A more diversified, low-carbon economy may be the gateway to more than one kind of harm reduction for Alberta, if a former deputy minister is right to compare natural resource revenue to drug addiction.
“Resource revenue is really the crack cocaine of public finances,” Grant Robertson, former deputy minister for the provincial treasury board, told a panel discussion at the University of Alberta last week. “When you get it, you just get stupid.”
Much of the session was devoted to the prospect of a provincial sales tax, and to the pros and cons of government spending. But panelists “all agreed the low price of oil isn’t just a low point in a cycle but, as one referred to it, ‘an inflection point,’” the Edmonton Sun reports.
“To that end, Robertson said [Premier Rachel] Notley and her government are hoping too much for those prices to rise and aren’t looking to the future when bitumen revenues drop the same way as natural gas.”
Crashing oil prices have already brought Alberta’s fossil fuel royalties down by 90%, punching a $10-billion hole in the province’s budget.