Editorial: On red tape and fiscal matters, Alberta gets a D

The hard-working folks who call this province home have long been proud of their “can-do” attitude and knack for getting things done.

So it is disturbing to learn Alberta has become a “can’t-do” province when it comes to tackling some critical issues.

Alberta has been ranked a dismal sixth out of 10 provinces for its fiscal management in a survey by the Fraser Institute.

The news comes hot on the heels of a report card giving Alberta a D grade for its regulatory red tape, better only than Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories.

Canada’s Red Tape Report, released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the total cost of government regulation to Alberta businesses grew to more than $4.6 billion in 2014, up from $3.8 billion in 2005.

Former premier Alison Redford failed to take the shears to our province’s red tape problem during her time in office and the Fraser Institute assessment was based on the performances of Canada’s premiers up to the 2013-2014 fiscal year, when Redford ran the show. Now it’s up to Premier Jim Prentice to carry the can.

He has already announced a new “strategy” to measure the impact of red tape on small business and find ways to reduce its burden and made it abundantly clear getting Alberta’s   fiscal house in order is his top priority.

If Prentice’s assurances sound familiar, it is because similar words were uttered by both Redford and her predecessor Ed Stelmach.

It is discouraging that despite our dynamic business culture and usually robust economy, our government has been chronically unable to mend its ways.

As Liberal finance critic Kent Hehr puts it: “Something is clearly amiss in this province — infrastructure deficits, schools not being built, long-term care centres not constructed.”

Lately we’ve learned the long-sought southwest ring road and a badly needed new Calgary cancer centre could be put on hold after years of delays. In the nickel and dime department, Alberta parents shell out triple the school fees they did five years ago — paying 2.1 percent of their children’s schooling costs, compared to 0.6 percent in other provinces.

Prentice does offer hope our government can mend its ways, but in the current economic environment, he has his work cut out.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed he is as effective at leading Alberta into a new era of fiscal accountability as he has been in neutering the official opposition.

With an election seemingly drawing near and the only party capable of holding his government’s feet to the fire in disarray, Albertans may be left with little other option.

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