That Old Chevy Won’t Last Forever

At every turn, we fix and tinker, and I wonder if this is the most effective way to expend our energy at this time of economic crisis as Alberta releases its new budget.  

In the novel The Road Home, Rudi is in rural Poland struggling to keep an ancient run-down Chevy in operation.  Running it as a taxi is his only source of income.  He has put all his hope, energy and money into it, and when it fails, he as nothing left to hang on to in life.  There are no jobs.  The town will soon be underwater behind a new dam, the Central Office of Planning’s top secret initiative.  There is clearly danger in putting all one’s eggs, and hope, in one basket – or one old broken down Chevy.  
Alberta’s Old Broken Down Chevy is our oil and gas – our primary economy. By not making efforts to diversify our economy we put all our hope, energy and money into the Chevy.  At some point, we will be underwater as a result of our Central Office of Planning’s endless tinkering to make sure the oil and gas economy stays in operation.   Alberta released it’s new budget yesterday with a plan to run a deficit for four years.  Perhaps we are worse off than Rudi.  Our Central Office of Planning doesn’t appear to have a plan. 
I was reminded this week that the two Chinese characters that together depict the notion of crisis: danger and opportunity.  What happens if when we look at the economic downturn not only as a dangerous event, but as opportunity?  
A few missed opportunities in the budget:
  1. Spend on infrastructure during the economic downturn when jobs are needed.
  2. Spend on infrastructure during the economic downturn when the price is best – when thee is less competition for labour and materials.  
  3. Plan for the next phase of growth related to oil and gas.  From a provincial and regional perspective, know and understand what will happen where and what is needed to support it.  
  4. Plan and spend on the diversified economic drivers, rather than the old Chevy.
  5. Stimulate the economy with efforts that support diversification, something other than the old Chevy.  
  6. Take the time to reflect on how the last growth spurt was handled with the intention of learning and being smarter with time and money.  
Carbon capture is tinkering. Ceasing chiropractic coverage is tinkering.  While these actions address, in theory, some of the dangers at hand (bad image, spend less), it does not create opportunity.  Let’s find ways to balance our attention on the immediate (tinkering) with the opportunities to rebuild and restart our economy.  That old Chevy is good for while.  But you know, nothing lasts forever.  Whether in Alberta or on Wall Street, that old Chevy needs a little less attention.
(Originally published on April 9, 2009 at populuspractice.blogspot.com)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3 thoughts on “That Old Chevy Won’t Last Forever”

  1. Unlike many provinces, Alberta is well-equipped with stored up wealth to make some of the changes you suggest. Diversification is the key to smoothing the path to the future. Developing more innovative and cleaner energy sources may begin to repair Alberta’s tarnishing reputation in its current dominant sector.

  2. What I struggle with is the word “wealth”. It can mean the obvious – money – or it can mean something quite larger. This larger meaning of wealth has to do with well-being. Mark Anielski, in his book The Economics of Happiness, points out that the Old English definition of wealth was “the conditions of well-being”, or “the condition of being happy and prosperous.” Alberta has a wealth of financial resources to put to the task of clean energy, but before that wealth is put there, our will and clear intention for well-being also has to be in place. There lies the rub – what does Alberta intend? Are we conscious of that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *