Straight Talk
MONTE SOLBERG - Alberta's economy to surpass Quebec



I wonder if, amongst the accusations of personal wrongdoing, any of the leaders in the Quebec election campaign bothered to note that Quebec will soon lose its status as Canada's second-largest economy?

Yes, and the people about to surpass them are those uncultured, oil-soaked, money-grubbing, gap-toothed hicks out in Alberta. (Now I'm getting all sentimental).

How could this happen?

Quebec was almost elbowed into third place six years ago, but then the recession hit and badly busted Alberta's boom-bust economy. Since then it has roared back, no thanks to the government. High oil prices fix a lot of problems, but they also create at least one big one, which we'll get to in a minute. Today Alberta's GDP is around $320 billion compared to Quebec at $360 billion

If I was a Quebecer I would be mad. Or as Justin Trudeau might say when he wants attention, f---ing mad. I'm even vexed about it as an Albertan. Quebecers are perhaps the proudest people in the country, so why the indifference?

Not only that, British Columbia might be about to change its status from the place we go to golf, retire and die to the place we go to make a living. If the liquefied natural gas boom fulfills its promise, 10 years from now BC's economy could also be larger than Quebec's economy.

I know this sounds like the Alberta guy beating up on Quebecers. Banish the thought. Hey, I live in a province where the premier thought it might be OK to use tax dollars to build a personal "sky palace." She didn't heed Thoreau and tried to build her "castles in the air."

Besides, it was the French who gave us the word entrepreneur, only to give up the concept and go all statist. They've been in decline ever since, which is why Quebecers are in the best position to be economic leaders if they so choose. Thanks to decades of bad to indifferent, high taxing and over-regulating government, Quebec entrepreneurs who have managed to survive are the experts on how to do more with less. They just need their lame government to get out of the way.

Compare that to Alberta where the problem is too much money, starting with the government. All the wealth has allowed the government to paper over problems by spending, instead of constantly reforming programs to ensure taxpayers get value. Too much money has allowed them to escape those serious reality-check discussions with voters, reminding them that to govern is to choose. Alberta has a deficit because no one has had those conversations since Ralph Klein.

I have low expectations for the Alberta PC leadership race. The pool of likely candidates is shallow and the water is dirty. The membership is angry and skeptical. Oh yes, and the party is broke, which speaks volumes in a province awash in cash. And yet at stake is the chance to be premier of what will soon be Canada's second-largest economy.

But neither can voters escape our duties. It's our job to elect serious leaders who won't balk at telling us the hard truths.

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