This last week I attended committee meetings in Edmonton and with the excellent weather outside I, like many, just wanted to sit outside and enjoy the beauty of the Legislature grounds. As I looked to the west I saw that there was a cloud coming in. The cloud itself didn’t look overly ominous and I wouldn’t even consider it to look threatening. In fact, this gentle wind and that cloud would give me a short reprieve from the beating sun. It was exactly what I wanted.
Then came the winds unexpectedly out of nowhere. The cloud rolled in quicker than I anticipated and instantly poured what seemed an entire lake onto me. This storm just didn’t seem to be subsiding. Like the waves pounding the legislature fountain and the hotdog cart vendors scrambling to put down their sun umbrellas, the bad economic news just keeps on coming for Alberta.
According to Statistics Canada, Alberta’s unemployment rate rose to 8.6 per cent in July, the highest it has been since 1994. For the first time ever, Alberta’s unemployment rate is higher than Nova Scotia’s. Over the past year, we have lost 104,000 full-time jobs.
The bad news is Alberta’s government remains unwilling to abandon ideological policies in favour of proven solutions to get our economy moving and protect working families. Solutions like keeping taxes low for families, promoting trade, spending within our means and restoring the Alberta Advantage.
Typically, the first thing ideological governments do when the economy begins to weaken is look for a scapegoat: blame the price of oil, blame the previous government, blame main street employers, blame anyone or anything not connected to the government.
However, scapegoating is not a long-term solution. Over time the strategy offers diminishing returns as folks recognize the inherently self-serving nature of these arguments.
Of course, these types of distractions do nothing to addresses the underlying condition: a rapidly shrinking economy. Jobs are being lost. Less is being produced. Trade is declining. Without the kind of economic growth that lifts all people, political divide-and-conquer strategies lead to divide-and-flounder results.
Alberta is here. We voted for change. What we got is disappointing.
Unwilling to budge from its pre-recession agenda, the NDP government chooses which businesses it will support through elaborate new tax-and-spend corporate welfare schemes, and which sectors of the labour force it will support through socialist economic policies.
It’s bringing forward policies, like a new carbon tax and dramatic increase to the minimum wage, that are forcing small businesses to close their doors. In the heart of the deepest recession since the 1980s, the government is only making things worse.
Across our province, Albertans are coming to the realization that we can do better than this, that we are better than this.
It’s time to set the politics of division aside. We need more jobs. We need more production. We need more trade. We need the kind of economic policies that offer new hope and new opportunity to all Albertans.
They say that a rising tide floats all boats. It’s an apt metaphor, although it ignores a key truth: It wasn’t until low tide that we have come to grasp the reality of the situation – we are all in the same boat.
The rocks are getting uncomfortably close and that cloud that I saw on the horizon is still here, maybe it’s time to change course.
How would the Wildrose Party start changing course? We brought forward our Jobs Action Plan, 2015 Budget Sustainability Recommendations and Restoring Trust reports to list a few. These reports were compiled to start changing Alberta’s course away from the reefs and towards calmer waters. Right now we need to find safe harbors so that we can watch for the clouds that look safe but end up putting us in deep water.
If you would like to read the reports for yourself, I would encourage you to www.wildrose.ca for more information.