Watch out Alberta, the Feds are coming for your wallets
A new National Energy Program is en route – and this time it’s coming from the Tories.
As the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you. I don’t know how many remember the movie Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson, but there is a scene from the movie that reminded me of my behaviour yesterday. In the scene, Mel Gibson is cutting out sections of the newspaper and making lines connecting all these stories.
Yesterday, I found myself doing almost the same thing with the Edmonton Journal. First, I read an excellent article by Graham Thompson on how the lack of a climate change plan by the federal (and Alberta) governments is “self-destructive”, noting that “the federal government has not provided a workable plan to substantially reduce national [greenhouse gas] emissions”. This piece was spurred by the release of the report by the federal environment commission, Scott Vaughan, who noted that “unfortunately, the federal government is not doing what it said it would do to protect the environment and move toward sustainable development”. Clearly, despite the rhetoric, the federal Tory government have no plan to address climate change or greenhouse gas emissions. This is despite the strong belief by American officials in Canada that the Tories would move towards a plan in early 2009, as illustrated in one of the Wikileaks documents.
Secondly, there was a short piece by an Ottawa correspondent warning of a “tight budget” coming in early 2011. This will mean deciding on “priorities” to slash the federal deficit. How much do you believe that these priorities will be those that appeal to Ontario primarily? This from the government that racked up the largest deficit in Canadian history, $55.6 billion, and which spent $1 billion on a one day conference in Toronto this year. Interestingly, in the budget speech in March 2010 it was stated that “In three years’ time the deficit will be cut by two thirds”. This would mean that at least $37 billion would need to be cut from the federal budget by 2013. It is unlikely that this government will actually follow up with their promise, but for the moment it stands.
Thirdly, despite the above, the story in the newspaper yesterday was that the federal government is still planning to spend $9 billion on fighter jets, the total of which will also rise to around $16 billion including maintenance. This number assumes that there is no increase in this cost, but multiple previous large military purchases have proved to be much more expensive than initially considered, and already many are predicting that this will rise much higher.
What do I read from these various articles? My view is that the federal Tories will be coming forward with a budget in spring that will slash spending, despite the fact that they managed the federal budget appallingly badly, not only have they been massively financially lax, but repeatedly misjudging the deficit they were running up and in February of 2010 they were claiming the budget deficit would be $39.4 billion.
The budget slashing will continue with the previous approach of taking between $20 – $25 billion dollars every year from Albertans. However, I think it will get worse. Under the guise of a plan to deal with greenhouse gases, I expect taxes on Albertan companies will increase, even though they are already higher than taxes for other industries. This will be sold in Ontario as Quebec, as well as internationally, as a “plan” to demonstrate the governments commitment to greenhouse gas emissions, but others have called this a clear tax grab.
Think this won’t happen? This was the government that promised very firmly in its election platform that it wouldn’t change the rules around income trusts. However, they decided to make a complete U-turn when problems started arising in Ontario and Quebec with companies there. Guess who was hardest hit by these changes? Yup, Alberta companies. Even in November, this was described by a business columnist on CBC radio as “one of the worst economic decisions this government has ever made”. Remember all the changes Alberta wanted to the Senate, but none of which have actually happened. Still think Alberta won’t get shafted yet again?
This will be yet another way that the federal Tories have hammered Alberta. These include the recent refusal to support an Alberta Expo which was planned to showcase the commitment to greener energy (compared to funding the Pan-Am games in Toronto to the tune of $500 million, ironically will end up building an NHL arena in Hamilton despite refusing public support for arenas anywhere else), the $850 annual deficit in federal health dollars, and the way that Alberta was shafted over the decision not to place the National Portrait Gallery in Alberta, once it became clear that Alberta was the only place that could host it.
When Albertans end up voting overwhelmingly for the federal Tories in the next general election despite anything that happens in the budget, as they undoubtedly will, don’t say you haven’t been warned and don’t expect anything different from the federal Tories than Albertans would expect from the federal Liberals.
Unfortunately, all this smoke and mirrors will be in lieu of a real plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands, or a plan to mitigate global warming.