In Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel The Sun Also Rises (published in 1926), one of the characters, Mike Campbell, was asked about his money troubles. He responded with a clear description embracing self-contradiction:
"How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly."
Every time I recall this quote, my mind immediately thinks about Alberta's financial situation, and I wonder if we are now in the “gradual” stage, and heading quickly to the “suddenly” stage? Our natural resources industry is on its knees and the chances of any pipeline getting built in the next 10 to 15 years appears to be highly unlikely, if not totally impossible.
The "orgy" of spending conducted by both the PC and the NDP governments over the last 10 years has left Alberta buried in staggering debt. Alberta was debt-free in 2004, but as CBC noted on March 14 of last year, by 2017 debt had skyrocketed to $71.1 billion.
While I admire our new Premier’s desire to lighten the burden of taxpayers by cancelling the carbon tax, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to stand ready to impose his own federal carbon tax, which the feds recently announced would start as of January 2020. The federal rate will not only be higher than Alberta's rate, but the money will flow to Ottawa where the feds will decide how to funnel it back into the province. Moves like this raise the question of whether Alberta would be better off on its own and may help to make the case for Alberta separatism.
Over the last 60 years, governments of most “Western” democracies have more or less embraced the philosophy that they need to provide everything to everyone and protect every citizen from every real or perceived threat. As a result, the cost of running governments (whether they be federal, provincial or municipal) has mushroomed, and with no end in sight.
Unfortunately, government planners always seem to focus on the revenue side of the problem: how can we raise more money? Taxes, fees, licences, excises, duties, penalties, lotteries, alcohol, marijuana, permits, certifications, subscriptions – call them what you will, but they all serve one purpose: increasing government revenues.
In 1960, the federal government had total revenues of roughly $1 billion. By 2020, these total revenues should surpass $800 billion – yet despite this staggering increase, the Fraser Institute noted in A Federal Fiscal History 1867-2017 that the feds continue to run massive deficits. No matter how much they take in, they manage to spend even more!
Friedrich Nietzsche once noted: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
So, with those words of caution, let’s get back to Hemingway’s quote again. To those of you thinking that Alberta needs to consider independence, the question should be asked: “How do you plan to become independent?”.
The answer: “Two ways: Gradually and then suddenly.”
God bless a free Alberta.