Prentice must keep Alberta strong

From a national perspective, it really doesn’t matter which of the two big Alberta parties wins the next election.

What matters is that whichever party takes the wheel, they don’t squander the good fortune the province still holds.

That will be Premier-designate Jim Prentice’s main task for now. And it will be up to Wildrose leader Danielle Smith to convince Albertans she can do an even better job.

According to Statistics Canada, Alberta had the second-lowest unemployment rate in August at 4.9%, beat out only by Saskatchewan’s 4.2%. The national average is 7%.

It became clear after Ontario moved into “have not” status in 2009 that Alberta is the economic engine of the country.

Factor in Quebec, and it’s truly worrisome that the two provinces that make up more than half our population have their hands out on the equalization grid.

That’s why it’s so important that Alberta doesn’t slip in its well-regarded position by even an inch.

Canadians have enough provinces to look down at. They need more provinces to look up to. The country needs shining examples of what to do right.

But is Alberta really at risk of losing its standing?

It’s true that the oil sector isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But anything’s possible if political leaders take their eye off the ball.

Let’s go back ten years: One of the most striking political images in recent Canadian history is then-premier Ralph Klein, cowboy hat on head, holding up that large “Paid in full” sign.

He’d paid off the entire provincial debt. Ahead of schedule.

Back to today: Looking at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Alberta debt clock, the province is slowly ticking towards $11 billion. Or $2,645 per person.

That’s nothing compared to Ontario’s soaring debt. But all debts start out small. And Alberta’s tally is rolling in the wrong direction.

The Alberta PC party is broken. The entitlement culture needs to be shown the door.

On his campaign site, Prentice pledges to “not run deficits to finance the basic operations of government” and to “implement a disciplined savings commitment for future generations.”

Albertans must hold their new premier to these commitments. For their sake and for the whole country.

 

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