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Alberta is facing many challenges as the next boom approaches.  It is more than likely that bounty of this boom will once again only benefit the rich and the larger corporations while yet again the people of Alberta must take a few of the crumbs that slip off the head table.  The last part of the Parkland Institute report deals with what we can do make Alberta a better province for everyone, not just certain classes of society.

“1 STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY SERVICES:
Shift away from a business approach to one based on core service delivery and away from reliance on generosity and charity to one based on rights.

Recommendation 1: Develop a more inclusive and supportive attitude toward community service providers including:
• increased funding that is stable and longer-term;
• funding for staffing compensation equal to comparable direct public sector programs;
• accountability that is based on appropriate and manageable indicators and data collection; and
• funding and support to expand on community hub models for community-based service grouping and delivery.”

Accountable and based on data rather than whims of the rich?  Novel idea.

“2 A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE FOR ALL ALBERTANS:
Improve access to quality social programs, increasing leisure time and reducing stress on families.

Recommendation 2: Provide greater support to improve the quality of life for all Albertans including: increased spending and program expansion related to culture and leisure, childcare and early learning, education, health care; and reduce working hours through shorter work weeks and increased vacation. Key recommendations include:
• expand community based public health services for Aboriginal communities and implement no child left behind policy;
• fully fund and deliver early learning programs based on the public school model (including junior and full-day kindergarten);
• fund universities to reduce tuition rates to $1,000 per year across all programs;
• increase paid leaves and reducing work hours to match European averages; and
• create adequate publicly funded, non-profit child care spaces at $7 per day.”

Will it be expensive to implement?  Oh yes, but no more expensive that paying for the results of our current societal choices in terms of health care, police and prisons.

“3 INVESTING IN HOUSING AFFORDABILITY
Recommendation 3: Fulfill promise to eradicate homelessness by 2019 by complying with commitment of $3.3 billion in spending and building the necessary 8,000 new housing units.”

Are we just 8,000 units of affordable housing away in Alberta from making it a reality that no person needs to die of exposure during the winter?  Instead of squabbling over powerlines and utility deregulation(still a bad idea) why isn’t this at the top of the political agenda?

“4 ENSURING DIGNITY AND AN ADEQUATE INCOME FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE
Recommendation 4: Strengthen the province’s social safety net through the development of programs that are universal, accessible and delivered in a non-stigmatizing manner. This includes:
• phase in a livable guaranteed annual income (GAI) to bring together programs for seniors, people with disabilities, unemployed workers, students and low income workers; and
• while working towards the GAI, social assistance rates need to be increased to the poverty line, rates must be indexed to inflation, asset levels increased, application process simplified, eligibility expanded and wait time shortened.”

Whot?  Free handouts for the lazy??  How dare they?  There will always be people who unfairly profit at societies expense, we stigmatize the poor because the rich do not want us to closely examine their privileged state and the dodges they are currently employing to game the system in their favour.  Better to hit the poor hard and then cry for more police and prisons to warehouse the poor, all the while neglecting the conditions responsible for a good portion of the criminality.

5 PROTECTING WORKERS:
Improve income security, equality and quality of life through expanded worker protections.

“Recommendation 5: Provide more comprehensive protection and assistance to those working full-time, full-year to ensure an adequate standard of living. This includes:
• implement a living wage policy;
• strengthen labour protections including both employment standards and labour organizing procedures; and
• abandon the temporary foreign worker program, and expedite and better support foreign credential recognition.

Nothing radical here, just making working conditions adequate for all Albertans, not just those lucky enough to be part of a union.

“6 DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
Recommendation 6: Reform the democratic process to ensure that it accurately represents Alberta’s population diversity and distribution. This includes:
• adopt a proportional representation electoral system;
• establish an independent body with representation from Aboriginal, newcomers and women’s groups;
• implement an accountability and reporting system based on well-being indices; and
• work with Aboriginal groups to increase funding for and expand a comprehensive, community-based, culturally appropriate policy agenda with targets for improving quality of life and reducing disparities.”

