The Alberta Budget: Door No. 1, Door No. 2 or Door No. 3?

Before you let the Opposition parties scare you to death with apocalyptic warnings that Alberta is “drowning in debt”, “driving over a fiscal cliff” and “unfairly burdening future generations” read this article by U of C economics prof Trevor Tombe.

Tombe points out that the amount of debt per se is meaningless.*  The relevant metric is the debt-to-GDP ratio.  By that measure, Alberta is doing better than all the other provinces and will continue to do better right through to 2020.

In fact, Alberta could run a $6B deficit forever and assuming the economy continues to grow, we’d be just fine.

The problem with this budget and the shadow budgets offered by the Opposition parties is that they don’t address the elephant in the room:  continuing to rely on royalty revenues leaves Alberta firmly stuck on the royalty roller coaster.  Sure the ride up is exhilarating but the ride down is awful, especially when you can’t see the bottom.

Tombe says there are three ways to avoid deficits:  (1) develop new sources of revenue, (2) cut spending further or (3) a combination of the two.

Which option did the government and the Opposition parties choose?  Door # 1, door # 2 or door #3?

Door #3 with a bump

The government created new revenues by introducing progressive income taxes, increasing corporate taxes, increasing the emissions levy and introducing a new carbon levy.

joe-ceci

Mr Ceci Finance Minister

They cut spending by reducing executive compensation in public agencies and freezing salaries for MLAs, political staff and government and agency managers.  They reduced waste by identifying $200 million in savings.

But they also increased spending to fund job creation plans, provide a “shock absorber” for Albertans impacted by the recession, fund the Climate Leadership Plan and fill the operational and capital gaps left behind after decades of PC austerity.  The result—a $10.3 billion deficit and growing debt.

Door #2 with a twist

The Wildrose say they’ll balance the budget within three years by cutting spending and revenue and filling the revenue gap by “sustainably growing the pie of our provincial economy” (whatever that means).

They’ll cut operational spending by $2.6 billion, freeze wages and leave positions vacant if someone leaves (attrition is expected to save $312 million—assuming it’s not offset by increased overtime).

The Wildrose will eliminate the carbon levy and explore cutting personal and corporate taxes but don’t commit to do so (presumably because tax cuts will negatively impact their balanced budget target.)

Forget the doors, the party is dead  

The Progressive Conservatives promised to balance the budget in two years but offered little beyond wage freezes and holding the health budget to population growth.

But none of this matters because the PC party died over the weekend and the new guy will replace the PC budget with something more to his liking.

Door #3 in one form or another

The Alberta Party is open to exploring all options but its budget mirrored the WR and PC budgets with its focus on wage freezes, reducing taxes and continued reliance on royalty revenues.  This is surprising given Greg Clark’s earlier comments that he’s prepared to entertain a sales tax.

The Liberals did not present a shadow budget but issued a press release expressing their concern with rising debt and the continued reliance on volatile royalty revenues.  They called for “an adult conversation about spending AND revenue”.

Sales tax anyone?

Neither the government nor the opposition parties presented a way to avoid deficits in the future, no doubt because the best way to avoid a deficit would be to replace royalty revenues with a predictable sales tax and in Alberta PST stands for Political Suicide Tax.

But the political climate in Alberta is changing.  The election of Jason Kenney to lead the united right crystalized the distinction between the free enterprise conservatives and the social progressives.

It’s only a matter of time before Albertans demand a meaningful discussion about the PST so they can decide for themselves whether to run deficits to fund the services they demand but aren’t willing to pay for or join the rest of Canada and implement a sales tax.

*Prof Tombe also points out that the government’s assertion that it’s holding spending growth below the combined rate of inflation and population growth is not true. 

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30 Responses to The Alberta Budget: Door No. 1, Door No. 2 or Door No. 3?

