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Wednesday, 13 March 2013 15:13

Rhetoric, Twitter and debt dominate Alberta budget

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The same picture seemed to be used on a lot of the daily newspapers in Alberta.

Alberta finance minister Doug Horner faced Alberta’s minister of human services Dave Hancock and looked at him with a big huge smile like he had just won the lottery.
In another photo, Horner has that same smile while accompanied by Premier Alison Redford with that bold, overconfident smile while walking out of the legislative chamber.
Not sure what the big lottery-winning smirks
were all about as no Canadian lottery will save the province or this budget. Perhaps if they went to the United States and prayed they won Powerball ... aka ... oil revenues ... there might be a chance.
But this is what this budget is all about ... prayers, smoke and mirrors, double talk, and rhetoric.
It’s been a long time in recent memory where an Alberta voter can think back to when there was so much talk about nothing in regards to a provincial budget.
The manner in which the Alberta government sold the budget was simple: send out trial balloons, tell the electorate it was going to be an unbelievably tough budget, while not giving a lot of details; deliver the budget, which you consider brilliant and then smile and say, “see, it’s not as bad as it could’ve been, everything is great.”
The Tories are patting voters on the head like they are toddlers and telling them to look at the pretty butterflies over there to distract them while the children’s sandcastle gets pummeled by a tidal wave.
In the Twitter world, the rather immature and highly caustic Tweets sent out before and after the budget was released were surprising.
The government countered with catch phrases and deflections
via the Alberta Premier’s office communication staff who tweeted such beauties as:
• Alberta PremierComms @ABPremierComms: #Budget2013 Albertans say they are comfortable with government borrowing for #buildingAlberta infrastructure #ableg;
• Alberta PremierComms @ABPremierComms: #BuildingAlberta: #Budget2013 delivers responsible change  #ableg #cdnpoli.
Alberta Liberals’ Kent Hehr stated: “Guess what kids — today we find out we are broke. Big thumbs-up to trickle-down economics! #ableg #abpoli”.
Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman called it the “#bankruptbudget” and Wildrose MLA Heather Forsyth used the “are u Kidding me” phrase as she quoted Horner as saying this is what Albertans wanted.
The government kept talking about its deficit budget and how they were so proud of keeping the deficit low.
“Being responsible?” Sure, but that deficit in one single budget helped bury Alberta in debt even deeper. No one wants that.
The cold hard facts are the provincial government borrowed $4.3 billion as in “b” in order to pay for its infrastructure. Alberta is now more than $17 billion in debt. Period.
There’s still a $1.97-billion deficit and there’s another $2.1 billion taken from the newly-renamed Contingency Account, aka Sustainability Fund. The account is now sitting at $691 million.
The Heritage Savings Trust Fund is set to sit at $15.1 billion this year.
Where did all the money go? Simply, the Conservative governments under Steady Eddy Stelmach spent beyond their means with no meaningful plan. There has been too much reliance on selling oil and not truly developing it — blame all the Conservative governments in the past for that. This isn’t all on Redford’s plate.
Neither the opposition or the government other than rhetoric — there’s the word again — says it has a plan in place to pay the debt down, although they have failed to make that specifically clear in any media reports other than Horner mentioning yesterday in an interview that there are plans in place to pay it off in two decades.
Translation: we hope that oil revenues skyrocket by then, that or a whole bunch of scratch tickets and picking the lotto numbers come through.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor of the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Read 998 times Last modified on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 15:19
Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor