Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has big ideas about health care, most of them dangerous (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Answers to the major problems confronting Alberta’s health care system, Daniele Smith said in a paper published under her name last year, are found in user fees, co-pays, privatization, and slyly delisting services covered by health insurance by redefining them. 

The downtown home of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The paper – entitled Alberta’s Key Challenges and Opportunities – was published by the University of Calgary’s right-leaning School of Public Policy in June 2021.

At the time the paper was published, Alberta’s new premier was still president of the Alberta Enterprise Group, a pro-business advocacy organization with extensive ties to the province’s conservative parties, past and present.

Apparently unreported by media, the paper was spotted recently by economics blogger Bob Ascah, a retired senior Alberta Treasury Department civil servant and former director of the Institute for Public Economics at the University of Alberta. 

The paper begins with the fatuous claim Albertans are culturally different from other English-speaking Canadians and an amateurish potted history of the province intended to suggest our supposedly entrepreneurial character and business mindset are at the root of this allegedly unique character.

Naturally, given her long-held market-fundamentalist ideology, Ms. Smith sees government as the root of all economic problems, complaining that the challenges faced by Alberta Health Services came about because “we had a bureaucracy who followed the crowd and lazily took the path of least resistance, locking down the entire economy and blaming Albertans for not doing enough to avoid getting sick.”

The cover of Ms. Smith’s 2021 screed in praise of privatization and line-jumping fees for the wealthy (Image: University of Calgary).

This is not merely tendentious. It is categorically false.

Nevertheless, now that we are getting to know her better, it seems possible at least that Ms. Smith actually believed this when she wrote it. 

This drivel soon leads to the real point of the exercise, however: advocating health care policy prescriptions like the privatization schemes and minuscule health spending accounts that were mentioned in her United Conservative Party leadership campaign.

Despite its obvious flaws of scholarship, Ms. Smith’s paper is illuminating because some of her worst ideas are sketched out in a more detail than we have seen hitherto.

Ms. Smith was obviously working on this well before it was known that there would be a campaign for the UCP leadership, let alone that she would be in it. 

The paper rightly diagnoses the core problem with Alberta’s finances: that we’re stuck on the proverbial royalty price roller coaster. 

However, Ms. Smith immediately goes on to claim: “We want gold plated services and we don’t want to pay any more taxes for them.”

Economics blogger and retired senior Alberta Treasury Department official Bob Ascah (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Whether or not basic health care services in Alberta are “gold plated” is another matter entirely, but it is true that Alberta Conservative governments have relied on inherently unstable resource revenues to pay for services that should be covered by taxes, although Ms. Smith clearly doesn’t see raising taxes as the ideologically correct answer. 

So what’s the path forward, according to Ms. Smith, as expressed in her paper?

Well, to start with, “reinventing government” to be more like a for-profit corporation.

She calls for Alberta immediately to “permanently wean Albertans off their energy royalty dependence,” claiming that a combination of spending cuts and investment revenue generated by the money saved would clear away Alberta’s deficits.

Now, this was written well before Ms. Smith was in a position where she needed to buy Albertans’ votes with their own money, so it’s fair to say her proposed spending cuts won’t see the light of day, at least unless the UCP manages to eke out reelection. 

“The next step in closing the gap” in health care funding, she continues after several pages of numbers that show signs of being processed with the assistance of a professional number-cruncher of the sort she would have worked with as a Fraser Institute apparatchik, “is to generate $4 billion from new user fees.”

“We can no longer afford universal social programs that are 100 per cent paid by taxpayers,” she argues. “The only option is to allow people to use more of their own money to pay their own way and to use the power of innovation to deliver better services at lower cost.” (Don’t hold your breath for the second part of this idea ever to be realized.)

The next paragraph explains what Ms. Smith means when she talks about a “patient-centred” health care system, as she does constantly. Just as “choice” means paying for access, “patient centred” doesn’t mean quite what it sounds like either. 

“What the government needs to do is create matching Health Spending Accounts for all Albertans,” she explains. “The Government should pledge to match up to $375 per person and challenge individuals and employers to do the same.”

“By taking responsibility for their health and giving people the means to do so,” she burbles, “it should translate into less pressure on the hospital system and better chronic care management which will bring costs down.” 

Better, she continues, “once people get used to the concept of paying out of pocket for more things themselves then we can change the conversation on health care. 

Instead of asking what services will the government delist … we would instead be asking what services are paid for directly by government, and what services are paid out of your Health Spending Account. (Which only amounts to $375 a year, remember.)

My view is that the entire budget for general practitioners should be paid from Health Spending Accounts,” she continued. “If the government funded the account to $375 a year, that’s the equivalent of 10 trips to a GP, so there can be no argument that this would compromise access on the basis of ability to pay.”

