By Medicine Hat News Opinion on January 18, 2020.
Austerity measures and service cuts have clearly just begun, with another “ambitious legislative agenda” set to begin Feb. 25 – as if Albertans needed more proof of what the UCP’s plan is to deal with so-called financial problems.
We could contemplate the true intent behind it all – a move to sabotage the public sector and promote privatization, or a calculated disdain for jobs occupied by mostly women being just two speculations already circulating – but we know that whatever the motive, the UCP claim behind it is the same.
Alberta is “broke” because spending is “out of control.”
Everyone is being asked to take a hit in the name of the province’s bottom line. This week alone included blows for under-65 spouses, nurses (again), Edmonton public schools, universities (again) and parents of a $25/day childcare pilot project. Oh, and the funding application deadline for early childhood development programs is set for Monday. At this point, if you haven’t personally felt the pinch of UCP policy, you’re in a shrinking-quickly minority. (And congratulations on all that cash.)
Except, have you ever noticed that the terms “broke” and “out of control” only apply when it comes to a service for Albertans? But whenever when we feel the need for, say, a billions-dollar corporate tax cut, or a business subsidy, or an umpteenth panel, or a war room that is now the butt of the world’s least funny joke, our pockets are as exactly as deep as we need them to be.
Mount Royal University professor and historian Roberta Lexier said it best in an interview with CBC’s Sunday Edition.
“Austerity-minded governments have been insisting that we can’t afford the rising costs of social programs without more deficits or higher tax burdens on ordinary Canadians. But the argument does not apply, apparently, to tax breaks or subsidies or grants for corporations.
“I think the general public probably doesn’t even know how much money corporations are receiving from the public purse. And I think it’s in the interest of many people to keep that conversation very quiet.”
Even if we all agreed that deficits and debt are inherently bad (I very much disagree), how we tackle these so-called problems is simply a matter of priority. I think we all agree the UCP’s top priority is the economy (as is any government’s these days), and at this point it’s pretty clear they’re going with the “give money to people that already have all the money and then hope that maybe, for the first time ever, people with all the money will decide they don’t like having all the money and kick down a few nickels for the rest of us” approach.Â
It’s the “job creators” that drive society, they claim, and if we don’t ensure a welcoming environment of subsidization, low taxes and the right to extract resources for pennies on the dollar, then they might not come here, or stay here, to provide Albertans with that job they so desperately need. We’ve let governments from all sides fall into this trap of economy first, people second, and are now decades removed from any semblance of a North American society that values the citizen over the corporation.
Obviously, a majority of us need to be employed or the system doesn’t work anyway, but thanks to this fear of corporate abandonment by way of another jurisdiction, we have become so enslaved by big business that we’re willing to give up our own wellbeing to keep it happy.
And yet, even as we offer up whatever money, breaks or undervalued resources these corporations require, they still treat us like a high-school fling they’re prepared to dump at any moment should they discover any profitable reason to do so. If we can understand that people are necessary to drive our economy, but also understand the economy is desperately trying to rid itself of that necessity through layoffs, automation or anything else that might boost profits, why don’t we just end 50 years of trickle-down failure, skip this made-up economic boogeyman and start focusing our investments on actual people?
We’re so scared corporations will abandon us that we’ve seemingly voted to abandon each other, starting with the most vulnerable. We’ve decided a corporate giveaway that hasn’t and won’t “create” jobs is more important than simply funding the services that educate our children, or care for elders, or provide for the disabled, or keep our neighbours healthy.
And for what?
Shareholder giveaways? The dream of an industry that will never be what it once was? The idea that the world is out to get us?
All signs point to life getting even tougher in Alberta, as the science of oil and climate prepare to officially fact-bomb the hell out of our feelings, and whether we’re ready to admit it, the provincial bank account will be the least of our problems.
As those coming realities take further hold, we have to decide what we truly want from our government.
Do we want one that feeds us lines about all the six-figure jobs they’re going to get us while it gives away the farm? Or do we want one that ensures your essentials are in place once that six-figure job moves to Denver?
We’ve spent far too long believing the government is here to prop up the economy. It’s time we realize that what they’re supposed to do is protect us from it.
Scott Schmidt is the layout editor at the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. All opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the News’ editorial board