Since last spring’s budget, which saw cuts across Alberta’s post-secondary institutions of more than seven per cent (on top of a two-per-cent cut in already promised money), the province’s universities and colleges have been in panic mode. The panic isn’t only about funding.
Alberta is arguably the wealthiest jurisdiction in all North America and perhaps the world. Yet there is never enough money in the public coffers to sustain Alberta as a functioning society.
Amidst manifest opulence, the province's minimum wage is the lowest in the country, and real wages for the bottom 90 per cent are scarcely higher than they were three decades ago, eaten away by inflation. Homelessness, spousal abuse and suicide blight the social landscape. The daily news carries repeated stories of over-crowded schools and hospitals, strained universities and of seniors living in sub-standard care facilities; and of underpaid and over-worked child-care and day home workers, correctional officers, nurses, public school teachers, social workers and on and on.
The Alberta election has just hit the halfway point, and health care has again become a lightning rod. The rival parties are facing off on reform, promising changes running the gamut from more privatization to more public care.