Editorial – ‘Tight belts’ are a noose

Jeff Burgar

Ah yes, the stories about “have” and “have not” provinces!

Did you know there are also “have” and “have not” local governments in Alberta? Cry baby cities get the news attention. Grande Cache is one of the “have nots”. Blackfalds, just north of Red Deer, is one of the “haves.” It used to be 175 people. Now it’s 10,000.

Many rural municipalities and counties are in the “have” basket. Some are not. That’s just the way the revenue resource pie, and the needs of citizens, works out.

In recent years, rural governments were encouraged to work with respective towns and cities in their regions. If they are flush with money, like many are, they are supposed to work with their urban cousins. Cost-sharing deals in recreation, police and other protective services like fire, and more, benefit when wealth is spread around.

Some days, the idea works. Other days, it doesn’t. It might seem obvious if money isn’t shared, the senior provincial government will step in and take some away. There are many rural politicians who swear they will put up the good fight if that happens. Politically, now that Wild Rose Party is gone and NDP voted out, scrapping may not work. In other words, “Kenney’s Way” or the highway.

It sure makes more sense for northern Albertans to share with neighbours. Otherwise, that one-metre pipeline of money heading south gets even bigger. All we get back is the proverbial garden hose. These days, with belt-tightening, it will seem more like a soda straw than a garden hose.

The real kicker, of course, is the usual government side-step. The one that goes, “government is the last to stop spending. And the first to start spending again.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi likes that. He already screams how his city is getting the shaft over the new provincial budget. “We need schools! Roads! Bridges! Infrastructure!” he yells, if we may paraphrase his snarliness.

What you now have is everybody in Alberta told to tighten up. As is usual, under the cover of darkness and government jiggery pokery, the “boom” places get bankrolled. And when good times return? Well, under the shine of bright lights, the “boom” places still plead poverty and hardship, so they need more money. For schools, roads, etc.

Never, ever does it occur to any of these places that all that development should be paid by increased taxes on those who benefit. Instead, the good folks in Nampa, High Prairie or Donnelly have to pay for a new hospital in Calgary.

If there is an answer to this, we don’t know what it is. We sure know it won’t be found by sending more billions from northern Alberta to southern cities like Edmonton and Calgary. That just “solves” the druggies’ problems by giving them more drugs.

We all deserve the same access to education, health care and services, infrastructure and more. In fact, if it comes right down to it, the wealth creators deserve better than those getting fatter by ripping through that wealth.

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