Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Deficit Deception equals Debt by any Calculation

By Joe Anglin
As the Alberta government dances around its record spending 2010 budget, the public is left to debate the merits of the spending cuts in a futile justification of a $4.7 billion deficit. In the mean time and almost completely unnoticed, the Alberta Electric System Operator’s (AESO) is threatening our very economic future with runaway spending proposals that is piling on more public debt.

In its ten-year plan the AESO has identified $12.1 billion worth of critical transmission projects. Five projects worth approximately $5 billion were approved in December, without any cost-benefit analysis or critical examination by a regulatory board. This is because transmission line projects that are deemed critical are no longer subject to regulatory approval that requires proof of need. Now, in a disgraceful display of hypocrisy, the AESO has now delayed some of the critically approved projects, or as they have announced -- staged them, because the projects are not as critical as once presented.

Since 2007, AESO failed to properly address its self-proclaimed critical projects in a timely manner. In fact during this time period, AESO failed to comply with its regulatory mandate, which was to file proof that the transmission lines were indeed critically needed. Instead AESO chose to wait two-years for new legislation, Bill 50, which eliminated any requirement to justify the expenditures (debt). Now it appears that the AESO is prepared to repeat the same strategy to get approval, and avoid any public or regulatory oversight, for the remaining $7.1 billion of proposed expenditures.

When questioned about this an AESO representative said “The use of the word critical doesn’t mean a project is required immediately!”

This is morally reprehensible. It appears AESO is applying the word “critical” to circumvent the regulatory process and any public scrutiny of its proposed expenditures. The AESO is in effect, utilizing the recently passed Bill 50, to freely spend the public’s money absent of any supervision.

So as the public debates the $4.7 billion budget deficit introduced in the legislature, I hope someone will take notice of the elephant in the room. Every last dollar that AESO proposes to spend on its projects will be loaded onto the taxpayers as debt! AESO has already saddled Albertans with more debt in the last two months, than the government’s proposed annual deficit. Now it appears AESO is prepared to double that amount. This is fiscally irresponsible – where is our regulatory oversight?

Joe Anglin
Rimbey, Alberta
(403) 843-3279

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