Seeking the solution in piggy banks

You must have heard by now: Our incredibly successful provincial government has now started to seize reserve funds from all school boards, funds which are being kept to deal with emergencies such as breaking-down school buses, failing toilets or dysfunctional boilers.

You must have heard by now: Our incredibly successful provincial government has now started to seize reserve funds from all school boards, funds which are being kept to deal with emergencies such as breaking-down school buses, failing toilets or dysfunctional boilers.

What an exemplary practice of good governance, wouldn’t you agree?

I can not help likening it to a desperate move by a wasteful father who starts an assault on his children’s piggy banks when creditors begin to knock on the door, a father who should have thought and saved for the rainy day.

But there is more coming: The latest rabbit that came out of the hat is a decision to get rid of hundreds of acute care beds in hospitals, saving money for Alberta Health and shifting the expenses for the patients treated in those beds to families, those that are most probably suffering from the impact of economic recession in one way or another.

The economic situation in the province is so calamitous that a national bank said in a recent economic forecast: “The Alberta economy is going through its roughest patch since 1982 with signs that the outlook won’t brighten again until next year.”

“Signs of a burgeoning recovery apparent elsewhere in the country have yet to show much progress in Alberta,” it continued.

How do you like that?

Gone are the days when fast-food restaurants were in competition to hire staff with wages that were the envy of highly qualified office personnel in other provinces.

Now we are leaving through a period of redundancies, closed-down gas wells and bankrupt businesses.

In between is only a year, a $15 billion turnaround from $8 billion surplus to a $7 billion (and growing) deficit, during the tenure of the same government.

As an Albertan and as a journalist, I would be very interested to know this:

If Ed Stelmach were able to think of himself not as a politician but as a working father of a family of, say, five, with children of school age, how would he rate his own performance?

How he answers that question honestly (not to his family, not to his cabinet colleagues, and not even to his closest political confidante, but to himself only) gives the best indication of how much moral authority he retains to continue to govern the province as premier.

But then again, how much hope can one pin on the possibility that a politician might heed the voice of his conscience?

— Mustafa Eric

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