In a virtual meet last week, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews spoke on the 2023 budget.

Most big news media in Alberta able to personally attend the budget reveal already saw the budget before the Tuesday, Feb. 28 release. So, by the time the virtual meeting rolled around on Wednesday, there was already lots of news about it online in the daily press and TV. Even so, during the virtual meet, Toews had interesting observations to make about the budget and what is coming to Albertans this year and in coming years.

One item was a projected Alberta population increase of 2.9 per cent in 2023. That means 133,400 more new people in Alberta arriving. This is in all manners including births and migrating in, less how many are leaving in all manners, including deaths. That’s like creating two brand new cities the size of Grande Prairie. And with all the streets, stores, homes and sidewalks to go along with them.

Put it another way, many small towns have trading areas of around 12,000 to 15,000 or so. Using 12,000, that potentially means there will be 348 new people arriving in each of those regions.

Of course, that isn’t happening in small towns. Rural Alberta growth is flat, or in too many cases, actually declining.

So we have stories about ‘hard done by’ communities like Canmore, Jasper and Banff crying the blues how they need more money.

Alberta taxpayer money of course, to pay for all the visitors coming to their towns. Usually, there are always towns and cities whining about their growth, and how much pressure it puts on them providing services to the newcomers. The rest of the province always said, “Gee, kinda sad. But in fact, we sure wish we had your problems.

You get the benefits. Raise your taxes.”

The underlying problem here is, out of those 133,400 net newcomers, the majority will settle in Edmonton or Calgary. More will land in the other large centres. And many of those newcomers are voters. The end result being, when it comes to spending, lazy politicians follow the votes. This continues and enforces a death spiral for rural Alberta.

More businesses in the cities. More services and amenities always appearing. New and better equipped care and education facilities. A ‘virtuous cycle’ exactly the opposite of the death spiral.

It needs to be hammered home, over and over again, there are no forests growing lumber for new homes in Edmonton. There are no oil and gas rigs drilling in Calgary. There are no mountains or lakes in Red Deer. Cities also have no grain fields or ranches.

It is entirely possible that one day, solar fields, wind turbines, mines of any sort, and tractors and combines and so much more might all be managed remotely by people in basements or office towers. An environmentalist dream having hardly any person messing up forests with garbage. A politician’s dream without hundreds of communities with their hands always out. Just a couple big ones.

Let’s keep in mind. If you can run a farm from a basement, it can be run from India or Spain just as easily. And turned off quite easily, too!

by Jeff Burgar

March 11, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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