Alberta is often compared to Norway, another oil-rich economy. A reader of my site, AlbertaLife, who recently moved to Alberta, has sent me the following information on the Norwegian economy:
The Norwegian economy is a prosperous bastion of welfare capitalism, featuring a combination of free market activity and government intervention. The government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector (through large-scale state enterprises). The country is richly endowed with natural resources – petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals – and is highly dependent on its oil production and international oil prices, with oil and gas accounting for one-third of exports.
Norway contributes sizably to the EU budget. With arguably the highest quality of life worldwide, Norwegians still worry about that time in the next two decades when the oil and gas will begin to run out. Accordingly, Norway has been saving its oil-boosted budget surpluses in a Government Petroleum Fund, which is invested abroad and now is valued at more than $150 billion.
The reader then goes on:
[I] am shocked at the amount of poor people and those left out of the economy.
Norway has about 1 million more residents than Alberta. Virtually an identical economy. Albertas GNP last year was 150 billion. Norway’s was 180 billion.
The thing I find absolutely incredible is that [Norway] is a welfare state and contributes billions a year to the EU while at the same time it has managed to put aside 150 billion as a fund when the oil runs out! It also looks after its [responsibilities as a country] and we aren’t just talking about provincial!!
I have been to Norway and I can tell you first hand that people live a much much better life than Albertans. Has Klein really done a good job?
Well, dear reader, the answer to that would be: No, he hasn’t. As a taxi driver recently told me, given Alberta’s economic situation, you could have put a monkey in the premier’s office, and even that monkey would have had a hard time trying to mess things up. He also mentioned that if Klein had been premier of a province like Saskatchewan, he would have failed miserably.
Putting money aside for a rainy day is what any smart, intelligent and sensible person does. For a province, it makes even more sense. However, Klein has been wasting money like a federal Liberal (or a drunken sailor, as some Albertans tend to say more and more often these days), and it is only now, after much pressure from the opposition parties such as the Alberta Liberals, that Klein has finally decided to put $1 billion towards the Heritage Fund.
Let’s be blunt here: Alberta is rich, but it could be filthy rich, if we had played our cards right. Unfortunately, relying on Klein’s stewardship of the province was a bad hand to play. Several insiders have been saying that the waste on Klein’s watch could rival any money stolen in the sponsorship scandal if there ever were an investigation or if a different party came to power and started digging through the paperwork.
As for poverty in Alberta, the reader is absolutely right: most Albertans never get to participate in the province’s wealth. More than 40% of the people living in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, supposedly one of the world’s most prosperous regions, make less than $20,000 a year. For a rich province like Alberta, such a number is shameful and directly reflects upon Klein’s lousy job.
Infrastructure is crumbling, hospital beds are in short supply, and the number of homeless people in the streets of Calgary has been rising fast. Does that sound like a success story?