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Delivered at the Fraser Institute Round Table Luncheon, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, January 6, 1995
The topic of my remarks today is the Alberta advantage, and how one province is dealing with the debt and deficit crisis. It is a timely topic, but only if you accept the fact that it is indeed a crisis. Not a debt and deficit problem, not a debt and deficit situation; we face in this country a debt and deficit crisis.-And that opinion has been expressed by numerous people, far more knowledgeable about the economy than I. Indeed it was The Fraser Institute that recently ranked Canada as the 46th most indebted country in the world out of 173 countries. As the recent issue of The Bank Credit Analyst stated: "Canada is on an unsustainable path."
So in discussing how Alberta was going to deal with the debt and deficit crisis, our first task was to convince Albertans that the situation was indeed critical. Of course people in Alberta, and across Canada for that matter, would prefer painless solutions. And some said, "We hear this all the time from all governments and institutions like the Fraser Institute, but we always get along, we seem to manage."
I guess that is human nature. People would like to hear, "yes we have a problem, but all we need is a little more fiscal constraint, a little cutting over here, maybe some modest tax increases over there and hopefully with low interest rates and strong exports the economy will grow us out of the situation." Have you heard that recently? It seems to me I heard a bit of that from Ottawa not so long ago.
The problem is that Canadians have been hearing that for 20 years and governments have been promising that for 20 years as well. And our problems get bigger and bigger and bigger. Two years ago, the Alberta government lost its credibility. Then we got into our program of spending reduction and we convinced Albertans that we were quite serious about this, and that we weren't going to back down. So much so that one lady in Calgary wrote a letter to the Calgary Herald, saying, "Ralph, stop this, stop this. You've gone far enough. And if you do, we will forgive you. We will forgive you because we have become so used to politicians not keeping their word, that it would be expected." Now I don't know if that is indicative of Canadian thinking, but somehow I think to some degree, it is.
So in an environment where politicians have lost the people's trust, we in Alberta focused on the area that they …