You know, I try to stay positive; I really do. Even when it comes to government and politics, I don’t want to become just another cranky naysayer grumbling about how everything is awful. I prefer vision, hope, and trying to look at things objectively.
But this week, I was really mad (so were a whole bunch of other Albertans!). The CBC Radio comments by Prentice about how we should all look in the mirror to see who’s responsible for Alberta’s financial situation are infuriating.
I could talk about how what should be an economic blip on the radar has been manufactured into a financial crisis because of the Premier’s agenda to gut the public sector… but I won’t (at least, not today). What I want to talk about is his continued insistence that we “all” have to shoulder the burden for this problem and we must “all” bear the responsibility and we must “all” work together to dig ourselves out.
According to the new Cost of Poverty 2.5 Report, “Albertans live in the wealthiest province in Canada. Over the past twenty-five years, we have led all provinces in economic growth… yet we have the highest level of income inequality, and those who are poor in Alberta are further behind than in any other province in the country.” Add to that the fact that women in Alberta earn 68 cents for every dollar men earn, make up 70% of part-time workers and 66% of minimum wage workers. And don’t forget about the children! Even though we were promised in 2012 that a five-year strategy to end child poverty was going to be implemented (which, by my calendar, should have put us now in year three), child poverty statistics in this province have remained unchanged for 25 years. So, did we really ALL get into this together? Have we really ALL gleefully overspent, living high on the hog while our beleaguered government tried diligently to find ways to keep up with our unreasonable demands?
Side Rant: In case you’re of the opinion that those who are poor in this province should just get off their duffs and get a job, consider this: 3.2% of Albertans are on social assistance. This means that the rest of Alberta’s poor are working. Just throwing that out there.
Every time I hear the Premier say that we’re ALL in this together and we must ALL share the load, I grind my teeth. When times are good, do we ALL get to share in the bounty? Are the people in this province living in poverty experiencing the benefits of the booms? I point back to the data describing the growing income gap and lack of progress for our impoverished children and say an emphatic NO. So how, then, is it fair to ask them to shoulder the burden in hard times?
We all know what’s coming… though Prentice’s agenda seems mainly aimed at undermining the collective bargaining process and plundering the public sector, there will no doubt be cuts to social programs in the March 26 budget. This means Albertans who need extra help to try and keep their heads above water may find their noses dipping below the tide.
The strategy of “we all” only works if it works all the time. To ask our citizens of low means to take on extra burdens at this time is a deep injustice. If we’re doing to do All-For-One-and-One-For-All, let’s ALL stand up and protect our vulnerable populations, and insist that these Albertans be given a chance, instead of saddling them with the consequences of years of bad government policy.