Posts Tagged ‘Kenney’


Ah longing for days of yore. When Alberta became “debt free”, and “King Ralph” reigned as Premier. It is amazing though what is forgotten within this reminiscing. As we gear up for probably the dirtiest and nastiest Provincial Election in 2019 between the entrenched ideologues United Conservative Party (Official Opposition, supposed government in waiting) and the New Democratic Party (the governing party); perhaps it is time for an old journo and politico to dust off the highlights of this era for the non-wealthy that we seem to have forgotten.

The entire premise of the Alberta Advantage was built on three fallacies:

  1. The market and privatization are better than government and public sector.
  2. trickle down economics works (that is the failed belief that when the wealthy are wealthier, the poorer become richer).
  3. The government costs per citizen were out of control, when in fact when the costs per capita were adjusted appropriately for inflation it was shown that costs had risen negligibly in the era of the P.C. Governance of the province.

This was the era of rapid emigration from other provinces to Alberta for “jobs” while failing to remind folks that the jobs that were growing were unskilled labour, or minimum wage jobs that required 2-3 to make ends meet and hopefully break even.

The flat tax era. This is a stepping stone many point to as needed for wealth, but were we the lowest taxed in Canada at this time? Well, let’s look at the shift that happened with the flat provincial income tax. Public Services entered the era of the “user fee”; which is essentially a government tax on services that one is not able to recoup if they fall behind a certain wage line. Such users fees introduced were for public education; public health care (ah the wonder of the monthly levy); libraries; and anything else that a fee could be attached to.

Also saw divestment from community public schools into more government funding for private and charter schools. A system created for funds to follow the child wherever they went. Sociologically the effect created a stratification between the have and have nots, but also removed the backbone of why public education creates a healthy society– that all socio-economics and cultures/religions of an area go to school together.

The de-regulation of public utilities. Following California’s idea that private industry could do utilities better than the government which is bullocks. There is no way to effectively privatize utilities for cost that would benefit the consumer, possibly if all companies were on hand at the build and owned the supply and the lines, but we are a bit beyond that. While many in urban areas (rurally is another issue) complain vehemently about the Conservative idea of the implement Carbon Tax under Premier Notley they have missed the biggest levies costing families money on their utility bills. That is all the regulatory and supply fees that have grown costs exponentially. Oh, and the grand King Ralph de-regulated even after California announced failure with the experiment.

The rise of control of public discourse. Government was wielding a big stick in this era. I remember them threatening to and pulling funding from arts programs that put on shows or plays they did not agree with. The biggest spectacle made of trying to shut down the play “Angels in America”.

But the censorship of ideas did not end there. With the rise of a more Americanized public education system (which the idea of funds following child is actually from the Democrats I believe), came the concept of the banned book list. The removal of teaching history and context with literature, and that which offended could be shunted away. Things from Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain (and yes even me) were all put away for various reasons. The updated banned literature list was released each year on the first day of “Freedom to Read Week”.

The rise of high school drop outs that rivaled developing nations. We saw during this era a full on creation of a volunteer sector to enter Schools to meet with youth for 1 hour a week who were deemed at high risk to volunteer. Why? Drop out rates where crippling, for a couple reasons:

  1. if you could not pay school fees and your child was 16 the school would “drop them out”.
  2. Unskilled labour and rig work targeted this age group for workers.

For those that believed in the Protestant-Work Ethic narrative our parents told us about getting through school on to tech school, college or university then great work. What met us was a crisis of out of control tuitions and costs that burdened Generation X and Millenials with a crushing debt before even entering the living wage career field.

Speaking of work, it was under the wonderful Klein regime that two things happened:

  1. Elimination of tiered minimum wage (used to be from 16-17 you made $4.50/hour, at 18 it went up to $5/hr).
  2. The legal age to work in the province (not talking flyer force or newspaper route, we are talking service industry) was lowered to 12 years old (yes we proudly brought back child labour).

