A Commentary by the Auditor General
In his final communication to the Members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, and to Albertans, Auditor General Merwan N. Saher FCPA, FCA stresses the importance of long-term fiscal reporting as the path to a sustainable financial future for Alberta.
In his commentary — Putting Alberta’s Financial Future in Focus — Saher says the role of the Auditor General is to report on whether risks are being identified, studied and dealt with by government.
“Alberta faces unique financial risks from its oil and gas revenues. Given these risks, longer-term reporting is critical to show Albertans how the programs and services they have today will be sustainable for future generations,” says Saher. “Considering the impact of today’s decisions on future generations of Albertans is not just important but without question the right thing to do.”
No government in Alberta has reported about Alberta’s financial condition in the long term.
Without a long-term outlook, a government cannot show whether decisions made today are likely sustainable in the long run. Without long-term reporting, Albertans are being asked to accept on faith that we can carry on borrowing indefinitely or that government has an acceptable plan to increase revenues or reduce expenditures which will kick in as oil and gas revenues decline.
“Alberta’s structural deficit — or fiscal gap — is the biggest risk to the province being able to provide quality programs and services in the future. Albertans should be shown through long-term reporting whether the government of the day intends to narrow the fiscal gap and if so at what speed.”
Saher further comments: “The problem that politicians, in general, face is that thinking and making decisions for the long term rather than thinking from the perspectives of short-term politics, election cycles, isolated controversies and lobbying for local interests tends to be seen as a risk to long term job security. Paradoxically, the electorate is satisfied with this state of affairs. It’s much easier to focus on the here and now; the future is complex and frightening; and it’s the job of others to look out for our best interests.”
“But surely, for both politicians and members of the public, longer-term thinking and debate is not a question of political ideology. It is simply common sense.”
Saher completes his eight-year term as Alberta’s Auditor General on April 28, 2018. W. Doug Wylie FCPA, FCMA, ICD.D becomes Alberta’s 11th Auditor General effective April 29, 2018.