  1. Ed Henderson says:

    PST may sound like the answer to political theorists but I suspect that there are a myriad of hidden taxes that have been slipped in just because the PC Alberta Gvt has known that a PST would be a death knoll to them. Will the NDP gvt be cutting them when they bring in PST? I doubt that it would even be possible to list them.
    Also everybody talks about Albertan’s demanding services. Albertan’s don’t demand much more than value for what they are paying for but our Gvts have ignored that in favor of building exotic hierarchy’s full of incompetent bureaucrats. A good example of this wasteful service providing is the Alberta Health Services organization. First they centralize, then decentralize then re-centralize and on and on. It’s very typical of today’s Gvt operations, full of deadwood bureaucrats and lacking in competent medical people. Pick another Gvt operation and you find the same thing. The Government continually demands more money because they claim Albertan’s demand more services. This is not true.
    We have a government bureaucracy that promises better service but never promises better productivity. Their idea of providing better service is to hire more people and the net result seems to be that the people already there do less and complain more with all the spare time they have.

    I fear we are approaching a time when there are only a few people in Alberta not employed by the Alberta Government.

    • Ed you raise some good points: (1) how many hidden taxes are there and (2) is the government as efficient as it could be.
      With respect to (1) the budget shows $3.7 billion in revenue coming from “premiums, fees and licenses” and $3.1 billion coming from “other” whatever “other” is. This is where one typically finds hidden taxes. I personally don’t have a problem with paying “premiums, fees and licenses” but I’d be interested in finding out what the “other” stuff is given that it creates almost as much revenue.
      With respect to (2) efficiency, the WR budget says BC spends $9,646 per person on services and Alberta spends $12,226. That’s 27% higher than BC. Now we don’t know what services are included in the BC calculation but it would be worth a careful top to bottom review of the cost of service delivery in healthcare, education, and child services which make up almost 75% of the budget.
      Having said that even drastic cuts in administration wouldn’t have much impact–the AHS budget is $14.6 billion, only $491 million goes to administration and the Dept of Health budget is $7.2 billion and only $125 million goes to ministry support and admin. So even if you eliminated ALL the administration (which you wouldn’t) you’d only save $616 million. The real big ticket items are doctors, nurses, support workers, ambulance drivers, etc, That comes in at more than $13 billion and from what I can see we need more medical people not less. This is a very difficult issue.

      • jerrymacgp says:

        Right-wingers are always assailing “bureaucracy” and “waste”, as though cutting middle and upper management in the public sector could save money without affecting service delivery. The reality is quite different.

        Let’s say you work for AHS as a front-line health care professional delivering services to patients/clients. You have a Manager to assign work, develop work schedules (no small task in a 24/7 operation like health care), provide leadership, evaluate performance, hire replacement staff when people leave the workplace, ensure administrative and logistical support for your work, and do all those other myriad management tasks essential to any workplace. Your Manager, in turn, reports to a Director, who sets broad policy and higher-level budgets for the programme you work in, and oversees any number of other front-line Managers besides your own. There is a limit to how many Managers one Director should lead, known in the parlance of management theory as “span of control”, lest he or she become simply ineffective by dint of having too many direct reports. In turn, the Director reports to a more senior Executive-Director, who reports to a more senior leader, all the way up to the President & CEO of AHS, which after all is one of Canada’s largest employers, with over 90,000 employees.

        In addition, direct clinical care depends on support from numerous other non-clinical services, from materiel procurement and supply, to maintenance and housekeeping, to HR and payroll, to clerical (do you really want $50/hr RNs doing non-clinical paperwork?). Those who don’t work in the system have no idea. Just as an army relies on logistics (just ask Sun T’su), a health care organization relies on its support system.

        Slashing and burning management ranks, as has been tried, leads to bureaucratic inertia and frozen decision-making, such that while day-to-day work goes on, nothing new happens. No new programmes are started, existing programmes are not allowed to expand or improve, legacy programmes that should be wound up keep on chugging along, and service to the public remains mediocre. Cutting non-clinical/support staff and services puts expensive health care professionals in the bind of having to work without proper supports: for example, running out of supplies at the worst possible time, during a crisis.

        Are there efficiencies to be found? Absolutely. But sometimes what looks like an efficiency turns out to be the exact opposite.

