Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

‘Conservative’ Alberta is wildly outspending everbody else

with 3 comments

Scott Hennig Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

So he gets a big slab of space in the Vancouver Sun to bleat on about the province’s next door’s spending. Well I suppose we should be grateful to have any newspaper at all on a public holiday – and I must admit I was surprised that anything at all appeared on Labour Day.

Alberta is debt free, and is awash with cash from the oil patch. Which be it noted is a “non-renewable resource revenue”. The comparisons with Latvia and Pakistan are bizzare. What is really shocking is that Alberta now spends more than BC (gasp!)

Mr Hennig does not note that this is a reversal of earlier policies. For years Alberta has had budget surpluses and not spent on essential infrastructure – or even badly needed social programs. Ralph Klein was very proud of being tight fisted when he didn’t have to be. But not a few people began to notice that sometimes this is self defeating. For example, the road north to the oil patch was only two lanes and in shocking disrepair,and under great stress. There were desperate problems of housing for workers in the oil patch.

Since Klein’s departure, the province has been playing catch up. Edmonton now has an almost entirely new bus fleet – and is even thinking of doing a major overhaul of some of its 30 year old light rail cars  (the optimum time for a mid life refit is 20 years). Benefits of having better, newer equipment – less breakdowns, lower operating costs, more reliable service. All well worth paying for.

The problem for the Taxpayers Federation is that they do not like any spending. They do not see government as providing essential services or that the taxpayer is entitled to see good quality services for their taxes, services which are effective as well as efficient.

Edmonton is tossing around cash like it will be pumped from the ground forever. This policy has already cost Albertans more than they will ever know.

Pure hyperbole. The oil and gas revenues are not going to stop for a while. “Forever” is never in any government’s mind. It is all they can do to think up to the next election. And of course Albertans will know -n because one of things they spend money on is the public accounts which the Federation will of course spend much time pouring over in search of profligacy.

Most people will not be suckered in for long by this nonsense. Government spending is not “bad” just becuase it is not private spending. And most people will appreciate better facilities. And more and better transit is just one of things that does not come from giving people tax refunds.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 1, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Economics

3 Responses

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  1. The facts about Pakistan and Latvia were just that, interesting facts. No commentary needed, just amusing.

    And no, we don’t oppose all spending. That is pure hyperbole.

    And you are incorrect, the underlying point of the entire article is that “the taxpayer is entitiled to see good quality services for their taxes, servcies which are effective as well as efficient.” We are not getting that in Alberta.

    We pay premium dollars for sub-par services. How can BC have shorter waitlists for surgical services while Alberta spends way more per person on health care? That’s the point. We spend a lot and get very little. So, we can either figure out how to get more out of our money or spend less and get the same, plus have more money in our pockets. Either way, it’s better than what we have now.

    Scott Hennig

    Scott Hennig

    September 3, 2008 at 12:31 pm

  2. It is news to me that surgical wait lists are shorter in BC – that is certainly not the message that we have been hearing from the same media that host you, who have been concentrating recently on how many people have to be sent south of the order to get treatment.

    Choosing how to spend government money is an area where I feel I have some qualifications and experience. Indeed I have killed more truly silly projects than well thought out ones that I have actually endorsed. And that happens all over the world and with governments from every part of the political spectrum. That is because politics has become more about serving the group that votes for you, or making sure of winning elections, not having an objective, quantified way of assessing both projects and programs. And, by the way, I have also identified and endorsed some private sector initiatives too that proved their worth in the market place.

    Actually my heroine is Sheila Fraser. Would that we had many more civil servants like her.

    And sometimes, you have to admit, leaving people to spend more money in their own pockets has not been a very astute policy. We only have to look at the disaster area that the US economy has become to see the complete failure of that right wing prescription. And they are not against government spending either – as long as it is for defence or “law ‘n’ order” – and results in fat contracts for Republican supporters. But how popular you can be when all you do is recite “have another tax cut, support our troops, go shopping”.

    Stephen Rees

    September 3, 2008 at 1:22 pm

  3. […] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by BTal on 2008-09-20 ‘Conservative’ Alberta is wildly outspending everbody else […]

    Bookmarks about Rail

    October 8, 2008 at 7:45 pm


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