Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Scandals and Incompetence

The Premiership of Steady Eddie is not yet a year old but it has already seen scandal and gross incompetence.

First up – the scandals plaguing a Premier who promised to govern with “integrity and transparency”. Our first scandal is now old news. The dinner that never was where tickets were beyond costly and those costly tickets gave you a direct line to the ear of the Premier. The hue and cry raised by this little scandal caused the Premier to back-pedal rapidly but the damage was done.

Our next scandal is not directly out of the Premier’s office however it is out of the current sitting government. The placement of a “spy” between the constituents opposing the Alberta Energy and Utilities board. This is absolutely reprehensible and smacks of a big brother style of government. In fact, the average Albertan must wonder if we are living in Orwell’s 1984 or in modern day Alberta. Oh for the days of King Ralph were what you saw was what you got and the skull drudgery was there but on a smaller level.

On to gross incompetence: This is so widespread it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps we could start with the rape of our environment by the companies working to extract oil and natural gas and the complicity of the government. This government is not being the environmental watchdog it needs to be. In fact, it allows the companies working up north to do the absolute minimum amount towards restoring or protecting the environment.

Next up and in the same vein: Royalties paid by the oil companies for the extraction and use of our natural resources. Stelmach’s government likes to quote a survey that says the people of Alberta believe those same companies are paying enough in royalties. One should question where exactly they did they survey; the Petroleum Club perhaps? Or did they ask executives at Syncrude, Suncor and CNRL? Not only are the oil companies raping our environment and gouging consumers at the pumps, they are paying ridiculously low royalties to do so and the gutlessly complicit Stelmach government is ok with it. This is a government who is supposed to be protecting its citizens’ rights and ensuring that as a province we are receiving what is due to us from the sale of our natural resources. Instead, we have big oil controlling what they pay (and they think they pay too much)!!
On to the Vegreville Hospital nightmare where the entire East Central Health Authority board has been dismissed and the report that was released yesterday regarding conditions at the hospital was scathing. This board is an appointed board. They are appointed by the government. Once upon a time they were elected and if they did a terrible job (which in this instance they clearly did) then you could simply vote them out next time around. Now they are appointed and depending on the level of cronyism available to them and the level of public outrage, they may be able to keep their jobs and not pay the price of incompetence. One has to wonder why a Premier that promised to govern with integrity and transparency is allowing these sorts of things to go on under his very nose.

Perhaps the biggest failure, the biggest incompetence without match is the one to make sure that ordinary and low income Albertans have affordable housing. It is one thing to completely mismanage the boom but a whole other story to leave thousands of Albertans on the verge of being homeless because you simply don’t want to regulate the market. It is times like this that define good governance. The basic functions of government include making sure that housing stays affordable in your province. This government has without a doubt failed miserably at this task. The housing crisis has been long in the making and the current and previous governments have just let it simmer to a boil. They have allowed a whole underclass called the working poor to be created. This government needs to be told that housing is a right not a privilege.

One of the biggest myths is that all the homeless are also jobless. This is not true. They work, they go to school, in most cases, they hold down multiple jobs yet they still can’t afford decent safe housing. We have tent cities sprouting up because people are banding together to stay safe on the street. This is not happening in some third world dictatorship, it is happening in the richest province in the country. This is happening here.

When confronted with the issue what did Steady Eddie and his trusty sidekick Ray Danyluk do? They refused to introduce rent controls sparking a firestorm of criticism and controversy. Instead, they chose to leave it to the “free market” because that has been working so well up until now. While they sleep in warm beds and get three square meals a day, ordinary and low income Albertans are making the decision between food and housing, meds and housing, anything and housing. THIS IS HAPPENING IN THE RICHEST PROVINCE IN THE COUNTRY.

How can a man who promised to govern with integrity sleep at night knowing that thousands of Albertans are homeless with many more on the verge of becoming that way. No one is telling them to regulate house-purchase prices, what they are asking for is some sort of rent control so that people can afford to live like humans in rented accommodations. No one is asking them to interfere with their precious free market in a way that could be construed as detrimental to the economy, what people are asking for is affordable housing. Instead of providing that, he is trying to buy us off with money for ring roads and art galleries.

This government is a failure. The Premier is clearly out of his depth as are the ministers surrounding him. One can only hope that when election time comes around, Albertans remember the incompetence and the scandals.