The world’s appetite is voracious

The world’s appetite for petroleum is voracious. The annual Statistical Review of World Energy indicates that year-by-year global oil consumption is growing by over a million barrels per day (BPD), even though 750,000+ electric cars were sold last year (globally), and 137 billion litres of biofuel were produced.

Fossil fuel consumption keeps rising because the world’s population keeps growing and developing, and because the features of modern civilization—food production, medicine, and industry—depend upon petroleum, electricity, and transport.

The starkness of this situation led Danish professor and bestselling author Bjorn Lomborg to explain that replacing fossil fuel with wind and solar is impossible. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that for 2015, wind turbines produced roughly one-half of 1% of global energy supply, while solar produced 0.13%. The world spent $91 billion subsidizing these industries and got back less than 0.7% of needed supply. In 2017, wind and solar subsidies are projected to reach $125 billion—roughly 25-30 times what Canada spends annually on foreign aid.

Quoting IEA figures, Lomberg explains that if every single country in the Paris Climate Accord keeps its emissions promises, by 2040, wind will contribute 1.88% of global needs and solar about 1%. The cost to achieve this goal (less than 3% of the total) will be measured in trillions of dollars, and fossil fuel demand will still keep growing. The IEA says global oil demand—despite all these other efforts and subsidies—will exceed 103 million BPD by 2040, up from 92 million in 2015.

Being that individuals like Prime Minister Trudeau and other Canadian leaders (including some in Alberta) believe people should stop using fossil fuel and rely on wind and solar, they’re becoming indifferent toward, or opposed to, traditional energy development—pipelines, coal, oil sands production, and even natural gas. It’s affecting government revenues and costing jobs.

Business Vancouver Online (BIV.com) reports that 3½ months after Canada blocked (through overregulation and political interference) a proposed $36-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, a partner from that abandoned project reappeared in Alaska, where a new US$43-billion China-friendly LNG development agreement was announced. Canadian governments are sending jobs elsewhere.

Some First Nations say they’re heartbroken over Canada’s cancelled energy projects, stating that their communities are losing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see people lifted from poverty.

The Toronto Sun likewise commented on the IEA’s new report, noting that through overregulation and official indifference, Canada is deliberately turning itself into a “bit player on global energy.” It also indicates (quoting the IEA) that Canada is likely walking away from up to $700 billion in job-creating international investments—an amount that exceeds Ottawa’s National Debt.

For Alberta and Canada, the hard reality is that in the midst of this vibrant global economic activity, serious government support for our participation in one of the world’s most important industries is waning and lethargic.

The Sun even points out that there are now two energy worlds: The real one, which is governed by new investment and ever-increasing global demand; and an eco-fantasy version played out in the halls of political power and at UN conferences, where bureaucrats and politicians talk incessantly about raising taxes and subsidizing wind and solar, believing they can bring a hasty end to fossil fuel usage even though the evidence says otherwise.

 

Too much salt spoils the soup

Everyone knows what it’s like to be busily doing something, only to have someone show up who wants to chitchat or distract you. Few of us would be rude at such times, but when it’s time to work, most of us aren’t interested in needless interruptions.

 

Business people are the same. Alberta businesses in the midst of building, developing, and serving the public don’t want regulators interfering, interrupting, or otherwise stonewalling productivity.

 

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens when excessive government regulation and red tape reach a tipping point, which according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), has already occurred in Alberta. When it comes to needless provincial red tape and excessive regulation, Alberta is in a league of its own. On CFIB’s annual red tape evaluation scale, Alberta is the only provincial government with an outright F.

 

How much power do government regulators have over the business community? Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek described it by saying that the power multi-millionaires have over us, whether they’re our neighbours or employers, is much less than the smallest bureaucrat who wields the coercive power of the state and decides whether and how we’re allowed to live or work.

 

Eric Nuttall, a Canadian investment manager involved in directing billions of dollars (much of it toward the oil and gas sector), describes the impact of current over-regulation on business in Canada and Alberta as profound “regulatory headwinds.” He indicates that these “headwinds,” are caused by provincial and federal governments implementing carbon taxes, royalty regime changes, and needless and useless regulations.

 

Nuttall says investors know that there is so much red tape and over-regulation in Canada that it takes 10-12 years to get a pipeline approved (and even then, there will be obstacles and interference). In the U.S. and Texas, he points out, a company can apply for a pipeline permit and be digging into the ground 6-9 months later.

