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Horner: All’s Well with Alberta Finance

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This Friday is World Population Day, so this week I’m keeping an extra eye out for both exemplary population coverage and ridiculously biased population coverage in the media. The Minister of Finance of the Canadian province of Alberta starts off the week on the Wall of Shame. Doug Horner, also the Spruce Grove – St. Albert MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly), disappointed with his June 30 annual report extolling the wondrous state of Alberta’s economy and finances.

“Unemployment rates are steady, the economy is healthy and population continues to grow….” 

I’m not sure these are Horner’s exact words, as there were no quotation marks around them in this story by April Hudson in the Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter. It’s safe to assume the report used similar verbiage (sorry, but I did not have the time or the patience to try to find the report). We’ll have to read further to find out what kind of economy Horner and the reporter are characterizing as “healthy.” But listing population growth amid a string of “good news” shows a serious lack of appreciation for the fact that the world is overpopulated.

“Alberta also enjoyed the highest population growth in 30 years.”

Enjoyed? Again, not quoting Horner, just the reporter’s words. So I’m afraid the reporter, April Hudson, will have to share the Wall of Shame with Horner today. I’m sure Horner characterized high population growth as good news, and the reporter bought it.

On the economic growth side of things, here is a quote from Horner that got my attention:

“Alberta’s economy out-performed Canada and the United States ... Our 2013 GDP growth was 3.9 per cent. For the fourth consecutive year in a row, we’ve had growth over three per cent: that’s nearly twice Canada’s real GDP growth.”

Clearly Horner and the reporter are stuck in those heady 1950s before humanity had outgrown the planet, and the costs of growth (especially when you include externalities) began to exceed the benefits. Interestingly, Horner alludes to the challenges of covering the costs of growth:

“Operational expenditures were up $3.8 billion due to flooding costs, but also due to additional funding being provided to address population growth. ‘That was a significant challenge on the basis of schools, roads, hospitals and service delivery,” Horner said.”

Some critics are apparently even questioning whether Alberta’s budget is as balanced as Horner is indicating. At any rate, this story is a classic example of the pro-growth bias and assumptions that afflict politicians and pervade the media. Take them with a very large grain of salt.

Photo: A portion of Alberta’s infamous tar sands project. There was no photo published with the news story, so I thought this fitting. I’m sure the province of Alberta “enjoys” the economic activity generated by this project as it wreaks untold environmental costs both in Alberta and around the world. These are the kinds of prices we pay today for our addiction to growth. By Howl Arts Collective CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Comments

  • Guest
    Alex Monday, 07 July 2014

    The vast majority of Alberta's population growth is due to in-migration from more populated provinces and countries. We're a big, open province with a healthy economy and a lot of jobs. Population growth is good for us, so having people move here (from other, more populated place) is great.

  • Fons Jena
    Fons Jena Tuesday, 08 July 2014

    "We're a big, open province with a healthy economy and a lot of jobs." -> Well that may be the current case but with a pro-growth addiction you will have to revise that statement in the not so distant future! Say goodbye to 'openness' and 'healthy economy'.

    Your argumentation shows the typical reasoning the capitalist system has indoctrinated us with: 'if you can grow you have to grow and never ask yourself the question why you have to grow and what the consequences might be'.

  • Dave Gardner
    Dave Gardner Monday, 07 July 2014

    Alex, I'll have to respectfully disagree with you. It will be difficult to get world population to a manageable level as long as provinces, states, cities and nations see population growth as healthy. We cannot have a sustainable world full of communities behaving unsustainably. Unless Alberta is meeting all its needs with resources within its borders, and not adding CO2 to the atmosphere the world has to share, nor any other toxins, nor shipping fossil fuels that should be left in the ground, then your province has a population problem, too.

    I suspect I must also challenge your definition of a healthy economy. Let me suggest a math exercise for you. Take the annual economic growth rate Horner reports for Alberta, and calculate how big your economy will be in 700 years, or even 200 years. Do you think that is physically possible?

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Guest Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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