I Surrender

I guess the fight is over. I'm wasting my time and yours.

I do apologise.

Now I just need to find my place in the trough and wait for the government to feed me.

She bribed the unionized teachers to get elected as leader and is now making the payment.


Oh, sorry, I forgot I surrendered.

I do apologise, again.

National Post Editorial Board: Alberta’s first NDP budget
National Post Editorial Board Feb 10, 2012 – 2:27 PM ET

One thing is obvious from Thursday’s Alberta budget: When the provincial Tories chose Alison Redford to lead their party and government last October, they were effectively selecting Alberta’s first NDP premier. The outrageously spendthrift 2012 budget could just as easily have been brought down by any left-wing government in the country.

The province’s fiscal plan throws money at every pet project Ms. Redford gave voice to during her campaign to succeed former premier Ed Stelmach. (And we thought Mr. Stelmach was too loose with a dollar.) Not only will recent years’ cuts in education spending be restored — and then some — to fulfill a promise Ms. Redford made in order to convince unionized teachers to take up Tory memberships in great numbers so they could vote for her leadership, the provincial daycare budget will be greatly expanded and some welfare payments will jump by a full third every month, at a combined cost to the provincial treasury of nearly half-a-billion dollars per year.

In a province with virtually no unemployment (indeed, thousands of job openings go begging each year) and the highest per capita income in the land by a wide margin, the Alberta government will nonetheless ramp up its spending by nearly 7% in the coming year to a record $41.1-billion. That works out to a whopping $10,800 for each of Alberta’s 3.8 million men, women and children. By comparison, Ontario spends just $9,000 per resident and Quebec just $8,400. Even Ottawa, which Albertans often complain is bloated and wasteful, spends just $7,800 per Canadian — 28% less per capita than Alberta. Neighbouring B.C. with nearly a million more residents and a reputation for lefty extravagance, has an annual budget with roughly the same level of expenditures as the budget delivered Thursday by Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert.

Alberta’s budget projects a deficit of nearly $900-million. If Mr. Liepert and Ms. Redford had managed to keep their cheque-writing pens in their pockets, and kept expenditures at 2011 levels, they could have recorded a $400-million surplus this year, rather than run up more red ink.

The province will take on no public debt as a result of its unbalanced budget — the fifth in a row — but it will drain its rainy-day Sustainability Fund. After this free-spending fiscal year, the reserve fund, which stood at $15-billion just three years ago, will be down to just $3.7-billion. If the province’s oversize projections for natural resource revenues — based on a long-term price for oil of $100 a barrel or more — prove overly optimistic, the fund could disappear entirely. Over the next two budget years, the government plans to increase total spending to over $44-billion.

The irony in the budget is that Finance Minister Liepert seemed to understand that this level of spending is unsustainable, even as he proudly announced more and more new programs and expansions to existing ones. “For too long, we have used all our resource revenues to pay our day-to-day expenses,” he said. “These revenues rise and fall with global economic fluctuations that we cannot predict and we sure can’t control.” And yet his promises of a balanced budget next year and a surplus of over $5-billion in 2014 were based almost exclusively on the assumption of a rise in resource revenues of 43% over the next two years.

Or perhaps Mr. Liepert and his boss, Premier Redford, know something they are not telling Albertans, who are expected to go to the polls within the next two or three months. The Finance Minister broadly hinted that higher taxes are in Albertans’ future when he insisted Alberta must “move away from volatile resource revenues to fund ongoing programs, and move toward a more sustainable revenue base.” Could he mean a provincial sales tax or even an HST, something Alberta has never had and which remains hugely unpopular with voters?

Alberta does not have a revenue problem. Even given the volatility of oil and natural gas revenues over time, the province already has more than enough annual income for it to sustain, say, Ontario-level spending, and still have plenty left over every year to store away for the day when its energy revenues dry up. The trick to fiscal sustainability in Alberta is not convincing the province’s taxpayers to cough up more, but convincing its decidedly left-of-centre Tory government to stop dropping billions on every funding request that crosses its desks.

National Post

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