Another year is in the books, and not a moment too soon.
For many, 2015 will be a time they hope to forget as they wish for gladder tidings in the new year. The catastrophe in global oil prices rocked Alberta’s economy and left tens of thousands without jobs. The unemployment rate spiked at 7.1 per cent to kick off December. With low oil prices generally expected to continue for a while, it is increasingly clear there will not be a short-term fix to the energy sector job crisis.
With those realities in mind, we kick off our new year resolutions for 2016 with the economy. Remember that bumper sticker from the ’80s? Next time we won’t … you get the idea. Well it would seem we did and have managed to cripple our Alberta Advantage in the process. While oil prices are out of provincial control, we can resolve to be smarter with oil and gas revenues in the future. That should help cushion the blow when we are hit by the inevitable decline in prices that rock our economy each time the roller coaster plunges. We can also resolve to wean ourselves off our provincial budgetary reliance on the energy sector. That is not to diminish the importance of the energy sector in the lives of many Albertans. We sincerely hope for a quick recovery to get people back to work, but relying on such a volatile industry to balance the books does not make good business sense.
In the short term, we hope our government resolves to help people get back to work. There are already federal and provincial stimulus plans in the works to provide jobs but not only is that not permanent employment, it is work not suited for many of those new to the unemployment lines. Breathing some life back into the energy sector would help a lot. Opening our resources to new markets by moving ahead with the Energy East Pipeline might be the shot in the arm we need.
Speaking of governments, we would like Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and her government to resolve to begin using their ears. Communication seems to be an issue with this rookie team and better planning and consultation upfront will go a long way. We also hope they resolve to show Albertans the NDP is adaptable and will not simply govern blindly based on its own dogma, no matter what pipe dreams it may have promised during the election. Good political leadership is about recognizing realities and making acceptable compromises. With the economy floundering, now is not the time to put extra burdens on businesses with taxes or unexplained expenses. And while a royalty review due next month might not recommend increased royalties, now is not the time to jeopardize Alberta’s competitive position in a global energy market.
In our own backyard, we hope council resolves to clear up Patrick Draper’s defamation lawsuit as quickly as possible. And not just to put a bigger smile on the city manager’s sunny mug. Coun. Cam MacKay’s motion to end city funding of the suit must be approved. If the evidence is as strong as Draper implies it is, the city manager will likely recover the legal costs and be able to reimburse taxpayers for their losses. We also would like to see the new internal auditor position quickly filled to improve efficiencies at city hall. Finally, we hope council resolves to be far less wasteful in its spending especially considering the increased operating costs expected from the new library branch and arena. No more painted sidewalks and fake bricks – please!
On our end, staff here at the Gazette resolve to continue to do our best to bring you the news that matters to St. Albert. We will also endeavour to be an important part of this community and not only as the newspaper of record, but as an organization interested in this city’s success.