 

One innovative individual who speaks eloquently about the perils of needless regulation is Maurice McTigue, New Zealand’s former Ambassador (High Commissioner) to Canada. Prior to arriving in Canada, McTigue had been a Cabinet Minister in a government that swept away mountains of red tape. He was one of the architects of a regulatory reform process referred to as the “New Zealand Miracle.”

 

McTigue says that when he and his colleagues took over, in just one government department, the regulation book was 25 inches thick. After deregulation, the new rules totalled 348 pages. “We [even] rewrote all of the farm acts, and the occupational safety and health acts,” he said.

 

McTigue said: “We brought our brightest brains together and told them to create the best possible environment for industry to thrive. These new laws, in effect, repealed the old, which meant that all existing regulations died—every single one.”

 

Measured by the number of employees, McTigue and his colleagues cut government by 66% and further reduced Income taxes by half. He says that as a result and at the time, government revenue rose 20% and New Zealand became one of the most competitive economies in the world.

 

To be sure, there is certainly a need for regulation and guidelines, yet overdoing regulation is really no different from putting too much salt in the soup. The right amount gives flavour. Too much will ruin it.

 

· CFIB Red Tape Report is at:

http://www.cfib-fcei.ca/english/article/8960-grading-the-provinces-on-red-tape-2017.html

Some may not like it, but it shapes our lives

Have you ever met someone who says they never talk about politics, or who insists on not getting involved in political discussions?

The irony about such an idea is that even people who don’t talk about politics and shun involvement in it can’t escape the fact that political outcomes are all around us. Whether we like it or not, politics shapes our lives.

Traffic laws, tax laws, minimum wage laws, contract and labour laws (including the government’s new farm law, Bill 6) all apply to the way we work and interact with each other. The cost endured by every business or citizen as a result of such laws gets incorporated into the price of things—gas at the pump, things at the store, wine from a local vendor.

Businesses get their money from customers. So every time politicians pass a law saying that carbon or corporate taxes are higher or that the cost of wages has gone up, businesses have to choose between upping their selling prices, laying off employees, stopping new investment, or going broke.

In Alberta, politics has even reached far into the world of electricity, and everybody is going to be affected by it, including the people who don’t want to talk about politics.

In Ontario, politics changed the electrical system. The Ottawa-based Climate Science Coalition says in some cases electrical rates have tripled since the early part of the previous decade. Manufacturers that depend heavily upon electricity are leaving, taking investment and jobs with them. A Globe & Mail headline proclaims: “Ontario drives manufacturers away with overpriced electricity.” Bob Malcolmson, CEO of the Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, stated that 2,700 businesses fled Ontario in a single year.

Some people say politics is distasteful because politicians argue, debate, and get partisan about things. That’s true. Yet it’s also true that in every free society, political debate is the place where ideas and differing opinions are supposed to bang against each other, get aired out, and argued over. This is what English philosopher John Stuart Mill meant when he said: “Truth emerges from the clashing of adverse ideas.”

When politicians debate and argue it’s not because the political system is broken. Canada’s political system was designed to be adversarial. One party in the legislature is deliberately named “the opposition” because its responsibility is to oppose the assumptions, actions, and policies of the governing party. The beauty of this is that we decide who’s right and who’s wrong. Everybody gets a ringside seat and the chance to vote in the next election.

So what else does politics let us decide? The current government says it’s comfortable being in debt, possibly even for an amount exceeding $100 billion. One MLA claims government debt is the same as a home mortgage. Fiscal conservatives disagree, pointing out that at the end of every home mortgage, there’s a valuable asset that can be sold. At the end of government debt, there’s only debt—paid for by our children—plus interest payments. There’s never a marketable asset. No one buys old highways and used bridges.

Politics allows ordinary Albertans to decide which agenda they’ll follow. Political leaders say whatever they want, but in the end, we elect the government. In other words, political debate protects our freedom, which explains why we shouldn’t avoid discussing such things.

Effective representation

Many people believe that every single democracy has a one-person-one-vote rule that never gets changed or broken. They’re mistaken. Population density, geography, and the very real limitations faced by elected officials make it impossible for every electoral district to have the same number of voters.

 

Electoral boundaries are supposed to be determined by two things—population and extenuating circumstance. To calculate an average population per riding, the people who establish electoral boundaries take the total population and divide it by the number of ridings allowed by the legislature. This average is intended as a start-point or rough guideline only.

 

The second thing Alberta’s electoral boundary people must do is obey the law, which obligates them to propose electoral boundaries that ensure “effective representation.” This rule makes provision for extenuating circumstances such as distance, geography, etc. This is so important that Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Act actually says that to accommodate this objective, the population from one riding to another can “vary” by as much as 25%.

