What to Put in Alberta’s Time Capsule

The Alberta Legislature is building a time capsule to mark the legislature’s 100th year.

This raises a bunch of interesting questions: What should be in the capsule? How will those 100 years from now look back at us? Will they be passed the same great leap in progress that we have been handed from those 100 years earlier? Will Albertans of today be seen as hardy and frugal, or soft and spendthrift?

If we included a copy of the last provincial budget in this time capsule, future Albertans could be forgiven for thinking that we were careless with our vast inherited wealth. With oil at $87 per barrel, they might be wondering why Alberta with its vast resources was heading into debt while next-door Saskatchewan moved closer and closer to paying its off.

If we included newspaper clippings of the Daryl Katz donation scandal in the time capsule, Albertans 100 years hence might chuckle at the absurdity of voters not knowing that one person was financing a major chunk of the governing party’s election campaign until after the votes were counted.

Our heirs will also likely find it peculiar that this took place while Mr. Katz was seeking a $100 million gift from taxpayers to build him an NHL arena.

Including a DVD of Question Period would provide some insight into the quality of our democracy. They may well watch Question Period the way we watch Seinfeld: it’s about nothing. MLAs ask questions that they know the answer to, and ministers answer different questions that they weren’t asked, with rhetorical questions of their own.

Not everything in this time capsule would make Alberta look like a banana republic however. It wouldn’t hurt to throw in a USB stick with the government’s new expense transparency website which allows Albertans to look at exactly what government officials are expensing, with receipts. Hopefully, Albertans of 2112 will look back at the Alberta of 2012 as being the starting point for better transparency and accountability across the entire county.

News clippings of Alberta’s pipeline troubles would also be worth including. While Albertans 100 years ago fought against the protectionist ‘National Policy,’ Albertans today are fighting – as yet unsuccessfully – to get our natural resources to market.

While the United States is willing to station troops on the other side of the planet to guard oil deposits in hostile territory, it’s as yet unwilling to build a pipeline from its peaceful ally to the north. While the ostensibly free-market premier of British Columbia refuses to allow a pipeline through her province, the separatist and socialist premier of Quebec appears open to the idea of a pipeline to her province.

Finally, we should include the 2011-12 annual report for the Alberta Heritage Fund. Will the progeny of Alberta look back at this document and wonder how it was spent and squandered? Or will they look at the 2012 Heritage Fund as the seeds of a major sovereign wealth fund that has grown through prudence and savings to become the single largest source of revenue for the government of 2112?

No matter what the government decides to put into the time capsule, let’s all hope that our future heirs look back to their ancestors of 2012 with fondness and not with regret of an opportunity long-ago squandered.

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