Tighten up your chin straps

The Liberal government is preparing a new Speech from the Throne to lay out its go-forward plan. In an effort to “condition” the public a series of statements and leaks ‘on background’ have emerged in the run-up to the Speech. 

The Prime Minister has mused about:

  • “A road map for our government in coming years” 
  • “an ambitious and responsible plan to address COVID-19”
  • “rebuild our economy so that it comes back stronger”
  • “The last thing Canadians need is to see a rise in taxes right now”
  • But what he hasn’t said matters too: He avoided the question about returning to balanced budgets.  

The Finance Minister offered up her thoughts too:

  • “I think all Canadians understand that the restart of the economy needs to be green. To the questions of decarbonization as part of our economic plan going forward: of course, it has to be part of it.
  • The economy “needs to be equitable… inclusive”

The Liberal government is working the rumour mill with tidbits:

  • “significant investments in housing”
  • “overhaul of employment insurance”
  • “support for child-care”
  • “support for long term care”
  •   And tougher fuel standards for refineries and businesses 

And all this green and spend talk has spawned other rumours:

  • Worry that the deficit will have no “anchor” i.e. the link between debt to GDP ratio will be lost.
  • Concern that focus on the ‘green economy” will be seen as a distortion of the pandemic priority and harm resource economies.
  • A worry that more social program spending will not generate wealth to pay for the rising national debt.

There isn’t much in these rumours that offers comfort to Albertans. In Alberta, there is already considerable pessimism about the future.  50% of Albertans in a recent survey reported that their economic fortunes had diminished in the last year. (compared to 35% for Canada as a whole). 30% of Albertans surveyed, expect to be worse off next year and only 26% expect to see improvement.

So, severely normal Albertans might watch the Speech from the Throne for answers to these questions: 

  • Does the “green” economy include the resource economies of energy, mining, agriculture and forest products? Are new regulatory burdens imposed in the name of climate change?
  • Is new funding for social programs sustainable? Does the Trudeau vision of the future mean dramatic new levels of debt financing?
  • Have the issues of fiscal fairness to Alberta been forgotten?