It was also during this era that something wonderful could have happened. The government seeing the success of the Waterloo model for ending institutionalization of persons with disabilities and mental health issues and moving them with appropriate housing and supports into communities. Unfortunately due to the faux crisis the government created in the minds of Albertans, what happened was only step one–the closure of institutions; and a rapid increase of complex individuals into homeless shelters.

Oh and homelessness? It became a crisis in the “Alberta Advantage” and “Wealthy Alberta” for years there was not a year that did not go by where the government did not declare states of emergencies during winter months due to the imminent threat of loss of human life.

Alberta Works (Welfare) was also used in the austerity crisis as a weapon. There was a meta-narrative crafted that people were scamming the system to not have to work. The concept of the “lazy welfare bum”. What was not spoken of was that the rental portion of Alberta Works for a single up until 2012 was $183/month; in 2012 it was increased to $323/month (where can one rent?). This was deducted from the cheque for a single that would not exceed $700/month approximately, if they were lucky to get medical it would increase to $900. Yes, part of the system was medical covered which was nice.

It was also the era that saw the Alberta Income for the Severely Handicapped (Premier Redford, the 3rd last P.C. Premier brought in a nice raise for this monthly entitlement to up it to $1588/month). It was not until Notley’s government that much of the red tape was cut away to allow easier access. Unfortunate is that it is designed for those who should not be working, but it has built in mechanism for work to top up income.

They say there was a building boom. Yet chronic of homeless increased as the motels/hotels/trailer parks they would have lived in shut down for condos, and houses. Businesses pushed a building boom for new spaces and moved around, leaving old empty. We talk of a crisis of vacancy now, but it was always there just hidden through the constant moving around. Building was happening, but not out of necessity.

Federally and provincially, funding stopped for affordable housing for those in need. We did not plan for the fact the generation governing at this moment, and the biggest generation- the Baby Boom would be aging into seniorhood. In fact, we know how badly seniors were screwed over by the Klein government (and every government since); thanks to the bravery of whistleblower Kevin Taft’s book¬†Shredding the Public Interest that showed how we used to care for our elders and now, well we leave them to their own devices in a lot of ways. It used to be complete coverage, now it is Blue Cross cost share plans for medical. The sad shell-game of removal of massive rights of being an elder in Alberta, and the pittance returned preyed on those that built our province in a disgusting and abusive way.

I was thankful that my Granddad was a veteran when his emphysema set in and he needed medical help. Veterans Affairs covered everything so we did not have to play these petty Alberta games. (No, I am not a Liberal schill even though those were the Chretien years, I took him to task as much as Klein, I was a working class writer).

Ah health care, with the drive being for “privatization” it was a gutting of Pastor Tommy Douglas’ dream that no family would have to go bankrupt to care for themselves. It was also premised on the idea health care is for the healthy, that is like saying life insurance is for the living. Health Care is there when we are in need, the encroachment of privatization, closure of beds, implosion of hospitals, is all being seen in repercussions today with long wait times; lack of capacity for medical whether the be physical or psychological services; continued challenges on long ER wait times, and lack of EMS. Our Aboriginal elders speak of making decisions with forethought on how it affects 7 generations down the line…Rod Love, Klein’s right hand admitted they did not have a plan, less than a generation down the line we are literally suffering on hallway gurneys as a result. The Third Way is a failure, and the fact the NDP has not acted on all the information they have from experts to correct it in this term is a failure as well.

Let us not forget our bread and butter industry. Oil & Gas. It was during the Klein era when it left the hands, as Lougheed would say of being Albertans’; and became the natural resource of the multi-nationals. Royalties were plummeted (fallacy of trickle down); and our Heritage Trust Fund, the model that Norway used and whose citizens are reaping the benefits of now, well… it did not turn out so well for us.