  2. Jim Lees says:

    Good thoughts Susan. I’m uncomfortable with the debt per se, happy to hear the debt-to-GDP ratio compares favourably. A bit concerned that the price of oil used in budget forecasts was $68/bbl which is a stretch target. I have one question for all Parties – what would they do in a worst-case scenario where oil is $45/bbl, which is not totally out of the question. I suspect the answer from all would be cuts, some more drastic than others, and hopefully not increasing the debt even more.

    • Jim, very good point. I too believe the forecast for the price of oil is too high and although the government deserves credit for including a $500 million risk adjustment, it’s nowhere near enough to cover the short fall if the oil price forecast turns out to be pie in the sky.
      Just a comment on the debt, while I feel uncomfortable accumulating more debt, I think we need to consider Tombe’s point that government debt (like corporate debt) isn’t the same as personal debt. That’s because the government (unlike me) isn’t going to pack up and move to BC to live out the rest of its days on its retirement income. The government goes on forever, it has an endless revenue stream, and as long as the economy is growing it can use debt as a tool to deliver services far into the future.
      On the topic of moving to BC have you noticed that people who complain bitterly about paying carbon taxes and progressive income taxes in Alberta are perfectly willing to pay the carbon tax and even higher income taxes in BC.

  3. steverickettssp says:

    great summary, Susan!

    re the Alberta Party… you’re correct, its shadow budget did not mention a PST, although Greg has made it clear that he believes more sources of revenue are needed, including a PST (HST). i suspect they didn’t want comments on the budget to focus on a PST.

    also, while the AP budget includes resource revenues, they’re capped at $3b, with any remainder going into a trust fund, which i think is a good approach

    • I agree Steve. The $3b cap on resource revenues is a smart way to approach curbing Alberta’s addiction to resource revenues and avoiding the ricochet effect of the boom/bust resource cycle.

  4. Good piece amiga gracias. Trevor’s is equally sharp, and discerning | LCA

  5. Indeed Leo. I really enjoy Trevor Tombe’s commentary. He maintains his objectivity regardless of the topic. He was crystal clear in his article that he wasn’t advocating one position or another. He just wanted to point out that the problem isn’t our economy it’s our budget which, in its present configuration, causes Alberta to go into deficit. His point was if we’re going to make this choice we should do so with our eyes open.

  6. Einar Davison says:

    Hi Susan, my issues with the budget are a few things some which I think we agree. I have always said that you should give a new government at least two years to learn their jobs before you get to critical of what they have done. Opposition parties don’t have that luxury (and I’m not giving them a pass in anyway).
    I think Professor Tombe is a very smart man and I have had the good fortune to hear his views. I agree with his article. In fact during the 90’s the federal liberal government of Jean Chretien used this to advantage. When Chretien took over government the debt was the same as GDP (if memory serves) Paul Martin put the brakes on deficits (including making it realy difficult to qualify for EI) and with the combination of a cheap dollar and growing sales of resources our GDP grew to over $1 trillion while the debt remained fairly flat. In essence our debt dropped to around a 1/4 of GDP. I wish the NDP would try harder to be closer to this model, even if it was gradually implemented to reduce impact.
    I think where the NDP government is getting it wrong is not trying to find efficiencies and keeping the big “bureaucracies” that the previous governments built to find places for patronage appointments. I still believe that AHS has done little if nothing to improve health care in this province. I see Alberta Healths best work could be setting province wide medical standards and being a centralized purchaser of medical supplies and equipment, possibly with other provinces. I think AHS should be shutdown and governance and management should be returned to local volunteer boards and local CAO’s. I’m a little concerned that the NDP government seems to be starting to build its own machine and will keep the big bureaucracies for their own patronage appointments. I won’t condemn them though because I’m pretty sure all parties would do the same. I would hope that some government will be bold and end this practice.
    I do not like that the NDP government is budgeting on the hope oil prices will rise. I believe we put too much faith on a global commodity where the players are very self interested (especially Russia). I believe the smarter move would have been a PST which could have easily paid for the shortfall in revenue and kept us from having to borrow money to keep the government running. Albertans need to realize that government cost x amount of dollars and we need to pay that amount to ensure we are sustainable. Again it needs a bold government and apparently no one wants to be bold. In fact the Conservatives feel they can completely bury their heads in the sands of cutting programs, de-educating our children and warehousing our seniors in private for profit facilities and giving people tax breaks which makes our government even less sustainable. I will give the NDP Government credit in cutting school fees and doing other things which at least shows that education should be about educating first.
    However every political party in this province needs to realize that betting on oil and gas revenues is a fools bet. I’m am going to take a guess and say that oil and gas for Alberta is in its last 20 years of being the prime industry in Alberta. If it isn’t we should treat it like it is finished and use this time to get our house in order. We need to ensure our government provides the services we want but that they cost not one penny more than they should. That any revenue we are generating from resources are being reinvested so when oil and gas are finished we have other industries that are employing Albertans to take its place.
    I didn’t see it from the NDP in this budget, I think they took the easy out and as our government we shouldn’t make excuses for them and we should hold their feet to the fire. I don’t mean that we should say everything they do is wrong, but definitely push them to be better. So far the official opposition only cares about trying to stir up anger, rather than questioning why the NDP isn’t trying to be a bit more innovative in budgetting. What little the official opposition proposes has already been proven to not have worked. In closing Alberta deserves better from its government and also its official opposition. So far after two years I have been disappointed by both. Thank you again for another thoughtfully written article, we agree on a lot of things.

