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Opinion

Inaction and procrastination at city hall may cost our children $100 million.

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Red Deer County released the fact to our local media that they ramped up construction projects because tenders were coming in at 50% off boom prices.

Red Deer City just released the fact that they will delay construction projects for another 10 years.

The Aquatic Centre including a 50m pool, which has been requested and lobbied for, for at least 30 years, long before the last pool, (Collicutt) was built 2 decades ago.

The estimated cost at one time , at least 5 years ago, was $87 million. In boom times you could reasonably expect the cost to increase by 5% per year. 5 years and add another 10 years and we are looking at a cost of approximately $150 million.

Red Deer County says they were getting 50% discounts and Blackfalds is getting their new public works yard sooner at 40% off and it will be at least 20% larger than planned.

Red Deer City should get the county or Blackfalds negotiators to find these great deals. We may have gotten the pool for $43 million but now it looks like it could cost our children $150 million.

If this delay of another 10 years, costs us over a $100 million more than what it would have cost us today, I think our city leaders have failed us miserably. We will never know because they won’t look, they won’t ask, and they would not admit it anyways.

Too bad.

 

Political editor/writer and retired oilfield supervisor

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Business

The big quiet bail out – Euro/Japan central banks propping up stock markets, is the US next?

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You’d think that the golden age of markets, if there was one, would be something like the post WWII economic expansion era. That was pretty impressive, driven by baby boomers and the gigantic wave of consumption that enveloped them. Never before in history had parents worried so much about the outfits that New Baby would wear, and it only got crazier from there.

Fundamentally though, the late 1700s were far more earth-shaking. Not in the consumerist sense; those austere horse-travelers managed to survive somehow without the likes of either Apple or Lululemon, for example, but consider the free-market achievements of that period. The United States came into existence, a profound new experiment in governance and free(ish) markets. In academic circles, famed economist/philosopher Adam Smith coined the term “the invisible hand of the market” in his book The Wealth of Nations. It was a reference to the ability of a market economy to provide benefits far beyond those that accrue to the creator. That is, an inventor of something that becomes wildly successful enriches not only the inventor, but society as a whole. Plus, it is an indirect reference to the ability of markets to efficiently allocate capital.

We tend to forget that wonder of capital markets, particularly as the world drifts into one defined more and more by government intervention. Since the 2008 financial meltdown, governments have gone kind of berserk in attempting to keep the financial world afloat, causing markets to gyrate in increasing spirals through wild-eyed policy guidance as the dollars at stake become stupefyingly large. We no longer have economist/philosophers at the helm; we have economist/desperados who have convinced the world their alchemic ways will work, and they don’t know that it will, but they’re really really hoping.

The new breed of economist has introduced an all new Invisible Market Hand – not one that provides infinite benevolence, but one that is like a forklift driver feeling confident in his/her ability to pilot a fighter jet because the seats are similar.

The strategy of which I speak began in Japan over the past decade. After years of trying to kick start the Japanese economy in various ways, including dropping interest rates to zero, the central bank began buying up treasuries as a means of supporting debt markets. When that didn’t get things going, they took the next step and actually began buying up equities to prop up stock markets. Since then, Europe has started a similar program. And yes, you heard that right – in those jurisdictions, if stock prices fall too much, the market is prevented from self-correcting, and governments are, in effect, breaking the fingers of the original Invisible Hand.

They appear to be stepping in to keep critical sectors of the economy in good shape, and also to enhance the “wealth effect”. The wealth effect refers to how citizens tend to spend more drunkenly when they feel wealthy, and for many that means a healthy portfolio. If someone sees their retirement nest egg shrink from $100,000 to $50,000 in a severe market downturn, those people tend to lockdown spending – a wise reaction. But as we’re seeing, the world keeps turning because we are consumers, and like it or not, consumption makes our world go round. So by making those portfolios stay healthy one way or another, governments seek to put the population in a semi-drunken spending stupor in order to keep the party going. Anyone who’s witnesses a true boom economy will recognize the phenomenon – at the peak of the oil boom 6 or 8 years ago, there were direct flights from Fort McMurray to Las Vegas, and thousands of twenty-somethings were purchasing vacation properties. Suffice it to say that those days are gone.