PR would be a breath of fresh air in the stagnant backwater that is Alberta politics.  Proof? The PC have been in power for longer than I have been alive, it really is time for a change.

“7 PROGRESSIVE REVENUE REFORM
Recommendation 7: Re-establish the link between taxes and public services. Revenues should be returned to levels that allow continued support commensurate with changing demographics and inflation for public goods like health care, education, and social programs that Albertans feel are citizenship rights. This includes:
• reinstate progressive taxes, with increased progressivity at the top end and brackets indexed to inflation;
• raise corporate taxes to the Canadian average;
• reinstate the liquor tax;
• remove gambling revenues from general revenues and instead adequately fund arts and culture, communities and early learning from progressive taxes; and
• collect all natural resource rents and keep them out of general revenues for use in building a future for the province.”

The first sentence is the most important – “Re-establish the link between taxes and public services.”  This linkage needs to be reestablished so people can see the results of their taxes working for them making their lives better.  The current decline in the standards of living in Alberta can be traced back to when this link was broken and we have been picking up the pieces ever since.

“Alberta is at a crossroad. This report has highlighted what it means to have economic growth at the expense of social cohesion. With over 80 per cent of incomes concentrated in only half of households and the lowest ranking in the nation for sense of belonging to their communities, Alberta needs a new policy framework. This report provides the framework for a new development path; one where economic growth serves social goals and where disparity is minimized, ensuring an adequate income, quality of life and dignity for all Albertans.”

Could not say it better myself.  :)

   The constant boom/bust cycle in Alberta allows the Tory government to evade the valid concerns of its citizenry and consistently mismanage the wealth of the province.  In a report by the Parkland Institute the failures of the current government are highlighted and summarized.  I’ll be commenting on the executive summary, but you can get it and the full report here.

“Alberta has been prone to booms and busts but overall has seen long-term growth in the size of the economy and a dramatic increase in wealth. However, along with this wealth has come disparity; inequality in both income and quality of life is creating problems across Alberta. Alberta’s economic growth has gone mostly to those in the higher incomes. Quality of life indicators such as income security, personal disposable income, social cohesion, food security, housing affordability, leisure and family time, and educational attainment show that middle and low-income Albertans are struggling to keep the status quo and many are being left behind.”

Funny how that works when you have a flat tax that absurdly favours the rich.  I’m not sure where we ditched the idea of progressive taxation, but it is a major coup for socialism for the wealthy.

“Research shows that the costs of this inequality cut across all of society. Some of the impacts visible in Alberta include: economic and social exclusion evidenced by increasing food bank usage and homelessness; Alberta has the highest rates of family violence in the country and leads the country in domestic assault, homicide-suicide and stalking; Alberta has record low voter turnout; Albertans rank the lowest in the nation for sense of belonging in their community; Alberta has low university participation; and Albertans have the lowest leisure time in the nation.”

Ah, the hardworking Albertan.  More likely to be abusive, poor and atomized within society.  Not exactly the cherished “Alberta Advantage” that was the talk of the town not so long ago.  Lets look at the inequalities the report mentions.

“• Aboriginal families, single parents, and newcomers in Alberta live in deeper and a more persistent state of poverty than in any other province in Canada. The unemployment rate for newcomers is double that of the general population. Women continue to earn 72 cents of the male dollar.”

Yep, a big thanks to the inherent Patriarchal and racist memes that are so prevalent in our culture.

“• Minimum wage does not pay enough to live and work at levels that allow people to realistically meet their costs.”

Is it really surprising that one cannot make it on 8.80/hr?

“• Middle income families have come under increasing pressure. Wages have barely kept up with inflation and in some cases fallen, they are working more hours, have less disposable income, higher debt loads and they pay amongst the highest out-of-pocket costs for services such as childcare, health care, education, utilities, recreation and vehicle insurance in the nation.”

Ah yes, enjoy all the benefits of the free market, you can in fact, pay more for less and be less well off as a result of your hard work.  Universal day-care, that is the ugly scourge of socialism that the people of Alberta will not stand for.