    • Einar, yes we do agree on many things, particularly the fact the government needs to be bold in order to tackle the serious problems created by past governments.
      I too am frustrated by the apparent lack of progress with respect to healthcare and wonder whether the problem results from the fact that responsibility for healthcare is split between AHS and the Dept of Health.
      The budget shows a number of areas of duplication. For example:
      – “diagnostic, theraputic & other patient services” (AHS $2B, Dept of Health $327M)
      – “drugs and supplemental health benefits” (AHS $462M, Dept of Health $1.8B)
      – “physician compensation and development (AHS $1.1B, Dept of Health $4.2B)
      – ”IT” (AHS $508M, Dept of Health $86M) they’ve been working on this forever!
      – “Admin” (AHS $591M, Dept of Health $39M)
      Duplication usually leads to inefficiency and higher costs.
      And yes, what the opposition is proposing isn’t working. The PCs tried austerity many times before. The result? They left the government $19.9B in debt and that was after a series of oil price booms.
      The NDP started with one foot on the banana peel when they took power and now they’re being pilloried because they can’t find a magic bullet. Most people understand the NDP didn’t cause the economic crash but they’re going to have to show progress on the files that really matter to the public: health, education, seniors, etc if they expect to be re-elected in 2019.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        YES I agree with your last sentence 100%. My point before and now is that they could be making way more progress in some of these issues but I do not sense that they can. For whatever reasons it seems that regardless of political party, the results are always the same – paralysis. This is why so many people voted for Trump and this is the reason why political systems are redundant in the way they function today. We definitely need a new approach of way more cooperation so that it is possible to make progress in so many fronts. That is not happening and may not happen without a collapse because we are so well trained in confrontation and bad competition that we will not be able to see the holy grail. Susan, this is why so many times I have mentioned that without a total revolution of ideas we will be stuck for a long time. I remember Margaret Mead when she said before she died that the world was fast moving towards a new Dark Age. I think she was right.

      • Carlos, I want to pick up on your point about paralysis and this being the reason why many people voted for Trump. I know some people who actually supported Trump. I asked them how they felt about his performance so far. Their answer was interesting. They said they’re beginning to lose hope because the Establishment is stopping Trump from delivering on his vision eg. build the wall at no cost to Americans, stop Muslims from entering the country, and eliminate Obmacare and replace it with Trumpcare where no one loses their coverage and people with pre-existing conditions will not be turned away. Trump supporters are very disappointed. I’m not sure what they will do when Trump finally peters out…take to the streets?

