Robbing the Ralphochaun horde

By Bryn Levy

The province of Alberta will see a massive budget surplus fueled by high oil prices. While this isn’t exactly news to anyone (as Alberta has posted surpluses for quite a while), what is different is the reaction we’re seeing from the rest of the country. Many are calling for the “redistribution” of Alberta’s resource revenue to aid provinces less fortunate than us. The province of Ontario appears to be taking a leading role in the efforts to secure more money­­–understandable as their manufacturing indstries have been hit hard by the double-whammy of high energy costs and a strong dollar, making their exports less attractive internationally.

Now, I believe that most people in Alberta don’t have a problem with helping out others in Canada, and to those who do, I would point out that during the Great Depression it was Eastern Canada who came to our aid when we were up to our armpits in dust. Other provinces are legitimately facing hardship from the skyrocketing cost of oil that’s filling our coffers. However, what the rest of the country must acknowledge is that we spent the ’90s with King Ralph haphazardly hacking our social programs and infrastructure to the bone and we need huge reinvestment in these areas to repair the damage.

Also, the “Klein Revolution” saw the deregulation of things like auto insurance and electricity which were touted as measures reducing costs to the consumer by introducing competition; in fact the costs of these commodities have skyrocketed, raising the cost of living for Albertans. On top of this, the average Albertan today is filling their car with gasoline at $1.14 a litre, can still expect a massive increase in the cost of heating their homes this winter, and is still buying goods whose prices have to go up to pay for the fuel used to ship them here. In short, the lion’s share of any surplus we rake in should stay here, seeing as we’ve suffered to attain it. Furthermore, as a “have” province, we’ve already been paying more money into Confederation than we’ve been getting out of it for quite some time.

What’s worse, we haven’t seen any real return on our investment. Most people here are quick to blame Ottawa for this state of affairs but equally to blame are the inefficient provincial administrations who’ve been receiving our money. The fact is that none of the “have-not” provinces seem to be getting any better. Their unemployment is still high, their outrageously high taxes are crushing anyone who tries to innovate and they still can’t seem to provide quality programs to people. This comes in spite of the aid the rest of the country provides and in spite of the fact many of these provinces have got natural resources of their own (i.e. off-shore oil, minerals, and hydro-electric power). It would be appropriate for the “have-not” provinces (and Ontario) to take a long hard look at the way they conduct their affairs before they hit us up for more money.

The fact is, even if we posted a ridiculously high $20 billion surplus, it wouldn’t be enough to make the rest of the country’s problems disappear all at once (not to mention our own). As such, it is unfair for anyone to think we should somehow be playing the role of national knight- in-shining armour. Once we’ve put our house in order financially, and they have shown us a genuine effort to achieve something with the money and resources they already have, then it will be time to ask if Alberta can do more to help out.

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