Ricardo Acuña

Ricardo Acuña is Executive Director of the Parkland Institute, a non-partisan public policy research institute housed at the University of Alberta.

Sep 242012

Privatization deals are much more costly than MLA's expenses.

The notions of transparency and accountability in government are good ones. Government operates on behalf of the people of a jurisdiction with money that the people have pooled together for that purpose. It only makes sense, therefore, that the people themselves should be able to see how that money is being spent and ensure that there is no abuse or malfeasance taking place.

That's the theory. In the day-to-day world of politics, spin and sensationalist reporting, genuine transparency can be much harder to come by.

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Aug 012012

Province should heed failure of electricity deregulation.

Acuña: Companies have no incentive to raise generating capacity, which only reduces prices, profits.by Ricardo Acuña for Vue Weekly

July 18, 2012: Back in 2002, the front page of the Alberta Energy website boasted, "Alberta has deregulated its electric industry to develop a competitive market for power generation and electricity services that will benefit consumers across the province." Ten years later, Alberta's electricity customers are still waiting for those benefits to materialize. This is especially the case after a perfect storm of spiking demand and failed generators resulted in rolling blackouts through Edmonton and Calgary last week, and will also result in some hefty power bills for the same period.

Alberta's Electricity System Operator (AESO) ordered the blackouts after four coal-fired plants and two gas-fired plants went down at approximately the same time on the afternoon of July 9, the hottest day of the year thus far in most parts of Alberta. The plant failures resulted in there being significantly more demand in Alberta than there was supply, so the blackouts were necessary to avoid complete disaster.

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Jul 102012

Alberta's budget depends on vagaries of oil markets.

by Ricardo Acuña for Vue Weekly

What a ridiculous way to run a province!

Albertans with a good political memory will remember the impact that the drafting of the 2011-2012 provincial budget had on Alberta politics in the late winter of 2011. Premier Stelmach wanted to present a budget with a projected $3.4 billion deficit. He was also ready to back-track on his promise to balance Alberta's books by the year 2012, saying he would need a couple of more years.

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Apr 042012

Delayed election call cost the Alberta PCs some momentum.

by Ricardo Acuña for Vue Weekly

Albertans — well, at least some Albertans — will go to the polls on April 23 to elect a provincial government. In many ways the dropping of the writ was simply a formality. Alberta's political parties have been in full-out election mode since early fall, when Alison Redford was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, and was subsequently sworn in as Alberta's 14th Premier. Candidates have been nominated, signs have been ordered, campaign offices are open and functioning, and candidates and their volunteers have been knocking on doors for a couple of months now.

Despite the fact that everyone knew an election call was coming, the one person in the province with control over exactly when it would be is the only one who appears to have been tripped up by the timing of the election.

Almost immediately after Ms Redford's win in the leadership race, poll after poll began showing Conservative numbers climbing steadily. The province-wide polling numbers went from a virtual dead heat between Conservatives and the Wildrose Party last spring to putting the Conservatives back into comfortable majority government range after the holidays.

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Mar 192012

MLA pay is a question of transparency, accountability and democracy.

by Ricardo Acuña for Vue Weekly

Scott Hennig and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) appear to have a problem with elected politicians being well-paid for the work they do. They seem to love nothing more than highlighting, whenever they get a chance, how much elected representatives get paid, what kinds of raises they get, the fact that they get good pensions and transitions allowances, and, most recently, that some of them in Alberta are getting paid $1000 per month for sitting on a committee that never meets.

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