      • Einar Davison says:

        Hi Susan, I guess at my age I have either become a bit of a cynic or just understand that the politics is not perfect and we all have a level of tolerance. There are things we can do to make our government more efficient. It’s not a 5% across the board cut, that might do the job but is pretty simplistic and that is where Ralph Klein and company were wrong. You actuallly need to have a plan about what you intend to do because there are consequences. On the same token I don’t agree with the NDP budget, but then I am not an NDP supporter either. I do agree they became government at the worst possible time and I do give them credit for do many things right. I don’t believe deficit spending is necessary and I do believe this is the best time to get Albertans to understand that we cannot continue to subsidize our taxes with royalties. I believe the discussion on a PST will happen. I’m disappointed that the party I currently support dangled it, but didn’t show boldness and actually come out and say this is what we believe in and will do. So I guess I do have to judge the NDP lightly. However there was a time not too long ago that I was against a PST, but I think after this last downturn in the Oil and Gas industry I did. I wonder do we have a choice and do we have time to all get comfortable with it? If we wait another 20 years will we be up against a wall with little room to change course? Right now this is the canary in the mine moment, we need to get our house in order and all the parties need to be responsible and yes be prepared to take a hit in popularity. Responsible and bold government to me is telling the truth, making the tough decisions, finding ways to make government work better while ensuring it still provdes public health care, education, and public infrastructure. I believe in two things. Everything cost something (including doing nothing) and everything has consequences. Alberta if anyplace has highlighted these two rules frequently. We might not always agree on everything but I do have a great deal of respect for who you are and what you stand for. To bad others couldn’t do the same.

      • Einar, I too expected to see a detailed discussion about the PST in the AP budget after Greg Clark raised it in the media, particularly since the budget document said the government would need to investigate “new stable revenue alternatives” to fill the revenue gap created by capping royalty revenues at $3B. That would have been the place to be explicit on the PST.
        Nevertheless the topic of a PST is now out in the open and many people have gone on the record saying they’re open to it. The fact that Brad Wall just raised Saskatchewan’s sales tax from 5% to 6% while cutting services certainly brings home the point that the revenue side of the budget needs attention. (PS Notley says Wall’s increase is more like 3% not 1% because it now applies to many more commodities.)

      • steverickettssp says:

        Susan… i think there’s still lots of time to have an intelligent discussion re a PST. I applaud Greg Clark for having the guts to put it out there. A PST has always been a death-knell for any AB politician but I truly believe more and more Albertans are at least open to the idea

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan I am not sure my comment was understood but I did understand your point about Trump. I did not mean in any way that Trump would solve the problem at all. If anything, being an outsider, things could get even more frustrating. What I meant exactly is that the frustration of paralysis in our political systems is making people vote for whatever can turn into real change.
        The great issue is money in politics. Just like religion it has to be taken out as much as possible from the system. Some people say that is impossible, but we said the same about religion and slavery…etc. Without reform we will not be able to overcome this crisis. If we cannot do it then it will naturally happen but no one can predict the outcome. Like Fritjof Capra once said – we many times come to very difficult crises in our civilization timeline and we either move forward to more complex organizational structures or we fall into a Dark Age. Life really does not care what we choose 🙂 it always goes on with or without us.

      • Yep, I understood your comment Carlos and I agree with you. The Fritjof Capra quote sums up our situation very well. I finally finished John Ralston Saul’s book on the collapse of globalism. He says globalism is waning and we now stand at a crossroads. We can move toward what he calls “positive nationalism” which is citizen-based and focused on the public good, justice and inclusion or slip back into “negative nationalism” which divides society into “us” and “them” and blames “them” for everything “we” think is wrong. Saul’s point is that we don’t have to slide back into the Dark Ages, we can choose to be better. Saul quotes Adam Smith who said “The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order or society.” Wouldn’t it be nice if the people who quote Adam Smith’s invisible hand theory also took the time to read Moral Sentiments?