Don’t expect the new Invisible Market Hand to bail you out if your brother-in-law convinces you to load up some hot stock tip he got from a friend who got it from a friend who got it from a friend, because the “friend” at the end of that chain will be some dubious stock promoter that may or may not end up in jail, and even panicked governments won’t save those souls.

With the new strategies for propping up markets however, we’re starting to see the lengths governments will go to in order to maintain financial stability. You’d think the mountains of debt will lead to a day of reckoning, but, emboldened by the global government response to the 2008 financial crisis, the high priests of finance are becoming more emboldened. That our fate depends so heavily on a squadron of tweedy economists is truly frightening, but we’re all in the same boat, so enjoy the ride…

 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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Alberta

Our sports history has value

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Simple confirmation that the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame has been operating without its standard financial aid from the provincial government prompted some interesting response during the last few days.

In a casual conversation, executive director Tracey Kinsella mentioned last week that COVID-19 made it necessary to cancel at least two annual fund-raisers – the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and its annual invitational golf tournament in Red Deer – and she was concerned about meeting routine expenses.

Consistently, the government’s contribution of $302,000 a year has been in the hands of Hall of Fame officials before the middle of the year. She expressed only mild frustration,, understanding that the coronavirus pandemic and other major financial issues have created major problems far from the world of sports. She did state that government staff members, working below the level of elected or appointed officials, have told her of their efforts to have the money forwarded as quickly as possible.

Perhaps this delay must be seen as part of a long and ongoing drop in Alberta’s financial support to amateur sports at all levels. In the 10-year period ending in 2019, the reduction reached $5.1 million – an average of $500,000 per year. We should hope not.

Some comparative figures seem to be well worth serious study:

* The economic impact of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer was $110 million; impact of the 2018 Alberta Winter Games was $3.4 million for the Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo area and $5.6  million for this host province;

* In 2018-19, Alberta Sport Connection, a sport delivery system disbanded months ago by the UPC, provided $7.2 million to be shared among 80 provincial sport organizations that delivered programming to more than 788,000 Albertans;

* Leduc hosted the 2016 Alberta Summer Games with an economic impact of $3.6 million for the area and $4.9 million for the province.

Still, government aid has dropped. Some citizens suggest minor and amateur sports should not receive government support during troubled times. Today it might be wise to ask Fort McMurray if that community will value the 2022 Arctic Winter Games? The record shows that numerous small- and mid-sized business stepped up during the 2018 Games, a difficult time for fire victims and petroleum companies that have served as a backstop to countless community and area projects.

After the severe floods earlier this year, it’s safe to guess that any international program that will improve community morale while adding some vital dollars to the public purse will be welcome. Incidentally, they’re headed to Wood Buffalo because COVID-19 forced cancellation of the scheduled 2020 event in Whitehorse. Fortunately, some of the dollars set aside and unused in the Northwest Territories have already arrived in Fort McMurray.

These days, surrounded by a crippled economy, I wonder if Alberta now wishes the 2026 Commonwealth Games were headed for Edmonton and 2026 Winter Olympics were coming to Calgary. Both possibilities were seriously discussed before being nixed.

During my five-year term as chair of Alberta Sport Connection, the organization received steady criticism for finishing third of fourth – usually in the rear of Quebec and Ontario – in provincial medal counts. I tried regularly to help almost any government official to focus on the cost of doing business.

It made no impact to point out that Alberta’s per-capita investment in sport programs is (or was) the second-lowest in Canada. Sorry, I can’t remember which province spent less, but I am sure that Saskatchewan receives $24.39 per capita and Newfoundland gets $8.36 per capita.

Alberta receives $3.85 per capita although 82 per cent of Albertans say in polls that they believe sport contributes to quality of life. And those I have spoken to say clearly that the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame has value.

John Short on Edmonton’s baseball debate

 

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may, 2020

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