Wednesday, 20 April 2016 13:42

Harsh criticisms of provincial gov’t not warranted

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Alberta’s New Democrats are going to have to take a lesson from the ducks. Like water off a duck’s back, they are going to have to grow thick skins the next three years as they face mounting criticisms.

The past two weeks have been rough on the party and especially its leader — and the premier — Rachel Notley.
First, she welcomed her federal counterparts into the province, when the party held its national convention in Edmonton.
The members not only chose to oust their leader Thomas Mulcair in a close vote, but also agreed to debate the controversial Leap Manifesto. The five-page document in part states there should be no more pipelines in Canada and calls for a total move to renewable energy by 2050.
While it hasn’t been adopted by the party, just debating the merits of its policies over the next two years at riding associations across Canada, has caused problems for the NDP on a provincial level, not only in Alberta, but any western province reliant upon oil and gas.
To make such a bold move — in oil-reliant Alberta nonetheless — was a slap in the face to Notley and has made her job as premier that much harder.
She had no choice but to distance herself from the federal party, by calling the document “naive, ill-considered and tone-deaf.”
The NDP released climate change policies that were progressive and precedent setting, especially coming from Alberta and the lack of direction in this area from previous Progressive Conservative governments.
Notley’s uphill battle is not just in Alberta, but now it is federally with her own national party counterparts.
Then a week later, the NDP released its budget showing a deficit of $10.4 billion. By 2018-19 the debt load will hit $57.6 billion including borrowing $5.4 billion this year and $8.4 billion next year. Borrowing by government previously was only for capital projects, but now because of the economic situation, the borrowing will be for operational spending.
In a province where Progressive Conservatives ruled the roost for more than 40 years straight, the budget didn’t go over well. There were cries for decreasing government spending and not going into debt. Conservatives, as always, rolled out the legacy of Ralph Klein who led the province in the 1990s from debt to debt-free and was rewarded back to his post time and time again by Albertans.
To think an NDP government would do anything other than maintain the status quo in spending, or even spend more is naive. The very essence of the NDP platform is social assistance and helping people.
“We will not make the choice of balancing our books and reducing our debt on the backs of Albertans,” Finance Minister Joe Ceci told media.
It’s easy for Albertans to forget how Klein managed to balance the books and pay off debt. He didn’t raise taxes. He did it by cutting government spending in all areas, including education and health care, going so far as to even blow up hospitals. Some argued just a few years ago even, as the Tories started sinking money back into capital projects, that we were paying for the capital deficits Klein created by choosing not to invest in infrastructure and instead spend money on debt payments.
Rather than “slash and burn”, the NDP has chosen  to protect social infrastructure and build physical infrastructure in order to weather the economic storm until the price of a barrel of oil returns to money-making levels.
Many Albertans on social media, especially of the Conservative swaying nature, cry out daily for the NDP to “do something” to help Albertans. We’re not sure exactly what a provincial government is supposed to do when the world economic oil and gas economy has tanked (something the NDP had no control over) and the only other way to raise money is directly from taxpayers’ pockets.
There is only one individual taxpayer — that’s you and me. It’s a question of help Albertans today by paying now or paying later. The NDP has chosen a little bit of both, with some increased taxes, but mainly borrowing so we can all hopefully afford to pay more later when the economic tide rushes back in.
What has been proven in this whole political game is that no government has the answers as to how to stop Alberta’s heavy reliance upon oil and gas revenues. The NDP doesn’t think the books will be back in the black until 2024 and they don’t even have a roadmap for how to get there.
History has shown, Progressive Conservatives didn’t have these answers either.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor of the Prairie Post. Contact her with comments about this opinion at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor