22 November 2012

Why can't we be more like Norway?

Canada and Norway are a lot alike. We are both prosperous, free-market democracies. But as Bruce Campbell points out in his series of articles in the CCPA Monitor, there are also some significant differences.

For example, the way it manages its oil resources which, as an Albertan, I cannot but envy. Even though Canada produces more oil, Norway has accumulated a sovereign wealth fund of $656-billion compared to the Alberta's Heritage Fund's measly $16-billion.

While Norway is a major oil exporter, it also manages to be an environmental leader, ranking third on Yale University's Environmental Performance Index which considers a range of issues, including water and air pollution, biodiversity and climate change. We rank 37th.

Norway also does better than us on the UN Human Development Index, a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income. Norway ranks first, Canada sixth, although when adjusted for inequality, Norway is still first but we drop to 12th.

We do well on the Economist's Democracy Index, ranking eighth. The index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture. Norway, once again, is number one. Frankly, given our archaic electoral system, I think we are lucky to rank eighth.

In summary, Norway does a better job than Canada managing its good fortune, sharing the wealth among its people, taking care of Mother Earth, and running its affairs equitably and democratically. I believe we could learn a lesson or two here.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Bill, Norway ought to be an example to us but, sadly, isn't. Imagine if Norwegians had been indoctrinated to believe that, without oil revenues, their country would be an impoverished backwater? Imagine if Norwegians were made to fear that others were massing to deprive them of their just due? Imagine if Norwegians were stripped of their powerful regard for posterity? Then Norwegians would be just like us.

    I have read many accounts of Norse of all social standings who agree that this oil wealth isn't really theirs but belongs to future generations of Norwegians yet to be born. Hence, instead of being disbursed to fuel an overheated economy, the money is instead channeled into a sovereign wealth fund.

    The last Albertan leader to understand Tar Sands development was recently buried. Peter Lougheed knew full well the perils and pitfalls of imprudent Tar Sands exploitation and warned anyone who would listen how ruinous it could be to Alberta's economy. Only no leader from Klein on bothered to listen.

    How does that bumper sticker go again, "Dear Lord give us just one more oil boom and, this time, we promise we won't piss it all away."