 

In other provinces, ensuring “effective representation” can mean variances that are wider than Alberta’s 25%. For example, due to distance and geography BC’s smallest populated riding has just over 20,000 people while the largest has more than 70,000.

 

Alberta’s electoral boundaries are established by the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC), run by five people the government appoints. These five propose changes that can alter a riding’s size, amend the number of voters, rename the riding, etc. It’s also their responsibility to make sure “effective representation” is established.

 

“Effective representation” simply recognizes that some urban MLAs can drive across their constituencies in half an hour or less, and often have no requirement to interact with town councils, school boards, or junior governments. Conversely, in many rural ridings, not only is distance a factor, but MLAs may have dozens of town councils with whom they must interact, plus several school boards, municipal or county councils, and multiple hospital boards.

 

The failure of Alberta’s EBC to establish “effective representation” in its recent recommendations for constituency changes prior to the next Alberta election has some observers suggesting that the Commission has circumvented an earlier decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. This was a 1991 ruling recognizing the importance of “effective representation.” The EBC is proposing changes that would eliminate two rural Alberta ridings, while increasing the size of other rural districts.

 

To explain why some believe that the Commission ignored “effective representation,” consider the fact that a proposed new riding in southern Alberta would take nearly three hours to drive across. It’s shaped like a distorted hourglass that’s wide at the U.S. border, yet only about 15-20 km wide near its middle. The riding then widens way out again and goes north all the way to a line east of Strathmore. Near the top of the crooked hourglass, it juts far to the east, ending southeast of Brooks.

 

The demands of these large ridings are already extremely challenging. These new and expanded ridings will likely result in obstacles that hinder voters from even meeting with their MLA. Other rural ridings face similar challenges due to the EBC’s failure to appropriately consider “effective representation.”

 

As of this fall, the Commission’s public process has ended. It has presented its boundary proposals for the next provincial election to the legislature for its consideration.

 

Life without it would be grim

Over a year ago, a telltale picture appeared online of a young couple stranded at a truck stop on their way to a pipeline protest. In the photo, he’s beside their SUV and she’s on the hood. Graffiti on the SUV’s back window shouts an anti-pipeline slogan. She’s holding a big cardboard sign that says: “Out of gas!” They’re obviously panhandling.

The picture demonstrates that many pipeline protestors want it both ways. They oppose pipelines, yet they want a tank of gas. Surely most protestors—in Canada at least— also covet the sustainability of social programs to which the hydrocarbon industry makes an enormous annual financial contribution. The benefits we all derive from petroleum are so significant that if Canadians were forced to live without them, our lives would be miserable.

Toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, electronics, telephones, computers, fertilizers, and thousands more products—including over-the-counter painkillers, eyeglasses, heart valves, and vitamins—all depend upon petroleum. Modern medicine is extremely dependent upon petroleum-based products, and numerous medicines come from petroleum derivatives.

At the same time, the fossil fuel industry enables people to prosper. The Financial Post quoting StatsCan says that from 2005-2015, median household income rose 10.8% ($6,900). Yet those of us in resource-generating provinces did much better. During that same period, income went up by 37% in Saskatchewan ($20,161), 20% in Alberta ($18,151), and 29% in Newfoundland ($15,068). So the industry not only provides important and useful products, it facilitates jobs and income.

Despite this, for ideological and bureaucratic reasons, some governments opposed an Alberta-to-Maritimes pipeline. Some even have the idea that this has stopped or slowed down the consumption of fossil fuel, which is ridiculous. Saudi oil tankers are constantly off Canada’s east coast because Quebec and Atlantic Canada import oil annually worth double-digit billions. Also, every reasoned environmentalist recognizes that if you stopped the fossil fuel industry dead-cold, you’d shatter the economy leaving vast numbers of people destitute, while putting an end to many government programs.

Canadian Press says that the hostile attitude of Canadian governments toward hydrocarbon companies has pushed vast amounts of investment outside the country. Many investors willing to risk money in Canada now face so much uncertainty, that they’ve moved their capital to countries where regulatory rules don’t keep changing—sometimes halfway through a project for which they thought the rules were already set.

Recently, governments have blocked energy development projects that would have brought $84 billion in new investment. Analysts said that exporting thousands of jobs to the U.S. is senseless, and the Toronto Sun said the $84 billion loss represents “more than a third (36%) of the value of the investments of all companies in Canada in 2016.”

