PHOTOS: Happy New Year! Wouldn’t 2016 be a great time to start allowing the sale of beer, wine and liquor in safe, clean and unionized Alberta grocery stores? Below: Saskatchewan CCF Premier Tommy Douglas and Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who brought in public health insurance, popularly known as medicare, in 1962 in Saskatchewan and 1966 nationwide. Despite many desperate attempts, the right hasn’t killed it off yet.

Happy New Year!

It’s 2016, so let’s get right to down to business. Here are a dozen laws Alberta’s New Democratic Party Government would do well to pass this year.

Last year had its highs and lows for Alberta’s NDP Government. On the evening of May 5, the New Democrats came out of the general election with a significant majority that, it’s fair to say, no one had quite expected, some late public opinion polls notwithstanding.

Ever since, the government of Premier Rachel Notley has been subjected to a barrage of hysterical threats, angry criticism and insistent demands by all of the Usual Suspects on the right.

Politicians from both the Team Angry Opposition and the battered Progressive Conservatives, federal politicians who (correctly) read similar handwriting on their own electoral wall, grumpy neoliberal premiers in provinces next door, corporate-supported think tankers, their media echo chamber and enough ginned up Astro-Turf groups to carpet a couple of football fields all had their two bits worth to put in.

They all sing from the same hymn sheet, hoping, naturally, to turn voters against the NDP and the policies it promised – that, after all, is the way the democratic game is played. But they also tried, with some success, to rattle the government, set it on its back foot and encourage excessive caution in implementing the program Albertans undeniably gave the NDP a mandate to enact.

Success with that agenda would achieve two important things from the perspective of the political right. If the Notley Government can be frightened into abandoning its program, principles and supporters, it would alienate the NDP’s base and nip in the bud potentially popular programs a future right wing government would have trouble reversing.

This is precisely what happened when CCF Premier Tommy Douglas introduced public health care in Saskatchewan in 1962, and Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson took the program national in 1966. Market fundamentalists have been struggling ever since to find a way to wreck medicare without infuriating voters, which for all their think tanks and corporate subsidies they have never been able to do.

Such sound, popular, progressive legislation is precisely the “nightmare” the full-blown anti-NDP campaign now under way in Alberta is designed to forestall.

Well, nuts to that, I say. The best defence is a good offence. It is true, as the Romans said, that fortune favours the bold. So here are 12 of my thoughts, some bolder than others, on what our Alberta government could legislate in 2016.

  1. Drop all support for carbon capture and sequestration. It’s a boondoggle, and an expensive one.
  2. Revise building standards to the R2000 energy performance level for all new structures.
  3. Return routine eye care to medicare, and add dental care and pharmacare.
  4. Include sensible reporting rules for “Super PACs” in Alberta’s election-finance laws, including a requirement for all donors to be identified.
  5. Ban corporate and union donations to candidates in Alberta municipal elections.
  6. Introduce fair, honestly priced, no-fault government automobile insurance.
  7. Add first-contract compulsory arbitration to labour law, as in most other provinces, to provide a way to deal with employers who refuse to bargain in good faith.
  8. Enact B.C.-style working-alone laws requiring multiple employees on late night shifts, a secure area when only one employee must work alone, and training that makes it clear money lost in robberies and gas-and-dash thefts cannot be deducted from worker paycheques.
  9. End expensive “cowboy welfare” to holders of grazing leases on provincial land so surface-disturbance payments from energy companies go to the land’s owners – us.
  10. Forgive the provincial portion of all student loans – helping students and society by ending mandatory subsidies to banks by young people.
  11. Legislate an end to Daylight Savings Time – it doesn’t save energy, is hazardous to health, reduces workplace productivity and, if you happen to be a farmer, upsets the cows. …
  12. Revise liquor laws to allow beer, wine and liquor sales in grocery stores. After all, if the free market is so great, what’s wrong with the free market? Let me buy my beer where I want to, in a clean, safe, well run, unionized grocery store. If you want to make a different choice, well, feel free.

