he impact on Alberta tax-payers, including the difficulty in budget cuts to every public sector initiative and job losses, is a big concern. Albertans are very closely tied to the oil & gas sector, but many also recognize their livelihoods depend on other factors such as access to affordable health care, education, and social programming, in addition to understanding and responding to the influences of climate change. I think Albertans would like to see the provincial government focused on education, innovation and sustainability initiatives in more areas than just the oil and gas sector.
While Albertans are prepared to weather the storm as far as the downturn in the economy is concerned, they want the government and industry taking the lead to develop a strategic next step in rural and urban communities where we live, work, play and invest.
Albertans have likely realized the Canadian Energy Centre (War Room) is somewhat of a natural disaster in its own right. It’s a failed attempt to create a PR machine that is pro-oil. It’s become a laughing-stock in the policy domain nationally and internationally. This falls in the category of giving the perception of doing something while accomplishing nothing. The War Room provides absolutely zero tangible benefit to the province. As taxpayers, Albertans are expected to fund the Premier’s initiatives, while at the same time expecting them to cut back. Yet, while the government wastes money, the province digs deeper into the pockets of Albertans for taxes, fees, tuition, insurance, electricity, etc. It’s offensive. The corporation and the $30M budget supporting its mandate is FOIP-exempt which means zero accountability to the public.
The role of government is not to pick and choose winners. The market should take care of itself. Rather than government spending millions of dollars to intimidate and silence any dissent or perceived opposition to the oil and gas industry, which is undemocratic, the government should be allocating those dollars to economic development, education programs, social and healthcare initiatives. The oil and gas companies receive huge tax breaks and should be able to defend themselves without anymore public tax dollars.
The war room is an embarrassment and a disgrace. Albertans want a government that is transparent and adaptive to investment in greener energy, Indigenous land rights, greater economic diversification, etc. in so much that they should be encouraging innovation in all industries, reducing red tape for businesses to succeed, and encouraging competition that will grow markets, increase job opportunities, and reduce the reliance on government programs and subsidies.
The war room needs to shut down, or at the very least, it needs to retreat and take a tactical pause.
Jacqueline Biollo is a Principal with Aurora Strategy Group. Biollo holds an MBA in Executive Management from Royal Roads University.
Aurora Strategy Group is a public affairs, government and public relations firm based in Toronto, with offices in Atlantic and Western Canada.