Protesters have been staging various rallies across Alberta in response to the United Conservative Party’s budget cuts. Most notably, a rally was held last Saturday in Calgary, directly outside the UCP annual general meeting.
One would think our premier wouldn’t be too happy about this, but he seems to see it as a sign he is doing his job correctly.
Jason Kenney reportedly said: "I'm reminded of what Premier Ralph Klein used to say: 'If a day goes by and there's not a protest, I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong.’”
"Some of this will be controversial, some of it will invite protests – saw one today," he added.
Upon hearing the above quote, I couldn’t help but think of a line from the Pixar film Shrek, in which the villain Lord Farquaad says, “Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.”
When it comes to Alberta’s budget, the tried-and-true lines include “we need to decrease spending,” “we need to lower taxes,” and “the private sector has had to make cuts too.” I can understand the need to decrease spending, however, I cannot understand placing the financial deficit so above the realities of social and infrastructural upkeep.
Imagine our province is a house. Houses need semi-regular upkeep; plumbing problems need to be fixed, furnaces need to be kept clean, shingles need to be replaced. When a homeowner refuses to put money into the upkeep, the work goes undone and the house becomes increasingly dilapidated.
I do not want to see our house become unlivable.
The reality is that building and maintaining a province requires upkeep, and upkeep costs money. While we can work to lower our spending cross-sector, to do so with the sole aim of balancing the budget without first considering the infrastructural and social costs is incredibly irresponsible.
At the rate Kenney and the UCP are cutting spending, the overwhelming message is that our province does not value its people. It does not value a high-functioning health care system or accessible education.
Students have been left with higher tuition fees, larger classes sizes, fewer programs, no tax cuts and no summer job programming. Vital programs such as mental health supports and resources will no longer exist. Various valuable professionals are at risk of losing their jobs.
If we look back to the days of Klein, as Kenney does so fondly, the result of balancing Alberta’s budget had other costs. While Klein was popular, he failed at public policy. His focus on the fiscal debt was at the expense of hospitals, roads, light rail transit lines and investing in better health care services or education.
His fiscal achievements were significant, but he failed at health reform and economic diversification, and did little for culture, recreation or the arts.
What Kenney and the UCP fail to realize is that health care, education, the arts, culture and infrastructure matter to many Albertans. I can only hope he will rethink his alignment with the Klein era and listen to the many Albertans fighting to make their voices heard.
Jennifer Hamilton is a local student and writer.