Usually at this time, columns and air space is filled with predictions for the coming 12 months.
It’s often an easy task. We would like to predict things will be much improved in 2020. Energy prices will rebound. A new boom will arrive. Green shoots of economic happiness and joy will spread across the land.
And of course, having learned nothing from previous booms, we will once again bask in petro-dollars. Those wise enough to spend and invest will profit mightily.
In the bust, those who saved some will carry the ball while the rich drift away like smoke from a campfire. In the slide down, politicians will prattle about diversifying. All such won’t happen in one year of course.
But that is the usual way of life in Alberta.
Now is time to talk about that diversifying. Because when times are good, it is absolutely the last thing on people’s minds. In a boom economy, too much happens. There is competing with oilpatch wages. There is building new schools, hospitals and roads. Nobody can fit in gabble about the future.
Interestingly, in bad times, nobody wants to talk about building a future either. When one is hanging on by their fingernails, that’s the last thing they want – gabbling about building a better tomorrow when there isn’t even money to pay for today.
Our new Jason Kenney government built a “war room” to gabble how to defend Alberta energy against its critics. Why not a war room on how to build a new economy? Starting this year. Not next year or when oil runs out or when solar and wind power take over. Today! Now!
There was a time when our provincial government, in a half-hearted way, tried to limit the growth of our two main cities. Out here in small town Alberta, that still seems a good idea. Rural Alberta has every right to what are known as the Five Pillars of Community. A safe community. Good medical care. Recreation opportunities. Good education. Economic opportunities. Little by little, we are losing these pillars.
One example, in not so many words, is the new policing model. You can have all the safety you want. But you have to pay for it. Sounds fair. But banana for barrel of oil, does rural Alberta get a fair shake? Experts are always calculating the wealth transfer from Alberta to Ottawa. The same should be done for Alberta farm, ranch, lake and moutain country to the biggest cities. Our “diversification war room” would have great ammunition if we learned, as we suspect, the game is rigged against the wide open spaces.
Our county and town and municipal district politicians can better serve us. Don’t jet off to holiday adventures in Halifax or Quebec where tiny arguments for a fair deal for Alberta fall on deaf ears. Spend the time gathering in Fairview, Peace River, Lloydminster, Wainwright, Brooks and Cardston making real plans. Forget those trips to Jasper or Banff. Or Canmore. Or Edmonton or Calgary.
Our 2020 prediction is easy – Edmonton and Calgary won’t be looking after us.