Are the PCs fiscally conservative? I think the answer to that question is a definitive NO!
Decades ago, I argued against the idea that Alberta’s government was not as fiscally conservative as Albertan’s liked to believe. In fact, with the way Alberta has handled our vast fortune in Oil and Gas, it seems to me rather that we’re simply Big Oil’s little bitches.
Norway now has over a Trillion dollars into Norway’s Norges Bank Invest Management Fund to help them cope when their oil runs out, while Alberta keeps going deeper and deeper into debt every day.
I’m quite sure that most third world nations with oil and gas reserves are run better than Alberta’s government these past 20+ years – and I have no predictions for the Notley NDP government, but so far I’m unimpressed.
If you look at what Norway did differently, they started off by hiring inspired Canadians, actually Albertans, to manage their Norwegian Petroleum Directorate like Wolf Wiborg, who thought our oil and gas revenues would eventually be invested into a bank like Norway’s Norges Bank Invest Management Fund which on July 19th, 2015 was worth 7, 220 Billion Norwegian Krones, (approximately 1,146 Billion Canadian dollars).
What can I say? Alberta is now over a half a billion in debt when a relatively poorer nation like Norway is over a trillion dollars ahead in their rainy day fund.
What’s the difference? Men Like Rolf Wiborg.
Rolf Wiborg got his Master’s in Petroleum Engineering in 1975 at the University of Alberta, yes, Alberta. Not Russia, Not Venezuela, not anywhere radical. He was educated here in Alberta, and Alberta’s Heritage Fund was proudly one of the main inspirations to what Norway decided to do.
Like many educated public servants, he’s making less than one fifth what he could have made in the private sector, but had the satisfaction of knowing that what he was doing would benefit “the sick, and the old”, as well as his “children and grandchildren”.
At the AFL’s 2015 Convention, Rolf Wiborg’s advice for Albertans, was to, “stop thinking like a Loser”!
Rolf Wiborg says that what happened in Alberta wouldn’t happen in Norway because “every Norwegian knows they still own their resources.”
But on the other hand [oil] “companies will… understand that they have a partner in the voting public, which controls the bureaucracy and politicians.”
Norway is actually quite conservative and so therefore has no public debt. It’s high taxes are because less than 4% of their profits can be spent on public programs. The Norges Bank Invest Management Fund was created to be used after the oil in the Norwegian oil shelf was depleted. And so it’s enviable social programs are funded by high taxes, and not profits from the oil.
Albertans are constantly reminded that the oil companies might leave, like how they left Saskatchewan. But Alberta is one of the safest places to invest in the entire world. The Norwegians were threatened with this, but none of the oil companies left leaving them to wonder if they could have asked for more.
Oil investors liked the scheme because it basically guaranteed profits because it is in the taxpayer and shareholder combined interest to make a profit.
Wiborg laments, “I love Canada. I love Canadians. But in my opinion it’s totally mismanaged, and mismanaged by design”.
Perhaps Albertans should finally listen to one of their best alumni and follow Rolf Wiborg’s advice.