The recent capitulation of Danielle Smith and eight of her Wildrose party colleagues to the governing Progressive Conservatives can only be understood by decoding the meaning of conservatism in Alberta and the political purposes that construction serves.
Few ever heard of an obscure problem called “deferred maintenance” before Journal reporter Keith Gerein’s groundbreaking five-part series Condition: Critical. Thanks to the scope and calibre of his reporting, Albertans are now aware of the backlog of necessary and overdue work needed to properly maintain tens of billions of dollars worth of publicly owned schools, colleges, universities, highways, bridges, waterworks, laboratories, office buildings and hospitals.
The Harper government’s recently proposed prostitution law has been widely condemned as unworkable, unconstitutional and hazardous to those working in the sex trade; that it is, in short, bad policy. To criticize the Harper government on policy grounds, however, is to miss the point that it is not actually interested in sound, rational policy. Its sole interest is staying in power.
Earlier this month, Josh Bilyk, president of the Alberta Enterprise Group, wrote an op-ed piece critiquing Public Interest Alberta’s efforts to advocate for fair reforms to our province’s personal and corporate income tax systems and to discuss with Albertans how additional revenues could be used for the public good.
Do you have $5 million burning a hole in your pocket? If so, have we got a deal for you. The Government of Alberta will soon be allowing you to invest that money in the misery and poverty of fellow Albertans, and pay you a 10 to 20 per cent rate of return to do so.
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.