VICTORIA—A day after British Columbia suggested Alberta hasn’t done a good job of managing its oil revenue, a B.C. cabinet minister blamed it for adding to his province’s homeless population.
Housing Minister Rich Coleman said Wednesday he agrees with statements in his government’s throne speech that Alberta failed to diversify its economy and lost control of spending.
“I don’t think it’s a shot at anybody,” said Coleman, who is also B.C.’s deputy premier and natural gas development minister. “It’s a reality.”
Tuesday’s throne speech called B.C.’s top-performing economy an island of prosperity, but asked British Columbians to consider Alberta where “they expected their resource boom never to end, failed to diversify their economy and lost control of government spending.”
Coleman said he’s discovering firsthand the results of Alberta’s economic malaise in the form of increased numbers of homeless people coming to B.C.
“Certainly, I’ve had this winter more of a pressure on the upside on the homeless file, particularly shelters, than in the last seven years,” he said. “We track it and a lot of it is in-migration of people coming from other jurisdictions, particularly Alberta where their economy is down, unemployment is way up.”
Alberta’s economic development minister said he interprets the throne-speech comments as an attack on that province’s previous Conservative governments, not the current New Democrats.
“They failed to diversify the economy, that is a fact,” said Deron Bilous. “And because of it Alberta is paying the price for it. “We have rolled out a number of initiatives and we will continue to roll out initiatives in order to diversify the economy.”
B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett said there wasn’t any intention to snub the neighbouring province and that he’s been negotiating with his counterparts to connect the province’s hydro power to Alberta.
“I don’t think that’s disrespectful,” said Bennett, whose Kootenay East riding is on the provincial boundary.
“There is this healthy competition and for a long, long time there was some of that (Alberta) stuff coming across the Rockies our way, and, you know, I guess there’s a little bit going back the other way, and I think it’s harmless.”
Bennett said he recalled when former Alberta premier Ralph Klein bought one-way bus tickets to Vancouver for homeless and unemployed people to take advantage of B.C.’s welfare payments.
“It’s healthy competition between two different jurisdictions and healthy competition probably between two different political ideologies,” said Bennett.
Political squabbles between the two provinces aren’t new. Premier Christy Clark and former Alberta premier Alison Redford feuded over B.C.’s conditions on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.