Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Some Speculation on Stelmach's First Alberta Throne Speech

Alberta’s new Premier Ed Stelmach gets to put his fingerprints all over the Alberta government in his first Throne Speech this afternoon. I will do a review and tonight on the speech itself.

I expect there will be a much more activist Alberta government than has been the case for the past five years of the Klein regime, other than Klein’s penchant for record levels of unbudgeted spending.

What can we expect then? Here are my guesses. The environment will be predominant including a commitment to new GHG emission standards for industry…I bet there will be legislated absolute limits not just volunteer intensity targets. Expect a fed-prov and industry collaboration on a new pipeline to transport captured CO2 and a major sequestration initiative. Mountain Pine Beetle is a new concern that can have devastating impacts on the boreal forest in Alberta so I expect it will get some very serious attention and resources to mitigate and adapt to the new reality.

The social agenda will be important too. I hope for a reference to support for a province wide smoking ban in public and workplaces will be referenced. The social services sector is in dire straits, especially the not-for-profit and private agencies. They can’t recruit, retain and trains staff to meet demands in the full range of needs form day care, children’s services, long term care and disability services. More money to raise wage levels and show a long term commitment to community based delivery of services needs to be identified in the Throne Speech.

A commitment to new technology and innovation supports will be highlighted with some of the surplus funds being dedicated to long term approaches through current and hopefully some new endowment funds.

Health will shift to an emphasis on wellness and prevention and restructuring toward better outcomes.

A new municipal funding model and a more mature intergovernmental relationship between communities and the province will be heralded based on the $1.4B on fresh funds into the infrastructure needs. An aggressive immigration policy to deal with the labour shortage is needed and will have a political commitment from Stelmach.

In summary – I expect an emphasis to show concern over managing growth but not by interfering in the marketplace. Expect to see a new relationship with industry in dealing with the environment in a planned and strategic basis, new money to deal with the public facilities infrastructure deficit at the municipal level mostly but not exclusively. I see a new commitment to dealing with the realization we also have a serious social infrastructure deficit now too that demands more money but also a new relationship with government to deal with problems.

The new Alberta as the nation's economic powerhouse with the related environmental challenges plus the consequences of growth on peoples lives will make for an interesting place to watch and wonder about. It will also be a most interesting place to govern. The next ten years of government dealing with change and growth will make the last ten years of a debt and deficit government look like child's play.