Do the math

In Alberta, they call their premier King. He rules over a rich land (even if bookstores are scarce). There’s no provincial sales tax, billions of dollars are being invested in hospitals and infrastructure, and new rules govern chuck wagon racing. It’s all good. The money is literally being pumped from the ground.

This week, King Ralph announced a “prosperity bonus” for all 3,184,000 citizens. Everybody’s getting a cheque for $400 bucks. Yee haw!

That’s $1.3 billion bucks.

The reaction, not surprisingly, has been positive. But that doesn’t mean the prosperity bonus is a good idea. Consider this: Ralph Klein wins elections bashing the federal government. His gift to Albertans is taxable income at the federal level. So the prosperity bonus is actually a $100 million donation to Ottawa. Thanks! And the rest of the cash? With $300 and change left after taxes, the balance will probably go to Future Shop, headquartered in Minneapolis.

As you probably know, I’m not from Alberta — but half of my family is. So I can claim a right to offer the king of my ancestral home some simple advice: You’re wasting money. There’s a better way to give people $400.


There are over 3,000,000 Albertans. If the provincial government gave every one a compact fluorescent light bulb, the project would cost about $15,000,000 (including the cost of the bulbs, and the education campaign). Savings so far: About $1.19 billion.

If every one of the Albertans who received a light bulb actually screwed it into a socket in their house (and we all know Albertans are smart enough to know how to do that, right?), the savings on electricity bills would work out to be about $500 per household. No tax. No shipping provincial cash out of the province. And cleaner air from less power production. In fact, 3,000,000 CF bulbs would mean about 1.5 million tons of coal that wouldn’t need to be burned.

OK, wait a minute. Now I know why this wouldn’t appeal to King Coal.

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