|Blundering or Bludgeoning?
There are two schools of thought regarding how the government of Alberta operates. One theory suggests that the government has no plan and simply stumbles from crisis to crisis depending on the price of oil and gas revenue. Evidence to support this theory would be the government's failed auctions of power in preparation for energy deregulation.
The publicly owned utilities were auctioned off for $2 billion, approximately one-third of their estimated value. Education and health care, which received dramatic cuts in the early 90s in the name of paying down the debt, still haven't recovered. During the same period of cuts, the Klein government dramatically reduced (by 75 per cent) the royalties that gas and oil companies paid, which would have seen Alberta's debt eliminated two years ago. Deliberately giving up billions of dollars in revenue from gas and oil as well as implementing flat tax cuts while simultaneously gutting public services casts doubt on the stated objective importance of paying down the debt.
The alternate school of thought proceeds more along the lines of a conspiracy theory which suggests that the government's orchestrated cuts in "self-declared" times of fiscal crisis, followed by spending like a sailor on shore leave when oil revenues were high, were actually planned.
The second theory is much more terrifying because based on the government's selected areas of cutbacks, which include children's services, education and health care, there appears to be a deliberate attempt to sacrifice public institutions for the sake of a "preferred" privatization agenda. Increasing grants to private schools to 60 per cent of their public counterpart, which oversees the education of 95 per cent of Alberta students, would appear to be evidence of the government's privatization agenda. The most obvious example of the deliberate undermining of a public institution for the sake of private profit is the Mazankowski Report, which not only recommends the de-insuring of currently provided health care services and the increased contracting out of private-for-profit services, but also sees a rise of up to 50 per cent in health care premium user fees.
Whether you buy into "the government by blunder" theory or a planned privatization takeover, public institutions are being sacrificed in Alberta.