(I await responses from genuine experts – distrusted though they may be by the Smith Government – as to how likely this claim is to play out as predicted.)

“But we could take it one step further,” Ms. Smith confidently continues. “I think is (sic) time to redefine universality. … If we establish the principle of Health Spending Accounts, then we can also establish co-payments.”

Before we go further, Dear Readers, I urge you to speak with an American friend or relative about what they think of co-pays, as these fixed out-of-pocket payments required before health insurance can be accessed are known south of the Medicine Line. 

“It doesn’t need to be onerous, and it could be on a sliding scale,” Alberta’s future UCP premier says reassuringly. 

“I don’t believe Albertans are willing to pay one penny more for an underperforming health system and watch their dollars evaporate without any improvement in performance,” she then asserted, tendentiously. “I’m willing to bet most Albertans would be willing to pay up to $1,000 if it would reduce waiting times on vital treatments for themselves or a family member.”

Ms. Smith then moved on to the “reengineering” the way services are delivered. After a shot at the idea of public services, she confidently states, “the only way to make substantial and significant changes in the way programs are delivered is to allow contracting out, competition and choice.”

This model for health care, she explained, is how the government now runs education in Alberta – with charter schools, private schools, and home schooling not just tolerated, but actively encouraged by the UCP. 

“There should be similar options” for health care, she asserts, outlining her idea for charter hospitals, private hospitals and “home-based health care.” 

Gee whiz, she continued, we could even have “specialized birthing centres, so new moms could have a custom environment to offer the most pleasant experience possible to welcome the new member of their family.” (Although not, presumably, for $375 a year, or even 10 times that.)

If you’re worried by this, Ms. Smith concluded, don’t be. “That is the beauty of entrepreneurship. Someone will conceive of a brilliant way to do things differently that will not only deliver better patient care but do it in a way that reduces the cost for all of us.”

If you believe that, of course, there are investment opportunities awaiting you in cryptocurrency, veterinary deworming paste and bridges across the mighty Peace!

NOTE: All italics in quoted passages in this post were added by me. DJC

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77 Comments

  1. For those of you without an American friend or relative, let me say that this is a complete non-starter for me. Having lived most of my adult life with public health care I will never go back to privatised care. You cannot imagine the stress and anxiety it places on families: the hours spent arguing with insurance companies about who will pay for what, the worry about how much this is going to cost when it’s bad enough a loved one is in the hospital, calling around figuring out what facility accepts your insurance when something bad happens miles from your home. Choice – ha! Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose and the choice of private health care is the choice to be rejected and neglected by forces driven by profit over all. No, Smith is a fool and Albertans are the bigger fools if they buy this snake oil.

    1. Agreed. An American relative had a business for a while where she acted as an advocate for sick people dealing with their medical insurance companies. The business thrived, but she closed it anyway because she found it too depressing seeing what insurance companies were doing to vulnerable people.

  2. Ok, I take back my suggestion about more conversation on international politics. You guys in AB have a much more immediate concern – keeping this kind of dangerous, people-hating entities from gaining power. Yes, these types hate you because you interfere with businesses making money, loads of money.

    I will now go and read her “paper” although I’m almost afraid to…

    1. If you think Smith HATES everyone and is only in this for money, I feel sorry for you because your mind is clearly consumed with hate and you’re projecting it on others. Drop the rhetoric. Maybe she has bad ideas, but it’s not because she HATES EVERYONE. What an angry lil echo chamber you have here.

      1. Yeah gee what has the UCP ever done to make anyone angry , or trash can Dani herself for that matter ?

        I believe that when people tell you who they are you should listen, and trash can Dani has been screaming in albertans faces about who she is for some twenty years now.

        Who has the angry echo chamber ? Certainly not the woman who literally had her own radio show until recently. Certainly not.

      2. Why you do not give your name??? Are you Smith? What you say does not count if you do not give a name. What are you afraid of? This Health Care scheme is just that. She must hate everyone to want to make so many vulnerable and have them possibly lose everything they own or die.

    2. Mickey: My apologies for the anonymous comment below yours. This regular troll, who has an unhealthy obsession with this blog and its author, is a nuisance and makes no useful contribution to the discourse. You, on the other hand, make a big contribution, for which I am grateful. In my hurry to post comments earlier today, I let that comment slip through. Normally, such contributions go straight to the trash ca, where they belong. Since several people have taken the trouble to respond to it, I am going to leave it. DJC

      1. No sweat DJC. Actually hate is not the right word, I always say that word should be reserved for a very small minority of people. Nonetheless I was in a hurry and couldn’t think of the right description. It seems like more than lack of empathy because it’s targeted.