“• Albertans work 1,880 hours per year, the highest in Canada, and much higher than many other developed economies. Albertans work an additional 300 hours or about 7.5 weeks more than the OECD 15 average. This is because Alberta has a much longer work week and has less paid holidays and vacation entitlements (two weeks compared to six weeks for the EU).”

Because working harder not smarter is the paradigm that we have chosen for our little sweatshop of a province.

“• Social assistance rates are far below the poverty line and have not been keeping pace with inflation. Increasingly stringent asset and earnings exemption regulations make it difficult to escape from poverty. The current patchwork of different programs means people can fall between the cracks.”

I think we’ve channelled social-Darwinians to construct our social programs.  The delusional idea that helping people less makes for a better society remains proudly(?) emblazoned upon the Alberta boilerplate.

“• Alberta’s Aboriginal peoples experience the most extreme disparity: income disparities are severe (Aboriginal incomes at 2/3 the average income for men and ½ for women); levels of unemployment are triple the average; Aboriginal children are very over-represented in children in care; there is disproportionate representation of Aboriginal people at all stages of the justice system, both as victims and offenders; levels of educational attainment are much lower; health outcomes are much poorer; housing quality is lower; and food security is lower.”

It must be because they are lazy and just do not want to work.  It is almost like they have a victimhood complex and just want handouts from the government (insert anecdata about the lazy Indian you know about here).  Would they be in such a bind if they started out with the same privileges white males get in society?  It is about as fair as  running a 100 yard dash but some people have 50 pound sacks of potatoes strapped to their ankles.

So here are the problems, what are the causes?

“Key causes of Alberta’s disparity: The erosion of social infrastructure through the adoption of a flat-tax regime and 25 years of governments spending too little on social assistance programs have exacerbated inequalities as have labour market policies and offloading to community services agencies.”

It is almost like the rich are setting the agenda so that only they do well and a big hearty “frack-you” to the rest of us.  That gentle readers, is the political truth in Alberta.

The specifics of the mismanagement of Alberta will be covered on Tuesday as 900 words for a post is already well into TL;DR. territory.

The Provincial Progressive Conservative party in Alberta should really jettison the ‘progressive’ part of their name.  They have not done anything particularly progressive since the latest oil company approved election campaign nominated Ed Stelmach as First Courtier to Big Business Premier of Alberta.   We really do get what we deserve when we continually vote the PC’s into office, namely a province run for the benefit of business rather than the benefit of the people.  It makes sense then to turf knowledgeable specialists such as Raj Sherman when he dares to make a evidence based argument instead of what the party line dictates.

“The Alberta MLA who criticized his own government over its handling of backlogs in the province’s emergency rooms has been suspended from the Tory caucus.  Raj Sherman, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark and an emergency room physician, made headlines over the past week for his sharp criticism of Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and how the province has managed long lines in the province’s ERs.”

Won’t the optics look back for the Government when they boot out a doctor for speaking up about an area of expertise? Sherman says:

No more evidence based decisions for you!

“For me, it’s really a matter of principle. I guess the principles of being a doctor and advocating for patients collided with the principles of politics,” Sherman said.

“I don’t see a reason why they would have needed to collide. I think politicians and doctors, voters and patients are one and the same. But for me it’s a bit of a sad day.”

Sherman said he will now sit as an Independent.”

It is a bit of sad day for all Albertans because stuff like this gets buried so quickly in the province and then come voting time, we elect, you guessed it, more PC’s into office.  So, should we really be surprised anymore when such decisions are undertaken?  Not in Alberta, where a tie clip that ran for the PC’s would get elected.

 

 

 

It is always nice to see the patriarchy at work.  Devaluing half the population is just peachy keen here in good ‘ole Alberta.

The Parkland Institute reports:

“A new fact sheet, entitled “Women’s equality a long way off in Alberta” shows a persistent wage gap between women and men, despite the 2002-2007 oilsands boom. Alberta is also the only province/territory without any government ministry or advisory council on the status of women.

Alberta women who work full-year, full-time earn just 66% of what men earn. The Canadian average earnings gap is 72%.”

