NDP versus business

Were it not for the tens of thousands of jobs that have been lost in the recent downturn in Alberta, I might actually have laughed at today’s exchange in the world of provincial politics. It started with a collection of 15 business groups writing an open letter to the NDP government. Quite simply, they requested that the government stop implementing policies that were harmful to the economy. And, if it isn’t too much trouble, they’d like to discuss the issue with the government.

The government’s response? Very fascinating…

Joe Ceci appeared to have two key talking points in his response to the letter.

  1. The proposed tax changes really aren’t that bad.
  2. He already meets with those organizations.

In short, “stop your whining” and “buzz off.”

It may be true that Alberta’s taxes are among the lowest in the country, but let’s not forget that’s part of the secret sauce that made Alberta the economic engine of Canada for so many years. Much of the rest of the country could afford to flirt with progressive economic policies because provinces like Alberta kept the ship afloat. Progressive policies don’t make things better, so the only reason Canada survived this long was because at least some provinces were smart enough to avoid progressive policies.

But now the economic engine is sputtering. Worse than sputtering, it’s all but dead. And the NDP essentially plans on fixing the problem by throwing out the spark plugs and cutting off the fuel line. Is it any wonder business owners are concerned? They don’t like cutting staff any more than staff like having their jobs cut. And these folks don’t work in the public sector where jobs are sacrosanct and to be protected at all costs.

Alberta’s tax structure may still be more success-oriented than the rest of the country – Ceci is right about that – but at the time when our local economy is failing worse than the rest of the country, is there really wisdom in undermining our “Alberta advantage” until we blend somewhere, inconspicuously, in the middle of the pack? Now, more than ever, is when Alberta needs to stick out. We need to differentiate ourselves precisely because our unemployment rate is now higher than the national average.

I don’t know who’s in charge of PR in the NDP government, but when a collection of representatives from virtually every economic sector of your province write you a letter outlining exactly what their concerns are – while simultaneously showering praise on the past successes of your government – and respectfully ask for some of your time to discuss the matter, telling them to “stop whining” just doesn’t seem like the right approach. Especially when these same folks have had to lay off tens of thousands of the very people who elected you into office. And implicitly telling them that to “buzz off” by reminding them that you already meet with those folks really doesn’t send the right message about the relationship between government and the citizens.

But, hey, welcome to the new Alberta.