Alison Redford’s performance appraisal document landed on my doorstep a week ago. It’s called “The Building Alberta Plan 2013 Edition”.
In the real world a CEO undergoes an annual performance appraisal with the Compensation Committee of the board of directors. If a CEO presented Redford’s Plan to the Comp Committee he’d be lucky to keep his job let alone pick up his bonus. However, Ms Redford touts “The Plan” as proof of a job well done.
How did she justify her shoddy performance? By moving the goal posts and burying her failures.
A “real world” review of The Building Alberta Plan
A CEO’s performance appraisal document includes measurable targets. Redford’s Plan is slick with spin. Its purpose is to sooth and confuse Albertans so they don’t twig to the fact that their “CEO” is squandering the $40 billion they’ve entrusted to her care.
The Plan sets out three objectives (election promises): (1) investing in families and communities, (2) living within our means and (3) opening new markets for Alberta’s resources. Let’s examine the (few) metrics provided to see how Ms Redford’s government performed against these objectives.
Objective #1: Investing in families and communities
This objective is measured by building roads, schools and health facilities and strengthening programs that support children, families, seniors and vulnerable Albertans.
Ms Redford promised to build 50 schools and modernize 70 more by 2016 and points to 35 school projects that are underway or completed. She promised 140 Family Care Clinics by 2016 and takes credit for three FCCs and another 24 “in development”.
There’s just one snag. The 35 school projects and the 3 FCCs were all in place prior to 2012 when she made her election promise. None of 120 schools (new or modernized) are actually under construction and no new FCCs have been created since the PCs took office in 2012.
Alberta’s social programs are a disaster. The home care privatization project saw service providers renege on contracts and abandon their clients, seniors are dying of neglect in private long term care facilities, 145 children died in foster care and Albertans with developmental disabilities staged protests on the steps of the Legislature. The Comp Committee would have a field day!
On the bright side: Ms Redford delivered the Ring Road in Calgary and the twinning of Highway 63 is coming along nicely.
Comp Committee decision? The government gets a PASS on roads but a FAIL on schools, health facilities and social programs…we’re not off to a good start, are we?
Objective #2: Living within our means
This objective is described as challenging every dollar spent, investing wisely and saving for the future. The Plan claims success with “budget challenge panels”, wage freezes and expense disclosure policies.
Wait a minute. What happened to the “bitumen bubble”? Ms Redford claimed it blew a $6 billion hole in the budget. She passed a bunch of laws to let her government go into debt and mangle the presentation of future budgets so that no one can figure out where the money went and yet there’s no mention of that blasted bubble anywhere in The Plan.
Comp Committee decision? This one is easy. A CEO’s failure to address a fundamental weakness in the revenue model (over reliance on resource revenues) while altering the presentation the company’s financial statements so the financial risk is obscured is a FAIL.
Objective #3: Opening new markets for Alberta’s resources
The objective here is “fairer prices” for Alberta’s oil, natural gas, beef, agricultural crops and lumber with the recognition that the government must show responsible resource development in order to succeed.
Redford lists the Canadian Energy Strategy, TCPL’s Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines, trade missions to Asia, new “rules” for resource development and setting aside 1.5 million hectares to “conserve our natural heritage” as evidence of success.
But The Plan fails to mention upgrading resources in Alberta or prudently managing extraction to minimize inflation, environmental damage and the negative societal and infrastructure impacts of unbridled exploitation.
Why? In 2012 Ms Redford’s election platform included becoming a world leader in resource stewardship.* She replaced this objective in 2013 with “living within our means”. Responsible resource development has slipped off the radar screen as a metric of success.
Comp Committee decision? The Canadian Energy Strategy, the two TCPL pipeline projects and junkets to Asia are just talk—helpful, but not determinative in getting projects approved. Reliance on the “new rules” to demonstrate responsible resource development is meaningless—these rules are biased in favour of industry at the expense of the environment and landowners’ rights. And setting aside 1.5 million hectares is window dressing, nothing more. Result: FAIL
Five FAILs and one PASS
If Ms Redford were the CEO of a $40 billion publicly traded company, the Comp Committee would terminate her for incompetence. Unfortunately, she’s not. She’s the premier of a province blessed with outstanding natural beauty, abundant natural resources and an innovative and creative population that’s expected to reach 5 million in the next decade.
In 2016 Albertans will get the chance to fire Ms Redford and her party. Let’s hope they remember that it’s no longer enough to play political games by moving the goalposts and burying your mistakes. Alberta’s future is at stake.
*Thanks Joe T