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Alberta Conservatives Are Losing Support – Heritage Fund Takes Beat Down

Great Oil Sands Article in the Globe Interviewing ex-Premier Peter Lougheed

**Re released after six months. Today the AB government, after years in power, have hit a new low stating a deficit of over 4 billion is to be expected this year. It’s hard to swallow because of the immense wealth this province had and how short sighted conservative politicians spent it all. Those moves will come back to haunt this province.***

One thing that Albertans under the age of 30 just don’t comprehend is why those over 45 are ripping the natural resources from the ground to fatten their already grossly overpaid bank accounts. What’s even harder to swallow is the government in charge is doing everything in their power to facilitate the process.

There used to be a bumper sticker in the early 80’s: “Oh lord, give us another boom and i won’t piss it away.” We got another one, and yes, the conservatives have pissed most of it away.

The development of Alberta’s oilsands is in full swing despite economic recession. The breakneck speed is chewing up the oil while simultaneously ripping up the environment. That’s a double whammy for the generations of tomorrow. Of course, to politicians and their voters it makes zero difference what tomorrow gives. Since the Lougheed there has been no attempt to reclaim the value placed in oil revenue for future generations. One could argue that Ralph Klein managed to eliminate the debt thereby paving the road to future investment in infrastructure, health, and of course the ‘Heritage Fund‘ (endowment fund made of oil revenues).

The Stelmech government has not only gone into debt, but no additional payments have been made into the AHF because apparently 11 billion is enough (which is where it’s at now given it’s latest 3 billion dollar loss). Alaska has an endowment fund that has pretty much eliminated the need for state tax, Alberta can’t be bothered to add money to their fund for a few reasons:

1) The voters are not young, thus they only care about short term benefits for those who put them into office. A punch in the gut to lazy under-30 somethings who don’t bother to elect officials who represent their perspectives.

2) They (Stelmach and others) actually BOAST that they ‘shore up’ the AHF from inflation. In fact, one year they actually PUT money into the fund (just over 1 billion or about 1/3 of surplus that year (’08)) and they thought they were gods. Turns out we don’t generally ADD money to the fund, just let the interest accumulate. Thus energy revenues are spent as quick as they are earned. Kind of a like a teenage girl with a limitless credit card.

Had the government not stopped adding royalty monies into the fund this is what we’d have (which other provinces covet but we spent on….stuff) over 160 billion–a number the Globe & Mail likes to point out repeatedly.
Alberta Heritage Fund COuld Have been
A nice case of nearsighted fiscal management. We had the potential to eliminate taxes and prepare for the future spike in health related costs due to an aging population. Do we invest in this future goal? Although we feign interest in reality Alberta’s politicians are not this forward thinking.

17 billion (now 14 after one year’s worth of losses) is NOT anywhere near these numbers, and yes, you should be scared because 14 billion would only last a few years (especially considering in ONE single year 18% of the fund was lost to the markets).

3) We’re all about making profits for private firms. Alberta is certainly the free-market enterprise province of the country. We’re more interested in letting people make their millions stripping natural resources rather than protecting something for tomorrow. So on one hand we can’t complain since we have a ‘chance’ to get rich on our own if we’re ambitious enough I guess…

Think I’m alone? Thankfully there was a politician who agrees with me. Peter Lougheed was interviewed in the Globe & Mail in a delightfully honest portrayal of how Alberta has single handedly screwed itself over because of short-sighted politicians more interested in a buck for their friends than long term sustainability for their province.

We’re not the only ones in the world that have noticed the ineptitude either. Even columnists and commentaries have noted the shortsightedness of our MLAs.

Let’s do something about it, elect officials who actual give a damn about the future of Alberta.

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