And if it turns out the NDP government has time on its hands and this isn’t enough, well, there are plenty more things they could do. For example, if they hanker after a mega-project that would actually do some good, they could build an LRT rail link – not an impossibly expensive and disruptive high-speed rail line – between Edmonton and Calgary, with a stop in Red Deer. And they shouldn’t use an expensive P3 to build it!

It’s 2016. Let’s get crackin’!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

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  1. Great list, David. I would add that the government should end all corporate welfare, direct and indirect, to the oil and gas industry. They can start by NOT lobbying our neighbours to the south to build pipelines. Let the oil and gas companies pay for their own Washington lobbyists instead of sticking their hands into the Alberta taxpayers pockets to pay for it.

  2. Wonderful wish list that I agree with wholeheartedly.

    I would add one more: Save Athabasca University from eminent financial collapse and replace all the Conservative cronies from its Board of Governors.

  3. Priorities for 2016 for improving Alberta:

    – reverse corporate tax hikes; cut corporate tax rates by 50%
    – reverse income tax hikes, return to flat tax of 10%
    – cut public service wages by 20% to bring them in line with the rest of the provinces
    – abolish socialist wealth redistribution scheme
    – reverse emissions caps on oil sands
    – build pipelines in four directions
    – cut post secondary spending by at least 20%
    – become the first province to bring in private, choice based health care, and cut public budget by 20%
    – balance the budget next year

    1. Could achieve the wage cuts by firing the neo-cons from the civil service and the appointed boards and commissions. Those with managerial and policy responsiblilties are weaklings who went along with the neo-cons. “I was just following orders” is no excuse.

      A lot of them probably need to go to jail along with their con masters

    2. Hillarious, Derek. It’s amazing that after drastically reducing government revenues with CIT and PIT giveaways, you think it makes sense to finish by saying “balance the budget next year.” You should join the ‘free lunch fantasy’ Wildrose Party – you drink the same coolaid

    3. Your brand of nutbars and freaks have had over 30 years of this kind of policy. This myopic and criminal policy direction has broken the economy, ruined the environment, destroyed Canada’s international reputation, increased rancour and divisiveness in the Canadian community and generally made the world a meaner, unsafe and dirty world.
      You should be ashamed of yourself!
      That you’re not is as good an argument as I’ve ever heard for bringing back the stocks; perhaps a few days exposure to your neighbours might bring some sense and humility to your precious belligerent self.

  4. nationalizing the oil industry should be added to the wish list. The way it is currently configured obviously severely affects our economy, which shouldn’t be allowed to continue. Most oil fields in the world are nationalized, and for good reason

  5. If carbon sequestration is such a boondoggle how come the Norwegians have done it successfully, reducing their emissions? And even George Monbiot favours it (in his book Heat).

    1. Why not CCS? Cost and efficency:
      – Heat engines waste 60% of the energy they consume as heat. An investor-owned utility found this out by taking public money to prove grade 8 physics. In round numbers, it went like this:
      – burning 100 units of coal energy = 40 units of electrical energy and a warm lake.
      – 40 units of electrical energy scrubs and compresses the carbon dioxide. Boyles’ and Charles’ Laws tell you then it gets very hot – i.e. compressing it uses a lot of energy – which leaves (40 times 40%) or:
      – 16 units of electrical energy to cool it again, a difficult, energy absorbing process so it can be pushed down a hole into a porous formation – which then leaves (16 times 40%) or:
      – 06.4 units of electrical energy to send to the grid to fry eggs and light homes.
      In other words, over 90% of the coal energy is wasted as useless heat.

      – you could use this waste heat for district type heating and make the whole thing a bit less wateful, but why bother when you could do the same thing with local gas fired turbines and save the cost of big transmission lines.

      BTW: The compressed carbon dioxide absorbs water to form carbolic acid so when it is pushed into a formation to recover oil or natural gas (which sits in old coral reefs) the acid destroys the formation. Good thing Brad Wall has a government run utility at Boundary Dam to pour money into this sort of thing. As soon as the Alberta Government money ran out, they ran away in Alberta.

  6. I would like to see utilities re-regulated. Utilities are necessities and should not be commodified.

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