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Public policy choices: A horrible year or a wonderful year

Smith quotes Harper on what makes good public policy

As I reflected on 2018 I was reminded of the now famous statement of Queen Elizabeth II as she thought back upon the year 1992.

1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. … it has turned out to be an “Annus Horribilis”. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so.

Many of us look back on the year 2018 and remember a “horrible year” dominated by economic issues that threatened the livelihoods of many Albertans and threatened the economic and national stability of Canada.

Lost jobs, business closures and house foreclosures have been the reality that many have faced and they have, at least partially, been the result of bad government policy and decision making.

Governments can, and often have, stifled economic growth. In the year 2018 we have witnessed governments:

• delay pipeline construction,

• work to pass bad legislation like Bill C-69,

• increase provincial and federal debt loads,

• create high tax burdens on citizens and companies,

• pass over reaching environmental legislation,

• and increase red tape.

All of these actions have all stymied business and wealth creation and made it easier to work or spend capital anywhere but in Alberta.

Indeed much of this “Annus Horribilis” has been the result of elected officials that have either never understood or forgotten what good public policy should look like.

In his recently published book, “Right Here, Right Now” former Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses what good public policy should look like.

Good public policy should:

• have an aspirational goal,

• consider and reflect public thought,

• at the very least do no harm,

• and establish an economic environment that will create jobs.

He points out that:

…mere sentiment is not sufficient to make good public policy. The policy maker has to understand why something is good public policy and continually evaluate how it is playing out. And if it is not working out well for the public, in a democracy, you fix the policy; you do not denounce the public.

Make no mistake, public policy that ignores public concerns, pursues its goal without real debate or public consensus and which is detached from economic reality is doomed to failure.

I believe that if we had measured many of the public policy decisions made at all levels by this standard we could have sidestepped much of the pain of 2018.

It would be my wish that government decision making would reflect the attributes outlined by Stephen Harper and less like the policy decisions of certain federal and provincial governments presently in power.

Then, perhaps, our year of “Annus Horribilis” will be replaced by its flip side, “Annus mirabilis” or “wonderful year” for that is what I would wish you for this coming year of 2019.

Mark Smith is MLA for the Drayton Valley-Devon constituency.