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Leading Alberta Out of a Financial Mess

Alberta is in financial trouble. The statement is almost impossible to believe given our vast wealth of resources.

Despite oil prices at historic highs of roughly $100 a barrel and Alberta collecting an astronomical $7 – 12 billion in royalties each of the last 4 years, the Redford PCs have us staring at a 5th consecutive deficit.

Ralph’s ‘rainy day’ fund has almost run dry, the Heritage Fund is now worth less than it was when Lougheed created it in 1976, and spending has literally doubled in 10 years.

Insert the adjective of your choice: embarrassing; appalling; irresponsible; immoral; incompetent; whatever word you choose the ugly truth is clear – our government has completely botched another energy boom and we have virtually nothing to show for it.

We could have had a Heritage Fund the size of Alaska’s or Norway’s, earning billions in interest to offset our reliance on volatile energy prices. We could have had a world class infrastructure with the schools and health facilities we needed instead of the largest and most expensive government bureaucracy in the country. We could have better managed and defended our crown jewel of oilsands riches instead of muddling and apologizing and losing PR battle after PR battle.

Thankfully there is still time to get it right with yet another energy boom likely in the not-too-distant-future; but getting it right this time will take true fiscal leadership starting at the top.

Next week I will be presenting the Wildrose Party position on MLA and Cabinet compensation to Justice Major who has been tasked with deciding how much Alberta politicians should make. Many observers have noted that the guidelines put in place for Justice Major to look at in considering this issue make it very likely that politicians will be handed yet another increase in pay and perks. This is completely unacceptable and Wildrose will oppose any such increase.

During my presentation, I will be asking Justice Major to recommend the following cut backs for politicians in his final report:
Roll back the 30% salary increases the Premier and Cabinet Ministers approved for themselves in 2008 right after being elected
Eliminate the tax-free portion of MLA salaries
Cut and cap transition allowances for retiring MLAs to one month’s pay per year of service to a maximum of 12 months (currently it is 3 months pay for every year served without a maximum, leading to, among other excesses, Kowalski’s 1.5 million retirement severance lottery ticket)
Freeze MLA and Cabinet salaries until the provincial budget is balanced
After the budget is balanced, index MLA and cabinet salaries to the rate of inflation rather than the average weekly wage index which is often double or triple the inflation rate
Mandate an independent MLA pay committee – representative of Alberta’s population – to review pay and benefits once every 8 years and have the committee report their recommendations 1 year before every second provincial election.
Allow the Legislature to vote on those committee recommendations and choose to either accept them or take less (taking more would be prohibited) prior to the subsequent election so voters can decide on whether they agree with their decision.
Alberta is in a fiscal mess. If we are going to get out of it, we need a Government that leads by example. Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party are prepared to do so…is Premier Redford?

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Rob Anderson

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