A few weeks ago I attended one of the Alberta Party’s big listens in Medicine Hat. It was a cold winter night and I figured that I may as well pop out and see what the Twitter crowd was up to. The tea-house that hosted the event was beautiful and the environment was welcoming for the 17 or so of us who showed up. The people in attendance whether with the Alberta Party or there to learn about the party all appeared to be earnest and seeking ways to improve the province.
The “big listen” was an interesting excercise to say the least. We began with introductions and continued to circle the room with guests speaking about how they feel about things in what felt like some support group manner. We were asked to expand on what we felt grateful for and what we were optimistic about. It certainly was warm and fuzzy but there really were no conclusive policy discussions within the first hour. That is reflected in what the Alberta Party has hammered together for vague policies so far.
The views of the room became more evident in the later part of the meeting when people could speak more specifically to their concerns. One fellow was there because he felt that government was not spending enough for his pet project of a local library. Another person there was a representative of the teachers union who expressed that the government was not spending enough on education. There was a man in attendance who felt that government was not spending enough to preserve and set aside prairie land for protection of species and there was a couple from the “friends of medicare” who went on at length about how government has been starving healthcare.
The gal from “friends of medicare” then launched into a tirade about how government has a revenue problem and we must further tax the rich and that energy companies are robbing Alberta blind. It was disconcerting seeing the heads nodding around the room during this rant worthy of Vladimir Lenin as people envisioned increased funding for their personal projects taken from some apparent faceless “rich people” and corporations. The simplistic Robin Hood call of taxing the evil rich unfortunately is an effective one for many people. It is unfortunate that is destroys economies when followed as we are seeing in Europe.
All of the concerns expressed by the people in that room that night are valid ones and important ones. These were the concerns expressed with less than 20 Albertans when an open meeting is called. Imagine how many individual pet projects come up when a large townhall meeting is held. The Alberta Party meeting was a microcosm of a large townhall meeting. People with predetermined special interests show up and lobby MLAs furiously with funding demands for their projects. Due to this, we can see why the tired Progressive Conservative MLAs succumb to the temptation to simply promise money to all rather than take on the difficult task of governing with a sense of fiscal responsibility. This is reflected in our series of deficit budgets.
Lets get some facts out there now.
How about education? Well Alberta tops the nation in spending per-capita on education too.