  3. Good piece as usual. Albertans need only look at their power bills to see how more than 20 years on, the promised Utopia of deregulation has benefitted industry alone and not consumers.

  4. Sunday, day of rest, right?? no way, you’re in Alberta, SORRY…

    Tony Dagnone, ( I hope I got this right, firing back at Danielle for being fired,
    Buckle up folks, it just got better…Indigenous Chiefs are taking on DS , over her “sovereignty act ” , and I for one, am ecstatic ….I was wondering if they would speak up…YES !!!, and I believe it’s about time &that their counter parts in Quebec should be doing the same. IMO ,every time the Bloq starts on their sovereignty agenda, it just baffles me how they can so blatantly ignore the indigenous peoples of that province.

    Anyway, I have some very interesting story lines to read up.

    And if anyone is on Twitter and needs some Sunday humor
    @ the Jason Pugh….
    PP aka Alfalfa male ….if it wasn’t for copyright, I’d be making a Tshirt…..priceless….
    I just Googled Chrystia vs Pierre/pickup truck…sometimes it pays to watch question period..

  5. Whomever voted for Danielle Smith in the recent by-election in Brooks Medicine Hat sure was very foolish. There’s an old saying. If you give someone an inch, they will take a mile. It’s now this way with Danielle Smith as premier of Alberta. Back in her days as the head of the Wildrose party, Danielle Smith also had ideas of supporting private for profit healthcare in Alberta. She was a staunch admirer of Ralph Klein. When Ralph Klein was premier of Alberta, he slashed support for public healthcare in Alberta, and made very bad cuts to it. Hospitals were blown to bits, closed down, or were badly maintained. Nurses were laid off in droves, and had to relocate out of Alberta, or had to retire early. Doctors were treated quite badly. People’s lives were put at risk. Ralph Klein did this, so he could get private for profit healthcare in Alberta. That’s what he wanted. Had Ralph Klein continued to get the oil royalty rates, and the corporate tax rates of Peter Lougheed, and didn’t blow billions of dollars on very pricey shenanigans, Alberta would be like Alaska and Norway are, with their oil wealth. There would be no cuts happening. The public healthcare system and the public education system in Alberta would be unscathed. Here we are seeing the same things transpire under the UCP government. The proper oil royalty rates aren’t being collected, about $10 billion is gone from corporate tax cuts, and there are many other very pricey shenanigans, which have cost Alberta billions of dollars. There is also the outstanding issue of the orphan well cleanup matter, which Ralph Klein instigated, that has set Alberta back $260 billion, which we do not have the means to pay for. Danielle Smith still wants Albertans to pay for that. We certainly wouldn’t be in this horrific mess, if what Peter Lougheed had done was still happening. Danielle Smith will continue to damage the public healthcare system in Alberta, and it will end up costing people their lives. Anyone with a background in finances, or who has ties to the oil industry, would clearly show people that Danielle Smith’s approach to things is wrong. They will not listen, and continue to hurl insults at them. You can’t get any more foolish than that, can you?

      1. Readers: This is a comment by one of my regular trolls, who seems to have an unhealthy obsession with this blog and its author. My policy is to delete them all because, whoever this person is, using a variety of pseudonyms and fake email addresses, he makes no useful contribution to the conversation. In my hurry to post comments earlier today, I let a couple slip through. I will leave them posted here because several of you have taken the trouble to respond, and its useful to see the level of idiocy the authors of all progressive commentary must deal with. DJC

        1. so far the troll might be listed under comedian and a bad one at that. perhaps they might want to just pack up and move to the U.S.A. Yes, the great old American health care system. Real doctors you say. We have them in Canada also and we don’t have to go bankrupt to go see them. Many complain in Canada that they have to wait to see a specialist or that hospitals are crowded. Its true, doctors are mortal and retire. The upside of our system is, we may have to wait, but we do get seen and it doesn’t bankrupt us. In the U.S.A. some people never are seen by a doctor to deal with their illnesses. Many Americans aren’t able to see doctors on a semi regular basis until they are seniors. Then there is the high mortality rate for new borns and women giving birth. Actually its higher in the U.S.A. than in some third world countries.

        2. @DJC presuming you are the registered owner of this site, your ISP should be able to give you site visitor info that includes visitor ip’s which, if I remember correctly, you could use to create a blacklist. Might help reduce your troll workload.

