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.

Just Posted

Cow feeding economics for the 2019-20 winter season

Keep in mind prrice and availability of feed

Boat and trailer purchase necessary, hears county council

Several departments needed a better boat says CAO

Hot Habanero jelly good for a get-together

Homemade applesauce recipe in this week’s kitchen

First Nations given max compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

2016 ruling said feds didn’t give same funding for on-reserve kids as was given to off-reserve kids

Branco, Blatz-Morgan win City of Wetaskiwin by-election race Sept. 11

Branco records 761 votes, Blatz-Morgan 688: unofficial results

Fashion Fridays: 10 effortlessly stylish items for fall

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Red Deer Rebels drop preseason tilt to Tigers 5-3

Rebels fail to score after three first period goals

Canada Post has unfair advantage in distributing flyers: news group

Crown corporation argues newspapers, private operators deliver majority of flyers in Canada

Western Canadian Baseball team, stadium coming to Sylvan Lake

The Town announced they are finalizing an agreement to have a WCBL team in the future sports park

Sylvan Lake’s rainbow crosswalk defaced with homophobic message

The crosswalk was repainted Thursday morning to remove traces of the spray-painted words

Mounties lay secrets-law charges against one of their own

Cameron Ortis has been charged under the Security of Information Act

Canadian bobsledder Kaillie Humphries files lawsuit in bid to race for U.S.

Two-time world champion wants to expedite release from national team after filing harassment claims

Absent Trudeau is main target in leaders’ first election debate

Vying for third place, both NDP and Green leaders paint Liberals and Tories as establishment parties

Moose breaks into Fort St. John school district office

Conservation officers found the animal and determined it was fine, ‘all things considered’

Most Read