We’re in the final days of a very important federal election campaign, and we need to get this one right. Maybe it’s because of my age, but I’m convinced it’s usually a good idea to look back, before moving forward.
Thomas Mulcair and the new Democrats certainly make a point of looking back to Saskatchewan’s 17 consecutive balanced budgets under NDP rule.
Unfortunately, independent financial analysts have suggested that those balanced budgets were sometimes produced by fiddling with accounting practices. But that’s not what’s important.
I grew up, and farmed in Saskatchewan during those NDP years, and those balanced budgets – real or not – were a rare bright spot in a chronically depressed, opportunity-lacking economy.
When Meritha and I pulled up stakes and moved our family to Alberta in 1975, we bought a home in a cul-de-sac. There were 10 homes, 6 of them occupied by economic refugees from Saskatchewan.
Comparing the paths the two provinces took tells us why.
At the end of World War II, Alberta elected a pro-business government; Saskatchewan elected an, incentive stifling, anti-business government. And for the next 60 years their economies headed in very different directions.
By 2005, Alberta’s population had more than tripled to 3.2 million, while Saskatchewan’s stagnated at 1 million. Under socialism, there was an exodus of businesses to Alberta, BC, and Ontario, and predictably, for 60 years, Saskatchewan’s sons and daughters followed.
The black humour of the time suggested that for Saskatchewan’s youth, the most appropriate graduation gift was a set of luggage.
Socialist policy always, sooner or later, results in diminishing opportunity, particularly for young people. In Social Democratic (socialist) Europe, youth unemployment currently ranges from 15 to over 50%.
Of course, the left argues that Alberta had resources, particularly oil. But Saskatchewan obviously had plenty of oil, and it’s now being developed. What it lacked was a business friendly government.
In fact, just a few years before they were turfed from office, the NDP abandoned some of their socialist dogma and lowered business taxes. To their surprise, tax revenue jumped!
But it was too late for the NDP. Brad Wall’s government took over and lowered taxes even more, and tax revenue soared. After 70 years, Saskatchewan is growing again, but in spite of abundant evidence that lowering taxes raises revenue, Trudeau and Mulcair want to raise them.
Sadly, Canada has another example of socialist folly. For decades Ontario was pro-business, and, Canada’s economic powerhouse. But in 1990, Bob Rae’s NDP took office and started implementing socialist ideology. As could be predicted, many businesses stagnated, or headed for the exit.
Then, when the Liberal party took over, they governed like socialists, and now, almost inconceivably, Ontario has become a have not province.
Economists compare Ontario’s finances to those of bankrupt Greece, and tragically, youth unemployment is approaching European levels.
Until this June, Alberta’s PC party governed like Alberta was their personal playpen and bank. With oil at $100 a barrel, they threw money at every problem, and seemingly, at every crony capitalist friend.
Four months ago the NDP took over but nothing’s changed. Union cronies have simply taken the place of the PCs corporate cronies, and they’re all securely seated on the gravy train.
And the socialists are governing like, well, socialists. Because if you’re a socialist you’ve just gotta do some socialism, so over the next three years they’re raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
But here’s the reality. What they are actually telling Alberta’s youth is that if they can’t find someone willing to train them, and pay them $15 an hour, they can’t enter the workforce. Read that again.
So erosion of the Alberta advantage accelerates, and the exodus back to Saskatchewan will continue.
There are plenty of things to dislike about Stephen Harper, although Harper Derangement Syndrome has become so absurd that in some cases it probably qualifies as a mental illness. I am not joking.
Harper isn’t warm and fuzzy; he does whatever he feels is necessary to get legislation passed, and he tightly controls his troops.
But can you really argue that Justin Trudeau isn’t controlling? For starters, ask the would-be Liberal candidates he forced aside to get his handpicked candidates in place for this election. Or ask any pro-life Liberal.
Thomas Mulcair is warm and fuzzy? Okay; he is quite fuzzy on how he’s going to spend tons more money, and still balance the books.
And I’m old enough to remember both Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau. They were both ruthless and totally opportunistic politicians.
But elections shouldn’t be about personalities, (or even the Niqab.) The bottom line is the economy, and in a world that’s spent the last seven years struggling out of a major recession, Canada has done exceptionally well.
Unlike most other developed nations, our books are back in balance, and the economy is growing.
Canada’s taken a pragmatic approach to the millennia-old problem of climate change; a controversial and still clearly unsettled issue if there ever was one.
(Millennia-old you say? Certainly. Google, Vikings in Greenland. Or Doggerland)
I believe that Canada has taken a rational approach to the Middle East refugee crisis, balancing compassion with prudence.
And as for all the hand-wringing about Canada’s place in the world, here’s a reality check. For four of the last six year, Canada’s been ranked number one as the best place to live. The other two years, Canada was ranked second.
Is there another country in the world where citizens would want to terminate that success by changing government?