Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
August 30, 2004
Rumblings on a debt-free Alberta
This summer, we received the exciting news that the Alberta government has paid off its debt. Well, not actually paid it off. But put enough money into a sock so that it will be able to pay it off by 2013.
This is a welcome development. It means our children and grandchildren will not have to pay off the government programs from which their forbearers benefitted. It also means Alberta taxpayers will not have to pay more interest to stuff the already bulging pockets of financial institutions.
One might quibble and say the speedy payment of the debt came at the cost of crowded classrooms, high tuition fees, roller-coaster health care expenditures, and handicapped people living on unconscionably low allowances. One might even note that the debt could have been paid off even sooner if the province hadn't paid out billions of dollars in rebates prior to the last election to ease the pain of needlessly high electrical and gas rates.
But at least the debt has been paid off and we can now set to work creating a province where each pays according to his means and each receives according to his or her needs. Probably religious orders are the only places where such a worthy Christian ideal has been realized, but it would be nice to take a stab at it here in Alberta.
Alberta, actually, will only be 100 years old next year. And the thought of its centennial reawakens the thought of jubilee, "the Lord's year of favour." In the year of jubilee, we are invited "to bring good news to the poor, . . . to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind (and) to let the oppressed go free" (Luke 4:18-19). It is one of those ideas of Jesus to which politicians sometimes pay attention at election time and at charitable banquets, but somehow forget when it comes to budget preparation. Or when it is setting the minimum wage.
We have the notorious resolution of 1989 when all parties in the House of Commons agreed to work to end child poverty in Canada by 2000.
But then it was shoved aside in favour of the higher purpose of Canada being "globally competitive." Darn! There always seems to be some good and urgent reason why we have to give more money to those who already have lots and come up short for those who have none.
So it was in Alberta. The blasted debt interfered with our dogged pursuit of the just society.
But now the debt is gone. And guess what? The Pembina Institute has just issued a report suggesting that we have not been charging oil companies enough to exploit Alberta's petroleum resources. Resources whose ownership the Western provinces have fought so hard over the 100 years to procure.
Resource revenues have been seen as a federal-provincial battleground. They should also be seen as a gift of God. We have done nothing to earn the right to have oil and gas in our backyard when they could just as easily have ended up in someone else's yard. We have a responsibility to use those resources for the good of all. This is called stewardship. And while oil companies deserve a profit for developing those resources, we must never forget that the needs of people come first.
And when you start thinking in terms of stewardship rather than profit-making or global competitiveness, you get a different perspective. A perspective that says that we must help the most vulnerable people first. A perspective that says the environment must be protected for future generations. A perspective that says we should help those who live outside our provincial borders and outside of Canada.
Our faith does demand a certain sort of action from us. There is so much good that we could do. If we only had the will.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.