Category Archives: Politics

Alberta Election Reflections

Everyone is shocked.  I haven’t spoken to one person yet who saw this NDP majority landslide coming.  In retrospect, the passion at the ballot box was a healthy endorsement of democracy in lieu of climate rife with wasted taxpayer money and untrustworthy politicians.  Many would purport the ruling Progressive Conservatives as elitist and out of touch.  Even the sudden exit of Jim Prentice after having won his seat had a scent of arrogance while he shunned his constituents and superimposed a semblance of family responsibility to cover for his great escape in a debacle partly of his making.  The old boys club is no more.  The halls of power in parliament have shifted and for the sake of our economy dominated by the oil and gas sector, we hope that calm words from Rachel Notley translate into rational policy.

NDP administrations in other Canadian Provinces have had difficulty hosting an economic climate of vigor through words and deeds which business leaders had come to believe as threatening to progress.  Business equals risk and risk deploys capital.  Capital seeks homes where returns are reasonable and regulatory hurdles are in line with good common sense.  All stakeholders are provided due care.

Trouble arises when irrational sentiment blurs the common good. Cause and purpose can be superseded  by competing interests lost in the internal dynamics of an operating environment. Fearful that followers will lose faith if concessions are undertaken for the betterment of sound policy, leaders become distracted by whispering chatter of intransigent discontents.

Alberta is embarking upon an experiment of inexperienced politicians whom first must become versed in parliamentary procedure.  They’ll come to learn the nuances of drafting legislation that will impact the lives of a constituency.  Time will tell if they possess the capacity to be balanced, open, and sensible.

Alberta Budget Attempt At Salvation

Do you remember Premier Stelmach’s old O&G royalty framework that had the well intentioned effect of harnessing more oil royalty revenue for the province’s treasury?  Well, the Calgary old boys club took fast Eddie aside and had him dismantle it.  Combine this with some sweetheart deals for public servants and brutal management of the public purse and you get our current budgetary quagmire.  Rocket science it’s not.  Particular interest groups were well served while average non-resource and non-governmental sector citizens stepped up and paid and paid and paid primarily for a health care system that represents approximately forty-five per cent of the pie.  We are not simpletons Mr Prentice.  We Albertans understand that the top marginal rate in Alberta for combined federal and provincial income tax is 39 per cent and of the federal component we pay, there are transfers back to the province in the amount of $ 5,477,000 (2015-2016) to assist with the operation of our health and social systems.

Had they increased income taxes for those earning less than $100,000, there would have been major political fall-out.  On this count, they get it right today. Frankly, I’m surprised that the percentage increase wasn’t higher.   In regards to sin taxes, certainly the hospitality industry may feel an affect (bigger cover charge coming at the Boudoir Rouge?) somewhat but in the context of the magnitude of the problem, a thumbs up to this measure and one more nudge toward those in search of healthier living.  To the speeders and violators of traffic rules, we look forward to more of your money but I ask, what about the “distracted drivers”.  Certainly we could have hit them with a four-fold increased fine.

I have no problem with an increase in user fees in the context of our problem.  If you are going to take your monster truck into crown lands and expunge our province’s natural beauty, then we can get you to pay for reclamation.  A nerve struck somewhere for certain?   No reclamation bond yet but camper’s fees on the rise at provincial parks.

As for the gas tax, Albertans deserve an increase.  I don’t know how many driver-only occupied luxury loaded four by fours I see bearing down on my bumper nowhere near rush hour in Calgary.  Once they find and opening and scream by, I see their bull balls dangling from the chassis and wonder why they’re taking their toy downtown.   Make ‘em pay.

Although not a simpleton, the ego and brazen ruggedness of the cowboy prevented him from entertaining a sales tax for fear of being chastised by the brother from B.C.

Sales Tax On The Table For Aberta

The problem with a consumption tax is that it discourages spending and it’s distasteful to an electorate which prides itself by being sales tax free .  Implementing a sales tax now would be done amidst a climate of mismanagement operated by the PC government over the past ten years.  Pay raises to the provincial public sector have significantly outpaced private sector pay.  An entitlement culture has permeated the halls of Edmonton’s legislature and the old boys’ club downtown Calgary is starting to feel the pinch with the oil price falling off a cliff.

At one point our old Premier Stelmach attempted to make a course adjustment with his new “royalty framework” which ultimately had the goal of capturing more of the resource revenue for the benefit of the province’s purse.   We know what happened to him and we know what he’s thinking now in the context of the red ink starting to flow from the pens of government accountants and big talk of a new sales tax.

New revenue generating ideas concocted by the Prentice government will all be perpetrated from a position of weakness generated by years of “living for today” and cowering to the demands of public sector unions and oil executives.  Is he now asking for a “mandate” or will he step up and lead the province with some acknowledgment that it’s not the average tax paying Albertan who has created the revenue mess – it’s the policies and mismanagement drummed up by his party.

Washington Gridlock

I’m not really sensing that the Republicans are heeding the election results given the continuing saga of Washington gridlock.  The U.S. is due to raise taxes on 98% of the populous come January 1, 2013 yet the perpetual feet dragging remains.  The scuttle butt on Capitol Hill has everything to do the words of one diplomat on a Sunday talk show instead of a solution to this impending fiscal cliff.  I suggest that these overpaid bickering politicians get off their rusty dusty and start solving the nations financial affairs because as of this day every man, woman and child owes less than friendly nations something in the neighborhood of $55,000 and counting every single day.  Liberals will argue that this is sustainable.  Right wing radicals will complain that the slightest tax increase to those earning over $250,000 per year will be a curse to the trickle down economic theory as espoused by them to be the magic bullet which will ultimately relieve the nation of its fiscal woes.

The political establishment and its cronies which spend too much time giving an ear to corporate lobby groups and too little time drafting simple common sense legislation that works are now in a quandary because the legislative houses are still split down the middle again with too little power granted the President as a tie breaking convener of the people.  It’s ironic that every single U.S. politician I’ve ever witnessed who has commented on the founder’s intention and the mastery of the constitution has basked in the brilliance of the document but here sits a nation in financial peril with much blame assignable  to Washington’s dysfunction at the legislative level.

Could the United States of America go broke?  Is it already broke?  What are the consequences of default?  Is the monetary system as we know it going to collapse? There have been many bright alternative economic prognosticators who have been asking theses questions since the first noticeable uptick in the gold prices.  Now it appears that the mainstream economic think tanks are finally starting to give credit to those who have been beating the drum of fiscal responsibility for years even prior to the Iraq war.

I’m currently reading James Rickard’s Currency Wars.  This fellow had been retained by the CIA to conduct war games given the hypothesis of a destabilizing world monetary system.