The Alberta Windfall

Well, here we are again. The difference? Paul Martin surprisingly enough.

Alberta, lucky as we are in having a whack of oil under the ground, has
a almost obscene surplus this year. And a lot of that cash is going into
the infrastructure of the province, as well as $400 cheques to every
resident of Alberta. Wow. I’ll admit it, we’re pretty lucky.

But now the “majority of Canadians” as our media puts it, wants a piece.
As many Canadians know, that means Ontario and Quebec want a piece of it
primarily, as that’s the majority of the population. The difference is
that Paul Martin, unlike Pierre Trudeau, has a sense of fairness. The
NEP was supposed to balance, in that cheap energy went east, cheap
manufactured goods went west. Well, nice idea. Only implemented the
first part and flipped the west the bird while he was at it. Paul
Martin knows the division of responsibility, cost and revenue, and
respects that, rather than rewriting the priniciples of federalism to go
with the commodity prices. Thanks Mr. Martin. But there’s more to it.

Hold the phone fellow Canucks. You already get a piece. You get the fed
transfer payments which none of us complain about in Alberta, we’re
happy to help out and be a big part of Confederation. Unlike a chunk of
Quebec, who would as soon take the money and make a new nation. Also,
the oil that’s pulled out of the ground isn’t just in Alberta, but the
Feds DO get a cut of the pie. As does the nation as a result. All the
money the oil companies earn gets taxed, the gas and oil they sell gets
taxed, and the whack of oil off the coast of Newfoundland (which has a
debate separate from this entirely) is mainly Federal profit. So you’re
getting your share. Before you get more than that, lets take a look at
what we’ve also put up with over the last decade before this windfall

Major cuts in infrastructure for schools, health care, roads, transport
and services. We told our government, get rid of the debt, and they did
exactly that, and every single Albertan took it in the teeth for that,
and as a result, we’re out of debt. We got out quickly thanks to higher
oil prices, but we got out because we stopped spending a lot of money.
Now we get to rebuild the infrastructure in a hopefully responsible way.
This is the reward for the sacrifices we made to have responsible
budgets. We’re still lucky, but the luck was also coupled with fiscal

I don’t judge all the benefits Quebec residents get via the very
different government system they have at the provincial level. I don’t
begrudge (too much) all the Federal contracts and handouts that go to
the big population provinces where the majority of the votes are. We
deal with it, and know that this country is a lot more than money and
porkbarrelling. Apparently some people think that all the profit should
be shared regardless of law, rights or earning it.

Tell you what. Put a plan together for a national fund that benefits all
the citizens equally, and is forward thinking, and is based on science
and industry. We have enough cultural programs and cash flowing there
for now at the national level thanks, and it’s mostly in the east. Make
a plan for bulking up the centres of excellence in our universities, get
a plan for diversifying us off of oil so we can export it as well as
more sustainable technologies.

Then we’ll talk about each province investing in our future. Not
just adding cash to unbalanced deficit-ridden budgets.

And on that note, Mr. Klein, thanks for the cheque, but we should look
to that renewable diversification ourselves, so we can lead the next
wave of energy supply and technology as well as the current one. Using
oil to fund the next generation seeds of that industry is just a great
and lucky coincidence waiting to be taken advantage of.

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