Importantly, these derailed investments would have required zero public debt at a time when governments in Edmonton and Ottawa are deeply in the red. The Economist pegs the combined debt of all Canadian governments at $1.74 trillion, yet governments are deliberately chasing away investment and jobs.

Obviously, some people dislike the hydrocarbon industry, preferring to embrace renewables. Certainly, in time, this will occur. Yet the fact remains that the fossil fuel industry can’t stop on a dime. If it did, our lives would be pretty grim, because every day—just for plain living—we rely and depend upon thousands of useful products derived from the oil and gas industry.

Before wealth can be harnessed or taxed it has to be created

As odd as it sounds, there are some familiar things that many of us would likely have trouble explaining if someone pointed to them and asked: “What’s it for?”

One example would be government. If fifty people were asked to explain what government is for, we’d likely get fifty answers. Some would speak about caring for the poor. Others would talk about building schools, roads, and bridges. The subject of the legal system and courts would no doubt be raised. Others would mention the environment, seniors, and healthcare.

Every one of these considerations is an important part of modern government. Yet underlying the ability of any government to effectively deliver these considerations is the availability of wealth. No matter the political stripe, governments rely on wealth.

An important thing about wealth is that governments can’t harness or tax it until after it’s been created. This is the reason that a primary responsibility for government—one of the “things it’s for”—is to establish a friendly environment for investors, businesses, and jobs. It’s how governments facilitate the creation of wealth.

How is wealth created? Award-winning Peruvian economist Hernando DeSoto points out that the enormous wealth of the western world emerged only after ordinary people and private businesses were given what he calls “a stake in the game.” This included the assurance of low taxes and the establishment of laws protecting property and private assets.

DeSoto describes the reform process that led millions of land-hungry immigrants to Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., Australia, and Canada during the 1800s and early 1900s. These individuals and families responded to opportunity, then with labour and personal investment they created wealth by adding value to things.

So, if low taxes and laws protecting property and private assets are the keys to creating wealth, what might some of the conditions be that hinder wealth creation? To slow down wealth creation (Alberta has done too much of this already) you need higher taxes, too much red tape and regulation, runaway government debt, and a political disposition that favours accelerated public sector spending over private sector considerations. This is not to criticize the public sector—merely to recognize that the private sector is the wealth creation engine that essentially pulls the entire train.

The danger of excessive government spending and debt is why Ottawa’s Independent Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) recently issued a warning to Alberta, telling us that our current fiscal policies cannot be maintained. The warning was like a flashing red light on the dashboard, telling us to stop what we’re doing. The province’s response was to offhandedly dismiss the PBO report.

The challenge now facing Albertans is twofold. First, to facilitate the kind of society we all want requires that the province embrace policies that attract investment rather than repel it. This means acknowledging that a big part of any government’s responsibility is not just to spend money—maintaining and expanding programs—but to establish an economic environment that allows individuals and private businesses to invest, work, and create new wealth.

Second, the PBO’s warning has to be taken seriously. We can’t sustain the continuous $10 billion back-to-back deficits we’re seeing. Instead, we need government spending and government revenues to match one another. This is crucial, because only by ensuring responsible finances today can we ensure responsible finances for the future.

Corporate welfare

Between 1980 and 2009, Canadian governments spent a staggering amount of money on private sector subsidies—over $600 billion. The federal government kicked out $343 billion and provincial governments spent $287 billion.

Much of this massive expenditure is what’s called corporate welfare. That’s when governments levy taxes against waitresses, burger cooks, farmhands, teachers, homecare workers, and others, then flip that cash to private and shareholder-owned companies.

The most ardent advocates of corporate welfare are private companies that won’t survive in a genuine marketplace, and corporate executives who know they can extract favours from politicians too naïve or inexperienced to fully appreciate the implications and actual cost of government handouts.

Some governments are attracted to corporate welfare because they think spreading cash around makes it look like they’re doing important work. They claim it’s how jobs get created. In fact, it doesn’t work that way at all—because every time politicians dole out corporate welfare, something called a “crossover consequence” applies. Here’s how it works:

Governments get their money from taxpayers. When a government gives away $100 million, it must first take $100 million. Alternatively, it can borrow, putting future taxpayers on the hook for payback and interest. Either way, the people giving up the $100 million are left with that much less to save, spend, or invest.

Politicians passing out the $100 million claim they’re creating jobs, yet ignore the costs borne by the taxpayers who forked over the money in the first place. These taxpayers surrendered their own badly needed capital—resulting in fewer jobs, lower investment, and diminished wealth for them, their families, businesses, and communities. This is the “crossover consequence.”

