Alberta Citizens Caught in the Tempest of Big Oil – Joanne Costello

25 Oct

In  recent years, The Parkland Institute has released research which confirms what  many average Albertans already know first hand: middle class Albertans are no  better off during so-called booms and Alberta’s poor often fare worse during  these periods of frenzied development.

The Spoils of the Boom: Incomes,  profits, and poverty in Alberta provides a close look at a  cross-section of the Alberta economy to determine how the province’s dramatic  economic growth is being distributed. The study finds that the benefits of the  boom are being reaped by corporations and Alberta’s wealthy, while the poor and  middle class are suffering.

Also  from the Parkland Institute, Taming the Tempest: An Alternate Development Strategy for  Alberta argues for a development strategy that manages  Alberta’s resources to forward social goals. The report describes the societal  issues created by mismanaged development, including inflation, soaring housing  prices, costly infrastructure, and rising homelessness rates. The question is  posed: Should private investment in the tar sands be and end in itself or  harnessed to further social goals:

There  is no question the bulk of this boom is being driven by fossil fuels and  specifically investment in the province’s tar sands-over $100 billion of the  $169 billion in projects slated for development is for the tar sands alone. The  desirability of this level of private investment is not being questioned by the  Alberta government; it is being seen as an end in itself. However, investment is not a goal; it should  be considered a tool to be harnessed towards achieving social goals.Unlike Alberta, many oil rich regions  have a framework to guide their resource development and this report shows that  the Alberta government is under-selling the people’s resources.

The  Parkland Institute lays a framework for a development strategy that would slow  the pace of investment to minimize the boom and bust cycle, and put into place  policies to maximize returns from Alberta’s fossil fuels, fuels, maximize the  processing and upgrading of those resources into higher value products, and put  into place a long term planfor using the resource revenues to guarantee future for the  province.

Just  as the protesters on Wall Street are demanding justice for an inequitable system  that has left hard-working tax payers bailing out banks headed by billionaires,  Calgarians are taking to the streets to ask why so many families are struggling  in a resource-rich region, while foreign companies, as well as Canadian  companies, are making huge profits off of our local  resources.

Joanne Costello

Links:

The Spoils of the Boom:  Income, Profits and Poverty in Alberta, Parkland Institute

Taming the Tempest: An  Alternate Development Strategy for Alberta by Diana Gibson of the  Parkland Institute

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