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Just How Red Will the New Black Be?

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Alberta Premier Alison Redford has just given Sad Don Iveson a reason to be Glad Don Iveson. The Edmonton mayor whose LRT ambitions were previously spurned by the provincial government just became the civic beneficiary of a $515 million toward Iveson's plan to extend the LRT south into Mill Woods.

The extension is slated to cost $1.8 billion.

Oh what a difference some atrocious polling numbers -- born on the back of Redford's misuse of government aircraft -- can make. If you live in Edmonton and are staunchly in favour of Iveson's LRT plan this is good news. If you live anywhere else in Alberta, the news isn't that good at all.

Recently, Finance Minister Doug Horner rolled out his budget in which he boasted a surplus. Although it was also noted that the budget adds nearly $4 billion in additional debt. Any Albertans who may wonder how this can be need look no further than the analysis offered by Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

As it turns out, Horner's claim that the 2014-15 budget has produced a deficit is purely political. If the price of oil remains as forecasted, the budget will produce an operational surplus of $2.6 billion. However, this only includes the cost of operating the government and paying for its regular obligations. Infrastructure investments will run the province $3.9 billion into the red. Or, I should say, at least $3.9 billion, because the Redford government seems to be making additional promises.

The LRT funding promise seems oddly akin to the Ontario Liberal government's decision to pay $1 billion for the privilege to cancel planned gas-powered electric plants. Both decisions seem to have been made purely for the political benefit of the governing party. At least in the case of the Edmonton LRT Albertan taxpayers will see some benefit from it.

But as Redford stumbles from embarrassing scandal to embarrassing scandal, what other promises will her government make as poll numbers worsen? How many unbudgeted promises will she make?

Just how red will the new black get? Only Alison Redford knows for certain.

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