Ralph Bucks 2, sequels suck.

Start thinking about it now.  List off all the movie sequels that don’t suck.

Top of my list is The Godfather: Part II.  Except I have a problem.  I’m not a “mob movie” kinda guy.  I went on a date to see Goodfellas in the theatre and my date had to scrape me out from under the chair.  I told her somebody behind us spilled their pop, but I think she really knew the truth all along.

I was always partial to Wrath of Khan.  Terminator 2 was pretty good.  Naked Gun 2 12, of course, but we’re talking Leslie Effin Neilsen here.

So we can agree that a sequel sometimes works, but more often than not it’s just a sad rehash of what was once a good idea.  Really bad sequels are a sad rehash of what was always a horrible idea.  And still they keep making sequels and for some strange reason people keep going to them, good or bad.

Ralph Bucks hit the scene again this week.  Except they’re Danielle Dollars or something this time around.  And the really wizened amongst us happen to remember that Ralph Bucks were a sequel to what the Social Credit pulled in the 1930’s.  Personally, I really want to take some time to research that policy.  If it isn’t hard enough to think of a sequel that doesn’t suck, start naming off the third movie in a series that was better than (or at least as good as) the first two.  Wowzers.

The thought is nice enough, but it was a dumb idea then and it’s a dumb idea now.  The criticism of my critique has been pretty funny, though.  Even before I mention why it’s a dumb idea I’ve been told how I’m just complaining about it and would happily pocket the money later.  I’m going straight to Rick Bell.

Before I completely start freaking out all my friends, let me start by saying Rick “The Dinger” Bell is single-handedly responsible for creating me as a political beast.  When he ran for mayor, I walked (yes, walked!) down to his office and picked up the very first election lawn sign I’ve ever had.  Last time I saw that sign it was down in my ex-wife’s basement.  One of the few things I wish I’d held on to.  I didn’t just take the sign, either.  Rick did, in fact, get my vote and I spent endless hours of conversation talking about why, yes, I was seriously supporting the guy and, yes, he had some fantastic ideas about running the city better.  Happily, every time I meet Rick in person he asks the same question: “Who are you?“  (Full disclosure: I’ve shaken his hand twice.)

And, although I’m Alberta Party, I’m definitely no shrinking violet on the left side of the garden.  Part of the reason I’m in the Alberta Party is that I’m sick and tired of governments spending our money left, right AND center all the while declaring themselves as fiscal conservatives.  You want fiscal conservative?  You try living on the edge of going under month after month for years on end.  You get really good about watching where your money goes.

Unfortunately, Rick has me pegged.  Albertans are simply too stupid and clueless to know how to handle any of their money.  Frankly, I can’t believe we trust ourselves with our own paycheques.  Not that I’ll use those words.

On second thought, that’s a strawman argument and Rick got it wrong this time.  But for the record, if he ever runs for anything again he’s officially got my vote.  Especially if he runs against me.

So enough about me.  And rather than me complaining about all the things that are wrong about a Prosperity Bonus II, I want to talk about the things that Ms. Smith got right with her proposal.

The first point is that the money is our money.  It belongs to Albertans, it does not belong to the government.  Government needs to assume proper stewardship over the treasury and ensure that as much remains with Albertans as is conceivably possible.  Government must take stewardship over our shared needs, societal needs and services we rely upon. We know best what our personal needs are.  We are best equipped to make our own decisions about how to spend that money and meet our own needs.

The second point I like is that this is money generated exclusively by surpluses from oil and gas royalties.  That does come with a speed bump and a worry that we will have a clear and forthright accounting provided with the budget.  Honestly, I trust that Ms. Smith will provide a level of accountability in which I can feel confident.  I cannot say the same of the sandbagging we’ve seen in budgets over the past 20 odd years.

The third point I like is that in terms of priorities, this appears to be lowest on the list.  I do not buy into the complaints that Wildrose’s numbers don’t add up.  I got a very solid impression that dividend cheques would only be cut once other targets have been met.  I never thought it was going to happen, hell or high water but instead when we hit good times we’re going to make sure the benefits get out to average Albertans.

My concerns, though, are two-fold.  It seems to be a very wasteful and inefficient way to get money out to Albertans.  We have to make a list of everyone who’s eligible, make sure they’re still in Alberta, make sure they’re still alive, make sure they’re contactable, make sure they deserve the money, etc. etc. etc.  Not to mention the danger of defining, “You must be this much Albertan to receive your dividend.“  You moved to Alberta too recently?  Your summer home is in BC?  Resident of Alberta but on vacation for one week too long?  There’s far too much leeway for dinking around at the discretion of the government and its bureaucrats for my liking.  Not to mention if I want the money to go to my kid’s hockey career and my wife wants it to go to piano lessons we’ve got a fight on our hands.  Unless we’re divorced and then she gets the money and all the say.

The point of getting the money direct to Albertans is so it comes with no strings attached, but by very definition we attach strings when we define who is eligible and who has say over how the money is spent.

My other concern is one of control.  Rick was mentioning the woe-begotten eggheads lamenting that government, and not ourselves, gets to choose how we spend our own money.  Honestly, though, if we want individuals to retain our money and not have government tell us how it’s spent, why is the government taxing it in the first place in order to give it back to us?  Put forward a realistic budget, with realistic and accountable updates.  Budget properly at the start and we’ll never have to worry about getting back our fair share because it wouldn’t have been taken from us in the first place.  I think this is part of why small-c conservative governments end up bloating themselves.

It sounds like a nice idea in principle and it will ring populist on the face of it, but there are better solutions that won’t cost nearly as much which will still create positive benefits for Albertans.  Pass on the sequel, please.  It makes as much sense as getting a diet coke with that Uber-Jumbo popcorn with extra butter.

Tomorrow:  You can only burn me once.