Government’s planning problem

Gene Zwozdesky, Minister of Health and Wellness has recently announced a major drive to build, renovate and upgrade a number of health care facilities throughout the province.

The announcement said the provincial government was pouring out $1.4 billion for 22 facilities in 15 communities.

Alberta Union of Public Employees applauded the decision while Wildrose Alliance criticized it for being just another “erratic, kneejerk” decision, as described by Paul Hinman, MLA, deputy leader of the party.

Let’s remember that this funding announcement comes just a few days after the province’s education minister made a similar statement regarding an allocation for school boards to allow them to pay annual raises for teachers and staff as provided for under their collective labor agreements.

Now, if one looks at the whole picture of funding cutbacks in health sector, which left many unemployed, and so-called clawbacks from the budgets of school divisions in the course of the last 12 months, there is only one conclusion to be reached: Mr. Stelmach’s government has a problem with figures.

One can not help but sympathize with Mr. Hinman’s labelling of these latest announcements.

As discussed in this column several times before, there is apparently a deficiency of planning on the part of the government, which, by definition, should administer taxpayers’ money with prudence while allowing for contingency planning and remaining prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

Just as these latest funding announcements were coming from provincial ministers, Canada’s central bank was in the process of issuing a statement, warning that economic growth would be more restrained in the next few months or even quarters. That statement echoed a similar note of caution from the chairman of the US Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke.

One can not help wondering: If the dreaded possibility becomes a reality and another slowdown in the economy turns into a recession, will our provincial government announce cancellation of all these funding decisions?

As it is still fresh in the memory, nobody needs to be reminded how the health care reform, introduced with great promises last year turned to be a big bubble soon-to -burst.

The government was saying that they would be saving a lot of money by bucking off a whole high level of management and would save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in remuneration.

Now, here is the punch line: Stephen Duckett, the chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, imported from Australia makes in excess of $750,000 a year.

Tell me about savings.

— Mustafa Eric

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