New five-year plan – that’s the hope of new planning council

Back in the good old days during the 1950s, communist countries like the old Soviet Union and Red China used to proclaim with great fanfare “five year plans” that were supposed to make great leaps of progress in industrial production.

Those plans as you might expect, were planned by earnest central planners who were convinced they knew best on how to implement the great socialist/communist dream for the masses. It usually involved schemes and dreams to double the production of steel, cement, tractors, widgets or whatever, whether it was needed or not, within five years. It really didn’t matter if the goals were achieved or not, because there was always another “five year plan” being cooked up by the same zealous central planners – since that was their job – planning plans.

Alberta seems to be carrying on the concept of planning new plans whether or not the old plan had worked or not as planned. Remember the “Alberta Advantage”, well that was the old plan, the best part of that plan was the catchy name. It not only sounded good, it could be applied to anything from lower taxes and scenery, to roads and better beer. Well, that was a good plan while it lasted.

Now according to our illustrious premier, we need a new plan for Alberta, which causes one to ponder – what was wrong and what happened to the old plan. Well, I suppose nothing was wrong with the old plan except that it was former premier Ralph Klein’s plan and not the present premier’s plan.

Our erstwhile leaders usually want some grandiose scheme or monument to be remembered by and the “Alberta Advantage” is the former premier’s claim to fame. Hence the plan has been relegated to forgotten history by the present premier.

However, it would seem that if one plan can bring fame to former premier Klein, then another bigger and better plan should bring immortality to premier Stelmach, or that’s the plan anyway. To start the process, the premier has launched the Alberta Competitiveness Initiative.

The idea seems to be to find ways and means to make Alberta the best place in the world to do business. That plan would give us the best jobs, best wages… which in turn should give us the best standard of living – at least that is going to be the plan. But it does sound familiar… wasn’t that the plan of the “Alberta Advantage” plan – well, okay, maybe I am being too cynical.

The premier last June convened about 120 invited stakeholders to a forum to discuss his competitiveness initiative. Apparently, he invited the right-thinking people, as not surprisingly, the attendees all thought his initiative was a great plan and curiously there was no mention of the fate of the former Alberta Advantage plan.

The plan, then, was to create the Alberta Competitiveness Council whose responsibility is to carry out a review of four key sectors of the economy as to their competitiveness, at least that’s the plan. I suspect a number of consulting companies are gearing up to offer their expert planning services to the council. Your tax dollars will be well plundered by means of grandiose consultant studies, (or are they really plans?).

One of the sectors of the economy to be reviewed by the council is agriculture. To oversee that review the premier has appointed none other than George Groeneveld, the former minister of agriculture. Politics is a curious business, perhaps being appointed to the council is a consolation prize for George being fired from cabinet by the premier.

The agriculture review is limited to the grains and oilseed sector, which may be a blessing. Considering the havoc caused to the livestock industry by Mr. Groeneveld whilst he was minister of agriculture, that sector doesn’t need anymore of his planning help.

I expect Mr. Groeneveld learned his lesson from being tossed out of cabinet and will probably not cause too much upheaval with any impertinent plans as to agricultural competitiveness.

All he really has to do is phone up the premier, himself a grain and oilseed farmer, ascertain his views, get a consultant to confirm those views in an expensive study and put it all in a planning document. And presto, he gets a pat on the head from the premier for a job well done.

I predict the main feature of the plan will be the not so new plan that the Canadian Wheat Board has to be changed or removed. You read it here first and it didn’t cost any tax dollars. Anyway, that’s the new but old plan.