When governments engage in corporate welfare, the part of the economy from which they take money is the part that’s efficient and productive. It has to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be paying tax.

Macleans Magazine recently reported that Bombardier Corporation in Quebec has received more than four billion (inflation adjusted) dollars from taxpayers. Recently, Justin Trudeau and his colleagues handed the company $372-million in interest free money, which some say may or may not be repaid. Shortly thereafter, Bombardier’s executives awarded themselves $40 million in compensation—a near-50% increase.

In response to criticism on the Bombardier cheque, Trudeau said that “investing in Bombardier is a way of ensuring good long-term jobs.” But is it? What about the crossover consequence?

Honda is another recent recipient of corporate welfare. Ottawa gave the automaker $42 million to spend on vehicle-assembly technology and to construct a new paint shop at its Ontario factory.

In Alberta, Ralph Klein frowned on corporate welfare, yet business thrived. Klein rightly determined that what business really wanted was a stable, attractive, investment climate—plus low taxes. Klein gave that to them. Investment and jobs thus poured into Alberta. Since Klein, Alberta governments have been back in the thick of things when it comes to handing cash to corporations. According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, between 2011 and 2017, the province spent or committed nearly $7 billion to corporate welfare—almost $6,500 for every Alberta family of four.

The bottom line on this issue is that taxpayers are not responsible for the finances of privately-owned corporations. And that politicians who want investment and jobs better facilitate that outcome by lowering taxes and creating a trusted environment for investment.

Satisfaction from doing things for ourselves, our families and friends

When Alberta was first settled, many people made their own homes out of sod slabs cut from the earth. There were thousands of these soddies, built by people who knew that if they took personal responsibility for their future, one day there would be a reward.

These self-sufficient people raised their own livestock, poultry, and eggs. They butchered their own meat, grew their own vegetables, and made their own butter, flour, and clothing. They cut their own hair and pulled each other’s teeth. They established the first school boards and the earliest municipal governments.

Back then, most everybody did things for themselves. They had to. There was nobody to do it for them. Nowadays things are different. People have more time for leisure, and often focus on issues other than the barest necessities. Physically, we probably don’t work as hard as the pioneers. We’re wealthier, so we hire people to do things for us. We hire homebuilders, mechanics, tradesmen, and professionals like lawyers and accountants.

The efficiency of modern farms means most of us can do things other than grow food. By going to the supermarket, we pay people who specialize in growing grain and raising beef and poultry. When we pay for a steak or loaf of bread, we’re telling the storekeeper and our farmer friends that we like what they do and hope they’ll keep doing it. We deliver that same message when we shop for other things.

Hiring people to do things has taken root in the way we think; nevertheless, there are some things we will never be able to hire others to do for us. Family responsibilities, for example, are deeply personal. We can’t hire a father, mother, uncle, or grandmother.

Similarly, every person who holds the personal privileges of citizenship in a free and democratic society also holds the personal responsibilities of citizenship. We can’t hire anyone to perform or discharge these obligations for us. We must do it ourselves.

In free societies, we each have a responsibility to observe our elected officials, and to determine who’s doing a good job and who isn’t. Then, like proverbial garden weeds, we need to yank out the poor performers by the roots. It’s every citizen’s responsibility to do so. We can neglect it, preferring to complain or be cynical, but we can never escape the consequences of ignoring that responsibility.

Constant weeding makes it possible for a gardener to reap a harvest. Government is much the same. Bad government priorities and bad government policies are like weeds. (Consider the government policy that recently stopped construction of needed pipelines.) These political weeds sprout even when and where you don’t want them.

Whether we like it or not, it’s inevitable that some people will be elected who shun fiscal responsibility and who generally conduct the affairs of government in a cavalier, irresponsible, or haphazard manner. In such instances, ordinary citizens have a responsibility to speak out. At the same time, when elections occur, if ordinary people won’t take it upon themselves to evaluate and identify these individuals and their parties, removing them from office, the freedoms and privileges we enjoy are eroded.

When ordinary citizens do exercise their options and responsibilities, the whole community benefits from the deliberate “weeding,” that amounts to common sense ideas being applied by common people.

Checking off the boxes

When most employers search for people to fill key positions that are pivotal to their company’s success, it is always in their best interests to choose the applicant that is best qualified and best suited for the task at hand. Ensuring relevant criteria is met; there must be some form of prioritized checklist. Only after asking the right questions and checking off the boxes will you really have an accurate measure of who meets the criteria you feel is important.

