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 Clarks 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.
If there was any confidence that Albertas government would avoid imitating the failed policies of other provincesthink of Quebec and Ontario and their massive debtsthat faint hope for continued Alberta exceptionalism was kiboshed at the recent Progressive Conservative convention in Calgary.
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, its always curious when governments go to great efforts to avoid discussing them.
Back in the mid-1990s, British Columbias 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.
If you asked a typical Canadian to name the best place for investing in the petroleum industry, theyd likely say Alberta. But ask a typical petroleum executive, and the answer is quite different.
In recent years, executives responding to the Fraser Institutes 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.
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 Clarks five demands, some of which are reasonable, if occasionally superfluous.
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 youre lucky, your politicians will one day imitate Alberta. To that end, heres how Albertas private sector model came about.
If Albertans employed in the energy sector ever wonder why some people underestimate the vast contributions made by the oil and gas industry to Albertas prosperity, a new ad from the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) provides a clue.