If you are an Albertan, age 18 or younger, we are writing you an apology.
As a society, we believe when we make a mistake that harms others, we should apologize. These values we learned from our parents, values we hope to pass on to you.
We realize that some of you are not yet old enough to understand this letter. Nevertheless, you deserve this apology just as much as your peers. In fact, you are owed much more.
We could preface this apology, but we will not. You deserve the truth, which is that we spent your money.
Alberta’s provincial government tabled its 2017 budget, with an estimated $10.3 billion projected deficit. We will be required to pay this money back. This doesn’t mean much to you now, but as you get older you will come to understand the seriousness of the matter.
The 2017 budget wasn’t the first of its kind to spend future generations’ money, but it is one of the largest deficits in our province’s history. Worse, it outlines a plan to leave you with $71 billion in debt by 2019-20. Interest payments will be $2.3 billion per year.
That’s $2.3 billion that could have gone to your education or health care. In fact, $2.3 billion is more than the budget for five government departments.
You might be asking yourself, “How could they do this?”
The truth is, about a decade ago, Alberta had no deficits and billions set aside for a rainy day. Then, in an era of wealth, we started spending more than we had for no justifiable reason.
Over time we blew the rainy day fund. Now it’s raining.
There are many among us who lived through similar circumstances 25 years ago. It took tremendous sacrifice from many people to halt our debt spiral, not to mention a perfectly timed oil boom. We had hoped to spare you from similar circumstances. On this account we have failed you.
There are some who believe spending your money is the best course of action. They are not sorry. In fact, some of them would take more of your money, on the premise that it is for your own good.
These people do not represent the majority of Albertans. Most of us recognize the danger in allowing this debt spiral to continue, and are preparing to take action. While halting the debt spiral will contain the effects, it cannot undo the damage. All we can do is apologize, and change course.
We are sorry. We apologize.
Don MacIntyre, MLA
#2, 160 Hewlett Park Landing
Sylvan Lake, AB, T4S 2J3