In the pantheon of poorly written and meaningless online surveys, the Government of Alberta’s new ‘Budget Dialogue’ online survey now rests upon a high pedestal (other recent polls belong in their own pantheon).
If you were not so lucky to have been invited to join Premier Alison Redford, Finance Minister Ron Liepert, or Treasury Board President Doug Horner in the real budget consultations being held behind closed doors, your next best option is to fill out an online survey about the next provincial budget.
Once you begin to fill in the ‘budget dialogue’ online survey, you will quickly discover that this survey is not a dialogue between a citizen and their government, but a ‘monologue’ between a citizen and a government website.
Originating from the Greek work dialogos, a ‘dialogue’ is defined as a conversation between two or more people. This online monologue asks Albertans to rank a limited list of pre-selected options, sometimes in order of importance and sometimes for reasons not specified. The survey does not even give Albertans an option to leave their contact information, so that an actual dialogue could be sparked at a later time.
Using a fancy interactive pie chart tool, the online survey asks Albertans to slice up the province’s fiscal pie into percentages. This question is asked without providing information on what the options provided include or what historical percentages have been and why (the pre-selected slices of the pie are Health, Education, Social Services, Agriculture, Resource Management and Economic Development, and Other).
I can only imagine how useful the Finance Department will find the online survey results that show individual Albertans want the Department of Agriculture to receive 5% to 23.93589% of the provincial budget. Not very useful, I can imagine.
Albertans are generally a smart group of Canadians, but very few of us have the knowledge or experience to manage a budget of more than $30 billion. Identifying priorities would be useful, but asking Albertans to divide their priorities into a $30 billion budget is much less useful.
The online survey also gives Albertans a “yes” or “no” option to answer the question “Would you be willing to borrow to invest in infrastructure – just like taking out a loan to buy a car?” Borrowing funds to invest in infrastructure is nothing like borrowing money to buy a car. Borrowing to invest in infrastructure is more like taking out a mortgage to buy a house or to borrow money to renovate and upgrade your house. It improves your quality of life and your property value. Framed this way, it means something completely different.
If you happen to be the kind of Albertan who wants to raise the amount of royalty revenue that the government collects from companies exploiting our natural resources or believe that corporate taxes are too low, this survey is tailored to curtail your obviously socialistic beliefs. You will have to leave a comment at the end of the survey.