Living within our means must be more than theory

With the March 7 provincial budget fast approaching, Alberta is facing yet another infrastructure crisis

With the March 7 provincial budget fast approaching, Alberta is facing yet another infrastructure crisis that can only be attributed to the poor planning of relying on unpredictable energy booms to pay for services that are predictable.

New schools, roads and health facilities aren’t something that can not revolve around the gamble of when our next energy boom will be available to finance basic services.

In order to get off the boom-and-bust treadmill, long-term planning for critical infrastructure must be done at a rate that doesn’t outpace revenues to assure there will not be recurring deficits that will result in a shortage of schools, hospitals and essential infrastructure — as we are currently experiencing.

Time and again, the Alberta government has taken an unsustainable approach to infrastructure projects resulting in mounting and accumulating deficits that are now looming over the next budget.

Taking Alberta further down the unsustainable accumulative deficit road has resulted in playing catch-up on infrastructure, which we are quickly finding out is self-propagating, making it impossible for Alberta to get back into a balanced budget position.

That behaviour is proving at best to be a gamble, at worst a way to have our economic future mired in debt for generations.

The Wildrose 10-year debt-free capital plan, which was presented this week, addresses the deficit funding and will allow Albertans to get off this treadmill of unsustainable deficit financing, as we accumulate debt year over year that will be increasingly more difficult to rectify as each deficit year passes.

Prioritizing infrastructure needs based on actual need rather than political advantage establishes a much clearer picture of where Alberta should be, allocating our precious revenues.

Alberta has spent about 35 per cent more per capita on infrastructure over the last six years than any other province in Canada, which has still left us in a net infrastructure deficit position. It’s becoming obvious that spending without a sustainable plan hasn’t been an effective long-term way of revenue allocation, resulting in a sixth straight deficit.

Establishing a more sustainable and innovative financial direction for Alberta’s future, the Wildrose 10-year debt-free capital plan recognizes population growth must be factored with inflation for a longer term debt free method of building to our requirements.

The Alberta government has used the comparison that Alberta borrowing money is similar to you borrowing for your mortgage. The similarities, however, end at the borrowing stage. A mortgage is something that you and only you will be responsible for, unlike the provincial debt, which will be passed on to your children and grandchildren.

Truly living within our means isn’t something that can just be theorized and used to gain political traction. It must be practised to have any real long-term effect, at all.

For further information on the Wildrose 10-year debt-free capital plan, please contact my office.

Rick Strankman is the MLA for the Drumheller-Stettler riding.

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