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Monday, February 13, 2006

alberta - be smart and think big!

Here is part of an editorial that was in the Calgary Herald this weekend. It pretty much sums up what we've been talking about for the past couple years...

Alberta has been given a vast array of gifts -- of natural resources, of hard-working people with entrepreneurial spirit, of markets eager to do business. It has been wise enough to steward these riches well to this point. It now faces a greater challenge: to build a better future, not just for Albertans, but for Canada and the world.

Here's how to do it:

1. Start saving. In the past 30 years, only 8.6 per cent of royalties have been set aside and more than 90 per cent spent. The Heritage Fund is worth $2,500 per capita, compared with $6,000 per capita in 1991.

Now that its debt is paid off, Alberta must start a serious savings plan. Canada West suggests half of all resource revenue go to an endowment fund; whatever the percentage, it needs to be substantial.

2. Manage spending. Alberta needs to invest in a strong health-care system, education and infrastructure for cities. The cuts that were necessary to bury the debt in the 1990s are no longer needed and Albertans have said they favour reinvestment.

So do we, but with a measure of stability. The greatest obstacle these sectors face is the roller-coaster of funding they've had to contend with as the provincial government lurches between surpluses.

These areas should be funded properly over the long term; the wild and wacky splurges of the past year have to stop.

3. Think big. If Alberta spends wisely and saves for the future, there will be still be ample opportunities to leave a proud legacy. Forget prosperity cheques and vanity projects -- let's aim higher.

The Canada West Foundation thinks Alberta could lead the world in research and development in alternate forms of energy, rival Harvard with a post-secondary endowment fund, or fund a national centre of excellence in wellness.

Albertans will have other ideas, if they are challenged to be visionary.

There was a bumper sticker popular in Alberta in the 1980s that read: "Please God, let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss it all away next time."

Albertans have been given that second chance with riches and potential that are the envy of many. It must not be wasted.
As far as university endowments are mentioned in the article, we are in the midst of writing a policy brief on North American university endowments - Harvard is the largest up around $25 Billion and Yale is second with around $15 Billion (the University of Alberta's endowment is currently sitting around half a billion - according to 2005 figures).

Endowment funds are where-it-is-at, dawg.


Anonymous said...

Alberta has hardly stewarded these riches well. The only reason it isn't in ruins yet is the fact that we haven't sustained numerous years of industrial growth and drought sufficient enough to make this place a bigger wasteland than it already is. Give it 30 years, and there will be nothing living in this province. Save for the future - yeah, so you can find someplace decent to live when everything is used up or poisoned.

Alberta's "success" story is built on the destruction of the environment, natural migration paths of wild animals, the exploitation of poorer individuals from other regions, and the backs of the poor, disabled and the elderly. If you are part of the "old boys network", you'll do just fine, for now. A classic example of the fine stewardship of albertans is self-evident in the 400 dollar cheques everyone is getting, to be spent at the brick or some other retail chain based elsewhere - a fabulous legacy for our kids. "Sorry junior, daddy needed a big screen T.V."... pathetic.

tara said...

i think that the province of alberta and the city of toronto should start a penpal project, whereby alberta gives toronto all its excess money and toronto, via pearson airport, gives alberta back stephen harper. (ok, i know the guy is from toronto, but you couldn't tell. at all.) sorry, that was probably insulting. and probably the reason why the west dislikes ontario. and pierre trudeau. but man, i could really use some ralphbucks.

Jim said...

You can easily tell that Stephen Harper is from Toronto and not Alberta: he is soulless and painfully bland, much like the average Torontonian. :)

Jim said...

I'm just kidding. TO didn't deserve that; I just feel it's my God-given right as an Albertan to take swipes at your city. :)

But you TO-ers are generally good people. Edmonton sends you a beer.

Raymaker said...

Forget about the beer. Send oil. And money. And make it snappy. ;)

Jim said...

Hey, you're from Calgary. Get your own damn oil money. :P