Growth: A curse or a blessing

It was early 1980’s when US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher started to blow the wind

It was early 1980’s when US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher started to blow the wind of a new type of Conservatism, a wind that ultimately brought down not only the Berlin Wall, but also the rule of the Soviet Communist Party in Moscow towards the end of that decade, ushering in a period of radical changes in many walks of life throughout the world in the process of what is called globalization.

With the downfall of its main rival ideology, which, at least purported to be egalitarian, free market capitalism found vast new territories to foray into, rendering the movement of capital, goods, people and ideas a lot freer that it was until then.

In the new era of liberalism, while freedoms were welcomed and embraced, something got lost without being noticed at all: due diligence in distribution of wealth.

The neo-liberal economic policies introduced by Reaganomics and Thatcherite version of free market allowed the concept of “development”, taken to mean an equitable distribution of growth to all sections of the society, to be dumped and replaced by pure “growth”.

Then the concept of growth, itself, has undergone a fundamental change during the Bill Clinton era, when the figures showing the profits in the books became more important than how those figures were achieved; CEOs, board members, executives who managed to rake more profits convinced the shareholders that they deserved bigger bonuses; bigger bonuses meant bigger risk taking, which brought about more financial game playing. In the process of profit maximizing, job creation was put on the backburner as equities came under focus as the main source of revenues.

Now financial bubbles are ballooning everywhere with just one catalyst needed to pop them up with energy and agriculture (both of which Alberta is blessed with) being seen as the only bets sure to make money, or at least not to lose it.

So what does it all have to do with small town Alberta?

That sooner or later, small town Alberta will have to get out of its comfort zone and deal with the challenges and troubles of growth.

You may have read in the edition the week before last how the Wolf Creek School Board and administrators at Blackfalds schools are trying to cope with a sudden rise in the number of students they have to serve without lowering the quality of education they have to provide.

And last week, the county’s appeal board rejected once and for all a request for permission for a medical marijuana growth initiative in Ponoka county (see story in this week’s paper).

Yet, as the growth in both energy and agriculture sectors is bound to accelerate with an ever increasing pace, Alberta’s resources will continue to be tapped with greater pressure for more profits.

Sooner rather than later, more industrialized agriculture, possibly with more genetic modification modalities, will knock on the door to produce higher yields to feed more people, especially those in the emerging markets (understand mainly China) and more pipelines will be built (regardless of the trampled treaty rights of First Nations and environmental concerns of scientists or activists) to carry bitumen from northern Alberta to oil-thirsty economies around the Pacific Rim and to the south of the border.

The question is how complacent are Albertans (and Canadians at a wider platform) going to allow themselves to be in the process.