A high road vision for a better Alberta
Thanks to our abundant natural resources, Alberta is one of the most successful and prosperous jurisdictions in North America – with a standard of living and a quality of life that are the envy of the world.
Our province is at a crossroads
Will we choose to use our oil and gas wealth to strengthen our communities and prepare our citizens to more successfully meet the challenges of the future? Or will we think small and leave our citizens, communities and families more exposed to the harsh winds of fate and the fierce challenges of the global economy?
Unfortunately, influential voices within both government and opposition circles are calling for a “low road” approach that will require Albertans to increasingly fend for themselves when it comes to services such as health care, education and care for seniors.
The government's low road approach
It’s an approach that uses the current recession as an excuse for doing less for Albertans by slashing spending on vital public services. It’s an approach that will weaken our ability to train our young people for the future; an approach that will undermine our ability to provide quality health care; and an approach that will result in Alberta falling behind in areas that are crucial for our future economic development – areas like post-secondary education and university-based research.
We think Albertans deserve better. And we think Alberta can afford better.
Instead of a government that sees cuts as the answer to every problem, we think Albertans deserve a government that sees the value of citizens pooling their resources, energy and ideas to achieve shared social, economic and environmental goals. In other words, we believe that Alberta should be taking the high road to the future, not the low road.
Let’s strengthen Alberta’s social and economic fabric!
Every dollar of public revenue that is spent on services that educate our children; provide health care for our sick or elderly; build roads and rail links; or invest in university training and research is like a stitch in our province’s social and economic fabric.
Smart investment in these services makes the fabric stronger; insufficient investment frays the fabric and leaves Albertans exposed.
The rest of the world seems to have learned this lesson. From America’s Barack Obama, to Britain’s Gordon Brown, to Germany’s Angela Merkel and Australia’s Kevin Rudd, world leaders agree: spending on public services and public infrastructure is not only a key to fighting the recession – it’s also seen as a key to building stronger economies and more vibrant, caring and sustainable societies over the long term.
The good news for Albertans is that our province is in a league of its own when it comes to its ability to afford these kinds of forward-looking investments.
The bad news is that our political leaders are out of step with the rest of the world and seem intent on returning to the mean-spirited and short-sighted policies of the 1990s – policies that seriously weakened core public services like health care and education and derailed efforts to diversify Alberta's economy.
Imagining the next Alberta
So what does a high road vision for Alberta look like?
A high road vision…
… embraces the notion that one of the best ways to build a stronger, more diverse and sustainable economy is to invest in our people and our communities. Things like education, health care, infrastructure and research should not be seen as costs – but rather as investments in a better future.
… acknowledges – and celebrates – the fact that Alberta has the resources necessary to dream big. We can and should aspire to having the best schools, the best health care, the best public infrastructure and the best and most accessible universities, colleges and technical institutes.
… very deliberately commits us to using our energy wealth to make the transition to the next Alberta – an Alberta that is more economically diversified, more caring and supportive of its citizens and more environmentally and economically sustainable.
…accepts that with great privilege comes great responsibility. As one of the western world’s wealthiest jurisdictions, we should make a point of doing more for our most vulnerable citizens: our kids; our seniors; and those who struggle with illness, disabilities and other disadvantages.
… embraces the notion that the strongest economies are mixed economies – ones that respect the strengths of both the private and public sectors. No society can be truly advanced if it turns the basic services its citizens need – like health care and education – into profit-making opportunities for corporations.
… rejects a “race to the bottom” on tax cuts and accepts the need for a more progressive tax system. Albertans know that you get what you pay for – so if we have a cut-rate tax policy, we’ll also have cut-rate schools, hospitals and other services.
… replaces the conception of Alberta as a province of “rugged individuals” looking out for themselves with a conception of Alberta as a community of neighbours looking out for each other. Our resource wealth can act as an anchor and shield to nurture and protect our citizens in an increasingly competitive globalized world – but only if we invest it in things that benefit all Albertans, rather than just a lucky few.