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alberta – be smart and think big!

Here is part of an editorial that was in the Calgary Herald this weekend. It pretty much sums up what we’ve been talking about for the past couple years…

Alberta has been given a vast array of gifts — of natural resources, of hard-working people with entrepreneurial spirit, of markets eager to do business. It has been wise enough to steward these riches well to this point. It now faces a greater challenge: to build a better future, not just for Albertans, but for Canada and the world.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Start saving. In the past 30 years, only 8.6 per cent of royalties have been set aside and more than 90 per cent spent. The Heritage Fund is worth $2,500 per capita, compared with $6,000 per capita in 1991.

Now that its debt is paid off, Alberta must start a serious savings plan. Canada West suggests half of all resource revenue go to an endowment fund; whatever the percentage, it needs to be substantial.

2. Manage spending. Alberta needs to invest in a strong health-care system, education and infrastructure for cities. The cuts that were necessary to bury the debt in the 1990s are no longer needed and Albertans have said they favour reinvestment.

So do we, but with a measure of stability. The greatest obstacle these sectors face is the roller-coaster of funding they’ve had to contend with as the provincial government lurches between surpluses.

These areas should be funded properly over the long term; the wild and wacky splurges of the past year have to stop.

3. Think big. If Alberta spends wisely and saves for the future, there will be still be ample opportunities to leave a proud legacy. Forget prosperity cheques and vanity projects — let’s aim higher.

The Canada West Foundation thinks Alberta could lead the world in research and development in alternate forms of energy, rival Harvard with a post-secondary endowment fund, or fund a national centre of excellence in wellness.

Albertans will have other ideas, if they are challenged to be visionary.

There was a bumper sticker popular in Alberta in the 1980s that read: “Please God, let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss it all away next time.”

Albertans have been given that second chance with riches and potential that are the envy of many. It must not be wasted.

As far as university endowments are mentioned in the article, we are in the midst of writing a policy brief on North American university endowments – Harvard is the largest up around $25 Billion and Yale is second with around $15 Billion (the University of Alberta‘s endowment is currently sitting around half a billion – according to 2005 figures).

Endowment funds are where-it-is-at, dawg.

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