At the last annual congress of the Social Credit League of Alberta, Premier Manning came up with a proposition that was enthusiastically seconded by the entire group. He proposed a law which would distribute to the citizens of Alberta, dividends on the revenue taken from natural resources. If this proposition is carried out it will be the first such plan in history.
The province of Alberta is presently carrying out, on a vast scale, the exploitation of its resources of oil, natural gas and their by-products. And these underground reservoirs of oil in Alberta are of unparalleled value.
Unlike Mr. Duplessis' government, the Manning administration is not selling the treasures of the province to strangers for next to nothing. Companies or individuals who wish to exploit these oil resources make their investments of capital in the customary fashion. But the government levies a fine, fat royalty on every barrel of oil pumped out of the ground.
These royalties fill the provincial treasury and create a surplus which enables the administration to meet every expense with cash over the counter. The Government has enough money to redeem the whole amount of the consolidated debt of Alberta. If it does not do so, it is because the bonds involve conditions fixing the dates of payment.
For twenty years the government of Alberta has contracted no debts, not even in the development of its Roads system or other like public works. The administration pays as it goes, living within its income. In fact it was doing this before the large scale development of oil began. Today it does so with even greater ease. Taxes, of which there is daily less need, are being steadily reduced, and the time may not be too far distant when they will be completely abolished.
Considering these facts, no Albertan can seriously criticize his government's administration of the province.
We who belong to the Social Credit movement as directed by the Institute of Political Action, do not always see eye to eye with Mr. Manning or with the Alberta League of Social Credit in what concerns the methods of realizing the aims of Social Credit. For example, we weren't too happy when Mr. Manning in 1947 decided to give up the fight to regain control of credit for the Province.
And unlike the league in Alberta, we believe that it's a waste of time to try and bring into power a third or fourth political party bearing the label of Social Credit. That at least is true in the eastern provinces under existing circumstances. However this is neither the time nor the place to go into the reasons on which this conviction is based.
Whether or not the excellent record of the government in Alberta is due, in whole or in part to Mr. Manning's Social Credit principles, we still must commend him and his government for exceptional ability in administering the affairs of the Province. The facts are there to prove it.
However, it does seem to us that leaving to a Government the entire disposal of revenues from natural resources is hardly in line with Social Credit principles. Such a situation iş contrary to the insistence of Social Credit upon the rights of the individual and the priority the physical person takes over a mere abstraction such as "the State".
The natural wealth of a province does not belong to the government alone but to each and every citizen of that province. It is the government's job to safeguard this wealth and see to it that each and every citizen shares in it.
If the government is left master of what to do with the proceeds of the royalties, this favors what we call State Planning, under which the individual cannot benefit unless he joins the plan, willy-nilly. There is too much of this in certain countries already, and in our own land there are alarming tendencies in this direction. Such a state of affairs is too closely related to the taxation system, not in this case because of a government taking from the people what is theirs, but because it prevents the individual from partaking in his share of the benefits and making use of this share according to his own will.
We therefore heartily congratulate Mr. Manning for his proposal to share with the citizens of Alberta the revenues from the natural resources of the province.
This sharing will be done through dividends, the amount of which has not yet been determined.
Now mind you, this is still not the genuine "dividend" which Social Credit proposes. The Social Credit dividend is something which is founded not only on the natural resources of the country, but also on what Social Credit terminology calls "the cultural heritage" — the contributions of previous generations handed down to the present generation. The Social Credit dividend is based also on the tremendous benefits which proceed from the mere fact of men grouping themselves into a society. These benefits are called in our terminology, "increment of association".
The Alberta dividend purposed by Mr. Manning will be payed, so to speak, by whoever exploits or consumes Alberta's oil, according to the normal transactions of present day finance. But the people of the province, all and each of the citizens of Alberta, the rightful owners of the oil, will profit from these transactions. In other provinces this profit goes into the pockets of the investors and the financiers only. The Manning government recognizes that the first to benefit from the natural resources of Alberta should be the Albertans themselves. For they are, as we have said, the owners of these resources.
Another feature of the proposed dividend is noteworthy. This will be — for the first time in recorded history — an income attached to the person, as a birthright, as distinct from any form of income conditioned by employment. Whether employed or not, whether a producer or just a consumer, every Albertan will receive this dividend through no other title than that of being a citizen of his province.
Furthermore, this dividend will not come as a grant or a pension, or in any other form or shape that carries with it the odor of a "handout" or of government paternalism. This is to be a dividend, pure and simple — every bit as much a dividend as the dividends of a rich financier. Each citizen is to have this dividend precisely because he and the other citizens are co-owners of that vast, profit-earning capital which is the natural resources of their province.
Mr. Manning's project is not yet an accomplished fact. But the newspapers report that it will be discussed during the present session of the Alberta Legislative Assembly.
We wish them a speedy realization of this plan even if it is only the people of Alberta who will profit immediately from it. The Social Credit idea of a dividend for every individual, of a revenue to which he is entitled by the fact of being a citizen, is an ideal which has a touch of the universal. Regardless of which country is the first to realize this ideal through legislation, the fact of its accomplishment will constitute a long stride in the right direction for the rest of humanity. Many tremendous accomplishments begin as small experiments in some laboratory.
It is indeed too bad, in this case, that the laboratory was not our own province of Quebec, also richly endowed with natural resources. Still we can carry on, hammering away without letup, to the end that the government of Quebec will bestir itself, even if just a little. And it will rise to action, even if then a hampering mass of dead wood must be cast out, the day that the citizens, rallying under the banner of Social Credit, compel their government to adopt Social Credit. That is what we are working for with all the vitality of our minds and bodies. That is why we unceasingly exhort those who are already won to Social Credit to carry on the fight with the same vigor and zeal.
For the time being our heartiest congratulations to Mr. Manning on his project. And may the day be not far off when we can congratulate him on its realization.