By GRAHAM HICKS
You do not have to be a petroleum engineer to see where Alberta is heading in 2019.
Down, down, down.
Not an earth-shattering Depression-era or early-‘80s downward spiral.
Just the same relentless grinding – the same double-clutching through endless muck – as has been happening since the Great Oil Price Collapse of 2014.
It’s not about massive lay-offs, not in the private sector. Every job done by a human being that could be eliminated has been eliminated.
It’s about 0% wage increases, a steady cutting of employee benefits, no more company pension plans, buy-outs of employees 55 or older …
Graduates from NAIT or the University of Alberta in any of the “hard” sciences – i.e. engineering, computer programming – used to have jobs waved in their faces. Now they’re knocking on doors – most of them shut.
You want proof? Talk to any of your friends or relatives in private-sector management. To a one, they are glum.
You want proof? ATB Financial’s economic research team publishes The Owl, a near-daily online newsletter reporting statistical data on the Alberta economy.
The headlines in The Owl for the last two months have been of unrelenting gloom:
Retail slumped for five months in a row;
Confidence slipping among Alberta business owners;
Albertans spending 10% less on groceries, 13% less in restaurants since 2015;
Record numbers of new houses remain unsold;
Building permits are down, capital spending for oil and gas is sliding lower.
Alberta made the massive error of bringing a socialist New Democrat Party to power in 2015.
As government revenues began to shrink, the New Democrats – as befits their societal beliefs — began to massively spend, especially on “climate challenge” initiatives that have cost billions, shut down resource industries, yet yielded no new economic benefits to Alberta and made not a whit of difference to global warming.
The result is now a $50 BILLION provincial government debt run up in four years: Despite the lowest interest rates in decades, annual debt servicing is now costing the Alberta government $1.5 billion a year – with projections of up to $3 billion within three to four years.
Interest on the debt is already this government’s third biggest expenditure, after education and health. In just FOUR YEARS!!!
On the industry side, no other energy-producing domain in the world has been as disrupted as Alberta’s.
And the enemy is within.
Alberta’s oil and gas is among the cleanest in the world. Our advanced environmental technology and processes – if adapted world-wide – would meet all international goals to reduce CO2 emissions.
The world now consumes 100 million barrels of oil a day. According to all experts, demand will grow – regardless of advances in renewable energy sources — to 125 million barrels a day in 30 years.
CLEAN oil/natural gas/coal is a desperately needed global commodity. And we are the best in the world at producing clean fossil fuels! Our expertise in reducing CO2 from resource extractions and industrial emissions has the potential to save the planet!
Yet our own children have been so brainwashed as to believe our oil and gas is bad!
Our federal government, drunk on the same anti-oil propaganda, is strangling our No.1 industry through outrageous over-regulation and deliberate inaction on the pipeline front.
At the same time, the British Columbia government has launched a visceral hatred against Alberta’s oil industry and a pipeline expansion, based on little but emotion.
Yet B.C. is thrilled to have a $40 billion natural gas industry crashing through its forests and sending huge natural gas tankers out among the killer whales.
Forgive the rant: But as we stand by, our province is heading into a slow, steady and permanent economic decline.
It is great to see exports of lumber and beef soar. It’s terrific to see Edmonton emerging as a centre for marijuana cultivation and research. It’s delightful that our mayor loves to talk about artificial intelligence research and high-tech start-up companies.
But all that perhaps represents 10% — maximum — of Alberta’s economy.
The rest is directly or indirectly tied to the oil and gas.
Unless drastic action is taken in 2019 to right this litany of wrongs, Alberta’s main industry will shrivel up and die. As goes oil and gas, so goes the entire economic well-being of this province.
Never has heroic leadership in this province been so desperately needed.
The crisis is now.