Alison loves a good disaster

Whatever gods Alberta premier Alison Redford has been praying to, they heard her pleas and decided to help her out: they left the taps in their heavenly communal showers running and flooded a good portion of Alberta, causing around $5 billion-worth of damage, and damage so severe that, according to the most recent assessments, it will be another ten years before all the affected areas will be restored to what they were until last week.

Right now, Albertans, and Canadians, keep seeing Redford on their TV screens all the time. If she’s not out talking to “regular folks’ and pretending that her presence will somehow wipe away those people’s very real hardships, her vampirically pale face (should she be allowed outside when there’s daylight?) pops up at press conferences.

It was funny to see her act like a little school girl standing next to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi: desperate to get enough exposure on TV, she actually started talking over Harper as he was answering questions, while jostling in front of the camera, thus not only cutting off Harper’s answer, but also shoving him aside.

Yes, Alison, that was really so mature.

She relishes the disaster that hit Alberta. No, she doesn’t enjoy the suffering of her fellow Albertans, but for her it’s simply too good an opportunity to pass up to save her own bacon: thus, she announced, she will set aside $1billion, for starters, to help with rebuilding efforts. But that’s not where her message stopped. She hastened to add that this meant that there would be no more attempts to balance her budget.

Honestly, the gods could not have given her a better gift: she can now go on finishing her job of wrecking Alberta’s fiscal health, and probably won’t hear much criticism for it, because, after all, she’s doing it for all the right reasons. And people, as we know, are very gullible (as the 2012 provincial election in Alberta so clearly demonstrated) and will believe just about the biggest crock when it’s served on a silver platter (courtesy of the taxpayers, as usual, of course).

Let’s keep in mind that the last budget showed a deficit of at least $14 billion, which is the actual number that should have been published. But through various ways of cooking her books, and stealing from tomorrow’s taxpayers by drawing on the province’s savings fund, she managed to present a lower figure than that.

Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the Progressive Conservatives have been robbing Alberta blind for several years now, with the worst acts having occurred since Redford became premier.

In all fairness, it’s not just Redford who’s playing fast and loose with tax dollars, but also her entire party, and their cronies. Redford, for example, refuses to pay her own bar association fees and has taxpayers foot her bill instead, while her fellow Tories milk and bilk in several other ways – and then, of course, there’s that nasty issue of Tories helping themselves, and their cronies, to preferred and special treatment when it comes to health care services.

If money kept flowing and growing freely, all that could be simply ignored. But at a time when Alberta oil is sold at a discount, and the chances are growing that the province will be sealed off by a lack of pipelines, spending like a drunken sailor is probably not such a good idea.

Even before the flood, Alberta in general, and Calgary in particular, had already lost a lot of its “attractiveness value” for living and working. Most recent newcomers to Alberta, and Calgary, were disappointed by the lack of public transit (and many have said so to yours truly), as well as several other drawbacks. What is more, the much-vaunted “Alberta Advantage” is gone, it’s no longer the most affordable province in terms of taxes – in fact, in the most common tax brackets, Ontario is now one of the most affordable provinces in the country.

It had also become extremely difficult, even impossible, for many outside the oil business to find jobs. Not surprisingly, out-migration set in already about two years ago or so, with many former residents of Saskatchewan, for example, selling their homes in Alberta and heading back to their home province, which started to have a better economic (and fiscal) performance than Alberta.

Alberta, sadly, is a one-trick pony, and now that it’s only trick (oil) is pretty much done for, more and more people were already making plans for leaving Alberta as the waters came rushing through their streets.

Many people will be entirely wiped out after this disaster. No matter how much money the provincial and federal governments kick in, there’s no way to make those people whole again. With some analyses that show that property values could drop by as much as 60 per cent – not only because of the flood, but also because of Alberta’s general loss of stature – it’s obvious that many people will just have to eat their losses and move away to start from scratch somewhere else where there is greater diversity of opportunities, that is, anywhere but Alberta.

In that respect, Calgary mayor Nenshi was right when he spoke about the resilience of Albertans – even though it applies to all Canadians – as they will pick themselves off the ground, pack up their belongings and start brand-new lives elsewhere. If the predictions about Alberta’s economy for the next decade are even halfway true, then those adventurous enough to seek fortune outside the province will likely succeed at a much higher level than would have been possible had they stayed at home.