Macleans magazine’s cover story this week is about the tremendous wealth that is being generated in Alberta as the result of oil and gas. Half way through the article as they talk about hundreds of billions in tax revenue – mostly for Alberta – ($200 billion between now and 2025) and the tens of thousands of new jobs – I got this overwhelming sense of irony.
In the midst of all this massive prosperity, Alberta continues to be the province where the most corporate welfare is doled out. Where the government subsidizes industry more than any other province. Go figure.
Most of these government subsidies go to one industry, agriculture, but you have to be amazed at a political context that would allow one province to get so wealthy that it is even rivalling Texas as the most successful economy in the world, and still find ways to pump billions in subsidies – mostly from other provinces – into industry in that province.
A cynic like me, not really, would say something like this. The government of Alberta – right now- could give every farmer in the province $600,000 in cash and still not have the level of debt that we have in New Brunswick. Yet, they still take billions in federal subsidies to bail out their industries.
When I read this, I sometimes think we should cut down every tree in the province and increase our agriculture by 600%. We could build a massive agricultural economy and then sit back and wait for billions in government subsidies – guilt free.
I would prefer this to billions in Employment Insurance – at least people would be working.
But I digress.
My central point here is that some regions get lucky like Alberta and others get smart like Ireland.
We need the latter approach.