By GRAHAM HICKS
While admitting such may cause gagging and vomiting among those opposed to the current Alberta government, our moderate socialists have done a few good things.
Ten good things about the Rachel Notley New Democrat government of Alberta.
1. Rachel Notley herself: In three years, Notley has built a remarkable reputation. Even the opposition leaders agree she is fair, principled, honest and hard-working. Her unequivocal support for the Trans Mountain pipeline has earned the grudging respect of the oil/gas industry. If the New Dems are re-elected next year, she’ll be the main reason why
2. Health Minister/Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman’s amazing statement – for a socialist – that money for social programs doesn’t grow on trees. Commenting on the western premiers’ support for a national pharma care program, she said “all of this (social programs) costs money and we have one way to ensure we have that money and those resources, and that is for us to move forward with this project (the Trans Mountain pipeline) in the national interest.” Wow, realization that a strong economic engine is needed to pay for social programs!
3. Calling out the education/public health/quasi-public sector’s fat-cat executive compensation packages: Hundreds if not thousands of individuals running provincially-funded organizations are making huge salaries, are immune from economic turn-downs, have huge benefits, weekends off, job security … yet making more than they’d ever make in the civil service or the private sector! These fat-cat annual salaries of $250,000 to $600,000 could easily be slashed in half, with many qualified candidates willing to do the work at more realistic market values.
4. Conservation: Rural Alberta has long been treated as one vast industrial park. What wasn’t slashed through with cut lines for energy exploration has been chewed up by snowmobiles and ATVs. Privatized Coney Island campgrounds have ruined the camping experience. The New Democrats are finding a much better balance between industry and pristine wilderness, especially the vast tracts of boreal forest being protected around Wood Buffalo National Park, caribou protection, grizzly bear habitat, and funds for improving provincial campgrounds. Let’s hope this government sees the River Valley Alliance’s plan for a continuous river valley trail from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan as a conservation project worthy of on-going public funding.
5. Targeted financial support to encourage industry – particularly petrochemical plants and upgraders. The Petroleum Diversification Program – $500 million in transferable tax credits – kick-started the now-under-construction $3.5 billion Heartland Petrochemical Complex. If $1 from the public purse creates $10 in economic activity, that’s good public policy. Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous has also earned grudging respect from the business community.
6. Widening the southwest leg of Henday Drive: At least this government understands the family SUV and big trucks won’t be going away anytime soon.
7. What they haven’t done: Notley has not opened a Pandora’s Box of socialist spending ideas – free university, free dental care, free daycare, rent controls, super-tax the rich – to even further plunge Alberta into debt.
8, 9 and 10 — I can’t think of much else a classic conservative thinker would approve from what this government is doing.
Imposing huge costs in the name of “climate challenge”, when the outcomes are both dubious and globally insignificant, is not how a conservative would think. Re-writing school curriculum to reflect progressive thinking is on no conservative agenda. Saddling business with ever more rules and regulation and taxation, making it more and more difficult to make a reasonable profit, does nothing but scare away investment and kill jobs.
Classic conservatives prefer minimal state intervention in both social and economic matters, that government generously take care of those who can’t take care of themselves, but otherwise confine itself to infrastructure, defence, law enforcement and other basics.
New Democrats and left-leaning Liberals believe that the state knows best, are deeply suspicious of the free market’s ability to run itself, believe government, not parents, best know how to educate children. They are all for citizen rights, less for citizen obligation.
Considering what a gung-ho socialist/extreme environmentalist government – like the one now controlling B.C. – could do, we can at least praise Notley and company for being pragmatic socialists