          1. Gerald: Yes, WordPress does provide me with an ISP. This has been useful in some cases, as when someone from an oil and gas company based in Calgary went through their company ISP to threaten to doxx me. But the worse offenders seem to be wise to this and are able to mask the originating server. Mind you, I’m not an expert in this stuff, as you can probably tell by the terminology I use. DJC

        3. Fair enough.

          I invite this man to go back in time to Ralph’s heady (or should I say “drunken”) days in power. Put yourself in a delivery room in a busy regional health centre, sir. Give birth without the benefit of anaesthetic or that thing known as an “epidural”. Due to provincial funding cuts, the last remaining anaesthesiologist has limited his services to scheduled deliveries. Overwork would have him on duty 24/7 indefinitely. Let’s make this a difficult delivery, with intervention coming too late for a caesarian. Don’t might the gore. Hope and pray that your infant does not have to be resuscitated. Have fun man, and be assured you will forever remember the real pain Ralph Klein caused to real people. A memorial swamp is named after him in southeast Calgary. May the storm sewer waters that drain into it forever honor his memory.* May the mosquitoes that breed there create real pain for you in real time, in case you forget, but you’ll never forget. Enjoy!

          *Also a natural burial ground for the eco-friendly afterlife.

      2. Annnnnnnnnonymous: I still don’t think you understand the damage Ralph Klein did to Alberta. We still haven’t recovered from it. Nor do you understand the damage that Danielle Smith is doing, which is only compounding problems.

    1. What Klein et al did to the Heritage fund still makes me seethe; you are absolutely right. Last time I checked, the interest from Norway’s sovereign fund is funding 68% of their yearly budget!

      1. Alberta’s current budget is $62 billion if which I suppose some of is funded from royalties. A fund of one trillion dollars would match Norway handsomely while also sustaining modest growth.

        That amount could easily have been accrued by now. An investment of $10 billion/yr to a fund earning 3% year would have hit the target by about 2016. At 15 billion/yr and 4%, I’d put it at 2004.

        In other words, a Norway-sized HSTF would have been perfectly feasible, even painless, to accomplish.

        What an astounding opportunity to have forsaken. i

  6. Conservatives seem to regard Alberta as some sort of mythical promised land where they can conduct experiments to implement radical ideas, with the approval and support of the voters. It is sort of half true. Historically Alberta voters have been more willing to support them, but they have not enthusiastic about many of their previous experiments, particularly with things like health care.

    I remember the last genuinely popular Alberta conservative leader, Klein, who was the last one to win reelection. He was, towards the end of his time as Premier, strongly pushing a type of third way for health care, a slightly disguised proposal for more fees and privatization. However, despite all his popularity, it encountered stiff resistance. In the end, Klein was gone before it could get too far. So even in better times, Albertans were quite leery of such things.

    I have no doubt Smith’s recently discovered ideas here, put forth not too long ago, but before she contemplated being Premier, are an accurate reflection of her true beliefs and so are what she plans to do if she does get elected. I also suspect she is smart enough politically not to talk about them too much before the election. So, she will try to downplay this, but not quite repudiate it, quietly pushing through what she can, but likely saving the worst for after the next election.

    It is interesting to wonder where she will easily find billions of user fees, without getting totally offside with the Feds and so losing similar funding from them. I suspect one thing this means is health care premiums may be coming back, if Smith wins reelection, in addition to as much privatization and user fees as she can get away with.

    Of course to get away with this politically, she must also undermine or destroy the current health care system enough to try reduce our support for it. With her recent firings creating chaos, she at least seems to be well underway with that part of her plan.

  7. On an installment of his cultish vlog, Jordan Peterson declared that Alberta is “Canada’s Texas” and is cultural different, therefore, in the advance for the cause of FreeDUMB. Over the course this weirder than weird missive, Peterson conducts an interview (of sorts) with Danielle Smith. Basically, Smith talks and pontificates on the wisdom of her beliefs, while Peterson goes on about the sea change that’s coming global as it is discovered that freeDUMB is a precious commodity. At this point, Peterson may as well head for Alberta and start his own version of Jamestown, and get that vat of spiked Kool-Aid ready for his drooling disciples.

    While Smith goes on with her quasi-podcast reality show, she is going to run afoul of the public interest. Worse, if it appears that her mandate is going to get her in trouble come election time, she’ll just repeal the fixed election law and extend her term to 2024. Who knows? Maybe Vlad Putin will be victorious and overrun all of Europe, proving that Smith was right all along and no one should even try to stop her.

    Manufactured realities are funny things and all of Alberta is living in Smith’s reality, whether they like it or not.

  8. Cost cutting governments have promised to find efficiencies since the 1990s. Now, thirty years later, they are still claiming there are more to find. Seems a bit far fetched to me.

    1. Bob, the Con governments have been cutting health-care budgets, not costs. Since the mid-90s, they’ve been cutting access to services. It’s a way to save money, if you don’t care what happens to sick people.

