Four principles to guide the new gov't in serving the common good

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WCR EDITORIAL

May 18, 2015

The election of Alberta's first New Democratic Party government promises to usher in a period of political change which will be both exciting and uncertain. We have heard many times in recent weeks that business does not like uncertainty, but uncertainty is a normal part of democracy.

While thanking all those MLAs defeated in the May 5 election for their years of public service, we also congratulate Premier Rachel Notley and her new government. That government, we hope, will be guided by four basic principles:

Sustainability: Alberta's natural resources should be developed in a manner which both respects the natural environment and enables the province to be prosperous for generations to come. This principle also includes social sustainability – the strengthening of families and local communities which nurture the holistic development of our children. It further includes government budgeting which does not saddle future generations with excessive debt.

Economic equality: As St. John Paul II stated, "God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone" (Centesimus Annus, 31).

Productivity: The need for sustainability and equality should be balanced by the need for a productive economy which comes from both business initiative and a well-trained and educated workforce.

Subsidiarity: The voices of all people should be heard in decisions affecting Alberta's future. As far as possible, decisions must be made locally so the rights of families and community organizations are not compromised.

These principles are not absolutes; they should be balanced with each other. Moreover, they can be implemented creatively. For example, Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in Veritate called for an economy of communion: "Space . . . must be created within the market for economic activity carried out by subjects who freely choose to act according to principles other than those of pure profit" (CV 37).

Productivity can be increased, he wrote, in the "broad intermediate area" between profit-oriented companies and non-profit groups. In fact, some economists argue that over the centuries communion is the basic force driving economic innovation while self-interest is the exception.

The overriding principle under which the four principles should be subsumed is that of the common good. Government must be the protector and enhancer of the common good so that private desires never run roughshod over what is good for the whole.

On one hand, it is relatively easy to list the principles by which government should operate. On the other hand, it can be difficult to know how to best apply those principles in specific instances.

Yet, we encourage our new premier and her cabinet to keep these principles in the forefront of their thinking. To the extent they do that, they should serve Albertans well.