OPINION Kitchen table talk: Alberta’s legacy

OPINION Kitchen table talk: Alberta’s legacy

County of Wetaskiwin MLA says NDP government’s legacy is mired in red ink, hardship for Albertans

Kitchen Table Talk is a forum consisting of a small group of Official Opposition MLAs who each week, get together to talk through a legislative policy issue. As part of the process, a short commentary is compiled and edited. The editorial committee members include Ron Orr (Lacombe-Ponoka); Drew Barnes (Cypress-Medicine Hat); Scott Cyr (Bonnyville-Cold Lake); Mark Smith (Drayton Valley-Devon); Dave Schneider, (Little Bow).

A legacy is something we leave after we’re gone. Some families leave financial legacies. For others, a legacy can be good character passed from grandparents to children to grandchildren.

Farm and ranch families leave legacies that involve turning over the work of earlier generations to a new one, positioning them to begin their journey from a more advantageous starting point. They recognize that younger family members are able to build upon the labour and efforts of those who’ve gone before.

Governments also leave a legacy—a set of lasting circumstances that will influence people’s lives. One of Canada’s more unfortunate political legacies can be seen today in Ontario. The province has shed more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs due to a number of factors, including runaway electrical rates (among the highest in North America) and unrestrained government spending.

Ontario is now the world’s largest sub-sovereign (non-national government) borrower. According to Ontario’s Consolidated Debt Portfolio, its outstanding debt is $332 billion. In the past, the province has paid as much as 15.5 per cent of its revenues on interest. Any rise in interest could easily create serious problems for legislators and taxpayers, because every dollar spent on interest is a dollar that can’t be used for education, health, or seniors.

For many years, Alberta’s political legacy was the envy of the nation. It is said that Premier Ernest Manning’s home number was in the public phone book. Anybody could call him. Premier Peter Lougheed left Albertans with the Heritage Trust Fund and a legacy of economic development.

Ralph Klein’s legacy was fiscal restraint and his genuine love for Alberta. Klein became premier at a time when the province was wallowing in red ink. Back then, interest on debt consumed nearly 10 per cent of provincial revenue—equal to 32 per cent of health spending, 36 per cent of education spending, and 75 per cent of social services spending.

As premier, Klein knew that if Alberta didn’t get a handle on its debt, the province’s legacy would be one of financial bondage instead of opportunity and financial freedom. He stopped the drain. Though some people later vilified him, the truth is that by eliminating the debt, Klein saved health and education. As premier, he even protected these two portfolios from the deep spending cuts applied elsewhere.

Alberta’s present political legacy is now being carved out by the New Democratic government. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good. Rather than maintaining a legacy of fiscal responsibility, our current government is creating a long-term financial dilemma—a mountain of debt that will hang like an albatross around the necks of Albertans for decades to come—sharply influencing the way citizens and future governments will be forced to budget and spend.

Our premier says that Alberta taxpayers will owe $70-$80 billion by 2019-20. Her fiscal planning thus far has resulted in multiple credit downgrades, which in the end, drive up interest costs paid by taxpayers.

In the past, Albertans have always risen to the need of the hour, making the decisions necessary to ensure a legacy of financial freedom and opportunity. Now, to maintain and renew this proud legacy will require growing numbers of men and women, elected and otherwise, who will insist upon fiscal responsibility from the capitol.

Only by protecting our financial legacy can we protect our future, and the important role that our province plays in Canada.

My door is always open and I’m available to assist with any concerns.

Mark Smith is the Wildrose MLA for the Drayton Valley-Devon constituency, including much of the County of Wetaskiwin. He can be reached by phone 780-542-3355 toll free 1-800-542-7307, Drayton Valley – Devon constituency office Box 7272 Drayton Valley, AB, T7A 1S5, email draytonvalley.devon@assembly.ab.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

New Mulhurst Bay playground. Photo/ County of Wetaskiwin.
 New Mulhurst Bay playground. Photo/ County of Wetaskiwin.
 New Mulhurst Bay playground. Photo/ County of Wetaskiwin.
New Mulhurst Bay Playground

New Mulhurst Bay playground completed.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

Pipestone Community committee members and core rink volunteers each put in 600 hours of volunteer work to renovate the Pipestone Community Rink this year. From left to right: Andy Dansereau, Colton Huber, James Huber, and Dave Pockrant. Shaela Dansereau/Pipestone Flyer.
New renovations complete on Pipestone Community Outdoor Skating Rink

New boards and chain-link fence on sides of rink to reduce puck loss.

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at B.C. campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

A pedestrian wears masks while out walking in front of the Alberta Legislature as the COVID-19 numbers spike in Edmonton on Tuesday November 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Doctor says Alberta restrictions not enough to reduceCOVID-19 strain on hospitals

Mithani notes people are still allowed to gather indoors at large places of worship and in bars,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

Ilaria Rubino is shown in this undated handout image at University of Alberta. Alberta researcher Rubino has developed technology allowing mostly salt to kill pathogens in COVID-19 droplets as they land on a mask. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Alberta
Alberta researcher gets award for COVID-19 mask innovation

The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval.

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer. (Photo submitted)
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Most Read