When it comes to oil, Mitchell Anderson writes, Canada and Norway have written two different narratives:
A recent news item showed that Norway's massive pot of petroleum of money, now totaling CA$909.364 billion, has made every citizen a millionaire in Norwegian kroner. That works out to about $178,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. By contrast, every Canadian lumbers under an individual debt of $17,000 as Ottawa is in hock to the tune of $600 billion.
What accounts for the difference? It all comes down to taxes:
Alberta has run consecutive budget deficits since 2008 and since then has burned through $15 billion of its sustainability fund. In spite of Alberta's vast petroleum wealth, the province has not contributed a penny to the now moribund Alberta Heritage Fund since 1987. The belief that all tax is bad has led Canada's three western provinces to the bizarre position where they proudly collect less resource revenues on behalf of their citizens than any other jurisdiction in North America.
The anti-tax worldview has migrated from Calgary to Ottawa, where it is being imposed on the rest of the country. In 2009, Prime Minister Harper stated flatly, "I don't believe any taxes are good taxes." Not merely a remarkably ignorant statement from someone who holds a Masters degree in economics, this position indicates Canada's elected leader is opposed to the very project of government -- not unlike hiring a hijacker as an airline pilot.
True to his ideology, Harper's collective cuts to the GST, corporate taxes and personal income taxes now total about $45 billion per year in forgone government revenue. Canada is eliminating up to 30,000 public sector jobs in a supposed effort to balance the budget and currently collects less public revenue as a proportion of GDP than even the U.S.
In Norway, however, "national wealth is heading in the opposite direction at more than 10 times that rate, with savings of $142 million per day." And consider what that money buys:
Norwegians enjoy universal day care, free university tuition, per capita spending on health care 30 per cent higher than Canada and 25 days of paid vacation every year. By owning 70 per cent of their own oil production and taxing oil revenues at close to 80 per cent, Norway is now saving about $1 billion per week.
And the Harperites keep chanting the same mantra: Their most salient virtue is their competence.
It's almost funny.