I love my province. Part of a democracy is the ability to challenge ideas. It is not about crushing the opponent, or a blood sport. It is about the interchange of ideas. It is about what is best for the citizen. Yes during the Klein era and after, we lost the concept of citizen, and the only people that mattered were “tax payers”; and even then not all tax payers just the 1%. It is time to reclaim out constitutional promise of Peace, Order and Good Governance. In the school yard antics of the NDP-UCP currently I do not see that. I encourage you to look to Alberta Elections site for all registered parties:

https://www.elections.ab.ca/parties-and-candidates/parties/ 

Find one that resonates with who you are. Get active, even run as a candidate. Personally for my riding I am leaning towards the Alberta Liberals or Alberta Party. But it does come down to me the strongest local candidate (yes they need to be from the area); then what the party stands for; and finally the leader. For remember, members voting on a leader is a function of a system, the actual system allows for caucus (the elected members in the Legislature) at any time to take a vote of confidence in the leader and replace them. That is why it is oh so important you look to your local candidate for credibility and character.

As we move towards an election, open yourself up to not only answering what things effect you, but all citizens of Alberta. Think globally, act locally… and vote for a better future not a re-tread of the damaging past that has left us this quagmire.

 


Ah I love to reflect on some of the greatest things Canada has ever done. And it was repatriated away from Britain to us in 1982. The Constitution Act 1982 (an update on the British North America Act 1867 which made us a nation), and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is not a digression in the loss of the social charter that was spear headed by then Alberta PC Premier Lougheed. No, it is a reflection on what was accomplished, and for those who are more fluent in the American Bill of Rights, for Canadians what is the key differences. I also always encourage one to read both documents that are the foundation of Canada’s systems.

The act opens:

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms

One little word, God. But it is not a Judeo-Christian God, it is an anglicized affirmation of the creative force no matter how it is defined. For the charter this leads into, when one dives into the archives had all sectors of society speaking into it including and not limited to: First Nations, Churches, other religions, politicians, and justice.

It opens up the fundamental freedoms section:

Fundamental freedoms

 Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  • (a)¬†freedom of conscience and religion;

  • (b)¬†freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

  • (c)¬†freedom of peaceful assembly; and

  • (d)¬†freedom of association.

There are freedoms spoken of, but notice that under (b) it is not speech, but rather expression. Each fundamental freedom flows into the other, and ties not into just simply an individual’s rights, but rights as they exist in the collective communities, the villages that make up Canada. The nations as well, as you go through the other rights you will note we are not about independent singular lives knowing that actions do not have ripple effects in the pond.

Much like how the nation grew, interdependence in spite of labels. Unity within our diversity (a mosaic) is what this reflects. The charter in 1982 was the culmination of work that began in Red River rebellion under the leadership of Louis Riel in 1869 displayed the first human rights bill, which was built upon under Douglas’ Saskatchewan Government, and also federally with Diefenbaker in 1960. But all these bills came out of a sense of community solidarity.

Not just the words on the paper, but the context, the intent…and sadly that is what has been missing a lot in public discourse in my nation. We gravitated to a simpler black and white system without realizing our nation has never been black and white. First Nations, English, and Francophone. Later saw Scottish and Irish fleeing English colonialism coming to Canada; loyalists from the US. Nordic country settlers into the prairies… to the 20th century and 21st century with refugees and new Canadians of all stripes.

Our identity has been forged in our differences. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY the unity of one nation, under one law of collective rights, for the collective good. Essentially our rights exist up to the point they cause harm to the other, and then we work to welcome the differences of the other into our national fabric to make us better.

For the story of Canada is not one of revolution. It is not a story of religious battles. There are gruesome histories that need to be spoken about in truth, and in reconciliation to move forward from. But as a nation, we have always been driven by answering two¬†questions, since the Skralings rescued the Vikings in Newfoundland…

Who is My neighbour?

And what does it mean to build a community together?

2017 we vote for City Councils and village/town leaderships in Alberta.

