Monday, February 13, 2012

Canadian Problems Become Greek Problems

The Greek Austerity plan has been in the works for a few months. It was supposed to pass in December but the Prime Minister decided to put it to a vote. His country is broke to the point Greece could take down the EU, but he felt, for whatever reason, his citizens should have a choice. This caused a vote of no confidence that he barely won. Either way, it's finally passed. Now with the austerity plan, there are rules the Greek government must follow and the Greek citizens don't like so they decided to riot, hurt their own people and burn their own cities.

Greece is a part of the European Union, the Euro is their currency and this has been the case since 1999 so intellectually, I'm having a hard time with what's going on. I figured they joined so they'd be a part of the larger economic force, not try to bring it down.

Greece's unemployment is at 20%, many small businesses are bankrupt, and the economy has been shrinking year after year. The government hid a great deal of debt and their spending was out of control. From what I can see, an effort to control it and bring them to a position of an effective country again is not what the Greek people want.

I find the timing of this interesting. Calgary City Council has a serious overspending problem and the Alberta Budget was just released with the idea of increasing spending with money it hopes to get from the energy sector. Canada is at its very core a social democracy but looking at what's happening in other countries, ideals need to change.

The City of Calgary has no money through 2018 with projects approved in 2011. I don't think a city council should be permitted to go into debt beyond their term without some sort of approval process. With the latest approvals, the City of Calgary will be in debt for a decade or two. Some people argue that the council has the right to make multi-million dollar decisions on our behalf because they were elected in. What I would have liked was a plebiscite on some of the larger projects. There doesn't need to be a plebiscite on every issue but if the project is large enough to break the bank, I'd like a say. I believe a number of Calgarians feel the same way. Instead what's been happening is the Mayor and Aldermen have decided they know what's best for us and then raise taxes to meet their expectations.

Not only that, the Mayor talks about how the provincial government has no money left to hand over to the city for debt reduction. If I were in charge of the province, I wouldn't be inclined to give money to a city that shows itself to be fiscally irresponsible. Anyone who takes a significant refund meant for the people then goes about trying to cut essential services such as the police budget doesn't show itself to be trustworthy with more money. Yet the city continues to spend on non-essential services like rec centres when it's already broke for years to come. Looking at Greece, how long did it take for them to reach a tipping point? What did it take to reach the point of no return? Where on the scale is Calgary sitting in comparison?

With our provincial government, similar issues are happening. The Alberta Budget was recently released. It has many amazing promises in it like increased spending for family and health services, no tax increases and hopes that the energy sector will grow to hold the system up. Relying on the economy to prop up the budget when Europe is currently so unstable doesn't seem the wisest course of action.

The Tories promise to lower debt and deficit in a few short years with no apparent cuts in government spending at any level. I may have (hopefully) missed them along the way. I also haven't found a backup plan if the economy doesn't grow as expected.

The Alberta Government also makes decisions on our behalf saying that any rational Albertan would make these choices. In a democracy, a leader would ask. In a dictatorship however, they, well, dictate. I'm tired of being dictated to. I believe this is becoming a problem at all levels of government, and not just in Canada. The solution to this one is easy, the politicians could actually listen to Canadians instead of speaking at us saying it's for the greater good. We may have more respect and trust for them then, not a lot more, but it could grow with time.

Each level of government must become fiscally responsible and fast. They have to stop going to the next level, with their hand out, asking for money for their ineptitude. I think what's been forgotten is that there is only one level of tax payer. There is an appropriate time for the municipal government to receive money from the provincial government. When they are at a point of begging for it, that is not appropriate. I don't want the city to be so broke that there must be intervention. With intervention there are rules. That is what Greece is facing and they are not facing it well.

Our leaders have become arrogant and I feel my opinion only matters on election day. Learn from Greece's mistakes; our politicians shouldn't be remembered for their grievous overspending and constant tax increases. I wish to be listened to by my governments and I hope many others feel the same way. I don't want any part of my country to turn to destructive rioting. I want people to care about what's going on. We don't need it to get to the point of borrowing or bailouts. What is required is restraint and proper fiscal policy and responsibility.

As a Calgarian, Albertan and Canadian, I am one person and I wish to be heard.


  1. Considering Calgary's economy is so closely tied to that of oil demand, it would seem appropriate that the City Council would create a Slush Fund for lean days. Most especially as they are so badly overstretched for so many years!

  2. That is a part of my point. Oil, energy sector, it doesn't matter what it's called, if the economy doesn't increase as expected, there isn't as much money flowing into the government as they would like so why continue taking on more debt load? There is a budget to follow but no money for new projects, perhaps more appropriate projects.