Sunday, September 04, 2005

Crrrrack!

You could probably count the number of times I've agreed with Paul Jackson of the Calgary Sun on one hand - with most of the digits amputated.

Of course, one should never say never - strange things happen in this world. In this week's column, I'm surprised to see Paul Jackson actually taking Ralph Klein's government to task for its inept handling of our government's finances lately.

The Alberta Government is rolling money right now - so much so that other provinces are beginning to eye up our wealth and are wondering where "their cut" is.

Jackson winds up arguing for the following:

1. Rollbacks of assorted taxes and user fees.
2. Reduction or cancellation of medicare "premiums"

Okay - tax reductions are often a fictitious creature at the best of times, but certainly rolling back some of the user fees that the government imposed in the heyday of Ralph's "team" cutting everything in sight is a good idea. Along with Medicare premiums, these are essentially head taxes that should have been chopped out and restructured out of existence years ago.

I'm not in the least bit sure I would agree with Jackson's use of economic theorists as the basis for his arguments - much less the mish-mash of Keynes, Freidman and Laffer (the latter two having much to do with what became Reaganomics in the 1980s). Generally speaking, the only thing I agree with most economic theorists on is that the economy is a measurable system. What constitutes a successful economic policy is a matter of interpretation, and few of them seem to have the foggiest notion of how to account for the human side of their equations. (Anyone else remember just how ugly things got during the 1980s, as Reagan's government, and Thatcher in the UK, devolved to a wierd combination of Supply Side economics and "trickle down" theory in their policy?)

Personally, after living through the disaster of the 1980s, and the ham-handed policies of Klein in the 1990s, I'd like to see our governments take a turn at actually dealing with the people side of governance for a change. In my view, good government has to account for people's lives and such vague intangibles as quality of life. People are about much more than the blind dollar figures on the balance sheet.

This coming winter, we look to be staring down the business end of a lot of really ugly energy costs - last I looked on the NYMEX, natural gas is running up around $11/US. Yikes - that's several times higher than it peaked at in the depths of last winter. What are we doing as a society to protect the poor and those on fixed incomes? What are the effects of these out of control prices on society's vulnerable? Will we have people turning off their furnaces because they can't pay the bills?

For once, I will give Jackson credit for at least taking the Klein government to task for their handling of the massive surpluses they currently enjoy. What we really need in this province is a government that has a clue about the people, and much more than the merely passing familiarity achieved during an election campaign. (Such as there is any campaigning in Alberta)

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