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    This is a tough one for many of us. Like Einar I have been disappointed with the government’s lack of vision. After 44 yeas in the wilderness they should have at least a plan. They have done better than the PCs in my view and definitely brought in stability and cleaned up what was becoming a PC circus of scandals.
    They are in my view very much a social Liberal government. I understand that it is almost impossible to battle against neo-liberalism but more can be done. Their total avoidance in dealing with the deficit astounds me. With or without professor Tombe article, reinforcing the already awful message that social democrats do not care about deficits is a major political error.
    Rachel Notley’s statements that the deficit is fine, even if she believes it, is another booboo. In a time when the extreme right wing is waiting for any opportunity to bring in more cuts on social programs, more inequality…etc, it makes me wonder. Her total lack of political strategy in terms of democratic renewal is absolutely unimaginable to me, especially when tiny Price Edward Island is already finally introducing Proportional Representation in Canada.
    I do not dislike this government by any means but overall it seems to me they are missing a great opportunity to solidify a social democratic ideology in Alberta.
    The introduction of a sales tax to mitigate the deficit and move us away from the silly dependency on oil revenues would have been a good step. With or without noise from the opposition. They are the ones who created this deficit so not sure why that would be so difficult.

    • steverickettssp says:

      well said!

    • Carlos, I like your characterization of the NDs as “social Liberals”.
      I really hoped they would have been bolder. As you say, they’re already under fire for raising taxes, why not finish the job by adding a PST so we’d never be dependent on oil revenues again. I’ve heard two explanations for why they’ve stayed away from the PST: (1) they say it’s regressive but it doesn’t need to be, they could offset it with rebates like the GST rebate and the carbon rebate for people below a certain income threshold, and (2) they say they didn’t campaign on so they won’t implement it now. This is a fair point, but one could argue tough economic times require tough solutions. Even if the NDs were booted out in 2019 the next government would likely keep some level of PST in place in order to balance the budget. No doubt this would infuriate many Albertans and we could re-elect the NDs in 2023.
      Your point about proportional representation is a very good one. Not only would it make every vote count but it would have eliminated the need to merge the WR and PC parties.
      We have two more years to go and the WR/PC merger to get through, who knows how all this will end.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Your 2 points are in my view just excuses. The number one reason is that we created this myth around taxes and we cannot make appropriate decisions.
        They were bold during the elections but just like everyone else they lost their way.
        The fact of the matter is that regardless of who is going to be government next, will have no choice. Oil is a resource on the way out and relying on it like we have is not going to work. Jason Kenney or Bryan Jean may claim to have the answer with their old song ‘I will not raise taxes’ but in the end it is just another one like ‘I did not have sex with Ms. Lewinski’. Unless of course they cut all environmental protection or education or health care, which is also a possibility considering their guru in the US is going to do that. I just do not think that would be appreciated here but again I do not bet anything when it comes to politics in Alberta.

  8. GoinFawr says:

    You can always tell your Premier is on the right track when the man-baby Kevin O’Leary refers to her as a,
    ” “vicious, poisonous, toxic cocktail” of mediocrity and incompetence who requires “an extreme amount of adult supervision.” ”

    Oh, and if anyone is wondering why I use the epithet “man-baby” in reference to the candidate for the federal ‘conservative’ leadership, take a look at the DD where O’Leary breaks into tears when he recalls his first job in an ice cream parlour, where he was asked to, well, do his job; so hard done by.
    I believe he even referred to his manager as a “witch”. The O’ Leary Man-baby solution: become one.

    • I like your take on this GoinFawr, O’Leary’s comment was beyond the pale but, as you said, it signals desperation. When O’Leary starts attacking provincial premiers instead of his CPC leadership rivals he’s run out of steam. Did you notice no federal or provincial conservatives have taken a shot at their hero Brad Wall. They’re such hypocrites.

  9. steverickettssp says:

    I have to say that I’m impressed with the level of discourse on this blog. great comments, good insight. not the all-too-typical mudslinging

  10. carlosbeca says:

    Steverickettssp – I agree 100%
    It is the only blog I know were the blogger wants a real conversation rather than telling us what is right.
    As far as the mudslinging, we are trying to set the tone for the politics of the future 🙂 🙂
    We understand this is a nice home for true democrats and we do not want that to change.