A commercial airline pilot’s due diligence includes checking off the boxes on a preflight checklist; this also puts an emphasis on how important it can be to have a prioritized checklist. The purpose of a pilot’s preflight check is obviously for safety reasons and preventative due diligence. Now imagine if that pilot decided to ignore one or more of those boxes, the implications could be catastrophic. Choosing an applicant to be the next Premier of Alberta deserves that same attention to detail.

The United Conservative Party members are, in the minds of a majority of Albertans, in the midst of determining who will be the next Premier of Alberta. The decision that determines which candidate will fill that role should also be subject to a similar checklist because the implications have the potential to be just as catastrophic as an improperly done preflight checklist.

The trail of wreckage that will be left behind by the NDP’s ideological excursion will need all the skill and ability available to concerned Albertans. The ability to create true grassroots policies and legislation to correct the course of the province is essential. The balance between knowing when to take control and when to take direction from Albertans is a quality taxpayers haven’t seen for quite some time in this province.

Checking off the prioritized boxes is something UCP members will need to consider when deciding who will be at the controls when Alberta is about to take flight to bluer skies. The abilities of that candidate will act as a stabilizing influence to steer Alberta clear of the storm clouds in the future.

There will be much to repair after Alberta returns to a stable, competent, conservative government such as the Carbon tax and Bill 6 that have adversely affected Albertans. Further repairs will be needed to correct the NDP government’s changes to the education system that are usurping the authority of parents and will indoctrinate the NDP ideology into the classroom. The next Premier of Alberta will also have the monumental task of taking a firm stance with the federal government and making sure our voices are heard.

The necessary changes can only be accomplished with a leader who exhibits strong conservative principles and who has shown the consistent ability to make things happen in government. The UCP have been blessed to have quality candidates to choose from. Now it’s up to Albertans to make sure the boxes get checked off and the best choice is made.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

 

The recent controversy over the $322,000 budget deficit of the newly formed United Conservative Party (UCP) caucus needs clarification. The budget deficit was created by previous Wildrose caucus leader Brian Jean who significantly overspent his financial allotment, knowing full well that the Wildrose caucus would be terminated before the budget year was finished.

Jean and certain others claim that there is no deficit. In order for one to exist, they say, the fiscal year would have to have been completed. But make no mistake, a deficit does exist.

Look at it this way: If you received $12,000 to rent a place to live for a year, you’d have $1,000 per month. If you deliberately decided to rent a place for $2,000a month for the first four months, you’d have a budget deficit. You’d only have $500 per month for the last eight months. This is what Jean knowingly did.

Jean knew that as Wildrose caucus leader, he had only four months, and that the deficit or surplus he left at the end of those four months would be inherited by the new party—by the new UCP caucus. Now, because of Jean’s $300,000+ deficit, MLAs in the UCP caucus are being asked to contribute money from  their constituency budgets to make up the shortfall.

Caucus and constituency budgets are different. The purpose of the caucus budget is to pay for support staff, research, communications, and other necessities required by MLAs for their work inside the legislature. The purpose of the constituency budget is to cover costs that MLAs incur at the constituency level, including constituency staff and the cost of communicating directly with the men and women he or she represents.

You’ve probably heard the expression “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.” The term can be traced to a couple of churches in England, one called St. Peter’s and the other St. Paul’s. It’s a long story as to what actually happened, but the church diocese decided to take assets from Saint Peter’s, sell them, and used the money to pay for repairs to Saint Paul’s.

Essentially, that’s what’s happening here—robbing Saint Peter’s (the constituencies) to pay for repairs to Saint Paul’s (the caucus).

Jean created a caucus deficit by deliberately ignoring the fact that the caucus budget would terminate when the two parties merged. Responsibility for the shortfall rests squarely on his shoulders and those who made the decision to ramp up hiring and spending prior to the unity vote, leaving a huge hole in caucus resources and now (it appears) in constituency resources, which are supposed to be available for MLAs to work with their constituents.

This robbing Peter to pay Paul does not align with what most of us reasonably understand to be good representation and sound fiscal management. As a former member of the Wildrose caucus who deliberately and repeatedly sought clarification and accountability about caucus funds, I deeply regret the actions of certain of my colleagues, and the way that myself and others were hindered in our early requests for transparency and financial disclosure.

Constituents will be happy to know that the new UCP Opposition is staffed with those who believe that good representation and sound fiscal management are necessary to ensure that the legitimate needs of the electorate are put ahead of all else.