2019 is a federal election that currently has two parties searching for identity and leadership.

2020 in Alberta is another election where change can happen for the better.

But it is time as citizens to learn from our neighbours to the south, and what happens when you forget what made you as a people. Not the labels that divide, but what ties you together. No more into a mirror darkly.

2015¬†the best part of Justin Trudeau was he raised political discourse out of muck racking to a positive spin. Now though is our time to demand better. It is our time to demand political leaders running cast more than management cycles, budget sheets and sprockets–the things the bureaucracy is designed to handle.

Now is the time to demand actual leadership from each riding, from each person running, on their personal level, what is their vision for their village in the collection of villages? We want electoral reform, let’s send visionaries to Ottawa, Edmonton and City councils…not managers. Let’s elect those with heart and passion. Those that understand our national foundation within the Constitution and Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

For these beautiful documents speak to a guarantee the engaged citizens of Canada can hold to, and that is quite beautiful and simple:

Peace, Order and Good Governance.

Let’s dream no little dream. Let’s dream what is possible, and hold ourselves and our leaders to what we said we deserved.

-30-


This week politico’s acted shocked that MLA Sandra Jansen left the PC Party of Alberta after documented harassment and bullying at the hands of the social conservative sect within the leadership race. Now why would it come as a shock? The party leadership did not contact, or step up right away to correct or expel the aggressors, but like many institutions just left the victim to twist in the wind.

The fact she crossed the floor should not come as a shock. It is allowed in our parliamentary system, the ethics of it can be argued until all sides are blue in the face. Yes technically the voter voted for Jansen under one party colour, but this is the gift of the parliamentary system, there are three choices to be taken into account when you cast the ballot: the local candidate; the party platform and then the party leader. Yet the system is designed that it comes down to the choice of the local candidate. In our province’s history this was never more truly highlighted than with the United Farmers Governments, that did not have party leaders. Each local candidate was elected, then those elected chose who would be premier (actually much how the constitution lays out this functionality not how the practice has emerged).

So is it shocking one who has no defense, no support, being abused has chosen to leave? No. Is it surprising that in my province, there are those who are victim blaming? Sadly no, I wish that answer could be different. We are working to create a new culture.

The shock could be that she left a big tent party, to go to an on paper socialist party, yet she was a Red Tory. So by crossing the floor, she has brought her constituents voice into the government caucus which is a win.

Yet it leaves us pondering the other two big ten party’s on Alberta’s political map, that may have tried and failed to woo, or never wooed. But the Alberta Party and Alberta Liberals were unable to secure her.

Of those two, this weekend’s Alberta Party Conference #CentreTogether is showing the best practice for uniting Albertans of all political stripes under a best practice banner driven by bringing all voices to the table. Hopefully it works, because what the PC Leadership race, the Wildrose responses on twitter by MLA’s such as Fildebrandt, and even the myopic ideology within the current government (New taxes not necessarily bad, carbon tax where 90% of Albertans will need to receive a subsidy to pay or exemption is simply bad policy) …something new needs to emerge.

This floor crossing opens up the conversation from zero based budgeting, pragmatic management at the political level, to truly what we need from our leaders: Vision casting.

What is the Alberta that will emerge through all this? What vision will these parties cast heading into an election in 3 years? Will we still be bickering over this tax or that tax? Will we be bickering about where to cut?

OR will a citizens voice come forward that speaks of equality, justice, support, and a provincial home that allows all to thrive through their given aspirations and talents? A home that is affordable for all?

Can this be the voice that emerges from #CentreTogether?

Are we going to continue to allow ideologies to separate us from our Albertan and Canadian narrative of different pieces of the puzzle together to create the full picture of our just society?

Can this be the lesson learned from one MLA willing to take a stand against old boy backroom B.S. and show where the bridges exist instead of the walls?

Only time will tell…but as an Albertan, I have hope.