Thursday, June 25, 2009

move ahead Manitoba

Danielle Smith has been twittering away on the Fraser Institute's ranking of investment climates for oil and gas. As she should. The Institute's latest Global Petroleum Survey surveyed 577 energy executives from around the world and found that Manitoba, with a NDP government, is considered a more attractive place to invest than Alberta. Internationally, Alberta clocks in at #92 out of 141.

So what do Alberta bloggers have to say about this? After a couple of days of opportunity to respond, CalgaryGrit, Daveberta, Ken Chapman, Enlightened Savage, TinyPerfectBlog, StraightOuttaEdmonton and more have all apparently felt this news either unworthy of note or in need of being buried. Evidently the throw-away remarks of MLAs or the parental opt-out clause of Bill 44 are of greater consquence to this province. re Bill 44, as I've said before, if parents pulling their kids out of the public school system entirely isn't news, since when would the (at this stage entirely hypothetical) pulling them out of a handful of classes be news?

Fortunately, the MSM has latched onto this survey of energy executives, with the national Globe and Mail, Financial Post, and CBC picking up the story, in addition to the reliable Calgary Herald and AM 660.

A glance at the comment threads attached to these media articles, however, goes a long way to explaining why Alberta is free-falling down the chart. The most recommended (by readers) comment on the CBC story contends that a Fraser Institute report has "no credibility". Why? Because the Institute is "sponsored by US evangical groups" [sic]. Why a US evangelical group would sponsor a think tank that calls for the legalization of marijuana I don't know, yet this gets 116 thumbs up and just 28 thumbs down. Another commentator declares that "Quoting a "study" by these propagandists only dampens the credibility of the media outlet which publishes it." This is why we hear a deafening silence from Alberta-based bloggers I suppose: they are protecting their credibility!

This whole "credibility" line of attack might pack more punch if it did not have to be wielded against all the other think tanks that have criticized this government. Are the government's own fiscal responsibility commissions, which have called on it to get its savings policy in order (calls which have been repeatedly ignored), also short on credibility? This Fraser report is all too consistent with reports like that of Jack Mintz, who has noted that Alberta's business tax environment is worse than average out of an 80 country sample. Jack Mintz is considered by most public policy experts to be the most authoritative academic in the country with respect to tax policy (call any senior professional economist working at Finance Canada for confirmation). Mintz has also noted that provincial taxes are on track to rise from 8% to 11.2% of the economy by 2020. That is a bigger proportional growth in the size of government than even the worst case scenarios for Obama and the government of the United States. The Americans are at least having a debate about the policies of someone the Germans have dubbed "the Debt President." My fellow Albertans seem to be standing around in stunned silence.

I returned from Ottawa before the last provincial election to run for the Wildrose Alliance party because I was convinced it did not have to be this way. The province has a relatively educated electorate. Unfortunately, advocating for business interests is received about as well by the general public as trying to defend lawyers. Can the situation be changed? The number of cases where a libertarian or pro-business party has formed a government in a western democracy are few. Looking at Germany's FDP, for example, its best chance at influencing government is in coalition with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats. But sooner or later the public will have had enough, and that point will come when the flight of investment adds up to a lower standard of living. That decline can be masked by deficit spending, but only for a while. I can only hope the damage is still reversible at that point.


daveberta said...

"have all apparently felt this news either unworthy of note or in need of being buried."

Actually, neither. This is the first I've heard of this Fraser Institute report.

Ken Chapman said...

I have heard about it and have a lilnk but I am out of town on business an d not able to read and reflect on it yet. I will be posting on it next week.

Alberta Altruist said...

Brian,You have to remember the north and south division in the media. Calgary MSM would have a lot more than Edmonton in the oil and gas world with Edmonton more following the political aspects.

Anonymous said...

When the best rebuttal to a report is 'well they are biased' without being able to show any evidence of such, you know there must be truth.

I mean, you wouldn't want the opinons of over 500 executives who decide where billions upon billions of investment dollars are heading to cloud the reality of the 'royalty review panel'.

So sad that Alberta has been damaged so much in such a short time.