere in Canada.

This isn't a plan! This is a combination of tired Conservative rhetoric (keeping an eye on spending, promoting the province to a global market, maintaining a competitive tax environment) and previously announced plans that public pressure forced the government to undertake (overcoming the vast infrastructure deficit, eliminating health care premiums).

This government has always lacked real innovative foresight and been slow to react to legitimate concerns of Albertans. This is a time for real leadership and a real plan instead of tired rhetoric and rose-colored glasses.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A few of my favourite things

I commend all the other bloggers out there who manage to post thoughtful pieces on a regular basis. I subscribe to many of their RSS feeds using Google Reader and subsequently "Share" the ones I like. So between work and home life, I find barely enough time to read the material being put out let alone contributing in a thoughtful way on a regular basis.

So for today's post, I want to encourage you to scan my shared items which are linked to over there (------>) and here.

But I also want to share a few of the things that really grabbed my attention lately.

Dinner with a Stranger

Franke James is an artist who presents her Visual Essays on her blog My Green Conscience. Her latest posting Dinner with a Stranger is incredibly inspiring. Read it and enjoy!

Lost Generation

Perhaps you've already seen this video, as I was referred to it by Ken Chapman who pulls out a lot of these gems. But if you haven't take the time to watch it - its incredibly creative and powerful. I taught high school for 7 years and the greatest thing I learned in that time: "The Kids are all right"!

World Food Program

This is another great video to put things into context. Its a PSA from the United Nations World Food Program featuring Sean Penn. Thanks to AdFreak for this.