By Medicine Hat News Opinion on September 12, 2020.
Does everyone remember how we had to suffer through that frightening shortage of cops in Alberta for the first decade of the 21st century because former premier Ralph Klein had slashed policing budgets in the early 1990s instead of just addressing a province-inflicted revenue problem?
Of course you don’t. Because that was doctors.
Does everyone remember the United Conservatives reminding us 626 times that police officers make more money in Alberta than in other provinces, which is why tearing up their contracts and labelling them as greedy was not only justified but necessary?
Nope. Because that was doctors, too.
Newly appointed Justice Minister Kaycee Madu penned a letter to the mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities this week expressing concern over the possibility that municipalities might reduce funding for police. That concern was even capped with a veiled threat about Calgary and Edmonton’s access to provincial policing grants in the future.
Ignoring the fact that Madu is apparently planning to punish two mayors for “defunding” police by defunding police, you have to admit that in a province where the government hasn’t met a public service it wouldn’t gut, it’s strange to see them so upset over the idea of less public money for something.
If anyone dares to bring up UCP cuts to health care or education (of which there have been plenty) it’s met with a robotic soliloquy about how health workers and educators need to find efficiencies, and that “throwing money at” growing service needs is not the answer. Yet, if cities even discuss demanding their police departments do the same – even if the intent is to reallocate funding to services that ease the need for policing in the first place – the provincial justice minister immediately looks to bully them out of it.
What’s more is he uses the exact arguments about an “adequately funded” service being “essential” to the community as the rest of us have been using to defend against cuts to everything else.
The contradiction is as glaring as it is gleefully delivered, and yet, if challenged it would likely draw nothing more than the tweeted response of an issues manager looking to remind us once again that 16 months ago “more than 1 million Albertans fired the NDP.”
The easy reasoning, which should not be overlooked, is that Madu is talking about municipal funding toward a service, which he and his provincial pals need not worry about. Obviously public services matter to the UCP when they aren’t paying for them.
But going beyond their love of sticking bills to other levels of government and calling it fiscal responsibility, this type of approach to crime is ideological – ineffective, but ideological. For many, addressing crime is about the justice system, and if you want to deal with “bad guys” you do it with cops, courts and cells.
“Cops arrest bad guys, judges convict bad guys and jail cells keep bad guys locked away.”
Even if this type of approach actually prevented crime, which it doesn’t, what does it say about us as humans if we start to value policing over our most essential services? People love to talk about how much they love this country and how lucky we all are to live here, but what would it say about our beloved Canada if we actually reached a place where police are more essential than doctors?
Luckily, the very idea of that is ridiculous, and most Canadians wouldn’t need a global pandemic to know that our first-world privileges aren’t due to how many armed officers we have on hand. Yet, here in Alberta, when it comes to the very things that gave us prosperity, the UCP tells you we’re broke.
So what does it say about them that when it comes to keeping us adequately policed, the message is to spare no expense?
Scott Schmidt is the layout editor for the Medicine Hat News. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @shmitzysays