  11. Very well put Carlos. Thank you!!!

  12. Einar Davison says:

    I think maybe I gave some impression that I was attacking government bureaucracies. In the case of AHS I believe that is true and I believe a lot of that bureaucracy at the upper end was created to find patronage spots for PC faithful. No one has proven to me with any kind of facts that AHS has been more cost effective than when there was local governance. Really we are talking mainly about Calgary and Edmonton as being the largest health consumers and really before AHS there was the Calgary and Edmonton Health Services that seemed to function quite well without needing to become governed by the provincial government. That is an assumption, but I didn’t hear a lot of outrage back then. The balance of the provinces had local municipal or volunteer boards that also were reasonably low cost. In the space of about 10 years health care went from local ran to “super boards” and ultimately provincial control. As each merger happened many of the previous “bureaucrats” were carried along and I do believe in the end there was no cost savings, in fact if anything decision making were removed from local hospitals and became command and control from the province.
    I don’t believe firing everybody wholesale is the answer, nor cutting 5% of everyones budget willy nilly is going to work either. That of course is not the whole answer and even if we were to make the government hyper efficient, maybe we might only save a billion or two…maybe. I do believe though that Albertans deserve a government that works efficiently and doesn’t cost one penny more than necessary to get the optimum amount of benefit. I believe if Albertans know that our government is doing a good job of managing their tax dollars they will be willing to ante up further dollars in the form of a sales tax to ensure we stop subsidizing taxes and make our government sustainable.
    I may be wrong and maybe Albertans are all selfish and no longer care about “community and common good”. I don’t think so. I think there are a lot of people like myself who are cynical because our governments and our opposition parties over the last 20 years and including this one has cared more about getting and retaining power that they have not made decisions in the best interest of Albertans. They have also “managed and spun” the message that they have presented to Albertans and facilitated outcomes that were theirs and not truly Albertans. “Ralph Klein listens and he cares” of course he did because it was his message that he convinced Albertans was their message. It is easy to manipulate people when you play on their emotions but quietly neglect to inform them of the facts.
    I am not a rightwinger and the current batch of rightwingers make me physically ill and angry with all their noise and nonsense. Equally I am not a leftwinger, I have no issues with Rachel Notley, but many of her party members sound a little like quieter versions of the rightwing. I also dislike parties that slavishly adhere to ideology either right or left. To me ideology has started too many wars, has killed too many people and have brought great societies down. The BS that we have in this province right now is due to a large part of ideology. We need a government that speaks for all Albertans, not just the “right” ones or the ones who fell in love with some professors big idea.
    It’s time we put all that crap away and govern this province with “a steady hand on the rudder” and an eye on the destination. You can’t govern all Alberta with an ideology because as much as some would like to think all Albertans are in lockstep with theirs, that is not the truth and ones ideology will undoubtably offend someone. I would rather see a government with a vision of what this province will be over the next year and lead us to that, than hear their tired old ideology be it right or left. As well ensuring that every dollar collected is wisely spent. Where we spend as much as needed to get the job done, but not one penny more. In 2019 I will be looking for that party to vote for. One that is not afraid to make tough decisions, but will make them to limit the impact as much as possible. In closing you always hear rock radio stations talk about “more rock, less talk”. Well I want to see more governance and less stupidity from everyone.

  13. Einar, once again we’re pretty much in agreement. Let me pick up on the AHS versus regional health boards issue. I know a few doctors and hospital administrators who worked under the regional system before Klein and others decided to centralize everything. All of them think the regional system is a better system what we have today, but they point out that the one downside with regional boards was they tried to be all things to all people and were reluctant to accept the fact that certain procedures should not take place at the local level. The local MLAs often made matters worse by putting pressure on the government to build hospitals and other facilities where they really weren’t needed and install costly equipment because it made a great photo op. Bottom line: the government has to be prepared to make tough decisions in order to prevent duplication and waste.

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