In their dealings with teachers and doctors, the Alberta government of Alison Redford is showing preference to one group and derision to another. But before we get into the arguments, let me state two things right off the bat: I …
In her “A GP for Me” plan, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid is promising an extra $100 million for 176,000 new patients. That works out to $568 per year per new patient, which would pay for a simple GP office visit about every three weeks for an average patient, one per month for the frail, or one visit every six weeks for complex or pregnant patients.
I once heard a wise man say that governments are always wrong when making economic predictions. The questions to consider are by how much, and in what direction?
That the Government of Alberta was wrong in its economic predictions should therefore not be big news. But they were wrong by lots and widely in the wrong direction. Alberta was predicting averages around $99 a barrel for the past year. But it was not that prediction that got them in trouble, now facing a likely deficit near the $6 billion mark.
It appears to be the failure to account for the rising price differential –the difference between market prices and the bargain basement price Alberta needs to sell its oil to the United States because of our lack of pipeline capacity to deliver to markets. It’s what the premier called a “bitumen bubble.” The price differential is not new, and for more than a year, economists were predicting a larger gap unless greater capacity to carry oil to market were developed.
The core of the problem lies elsewhere, whatever the premier says: Two successive Alberta governments for close to a decade have now been unable to balance their budgets at times when oil revenue was riding high. When money abounds and one still runs out of it, it is a clear indication that the problem is not revenue. The problem is spending.
Jack Mintz from the School of Public Policy and other keen observers had predicted that we would be at this precise junction around this time. Keep spending more than you have while you bridge gap with a supply of money the flow of which you cannot control, and it is not difficult to see that when the gap-closing supply goes down so does your ability to keep spending in the same undisciplined way.
And down that hole we now go, raising the spectre of budget cuts and higher taxes. Not quite a cliff, as a friend of mine joked, but surely a Buffalo jump. Yet, the government is still not facing reality for all the reality facing it.
In her televised address last week, the premier keeps promising not to raise taxes, and not to reduce the budget lines of the two largest spending departments, healthcare and education, to deal with the $6 billion gap. Fair enough, but the promise to start putting savings into the Heritage Fund quickly gave her talk a hue of unreality.
Among concerns about the health dangers of Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs), which contain mercury, the Alberta Government continues to promote the product in its efforts to green itself and the world. The light bulbs are a good example of how elected officials and civil servants –eager to jump on the environmental bandwagon for the sake of political appearances– put people at risk and damage the natural environment in whose name they adopt such misguided policies.
At one website promoting Earth Hour environmental activism, the Alberta Government recommends here that people
[caption id="attachment_5230" align="aligncenter" width="300"] One Simple Act, the Alberta Government site promoting the virtues of Earth Hour, passionately recommends the use of the health-hazardous CFLs.[/caption]
Recycle and use compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). If every household in Alberta changed just one light bulb to a CFL, it would be the same as taking the emissions from 66,000 cars off the road.
They go on to advise further:
Slowly replace all the bulbs in your home. Each time you visit your grocery or hardware store, look for sales and purchase a few more CFL bulbs. Check your electricity bill today, and after replacing 10 lights in your home over one month, check again for energy and cost savings.
For all night lighting, you can cut costs by replacing bulbs with lower wattage bulbs or by choosing a compact fluorescent or a nightlight.
In spite of this damning Health Canada report [in pdf] dating back to February 2012, the information the Alberta government offers makes no mention of the significant risks involved.
This week the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is hosting its fourth annual Red Tape Awareness Week™ 2013. In the spirit of the “Red Tape Revolution” here is a poem about red tape reduction initiatives.
The Alberta inquiry into queue-jumping in the province’s health system appears to have run into a wall of memory loss.
There are defenders of the status quo who view any suggestions for reform with suspicion, but every aspect of our modern society is subjected to continuous review, change and improvement. The same process should be applied to hospital funding in Canada. If we are to improve we must change what we are doing.