Editorial – Spend like you stole it

Jeff Burgar

Optics: Looks good to voters? Check!

Payoffs: Rewards our friends? Check!

Can’t Hurt: Just a few nasty editorials and columns? Check!

Tiny Costs: Against the rest of our spending? Check!

Yup, the new Invest Alberta Corporation, which will probably get off the ground in a few months, checks the right boxes. Voters like the idea our provincial government is doing something to bring new money to Alberta. It will also give nice perks to party supporters.

This is especially true for Dave Rodney. This good boy gave up his Calgary riding in 2017 so Jason Kenney would have an easy run for office. Rodney gave up $125,000 or so in annual pay, plus more in expenses, as a sitting MLA. He will still get a small pension, being in office for 13 years.

But Rodney’s coming pay for three years as Alberta agent in Houston? $250,000 per year!

His qualifications? Mostly zero.

But then, exactly what does one need to be an economic development officer? The answer is “actually not much.”

Will this create any uproar? Nope. Just a few columns like this one. Some snarky posts online.

Best of all, the whole cost of this “Invest” program is just $18 million, spread over three years. Then the program might even end, having proven its worth, or proven it was useless. No matter. That’s only $6 million per year. Pibbles against Alberta’s economy of $350 billion per year.

Should we be against the program? Sure. For all the above reasons. It’s cronyism. A waste of money. Pork barreling and more. All the reasons Albertans booted the old Progressive Conservatives. Now we have same horse. Different saddle. Same cowboys.

If we are determined to spend this money, the least we could do is spend it in Alberta. On Albertans. Figuring how to get Albertans investing in their own province, their own regions and their own home towns.

Government ideas of so-called economic development, like this Invest Alberta Corporation [not a department – what gives here?] are so much like ideas in cities and towns. Like, “How do we attract new development to our town?”

The problem isn’t in attracting new development. The problem is in figuring out why our own local people aren’t investing.

The fact is, there are certain individuals who have spent, and continue to spend, money building their community with new businesses. There are a great big bunch more who poo poo ideas. Often, they are given opportunity to invest, and don’t. Too often, when ideas become reality, they criticize the investors.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of public bystanders are just happy seeing their community grow.

Finding local entrepreneurs, encouraging them, making life easier for them, right here in Alberta, should be the main activity of our “Invest Alberta Corporation” or in fact, any economic development office of any kind.

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