Saturday, December 08, 2018

It's hard to feel sorry for Alberta

I couldn't help but agree with Barrie McKenna's piece in today's Globe and Mail about how Alberta needs to stop acting like a spoilt and whiny prima donna, and start dealing with some of its problems in a more proactive way.
Alberta's Premier Rachel Notley is constantly whining about how Alberta is going through such a rough time, what with low oil prices and an ongoing difficulty in getting pipelines built (and getting people to buy their oil, for that matter), and how the rest of Canada "wilfully holds Alberta's economy hostage".
Part of the problem is that Alberta has just had it too good for so many years. It did not put away money during the decades when it made out like a bandit from high oil prices. It has stubbornly insisted on not levying a sales tax (because its glut of oil meant that it didn't need to), which could have built up the government coffers quite handsomely in anticipation of leaner years. Just for comparison, while Norway had it good, it accumulated trillions in savings for the inevitable day that the oil runs out; not so Alberta.
Alberta built up its oil business without even being sure that it could get that oil to market. It just assumed that pipelines would somehow miraculously get built, despite opposition to them on many fronts, both north and south of the border. It insisted on building an economy reliant on a single resource, despite evidence that oil is an ageing and moribund industry. It did not pursue diversification even though the writing has been on the wall for years now. It has resisted phasing out coal-powered electricity generation with a similar head-in-the-sand attitude.
It's kind of difficult to feel much sympathy for Alberta, especially now that its one-time superciliousness has given way to a new victim complex.

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