Please, not a re­turn to Klein’s dra­co­nian ways

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Did some­one say the words “Al­berta Ad­van­tage”? Yes, some­one did, and it was none other than United Con­ser­va­tive Party Leader Ja­son Ken­ney chan­nelling Ralph Klein af­ter a re­cent speech in Ed­mon­ton to the Al­berta Coun­cil of Tech­nol­ogy.Ken­ney was re­spond­ing to Premier Rachel Not­ley’s crit­i­cism that his pro­posal for a freeze on gov­ern­ment spend­ing with the goal of bal­anc­ing the bud­get evokes Klein’s slash-and­burn gov­er­nance style.“The Al­berta Ad­van­tage was a se­ries of poli­cies that let Al­berta lead Canada’s econ­omy with the high­est lev­els of em­ploy­ment, the high­est in­comes, the low­est level of poverty, the strong­est fis­cal sit­u­a­tion in Canada, if not North Amer­ica,” Ken­ney said. “If the NDP think that’s a prob­lem, that re­ally re­flects how off target they are.”If Ken­ney thinks the Al­berta Ad­van­tage cre­ated such a par­adise for Al­ber­tans, then that re­ally re­flects how off target he is. The Al­berta Ad­van­tage was great for the old boys’ net­work, but that’s about it. What did the Al­berta Ad­van­tage do for the most vul­ner­a­ble and marginal­ized in our so­ci­ety who saw their ser­vices ruth­lessly cut, with AISH pay­ments frozen for years at un­liv­able lev­els? It wasn’t un­til Red Tory Ali­son Red­ford be­came premier that AISH re­cip­i­ents got a long over­due in­crease.What did the Al­berta Ad­van­tage do for thou­sands of teach­ers and health-care work­ers who lost their jobs and went off to other prov­inces never to re­turn? What did it do for the chil­dren at the north­east Cal­gary school who had to be moved else­where be­fore their school roof caved in, all be­cause Klein’s cuts meant the most ba­sic in­fras­truc­ture re­pairs had to be put off?And what did the Al­berta Ad­van­tage do forThat evil so­cial­is­tic pub­lic sys­tem will be weak­ened for those who aren’t rich enough to buy into the pri­vate tier.or­di­nary Cal­gar­i­ans when hos­pi­tals were blown up or sold, when there were con­tin­ual hospi­tal bed short­ages and clo­sures, or when their chil­dren had to be crammed into class­rooms with too many other kids be­cause of ed­u­ca­tion cut­backs? What did it do for Al­ber­tans who had to travel to Fort McMur­ray on a high­way dan­ger­ously in need of twin­ning that should have been twinned years ago dur­ing Klein’s ten­ure? What did it do for cancer pa­tients, their doc­tors and nurses, and re­searchers who pleaded for 10 years for Klein to get on with build­ing a new Tom Baker Cen­tre? It was only the NDP who fi­nally saw to it that the des­per­ately needed new cancer cen­tre would be built.When Not­ley said re­cently that Ken­ney’s pro­posal would lead to reck­less cuts, Ken­ney fired back with, “I’ll tell you what’s reck­less, driv­ing us to­wards a $100-bil­lion debt.”He con­ve­niently failed to men­tion, of course, that the NDP had to in­cur debt be­cause there was no other way to clean up the mess that Klein left. Just like some fu­ture gov­ern­ment will have to do some­day if Ken­ney is the next premier and sets about re-cre­at­ing that very same mess. Which just goes to show that the UCP might not have a sin­gle new idea to of­fer Al­ber­tans. The fact that Ken­ney is con­tent to par­rot Ralph’s memes about freezes and deficits doesn’t bode par­tic­u­larly well for the rest of the planks in his party’s plat­form to of­fer any kind of thought­ful ap­proach on the is­sues.I can’t wait to hear about their plans for health care be­cause I’m sure it will in­clude build­ing on Klein’s failed Third Way with a fourth, fifth or maybe even sixth way to pri­va­tize health care. Then that evil so­cial­is­tic pub­lic sys­tem will be weak­ened for those who aren’t rich enough to buy into the pri­vate tier.Klein’s de­struc­tive poli­cies came into ef­fect two decades ago, but as Not­ley has pointed out, their dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects have echoed down through the years. We need a new Al­berta Ad­van­tage that in­cludes all Al­ber­tans in its scope and that arises from pro­gres­sive and in­no­va­tive think­ing. Twenty-first cen­tury Al­berta de­serves so much more than Ralph’s re­cy­cled, knee-jerk poli­cies of cuts and freezes from a quar­ter-cen­tury ago.

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