alberta

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A year ago the Alberta Government appointed a Critical Transmission Review Committee to determine whether the Alberta Electric System Operator's (AESO) proposal that two high voltage direct current (HVDC) north-south transmission lines be built because of occasional congestion on the Edmonton to Calgary corridor is reasonable. In spite of the availability of lower-cost alternatives, the Committee agreed with the AESO's proposal, the Redford government accepted the Committee's recommendation, and AltaLink and ATCO Electric are now in the throes of planning to commence construction.


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When Ontario opposition leader Tim Hudak recently released a position paper that mused about reforming how Ontarians buy their beer, wine and spirits, the usual nonsensical non sequiturs were quickly offered up by those opposed to private liquor stores.

I’ll get to the myths about private booze shortly. In general though, state-owned enterprises almost invariably mean losses for taxpayers, consumers or both.

A good example of the latter is the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) itself, which runs the Ontario government liquor stores.


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On a recent trip to Kenya, my friend and his family crashed head on into an example of why some developing countries cannot grow and prosper.

As they were about to board their flight from Nairobi, the clerk at the exit gate said there was a problem with their boarding passes. Before she returned them and before they could board the flight, they were told they must pay $800 to correct the “problem.”


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When governments enter an election year, the political temptation to play fast and loose with budget numbers is strong. The most famous example of this was probably the 1996 budget in British Columbia. That year, then-B.C. Premier Glen Clark’s office injected sunshine into revenue forecasts, this in order to trumpet a balanced budget on the campaign trail. His office did so over the objections of Finance Ministry officials. Post-election, once that became known, the “fudge-it” budget scandal permanently tarred the NDP government.


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If there was any confidence that Alberta’s government would avoid imitating the failed policies of other provinces—think of Quebec and Ontario and their massive debts—that faint hope for continued Alberta exceptionalism was kiboshed at the recent Progressive Conservative convention in Calgary.


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As many students enrolled in algebra class are likely discovering, numbers can be rather dry. But a proper understanding of them is indispensable to modern life. Without hard, reliable numbers regularly checked, much personal, business, and government planning would be akin to gambling: throw the dice, risk the cash and hope for the best.

I digress on the importance of numbers because as arid as they are, it’s always curious when governments go to great efforts to avoid discussing them.


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Back in the mid-1990s, British Columbia’s New Democratic government published a pre-election budget that forecast a balanced ledger for the then-ending fiscal year. The Glen Clark government quickly dropped the writ and narrowly won re-election.

But soon after the election, the government revised its forecast. A deficit of almost $400-million was predicted, about what some private forecasters predicted back when the original budget was released.


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If you asked a typical Canadian to name the best place for investing in the petroleum industry, they’d likely say Alberta. But ask a typical petroleum executive, and the answer is quite different.

In recent years, executives responding to the Fraser Institute’s annual Global Petroleum Survey have shied away from Alberta, a trend that began in 2009 when the province plummeted in terms of attractiveness for investment following introduction of the so-called New Royalty Framework.


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With her demand that either Alberta or Ottawa ante up more cash before the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline can proceed through parts of British Columbia, BC Premier Christy Clark is playing a risky and ill-advised game of economic chicken. But before getting into details of that, consider Clark’s five demands, some of which are reasonable, if occasionally superfluous.


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Anyone who recently visited Alberta for the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede might have noticed something unusual about the province: not a single government liquor store.

Alberta does have a plethora of private stores, unlike say, Ontario, where I once drove around Cambridge for what seemed forever to find any shop, government or private, to buy wine for a dinner with relatives.

If you’re lucky, your politicians will one day imitate Alberta. To that end, here’s how Alberta’s private sector model came about.