It gets even more fantastic if you read the executive summary!  Our heroic Premier is a little busy licking the spittle off the lips of the oil and gas industry he really does care about the woman-folk, honest.

You know that state when you just wake up, before your morning pandiculation and daily ablutions, where your consciousness is really neither here nor there?  Just floating, mildly cognizant of your surroundings in a happy grey state?

The people of Alberta are exactly like that, wandering about in a comforting political miasma, becoming activated only when the government decides to make further cuts to education, healthcare or privatize a lucrative public utility.  Like dessicated Zombies we moan louder for awhile then fall back into our happy conservative haze knowing that we really cannot change anything and as long as business is happy, we are happy.

tp-danielle-smith-cp-751663On to the vibrant political stage in Alberta ( a whopping 41% turnout last election coronation) we have new contender, new blood, a new vision for the province, we have Danielle Smith and the jack booted fascist Frasier institute stormtroopers Wild Rose Party.  Alberta has been in the throes of right wing lunacy since before I was born (38 years and counting) and the prospect of going even further right (with a libertarian outlook to boot, ooooh how I love their batshite-craziness) is about appealing as a warm bowl of cockroaches and milk for breakfast.

For some idea of what Danielle Smith brings to the table lets look at what Keith Brownsey, political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary says:

“With vague policies of less government, less taxes, more individual rights and freedoms, the party can have broad appeal, he said. But that changes with Smith because supporters and critics can now point to her track record.

On the campaign trail, Smith challenged provincial changes to oil royalties that she said have sent investment dollars elsewhere.

‘Elsewhere’ being the multi-nationals and assorted corporations that want it *all* instead of just  most of the profits from Alberta’s natural resources.

She promises to push individual property rights to the top of the agenda – no land expropriated without due consultation and compensation.

Oh look a meaningless bout of  populist hand-waving to con persuade rural voters that the Wild Rose Party really cares about them.

She wants to revamp health care to match models where health providers are paid per job done rather than in a lump sum.

The Americans, currently mired in a pay per job done system are saying that a lump sum payment is the solution. – “Dean also argued that passing some sort of healthcare reform is crucial for Democrats politically if they want to hold onto their majority. He closed the event by arguing for increased compensation for primary care physicians, perhaps even through a salary structure that would allow them to spend more time with patients. “If physicians were paid in a lump sum, rather than by the procedures and tests they perform, we could deliver extraordinary care,” he said.”

Way to go Ms.Smith, already bucking for shiny-awesome Maverick status.  *headdesk*

She wants to dump Alberta’s multibillion-dollar carbon capture and storage project as a political boondoggle. Carbon capture, still in its infancy, would see greenhouse gases stored underground but at a hefty cost.

Carbon capture and storage is an amazing lead balloon and energy industry masquerade.  We need to update our energy infrastructure.  If you have not heard of hydricity  find out what we should be doing if we want to live comfortably past the fossil fuel era.

On abortion, Smith said that she is pro-choice and that it should be publicly paid for, but only under hardship or special circumstances – not when it’s used as birth control.

Ah yes, a libertarian that panders to her religious hard right constituency.  Squaring libertarian ideals with traditional hard right support is a tough one isn’t it Ms.Smith?

“She’s a leader with a very right-wing track record,” said Brownsey.”

I caught a National Post Blogger’s take on the WRP and Ms.Smith.

“Ms. Smith’s is plainly to the Tories’ right: she looks to the Fraser Institute for health care reform (though vows to respect the Health Act); is skeptical of carbon-curbing efforts since she thinks many Albertans, like her, aren’t totally buying the manmade climate change theory; and promises laws protecting property rights.”

It is a rare day indeed that I agree with anything that comes slithering from the National Post’s direction, but they appropriately framed Ms.Smith as a hard right ideologue who has a marginal grip on reality.  Case in point; Ms. Smith’s endorsement of the policies of the Fraser Institute: privatizing health care (CUPE has another take on what our dear neoliberals have to say) and denying climate change are some of the low-lights for your enjoyment.

Progressive politics here we come!

This is just what we need in Alberta to fix our political malaise… gasoline anyone?



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