Learning from Alberta’s lesson

“Over the decades, Alberta lost its focus,” said the Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon.

The 2016 Speech from the Throne contains several items that give hope for the future.

There is a focus on agriculture and protecting local food supplies, attention to climate change and First Nations issues, and pledges to do something about the soaring price of housing that could lock a generation out of home ownership.

Near the beginning of the document, there is a section that would have seemed bizarre just a few short years ago.

British Columbians are warned about the economic trap that has enveloped Alberta.

“Over the decades, Alberta lost its focus,” said the Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon, speaking for Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal government. “They expected their resource boom never to end, failed to diversify their economy and lost control of government spending.”

For decades, and particularly during the 1990s when the NDP were in power in B.C., it was popular to emphasize how much B.C. could learn from Alberta. It seemed British Columbia was somehow to blame for not sitting atop a giant lake of oil during a time of rising fossil fuel prices.

Now, unfortunately for Albertans, the bust that follows all booms has arrived. And it turns out that rather than wisely investing, successive Conservative governments squandered the oil-generated wealth on government spending and low taxes.

We shouldn’t be too quick to point fingers. B.C. has a more diversified economy, but we still depend on many natural resources that are subject to the rising and falling tides of the world economy. And our own government is still going forward with plans for liquefied natural gas – albeit more slowly.

It’s good that we’re wary of falling into Alberta’s trap. But hopefully our government will learn the larger lesson – that there is no economy so successful that it can’t be dealt a blow by factors entirely outside the control of any premier or legislature.

–Black Press