“Times have changed. I’d like to see a new leader take up the Opposition’s idea of establishing an Independent Budget Office. Albertans would welcome an objective set of eyeballs on the government’s finances. And let’s return to the simple and clear accounting rules used to get our government back in the black. The budget is one of the most important things the government does, because it drives almost everything else. Albertans sacrificed a lot to have a debt-free future. We don’t want that hard work put at risk, and we should be able to understand the government’s books.
It’s time to elect a party leader who’s prepared to say, ‘No, I won’t pull out the province’s chequebook to sign up instant Tories to win a leadership race.’
Looking back to 1993, Ralph Klein was just such a leader. I served on Ralph’s team and we were clear with Albertans: We were willing to risk losing the next election to do what’s right; to get the house in order again.
A conviction that government authority — not power — should be used carefully and in good faith, not with a heavy hand. That Albertans should be able to count on their government to provide for the modern delivery of quality health care and an education system that teaches our kids time-tested essentials along with the skills they need.
It’s leadership that says, ‘Doing the right thing for Alberta is more important than getting re-elected.’ Believing it, staying true to it and acting accordingly.”
- Jim Dinning: PC party must purge any sense of entitlement (Let principle trump expediency) By Jim Dinning, Edmonton Journal, April 2nd, 2014
That’s funny. What Principles do the Alberta Tories have? Hell, what principles animate any of the Alberta Political Parties. Premier Redford executed her plan badly but it was clear what the plan was. When it came to the Oil Industry, she wanted to implement a few simple lessons that she learned from Quebec separatists. The first one was simple: have a strong international presence. Or put differently, the Premier of Alberta should seem as important as the Canadian Federal Prime Minister. This is obviously what animated her to make trips to Washington, South Africa and develop a residence similar to that of Quebec’s Premier. Act like a national head of government or head of state and people will take notice.
The second lesson was something René Lévesque always said: provide the people with good government. That is why she changed the budgeting process. Like any corporation, the Government of Alberta separated capital spending from day to day programme spending. For it makes sense to pay off a school over its useful lifetime. That is how many of us buy a house. I don’t know anyone who buys a house with cash. Most people put something down – 10%, 15% or 20% – and pays the rest of the debt off over 10, 20 or 25 years. Given that Alberta doesn’t have its own currency, it makes sense to have that simple distinction between capital and programme spending. These are reasonable approaches to governing.
However, if one listens to the Wildrose or the Alberta Liberal Party, one would have thought that Ms. Redford had committed a crime. Yet, if someone were to ask Danielle Smith or Raj Sherman, how they would have fixed the problem of the provinces’ infrastructure deficit, both leaders could not have provided you an answer.
Just remember the last election, Danielle Smith said that the problem was that Alberta was spending too much. She wanted to cut budgets. There is only one problem to that assumption: all that the Stelmach and Redford governments have been doing is spending to fix infrastructure deficits. From 1983 onward, cities in Alberta were allowed to expand in uncontrolled ways. Instead of building up or creating density, cities like Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Medicine Hat were allowed to create large low density suburban communities. But those suburbs were not built with the hospitals, schools and roads that they needed. All the Stelmach and Redford did was build public infrastructure in those areas. I think it only makes sense to fix the problem of poor, province-wide urban planning. Yet, Danielle Smith does not agree. For, if Ms. le Smith was the Premier she would cut budgets and leave communities without necessary infrastructure.
While, I am predisposed to this way of thinking, I also experienced these policy choices in a real way. When I lived in Southern Ontario, I found myself having to drive from Ottawa to Toronto. To be fair, a couple of times, I found myself driving through parts of Gatineau, Quebec because I made a wrong turn in Ottawa. From my experience, main highways or back roads in winter, in both provinces, were pretty clear. I can honestly say that while I was in Ontario, I rarely found myself having to sleep over because the roads are not clear. Yet, in Alberta, I do have to plan a sleep over location should the road be too bad. Or put differently, Alberta is woefully underserviced. Alberta needs more and none of these choices are great or palatable; but they are necessary. In that time, did Danielle Smith or Raj Sherman put forth a plan. I didn’t see one.
Which brings me to what bothers me about Alberta Politics: Opposition Parties that criticize the PC Government without a vision of what they would do differently. Federally, one might criticize Trudeau, Harper, May, Mulcair and Bellavance, but each of them brings their party’s history, a clear vision and a party platform. Each of them knows where they want to take the country. However, can I say that about Alberta’s provincial political parties? I really can’t. As someone who is independent of thought – even when I bare a party affiliation – this troubles me, for I am left with no real options. I can either vote for a party that badly manages the province or a party that cannot manage the province at all. This is why I am not a partisan in Alberta party politics; this is why I have no provincial political home.