Stuff Still Happens, week 15: Rachael getting harried

The first, 100% NDP Alberta budget was released on Thursday, and it was a jaw dropper.

Faced with a stunning decline in oil and gas revenues (two years ago, the government earned about $9 billion in revenues from oil and gas; this year, $1.4 billion) and soaring unemployment, the government chose to run up deficits. Lots and lots of deficits. And hope like hell that oil and gas prices rebound. The government will keep building, keep spending. Basically, business as usual. Just with borrowed money, that’s all.

That’s quite a strategy, isn’t it?

This year, the government will borrow $10.4 billion just to keep the lights on. Next year, another $10 billion. The next year, about $8 billion. On and on, and up and up, it goes. The situation is so dire, the NDP will have to repeal a law it instituted last fall that restricts the province’s debt to 15 per cent of the gross domestic product.

The NDP will also carry on with its carbon levy (a.k.a. tax) that will increase the price of gasoline and natural gas. The intent is to force the public to cut its fossil fuel usage, but by how much, the government really doesn’t know. To soften the blow, the government will give rebates to qualified Albertans — including families that make under $100,000. About 60% of the population will get a rebate.

Here’s the bottom line. Nobody can blame the government for the collapse in oil prices, nor for the fact that this province is still almost entirely dependent upon oil and gas revenues. Nobody wants health care or education gutted, and building infrastructure projects during a down economy makes perfect sense. But the NDP seems to have made almost zero attempt to cut spending. Somewhere. Anywhere. And judging from the beaming smile on Rachael Notley’s face in the customary post-budget photo ops, this is a great idea. Don’t worry, be happy.

I think it’s time to admit that this is the new reality for Alberta. The days of $100 a barrel oil are over. The world is on the way to using less and less of what we produce and sell. I doubt it we’ll ever be awash in petro-dollars ever again. The new Alberta is here, and its time for Albertans — and for the Alberta government — to face up to the new reality.

The NDP’s Leap of Logic

Late Sunday, the federal NDP finally acted like every other political party in Canada — lose an election, turf your leader.

Delegates at the NDP convention in Edmonton gave the bearded one, Tom Mulcair, a resounding vote of non-confidence, forcing him to resign. What’s unusual about this is that the NDP has a long tradition of being grateful that anyone would lead them, giving their leaders much more leeway than the other parties.

But not this time.

With hopes sky high that the Dippers could actually form government, the results of the 2015 election — returning the NDP to its traditional third place position — wasn’t good enough for the new, power-mad NDP. So Mulcair is out (in two years), which is news enough. But the conventioneers also approved the grandly titled Leap Manifesto (a better name would have been Leap of Logic) which calls for Canada to become fossil-fuel free within 30 years, resulting in a shutdown of all oil and gas production. The manifesto is full of pie-in-the-sky, not-gonna-happen ideas that it sounds like it was written by a high school social studies student. The Leap Manifesto is ludicrous that even Rachel Notley had to call it “naive”, “ill-informed” and “tone deaf”, repudiating it in no uncertain terms. The NDP will spend two years discussing the manifesto, so it may never become party policy. Poor Rachel Notley, meanwhile, will have to wear this hair-brained piece of far left gibberish for the same two years.

Death comes to Ottawa

The Trudeau government introduced its right-to-die legislation this week. Doctors will be allowed to end the lives of Canadians, without fear of legal repercussions, under very specific circumstances. The circumstances, however, are quite restrictive, and a lot of right-to-die advocates are accusing the government of cowardice. Only people whose death is “reasonably foreseeable” will be allowed to be put to death. This would exclude people with severe dementia, or those in excruciating pain whose illness will not kill them anytime soon. I guess it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s a disappointingly small step.


David Gest, 62, best known as the husband of Liza Minelli, a marriage not made in heaven …  Balls Mahoney, 44, professional wrestler. I’ve never heard of him, but I just wanted to include the name Balls Mahoney.




By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

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