Smith: Alberta is a financial disgrace. We need to hit the reset button

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Early in the COVID crisis, we found out that the government’s investment arm, AIMCo, took a $2.1-billion hit on a failed strategy betting on market volatility. But wait, there’s more.

Rachel Notley’s oil by rail scheme — remember the one that she told us would only cost $350 million? — has now cost us $2.1 billion to cancel and we aren’t done offloading the liability yet. Had enough? Not quite yet.

Ed Stelmach’s pet project to process bitumen in Alberta through the North West Redwater Partnership — remember how we were told failing to upgrade and refine bitumen ourselves was like a farmer scraping off the topsoil? —  has already lost us $1.9 billion and counting.

The Redford era sky palace pales in comparison to all this largesse.

We are a financial disgrace. No wonder the rest of the country is unsympathetic. Yes, we have given a lot to the rest of the country. Yes, the fiscal imbalance needs to be remedied. But for what? So irresponsible politicians here can continue to spend like there is no tomorrow?

There will be no tomorrow for Alberta if we don’t get our act together. Who will want to move here when we find ourselves crippled with public debt, bereft of resource revenues, with an aging population, a cost of public service delivery that is higher than the rest of the country, and nothing to show for it?

Much as I loved Klein, he didn’t keep up the tough love when we needed it most. In his last term, when resource revenues were surging, he should have begun to lock it away out of reach of all of us. Instead, he bought off progressives by spending an excessive and unsustainable amount on public services and he bought off conservatives by lowering taxes below the cost of delivering programs. Now the public service screams holy hell at the mention of austerity and taxpayers say they aren’t prepared to pay a dime more. I’m here to tell you: Everyone — on both sides of the political spectrum — needs to suck it up.

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