My comments relate to those of Mr. Kiss.
I understand that he is currently in Palm Springs, California, but his business is in Alberta, a significantly colder place.
I'm originally from Alberta. I grew up in Calgary, and I just want to add to your observations about how desperate a situation it is out there. I think that some of the members of the committee might be surprised by some of the language they're hearing from business leaders in Alberta. It might sound dramatic, it might sound over the top, but it's actually real.
Alberta has been a generous, calm, kind contributor to Confederation. For as long as I have been alive, for the last 40 years, the province has contributed net about $650 billion to Confederation through taxes that are paid to the federal system and never returned to the province. On a per capita basis, that makes it the largest contributor.
In the last five years, the province has experienced a massive downturn, not because it's not getting enough money from the federal government but because the federal government is making it impossible for the province to sell its products at world prices. The irony is that Alberta is actually not looking for a handout. They're actually just looking for a bypass so they can build pipelines at the expense of private investors, at no cost to their fellow Canadians, in order to sell their products at world prices. Failure to allow that to happen has led 200,000 people to lose their jobs.
Over 20% of young men in rural Alberta are unemployed. Rural property crime has skyrocketed, because people are desperate enough to go onto farm properties and literally siphon fuel out of vehicles that are parked there. Delinquencies have skyrocketed. The commercial real estate vacancy rate in downtown Calgary is 25% to 30%. Those are Great Depression-level vacancy rates. It is astonishing. If you go to Kensington, which used to be a happening, hipster neighbourhood near the river in downtown Calgary, the Starbucks closed there. Starbucks doesn't close anywhere. Do you know what I mean? That is a place where people love to drink coffee. I don't think people in Ottawa on Parliament Hill realize how desperate the situation is getting. This is at a time when world oil prices are relatively high, where there's growing Asian demand for natural gas that we could supply from western Canada, but government policies are preventing it from going ahead.
I know we're supposed to just ask questions here, Mr. Chair, but having grown up in the province and having many friends and family who are suffering there right now, I just think people around Parliament Hill need to come to the realization of how desperate it is out there and how many people are suffering. You wonder why you're hearing this heated rhetoric. People are desperate, and they want someone in the government to get out of the way and allow people to rebuild their livelihoods. I hope and pray that this government will use the budget as an opportunity to do that, because the situation is going to get more and more desperate.
If the government thinks it's going to kill the Teck Frontier mine by simply imposing a bunch of unrealistic conditions, then approving it and letting the company pull away, just the like the government did with the TransCanada pipeline when they riddled it with impossible conditions, the company backed away, and then the government said, “Well, it's not our fault”—