  9. Thanks for providing the link, David. It was definitely Fraser Institute-like, including the bit about how corporations spend their savings from reduced taxes by hiring more workers.

    The part I liked best, though, was how in her effort to make the case that Alberta has been multicultural for a long time, she referred to the Chinese workers that came here to build the railroad as pioneers.

  10. Heh, I always get a chuckle when the partisan right laments and/or praises the holy “taxpayer.” Sometimes I even bother to remind that our governments do not get their entire revenue from individual taxpaying citizens or that just because you bought a box of crackerjacks doesn’t give the right to demand the prize be customized just for you.

    But I wonder if it’s even worth rebutting any of Danielle Smith’s notions about taxpayers when her premiership (and therefore her party—the one that had to be created because she destroyed the previous two she’d been part of) is fatally flawed and foredoomed. I’m confident Albertans can regroup from, and rebuild however much of her agenda she manages to accomplish before her one percent is up. But she’s, like, “Nya-nya! You can’t catch me!”

    I never thought she was in it for Albertans’ sake or, in other words, for the long run. Her plan for the province’s healthcare is so—uh—ambitious…that she’ll be too busy getting it done to trouble herself with the fact that, as a result, her party will not win the next election, no matter if she respects the four-year fixed-election law or not. I don’t think she cares about that, only about killing universal public healthcare as if it could never be revived. I mean, three-hundred and seventy-five bucks per citizen does not buy votes. And, let’s not overlook her ultimate goal of reducing even that government ‘largess’ to, ideally, zero.

    If she really expected to keep the power for which she currently has a barely-registered mandate, she’d admit an ultimate goal of reducing the number of votes needed to win to, ideally, zero. She’s already almost there, although she hasn’t put it to Albertans yet.

  11. My wife and and I moved to Calgary in early 2007 to support our son who had been diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer. The care he received at Tom Baker was beyond excellent, the medical staff terrific. He never waited for treatment from surgeries to MRIs, chemotherapy and so on. Our only costs were some prescriptions and taxis fares to and from the hospital.
    In the summer of 2008 his oncologist, a superior doctor, organized a two day bicycle tour to raise funds for the unit. Just before the event began, I offered to use his camera to take a group photo so that he could be in it. Passing the camera back to him I said, “If my son were in the U.S. we’d be bankrupt and he’d be dead.”
    One word reply. “Yup.”

  12. “If the government funded the account to $375 a year, that’s the equivalent of 10 trips to a GP….” Really? Even assuming the “user” pays half, that’s $75 per visit. What hole did Smith pull this number out of?

    1. Mike J Danysh: $375 isn’t even a month’s worth of groceries for one person, given how prices of things are these days. I don’t know what Danielle Smith thinks can be paid for with that.

  13. Enjoy your collective karma Abertans.
    I’m confident that when Albertans have suffered enough, they will do something about it. Obviously, we haven’t reached that point yet. Remember, that Smith can delay the next provincial election beyond May 2023. So, we may in fact have more than 6 months of needless suffering, before an adult leads Alberta. By adult, I mean of course Rachel Notley.

    1. Yes, she can.

      However, if Smith does, she also has to let the Calgary-Elbow byelection happen before Aug of ’23.

      Failure to do so will put her in violation of the Elections Act. Which would highly likely result in a very unpleasant discussion with Lt. Governor Lakhani.

  14. So Danielle Smith is the last of Barrett’s privateers, with plans to sink Alberta faster than the Antelope.

    You would have thought something as important to the public as her scheme to tear apart public health care would have been reported by the media. Of course, the American-Republican owners of the last remaining rags would not want this known. Profit is everything to them, and they have a great deal to gain.

    Hard-right Conservatives (Republicanadians?) in this province, ever selfish, never concerned with the greater good (ref. anti-mask, anti-vaxx stance) are going to destroy the Canadian way of life for all of us. Public health care and our system of social programs (not perfect, but better than nothing) to care for those who fall through the cracks have been what we do, at least since the 1960s. It seems they want to return us to the times when high infant mortality was the norm. Babies don’t vote, so $©®€∆ ’em.

    https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/medicare/medic-5h15e.html

    If anything makes us a unique culture on this continent, it’s Canada’s public health care system. We are part of Canada. We are Canadian. Public health care and social systems level the playing field. Equality is a Canadian value. So without as much as a general election, Danielle Smith plans to take us out of Canada via her sovereignty act to get at those lucrative health dollars that will drive average Canadians into the poorhouse and a never-ending series of maudlin GoFundMe fundraisers. (Maybe the convoy blockades were a test run of this site for the demolition of public health care?) Greedy dupes entranced by $375 will soon learn that sum will get you in the door of a hospital but not much further.

