by Samantha Helgeson
Alberta. A political hellscape commandeered by total incompetence, buffoonery on levels that far outshine ol’ King Ralph’s reign of terror, and downright malicious negligence.
This editor was not planning to delve into this tumultuous nightmare or touch on this sensitive subject, but frankly, I have had enough. I am proud to say I did not vote for this train wreck. Even though many of the significant failings (like severe slashing of funding for multiple sectors, extreme job loss, and staggering growth to debt) were expected (as this is always the norm of the boys in blue), I was not prepared for the rest of this complete and utter shitshow.
First, let us pretend for a moment that COVID-19 did not happen, and we are not currently in the middle of a pandemic that is being grossly mismanaged. We can pretend for a moment that Alberta does not have the highest per capita cases in the country and forget that Alberta is blatantly refusing to take hard measures to solve the problem, which is incidentally the opposite of what any civilized place is doing.
So, where does that leave us? I will touch on some of the finer points of this two-year fiasco without drawing too much on the scandals, gaslighting, and outright lies foisted upon us by the UCP. This is by no means a comprehensive list.
- There is a high unemployment rate due to severe job loss from all sectors. Alberta’s unemployment rate was higher than the national average back in February and is still very high in both Edmonton and Calgary.
- Severe funding cuts across the board for public services, which is hard on Albertans, seeing as the past few years we had already spent far below the national average in proportion to GDP (in fact, Alberta spent the lowest amount on public services out of any other province period!). For those of you who do not understand why this is a bad thing, this means it will be harder for Albertans to receive the public services they need.
- AISH was decimated because f*ck the disabled people, amirite? It is not like they weren’t already barely surviving off of the pre-existing payment amounts. Let’s make it harder for people to obtain AISH, de-index it (and Alberta Works), ensuring that it won’t increase with inflation that increases every year, and mess around with the payment schedules causing severe stress and anxiety.
- The UCP started a fight with doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. They ended the master agreement with doctors, adjusted complex modifiers, and imposed billing and compensation fees. This makes it more difficult for rural citizens to get service. This is a fight which they then claimed NEVER EXISTED (which by the way, is the definition of gaslighting my friends).
- The post-secondary tuition cap was removed, which, coupled with funding cuts to post-secondary institutions, means that tuition is going up dramatically at all institutions. The student loan interest rate cap was also removed. So, hey, education is now more expensive, but you can get student loans with higher interest, and be in even more debt now. Not to mention that the education and tax credits were also eliminated.
- All the green incentives that were helping bring innovation and industry to Alberta were cut and dismantled. I suppose that’s fine if we want to keep relying on dying industries and polluting the environment.
- The supervised, safe consumption program was cancelled, and many of the facilities were defunded. Which is doing wonders for the rising opioid crisis in Alberta.
- Albertan citizens can also expect to pay more now for utilities, income tax, and auto insurance. So, yay for costs being downloaded onto consumers. I love paying more for everything and receiving the exact same product.
- Then there is the growing debt. What is hilarious is that the UCP ran a campaign smearing the NDP for ballooning debt, and yet in the UCP 2021-2022 budget, the debt to GDP ratio is 2.3 times higher than under the NDP!
And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. These are just some of the particularly frustrating things that have happened. If you would like to read a detailed list you can check it out here.
Now let us stop pretending COVID-19 and the pandemic does not exist and move on to the real reason that I embarked on this endeavour.
Just a few days ago, our premier was on video talking about the vaccine response. He implied in this video that the vaccines are going to waste because First Nations people in the Wood Buffalo area are not showing up. He said that the population is “disproportionately Indigenous” in the Wood Buffalo area and that there is a significant amount of unused vaccine supply. He also goes on to say that there is vaccine hesitancy among the First Nations community.
Fact check: The largest demographic in Wood Buffalo is white, at 78.6%. First Nations peoples make up 10.4%. The rhetoric that the premier uses and the casual racial implications that are made are astounding.
On top of the fact that he lied about the demographic, there is also the creation of a false narrative. The average age of a person in Fort McMurray, according to Stats Canada, is 33. So many people are ineligible to get the vaccine in the first place.
On top of that the First Nations communities are getting their vaccines from the federal government through Health Canada. It has nothing to do with the provincial vaccine response or allotment at all. Jason Kenney knows this and, despite the contrary implications, he is not a stupid man. He just believes that the rest of us are too dumb to realize the truth.
This incident really set me off, because not only is he outright lying, but his statements reek of racism. It wasn’t enough to blame the South Asian community for not helping slow the spread of COVID, but now he’s outright blaming the First Nations community too. These kinds of prejudiced remarks are not acceptable in this day and age. Who else is Kenney going to continue to place the blame on instead of taking a look at the anti-maskers and the Freedom protestors?
Based on a recent survey that came out, 27% of Albertans will not get the vaccine. And based on the kinds of protestors we have seen at the rallies covered by the Keep Times, I would be hard-pressed to say that it’s the First Nations people that are hesitant about getting it. More likely, it’s the “vote blue till we die” fan base. But that’s simply speculation based on observation.
Anyone that knows even a little bit about politics understands that politicians aren’t always honest, but the staggering amount of lies told by the governing party leads me to believe they hold utter contempt for Albertan citizens. This most recent example is just one story on an average day in Alberta.
Jason Kenney and the UCP must think that Albertans are stupid. Why else would they keep lying, despite evidence of their falsehoods being easily available? Even with a laundry list of problems (like the fact that 18 UCP MLAs spoke out against COVID restrictions or the multiple UCP MLA’s that went on vacation out of the country for Christmas or the selling of land for coal mining, to name a few), Albertans aren’t really doing anything about any of it. There are some online petitions and chalking of sidewalks (which, according to our Education Minister, is now criminal), but there hasn’t been a whole lot of action. Remember how quickly Redford was replaced when all her scandals came out? And yet Kenney is now using the sky palace as his office!
It feels like we’re living in a dystopian sitcom, with each day being more ridiculous than the last. The fact that Alberta has put up with so much and that citizens are not actively protesting in the streets more often is surprising. Perhaps Albertans are simply too complacent and apathetic, or maybe they really are too stupid to realize what is going on around them. If we were any other country, perhaps citizens would be openly in revolt, marching in the streets, and demanding change. Unions might have banded together and created a general strike, and brought the province to a standstill. And yet we continue to allow lie after lie, scandal after scandal, bill after bill, and just… take it. I suppose that is what Kenney and his caucus were hoping for, though.
After all, here in ‘Berta, you’re blue till you die, and if you aren’t, you move to BC.