LETTER – Time for Albertans to pull their heads out of the tar sands

Tar sands. (Image: Screenshot, Directly Affected)

It is high time Albertans pulled their heads out of the tar sands and took responsibility for the mess they find themselves in. Theirs is a province with provincial debt, expected to hit $96 billion by 2023 and a raft of costly oil and gas caused environmental problems.

Debt wasn’t always the case. Alberta was able to declare itself debt free in 2004. Former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed saw the pitfalls to relying on oil and created the Alberta Heritage Saving Trust. The Trust was:

“To save for the future, to strengthen or diversify the economy and to improve the quality of life of Albertans.”

Started in 1976, Alberta poured 30 per cent of the provincial energy revenues into the Trust. Ten years later retired CFL quarterback turned Premier Don Getty put an end to the revenue transfers. Succeeding governments followed suit. The Trust has flat lined ever since.

Even with a growing debt, Albertans boast having the lowest tax rate of all 10 provinces and it remains the only province without a sales tax. In spite of the low taxes Albertans lead the nation in consumer debt.

Tax rates the same as B.C. would add an additional $1.7 billion to Alberta’s bank account. A five percent provincial sales tax would generate $5 billion more.

Albertans face two approaching environmental glitches that can only add to their financial woes.

Tailing ponds are where the oil industries store the toxic sludge left over from extracting the oil. Alberta now has about 220 square kilometres of “ponds” holding an estimated 1.2 trillion litres of contaminated water (equivalent of 390,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools).

The Alberta Auditor General discovered the Alberta government had $1.6 billion worth of financial security from oil companies toward the estimated $21-billion cost of reclamation.

Added to the bill are abandoned orphan oil wells. Alberta has about 155,000 abandoned orphan oil wells; wells the owners have walked away from leaving the province on the hook with an estimated $8 billion clean up bill.

Alberta could have been another Norway had Peter Lougheed’s advice been followed. Norway, with an oil economy similar in size to Alberta, has an oil fund. The Norwegian fund’s market value stands at about $1-trillion Canadian.

Alberta’s solution – blame BC,


About Mel Rothenburger (6680 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on LETTER – Time for Albertans to pull their heads out of the tar sands

  1. Certainly the tax advantages enjoyed by Albertans have been rubbed in our face many times. How often have you had a discussion with a friend or relative from Alberta, who pretty much tells you you’re being screwed by your provincial government, because you’re paying waaaaay too much tax. Clearly, only a moron would accept this taxation!

    But the reality is that they’ve been borrowing against their future. How much do you want to bet that the rest of the country will eventually be volunteered by the Feds to help out our irresponsible provincial brother??

  2. Spot on Bob and a great article. This message and fiscal reality should be known by every Canadian. To round out that education I would love to see an honest report card across Canada for health risks, cancer rates etc as well as Substance and alcohol abuse. My sense is Alberta would again get a failing grade and more likely highlight another near crisis situation. Either way pretty hard to stomach all the belly aching from a province so poorly managed and seemingly unable or unwilling to fix it’s own crisis.

  3. Great letter from Bob, with a bang on conclusion. It’s all B.C.s (and that activist David Suzuki’s) fault. This is another too big to fail project, with so many Texas billionaires all in that we all have to pay any price to bail them out. As usual, politicians are chasing jobs and wealth with little regard for the future.

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