    Danielle Smith is Scrooge McDuck with dollar signs in her eyes. She leads a witless-idiot flock of UCP sychophants in cabinet and elsewhere, all out for themselves and lining their own pockets.

    I choose the path of dignity for ordinary Albertans, through a public health care system with public delivery on the basis of need. I do not think people should be consigned to death on the basis of their bank accounts. The UCP must go!

  15. Random thoughts on the never ending health care issue.

    -Is the oft repeated point about one incurring 90% of their lifetime health system costs in the last 6 months of their life still valid? If so, should not DS look at mandating MAID if her soothsayers surmise that one is within that 6 month window (are Ouija boards licensed by the CPSA, will they be?). Don’t know how you square the MAID circle with the Covenant Health board mandate, but I’m sure an ‘entrepreneur’ can come up with a solution that works for all.
    -A little bit of research shows the rapid rise in drug costs (both in spend and as a percentage of overall health costs), yet that fact is never highlighted (nor barely mentioned) by the majority of studies. Not that multinational drug companies have any power or influence. It’s much easier to point the finger at labour costs.
    -DS and the UCP in general are big fans of victim blaming, but there is a significant segment of society which does not have the financial means to fund HSAs, yet through lifestyle choices, causes the health system to incur significant costs. What are her plans to address this? Dispatch a motivational speaker to a street corner with a megaphone? Exclude them as their addictions are a ‘personal choice’?
    While in opposition, conservative politicians are proponents of simple solutions to complex problems, yet once in power, seemingly are confounded by the intricacies of governing.

    DJC, you have your hands full trying to keep up with all that is going on in AB, but as you seem to like late nights, a future column with your take on the role rising drug costs (and the health system’s dependency on such as a treatment methodology) is playing in this would be interesting. As mentioned above, media love to fixate on rising labour costs, while rising drug costs are never questioned. I understand this is straying from your AB ‘Politics’ mandate, but do you take requests?

    1. Republicans don’t like things like MAID. It’s far better to milk every last penny out of the elderly by putting them in for-profit elder care facilities. Some states have laws making family members responsible for all the costs of elder care. Bankrupt their children and their grandchildren. MAID defeats this perfect perpetual cash flow. You don’t think they object to it on moral or religious grounds, do you?

      The pandemic provided perfect cover for maxing out profits. Lockdown for seniors prevented prying eyes from seeing the poor quality food served in a cardboard box, hours late, cold, even for diabetics. Cha-ching!

      You don’t think that federal money for elder care centres actually got into the pockets of workers, do you? A few months later, some of these places laid off staff, further eroding the quality of care, when care was most needed. When the media go away, those cats play.

      Seniors are cash cows for the booming “care industry”. I visited a certain chain owned by offshore interests. This chain was in the news later. Walls in a patient’s room were dripping water from the floor above. The paint and drywall under it flaked off when touched. The facility manager said they couldn’t do anything about it because they were without maintenance personnel…maybe some day in the future?

  16. Times like this I’m reminded of the towering rage I felt when I realized that normal Canadians were going to accept JT’s BS line about how “if we got rid of the FPTP system, dangerous extremists might get elected.” Good job heroes, you’ve protected democracy from being too democratic. What kind of country would we live in if our electoral system was not controlled by cud-chewing willfully mediocre mendicants unwilling to think about anything more abstract than getting through the day to their bottle and through the week to their paycheque? Gosh, we might have managed to have a difficult conversation about our health care system’s changing needs as the Boomer generation aged. Nah, that would be way too much trouble, let’s just not have that conversation. If only a reasonable adult could have looked at Canadian society and realized something like 40% of our workforce was going to age out at the same time, and that the health care costs of elderly people are higher than younger people, and that elderly people are less likely to have jobs and contribute to tax revenues than young people who have to work like serfs just to afford the luxury of not being homeless. I am probably expecting too much of Canadians I guess.

    To all those who spent years mocking, deriding, othering, and kicking down at your own descendants for railing against being perennially disenfranchised by Canada’s twisted hollow flaccid bad-faith mockery of “democracy” – are you proud of what you’ve done? Ms. Smith is the fruit of your labour – what percentage of Albertan voters made her Premiere? How many times did you mock your kids for criticizing Canada’s electoral system? How many of those kids vote now? Gosh, it’s almost like they know you’ve stacked the deck to make sure no one except you can ever be politically represented or something. If you had listened to your kids and grandkids in good faith, you might have addressed this problem decades ago. Evan when I was a child I used to get angry hearing the same person claim they were “working hard and making sacrifices for their childrens’ future” while the “hard work” they were doing was destroying any future their children might have.

