Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Whom is the Alberta Government for?

Alberta's public schools are expected to be
everything to everyone with less and less.
In Alberta, a dependency on oil and gas has left us grossly susceptible to excessive revenue volatility -- things are glorious in the booms but down-right scary in the busts. Thus, Alberta has come to be defined as much by our advantages as our disadvantages.

Today, Alberta is busting under a 40+ year old government now led by Jim Prentice who is yet again looking to balance the budget by cutting hard working Albertans and public goods such as health and education.

No one in their right mind would ask Jim Prentice to Be Like Ralph had the PCs learned anything in the 25 years since Ralph Klein took an axe to Alberta's schools and hospitals.

Alberta isn't broke, but Jim Prentice and the PCs' priorities are.

Hard working Albertans get upset when the government demands "burden sharing" during the tough times but ignores "profit sharing" during the good times. It takes zero courage to make hard working Albertans pay for the bad times while PC MLAs mismanage the good times in their own favour.

It's nearly impossible to believe that Alberta's oil belongs to Albertans when we have the second lowest oil and gas royalty regime in the world -- only Yemen has a lower royalty rate for oil. But, it's like they say, if it's good enough for Yemen, it's good enough for us... (wait, no one says that!)

Hard working Albertans get frustrated when "everything is on the table" means that public goods for all like schools and hospitals will be sacrificed to save private interests for the privileged few. In other words, austerity is when people who have the least give up the most, so that people who have the most don't have to give up anything. Cutting expenditures while ignoring revenues is like building a house with only a saw.

Webber Academy is an elite private school in Calgary
that has select admissions, annual tuition ranging from $10-20
thousand and is subsidized by Alberta taxpayers.
In 2013, any Albertan who made more than $17,593 paid the same percentage (10%) of Alberta tax regardless of their income. Alberta could raise its taxes by $11 billion a year and remain the lowest taxed province in Canada. When public services don't keep up with the wealthy's demands for things like health and education, they pay for it out of pocket -- while everyone else likely goes without. Need proof? Keep in mind that 1 in 7 children in Alberta live in poverty while you watch this powerful 9 minute video on the difference between an affluent private school and a poor public school in Calgary.

Cutting expenditures can not be the only solution. Prentice has said that, "I could terminate the employment of every single employee of the Government of Alberta, leaving aside healthcare, and it would not fill a six- to seven-billion-dollar hole." This isn't an argument for cutting healthcare or education -- it's an argument that says if your only tool is a saw, you will cut everything.

Alberta teachers are in the middle of a collectively bargained contract that has me get 0%, 0% and 0% pay increases over three years. I already have 30+ children in my grade 6 and 8 classes, and I teach 120+ students everyday. In 2013, Alberta schools added 11,000 more students, but the PCs cut 14.5 million. How many students will I have after Prentice and the PCs cut even more? How much more of the burden do children, teachers and schools have to pay?

Trickle-Down Economics or Flood-Up Economics?
If everything is honestly on the table, however, then Alberta needs to address our revenue problem by raising Alberta's corporate tax, oil royalties and moving to a progressive tax. We also need to take the Heritage Savings Trust Fund seriously.

The size of the Alberta government is not our primary problem -- our primary problem is figuring out whom the government is for. For too long, the so-called "Alberta Advantage" has been built on corporate welfare, crony capitalism and PC privilege which has led to socialism for the rich and capitalism for the middle class and poor. If the "Alberta Advantage" is truly for everyone, then Albertans need a government who will build this province with more than a saw.

Albertans don't need an early and illegal election that will cost them $20 million, but Prentice and the PCs do if they want to deliver a budget that will likely double down on four decades of PC failure, mismanagement and squandering. Alison Redford had no-meet committees while Prentice has why-meet committees, both are an assault on our budget and democracy. When crisis hits Alberta, and democracy seems a practical impossibility, we need a government that is for Main Street, not Wall Street.

As long as Albertans continue to vote the way they have always voted, Albertans will continue to get what they have always gotten. It's time Albertans stopped choosing between being healthy and wealthy, when we so obviously need both.

If Jim Prentice and the PCs are to receive this message loud and clear, most Albertans need to find a new political home and vote for someone and something different.

I know I am.

6 comments:

  1. Actually if everything is "honestly on the table" then Alberta needs to admit that 5:1 EROI energy production is a money loser in any scenario involving a monetary system that depends on infinite growth and an ever-expanding energy bounty.

    http://www.canadiantrendsblog.ca/2012/11/oilsands-prosperity-is-lie.html

    http://www.canadiantrendsblog.ca/2014/01/oilsands-proponents-have-yet-to.html

    http://www.canadiantrendsblog.ca/2015/01/sorry-folks-recovery-has-been-delayed.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. I fine piece, Mr. Bower! I so hope enough Albertans see the light!

    ReplyDelete
  3. You display an astonishing lack of understanding as to how the oil and gas industry works in Alberta. Which comes as little surprise given the obvious political leanings apparent in your blog. If only the rest of Alberta was a smart and thoughtful as you and your band of teachers. All of the problems in this province would melt away. I sure wish I was a teacher since you are clearly the absolute smartest people around. No matter the issue, you folks have all the solutions nailed. Pay teachers more by taxing everyone else more. Makes perfect sense. Problems solved. See how easy that was?

    ReplyDelete
  4. You display an astonishing lack of understanding as to how the oil and gas industry works in Alberta. Which comes as little surprise given the obvious political leanings apparent in your blog. If only the rest of Alberta was a smart and thoughtful as you and your band of teachers. All of the problems in this province would melt away. I sure wish I was a teacher since you are clearly the absolute smartest people around. No matter the issue, you folks have all the solutions nailed. Pay teachers more by taxing everyone else more. Makes perfect sense. Problems solved. See how easy that was?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Karma Dog, feel free to make an argument for something specific.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a post, and what a mess in Alberta. Basically, I feel that while the state of Alberta is unfortunate and potentially a continually devastating predicament for years to come, much of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the workers. And while they may already have enough to worry about with the weakening economy, Albertans must come to the startling realization that their government is corrupt and therefore, unable to lead properly.

    ReplyDelete

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