After a career spanning four decades with the Alberta government, it is with little surprise that I watch what the Alberta government does next. It seems that laws as well as promises are made to be broken, especially in Alberta.
In the early and mid 1990’s Alberta, under the leadership of Ralph Klein, led Alberta into an era of deficit free, debt free existence. This came at a price of course. Albertans had to get used to many user pay services, school taxing taken over by the province, closing of hospitals, reduction in government services and a host of costs passed down the line to municipalities. But it also came with a promise, a law proclaiming Alberta would never run a deficit again.
Running a province debt free and deficit free is not that hard to do IF you stay within guidelines. That means not spending or committing any more money than you are bringing in by way of normal, sustainable taxation, not being dependant on oil revenues and diversifying the provincial economy to ensure that this happens.
The Alberta government decided not to follow these simple requirements and decided instead to spend! spend! spend! Spending money in places that would ensure their re-election in the short term. Squandering the future of Albertans with no plan B.
I saw wage roll backs, layoffs within the government and strict enforcement with departments to “stay within budget” or else. I saw government employees take the brunt of the financial woes that preceded the era of debt free/ deficit free living. And in the end, when we had reached the goal, it felt good. It felt like we had a grip on government spending. We were providing the people of Alberta the services they needed at a cost they could afford. The sacrifices had been worth it.
And now the Albert Government is posting a 6.9 BILLION dollar deficit because it lacked the wisdom to follow their own standards and laws. What a slap in the face for the people and employees of Alberta. What a slap in the face for the government employees who had given up so much to bring about prosperity to the province. Ralph Klein must be seething in contempt at what has happened to his legacy. It’s almost enough to drive a man to drink.
After the “Boom” of the 1980’s, when the oil industry left Alberta devastated, there was a bumper sticker that could be seen on many vehicles. It read:
“Please God Give us another Boom. We promise we won’t piss it away again!”
He did! and They Did!