    How do you justify that? “I try real hard not to think about it?” “At least I got mine?” “Prosperity Jesus is gonna be back any day now, and if there’s any trees, oil or brown people left he’s gonna be pissed off?” “My kids are just another possession I can’t take with me when I die, so who cares what happens to them after I’m gone?” “The world is overpopulated anyway?” When I was 28 I learned the word “misanthropy” and realized it described me. I’ve been trying to change that ever since, and I made a lot of progress for a while, but I can feel myself backsliding a lot over the past few years. Sometimes I feel like humans can’t go extinct soon enough. By the time people in positions of power realize the consequences of their choice to other and disenfranchise everyone who doesn’t agree with their tax cut du jour, it’s going to be far too late to do anything about it.

    1. I justify it in a number of ways, but the two big ones are, first, that Canadians have rejected changing the electoral system in every reference they’ve had the duty to respond to and, second, that pro-rep is probably worse that FPtP when it comes to cud-chewers.

      But I did predict the far-right —the JT-haters—will eventually jump onto the old pro-rep bandwagon: that’s where fringe parties want to go because, otherwise, they have to temper their tempers.

      1. Upon reread, my original post was angrier, rantier and less helpful than I strive for. I’m working on it, but anger and despair are problems for me and some of that came out sideways there, my apologies. I acknowledge there are difficulties in changing our system, and that it’s much easier to say “FPTP=bad” than to get everyone to agree on what should replace it. That said, I would respectfully point out the following:

        -Justin Trudeau campaigned promising that his election would be the last election run under FPTP. That was represented during the election as a firm commitment, a central plank.

        -The Liberal party either shrewdly and cynically undermined the process of electoral reform or were astonishingly incompetent in how they went about fulfilling this promise.

        -Justin Trudeau welched on this promise. The canned sound bite he went to when people called him out on it was something like, “electoral reform would allow dangerous fringe elements to get elected so I’m not going to do something bad for Canada just to fulfill a campaign promise.” Kellie Leitch was the boogeyman du jour IIRC.

        -Justin Trudeau campaigned on “electoral reform,” not “proportional representation,” which is merely one potential form of electoral reform. He seems to have just assumed the rest of the country would let him set up a system that would guarantee perpetual Liberal majorities, then become consternated and impatient and gave up when he wasn’t allowed to.

        I’ll grant your point about referendums, while rebutting most were not operated in good faith. “Most” isn’t “all” though.

        I think New Zealand is a really good study – we have a lot of historical, economic, legal and cultural similarities, they’ve explicitly modelled their government partly based on the Westminster system but also partly based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we have a lot in common culturally.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_New_Zealand

        As far as the generational anger I expressed goes – I never want to direct it at individuals. I know that a generation is an abstract thing, not a person, and it is not reasonable to blame individuals for the actions of a collective they can’t choose not to belong to.

        I do worry that as Boomers get older it will be very easy for politicians to other them and score cheap political points by blaming them for the crisis du jour (my money’s on climate change/nuclear war but I would love to be wrong). The best case scenario I see is they get to go to the same long term care centers they sent their parents to. You know, the highly profitable ones that the army wrote all those nice reports about? The ones that are still operating, and are still under the same ownership?

  17. Smith and ucp will win. They have the rural votes locked in, and will get lots of votes from Calgary – new LRT from airport to Banff, new arena, olympics, Deerfoot upgrades…

    Edmonton will get nothing as they are too progressive in a conservative libertarian province, and insufficient votes to make any dent in the election. Even if Edmonton does vote ucp, they’ll still get nothing.

    Just enough votes for ucp to get the majority government they need to execute plans.
    For those who don’t like it, they are welcome to leave Alberta and move to another province.
    Private healthcare is coming.
    If anyone wants to debate me on this, let’s go for it!

    1. JSS: You might want to think again on Danielle Smith and the UCP returning to power. The UCP have angered so many people with their shortsighted policies, and their very pricey shenanigans. Danielle Smith is making it worse. Her support base actually isn’t that big. These pretend conservatives and Reformers only cause damage, and they fix nothing. This foolishness was never seen under Peter Lougheed.

    2. I live in the heart of conservative rural Alberta. My belief is that most of these folks are PCs. They tolerated the union with the Wildrose to avoid the dreaded NDP. I do not believe they will vote for the Wildrose married to the Take Back Alberta Party IF (and that’s a big if) they realize what the UCP has morphed into. I wrote a letter to the local paper that got some traction and I heard from several conservative voters that they would not support this version of UCP. IF enough conservative voters understand that UCP is not their beloved PC Party any longer they will reject them.
      Having said that, I also don’t believe these people will vote for the “Socialist” NDP. The best we can hope for is that they just won’t vote… and I think we saw an indication of this in the Brooks/Med. Hat by election.

