Tuesday morning there was a cold, late-fall drizzle that seemed to perfectly surmise the mood of the region — at least for the 53,843 people who voted Conservative in the Red Deer-Lacombe riding, or 79.8 per cent of voters (the second closest was the NDP with 6,012 votes).
It sure feels like Alberta has taken a double hit to the gut this week, first with the federal election Oct. 21, and then with the passing down of the provincial budget Oct. 24.
The Conservatives didn’t win enough seats to form the government, but they did gain seats and won the national popular vote.
Although Alberta may not have won the war on the federal scale, with the Liberals returning as a minority government, we surely won a battle.
Don’t forget that Alberta has chosen it’s own local representatives and Ottawa can’t take that away. Our local MPs understand Alberta’s plight and will take the fight to Parliament, and now have a stronger voice to do so.
Red Deer-Lacombe Conservative MP Blaine Calkins says in his MP Report dated Oct. 25, that he is “hopeful that with the Liberals being reduced to a minority we will be able to take strides forward for our province.”
Calkins goes on to say that Trudeau must “recognize that it is the responsibility of the Government to champion all sectors of our economy, and he needs to completely reverse course on the disastrous policies that have stoked the fires of separation in the west.”
Separatist sentiment is brewing, and not just because of the election results. There is a crisis in Alberta and its name is “funding.” More specifically, the lack thereof and the anxiety for the hard times ahead.
Friday, different organizations were reacting to the provincial budget.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association feels the budget will bring larger classes and fewer programs for students.
“This budget is, yet again, asking teachers to do more with less,” said Jason Shilling, ATA president, in a release.
The release states that school boards will receive about $200 less per student than they received in the last school year.
A release from the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) details its reaction to the provincial budget, stating that by 2021, the overall health budget will be close to $6.6 billion less. During the last four years, health care saw 1,100 jobs added, but with the budget freeze, that growth will stop in its tracks.
“What we are seeing is groundwork to justify a transfer of vital public services to the private sector,” said HSAA president Mike Parker in the release.
The provincial budget also significantly affects post secondary institutions, and Red Deer College is reporting a 2.4 per cent reduction to its 2019-20 Campus Alberta Grant, which equals a loss of $1.2 million to RDC’s operational funding.
RDC won’t be able to complete planned facility upgrades and maintenance until 2020, with the suspension of that funding to the amount of $2.1 million.
All this means RDC is lifting its tuition freeze, and increases will be permitted up to 7 per cent per year in the next three years. In other words, students will be footing the bill.
In a Canadian Press story Oct. 23, the day before the provincial budget was handed down, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said the UCP’s wouldn’t cut funding to health care and education but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The cuts are being made to curb the $6.7-billion deficit in the last fiscal year and the debt nearing $60 billion, but the cuts will be felt in a nearly corporeal way.
And the squeeze is a lot closer to home as well.
With the Town of Ponoka going into budget deliberations in November, community groups came to council on Oct. 22 with their asks for their own upcoming budgets, and it remains to be seen if they will get the funding they need to carry on with their programs.
And the insults keep coming.
Even the Liberal’s new plan to fund green solutions from the operations of the Trans Mountain Pipeline feels like a kick in the shins.
Although a creative solution to appease both sides of the climate debate, it sure makes one long for the days when Albertans benefited from Albertan resources such as the Klein oil rebates.
In 2006, there was no provincial debt, the projected surplus fuelled by oil and gas prices was $8.8 billion and Albertans were recognized for contributing to the wealth of the province, with a $400 cheque to every Albertan, including children, that January.
It was seen as controversial at the time as some would’ve preferred to see that money invested in proprieties but the point is, Alberta had cash to spare.
Perhaps we were spoiled back then.
For many years Alberta was prosperous and perhaps got used to feeling comfortable, but to say that Albertans are simply whining and entitled now is dismissive of the real distress many are feeling and the very real struggle facing many to simply survive.
The popular Internet meme of a cow straddling the provinces, with the prairies feeding the head and the east milking the udder is a sentiment acutely felt by many in Alberta.
Others have likened the ongoing treatment of Alberta from the federal government to an abusive relationship and they aren’t far off the mark.
An open letter to Canada written by Mark E. Meincke, an author and Wexit advocate, states, in part, “I love you Canada … I love you but we are in an abusive relationship … Alberta has done all that we can to be a good partner to you … But still, you don’t love us back. You don’t even want to treat us as casual friends. Alberta feels more than just left out, we feel despised.
“Dear Canada, the time has come for us to go our separate ways. We love you … but we now realize that you will never love us back.”
Is it time to break up?
One hopes not. Even considering if there was enough support to make such an idea plausible, there are significant issues that would make it highly improbable, such as treaty rights and again, funding.
The question remains, however, how Alberta will manage to survive this upcoming struggle and what it will look like on the other side of it. We love you Canada, but we won’t keep being your punching bag.