Over five years ago now, March 11, 2013, I published this mayo615 blog post on the Alberta bitumen bubble, and the budgetary problems facing Alberta Premier Alison Redford, and the federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at that time, both of whom were surprisingly candid about the prospect for ongoing long-term budgetary problems for both the Alberta and Canadian national economies. Fast forward five years to today and the situation has essentially worsened dramatically.  The current Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is facing another massive budget deficit, just as Alison Redford predicted years ago, and was forced to call a new election. My most glaring observation is that despite years of rhetoric and arm-waving, almost nothing has changed. Meanwhile, the Canadian economy is on the precipice of a predicted global economic downturn which could easily become a global financial contagion.


CBC’s The National has tonight broadcast a public debate titled “The Politics of Oil” on the current oil economy crisis in Canada. A key issue exposed tonight was the contrast between Canada’s national policies on oil wealth and Norway’s. In the 1990’s both Canada and Norway debated how to manage oil wealth and created funds to invest for future economic development. Today, Norway’s national saving fund is worth $1.03 Trillion while Canada’s, actually Alberta’s fund, is worth only $17 Billion, and has barely increased since the late 1990’s.


Years ago, when Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia, on May 1, 1970, four students demonstrating against the war were essentially murdered by the Ohio National Guard. David Crosby, Graham Nash, Steven Stills and Canadian Neil Young were driven to record the song “Ohio,” in a rushed recording session. The song went viral before “viral” was even a concept. The Internet did not exist. In less than 24 hours “Ohio” was being played on FM radio stations all across the United States. That CSNY song, IMHO played a crucial role in Nixon’s demise, and accelerated the end of the Vietnam War. I see Yogi Berra’s “deja vu happening all over again” with Neil Young and the tar sands.


The Canadian media (CBC, Globe & Mail, Canadian Business) have been buzzing with analyses of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s pronouncement last month that the “Bitumen Bubble,” is now crashing down on the Alberta economy, and potentially the entire Canadian economy. The Alberta budget released last Thursday, March 7, acknowledged a $6.2 Billion deficit from this year, and “even larger declines in the next several years,” due to forecasts for significant price decreases for “Western Canada Select” (WCS), the market term for Alberta oil sands oil. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty echoed the impact of reduced oil sands revenue on the federal budget, by warning of significant cutbacks in federal spending as well. The impact of this sudden change in the prospects for the Canadian petroleum industry and for government oil tax revenues, will likely also have serious implications for the BC economy, jobs growth, business investment, consumer spending: essentially the Canadian economy as a whole will suffer.