Letter: Debt is not the answer

When we discuss our province’s finances in the Alberta legislature, the PC government likes to blur the distinction between ‘capital debt’ and ‘mortgage debt’.

In order to convince the public that taking out tens of billions of dollars in debt for infrastructure is the right course for Alberta, Premier Jim Prentice and his Cabinet liken the decision to purchasing a house.

But whereas the purchase of a house replaces the payment of rent with the opportunity of personal investment in an asset that appreciates and can easily be sold, getting into the trap of debt-financing infrastructure generates a collective mortgage that has no foreseeable end nor payoff.

The PC government has put Alberta on a dangerous course, similar to Ontario.

For many Albertans, this doesn’t add up.

We’re living in one of the richest jurisdictions in the world but our government is relying on debt to pay for basic infrastructure like roads and schools.

What’s worse is the principle debt and massive interest and maintenance payments will be passed on to future generations. The people cutting the ribbons and having their pictures taken today will pay hardly anything for these projects, in the end.

There is a better way to build the infrastructure we need – a way that doesn’t saddle our children and our children’s children with the burden of debt.

Wildrose has a long-term, multifaceted framework that will put in place measures to address heavily inflated debt-dominated methods and prioritize infrastructure spending.

Efficiency and innovative ideas will form the backbone of our approach, which will target the debt problem at its core.
This will take a change in culture inside the public service, where year after year public servants indicate in the Corporate Employee Survey that their ideas for innovation are not valued.

Our plan will target the archaic and unethical contracting processes, the hyper-politicization inside infrastructure decision-making and the egregious levels of waste and excess that have ballooned under the PC government.

This will amount to billions in savings for taxpayers every year, which can be used to build for the future.

On Nov. 12 – in the capacity of Wildrose Infrastructure Critic – I released a new report called On Time and On Budget: Addressing Alberta’s Infrastructure Needs, detailing these ideas in full and showing exactly how Alberta can get the infrastructure it needs without going deep into debt like Ontario.

I urge you to go to our website – www.wildrose.ca – read this report and see what you think.

Like you, I’m lucky to call Alberta my home. I was raised to believe it’s of the utmost importance we leave our children with a better chance to succeed than we had, the same way our parents did for us, and their parents before them.
As it stands, Alberta will be paying more than $1 billion per year by 2016 just in interest payments on the debt we’ll owe, and we may still be no closer to getting the projects we need and were promised by the current government.
This is not what I envision for Alberta’s future.
Debt is not the answer.

Drew Barnes
MLA, Cypress – Medicine Hat

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  1. Having to use debt to run the affairs of the province, during a period of record revenue, is the result of mismanagement, and an unwillingness to make hard decisions.

    I’m often asked, what’s the difference between the PCs and Wildrose. Well not willing to go into debt is a big one of the differences.

  2. Joe, I would be interested in hearing what it is that the WR party would do. They have been historically long on complaint and short on solutions.

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