    3. Danielle barely* won a hand picked layup by election she should have stomped. During the same time she avoided holding a by election in Calgary because it was quite likely the UCP would lose to the NDP. At the same time (!) they’re openly talking about not having an election in March of 23, because they’re scared of the outcome. Alberta is not a libertarian province, as much as Alberta libertarians wish it so. If anything, albertas conservativism is more theocratic in nature, which tends to be a natural opponent of so called “liberty”. As far as urban / rural / exurban voters, provided the UCP actually calls an election we’ll see where the chips fall. I’m willing to be they run at least a few candidates that make DR OZ look like a reasonable and accomplished statesman so I would say almost nothing is a given at this point.

      Oh yeah, the NDP has been leading in polling and fundraising for what a year ? Or more now ? A clear sign that social Democrats are on the run in alberta right ?

      1. Bird: Be careful of assuming the NDP lead in fundraising is a true indicator of funds raised. All NDP donations go to the party, and are reported. Under UCP rules, donations to constituency associations don’t have to be reported till the end of the year. Then there are those PACs. So there’s lots of potential for the UCP to get up to no good. DJC

        1. I won’t be surprised if a flurry of deep pockets attempt to/make up the difference come election time, but to me them not reporting till the end of the year does indeed look like they’re hiding something, I just happen to think that it’s that they’re not as popular as they say they are.

          If anything the steady flow of donations to the NDP shows that they’re much more popular than folks on the right in this province would like to believe.

          Conservatives in alberta aren’t a monolith either. There is a wide breadth of opinions, faiths and cultures that make up even rural ridings. Just because someone is traditionally popular with an electorate does not guarantee the same going forward, just ask the republicans.

    4. I have a tremendous amount of respect for choices and believe they must be free, fair, and accompanied by consequences in order to be meaningful. If Albertans freely and fairly choose to be governed by Ms. Smith, they deserve to be.

      Respectfully, the whole “culture war/own the libs” thing is just a way to prevent us from having good-faith conversations with people who buy a different brand of politician, but share most of the same problems and want most of the same things.

  18. Why Danielle Smith? The essential cursory deconstruction would typically include the following concrete yet trivial observations:

    1. “In political jargon, a useful idiot is a term for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause — particularly a bad cause originating from a devious, ruthless source — without fully comprehending the cause’s goals, and who is cynically used by the cause’s leaders.”

    2. “We want to send the message to the world community, and to the investment markets, that this is a place that is open for business, that this is a place that believes in freedom, this is a place that believes in free enterprise.” —- “Premier Smith says journey to fix Alberta health-care system will be ‘bumpy’ and ‘perilous’”

    3. “We want one single, grand lie,” he [Socrates] says, “which will be believed by everybody – including the rulers, ideally, but failing that the rest of the city.” “The lie is grand or noble (gennaios) by virtue of its civic purpose, but the Greek word can also be used colloquially, giving the meaning ‘a true-blue lie,’ i.e. a massive, no-doubt-about-it lie (compare the term ‘grand larceny’).”

    4. “Those of you who have been through college know that the educational system is very highly geared to rewarding conformity and obedience; if you don’t do that, you are a troublemaker. So, it is kind of a filtering device which ends up with people who internalize the framework of belief and attitudes of the surrounding power system in the society. People who don’t adjust to that structure, who don’t accept it and internalize it (you can’t really work with it unless you internalize it, and believe it); people who don’t do that are likely to be weeded out along the way, starting from kindergarten, all the way up.”

    And so it is.

    1. For point 4, I would argue that it is Capitalism that enforces conformity, the only reason the education system does this is because it is structured to meet the needs of Capitalists instead of the needs of Canadians.

  19. As the rumours are spinning that it’s very likely that, sometime in the new year, The UCP will vote to repeal the fixed election law. While the outcry from the NDP and others will be especially loud, Danielle Smith will just pooh-pooh the criticism as the shrill shrieking of the woke mob.

    No worries, however. Smith and her UCP will defend the interests of all of Alberta and tearing down everything that gives the province even a semblance of civilization. Everything will be privatized and public-funding will be withdrawn from everything. Any notion of a public resource will be erased from Alberta, because Alberta is “different”. If you don’t believe it, just ask Jordan Peterson, because he’s the smartest man on Twitter.

    Right now, everyone is waiting — WAITING — for the next provincial election and their chance to oust the UCP. Well, now that the UCP grifters have been sold on the wildly unpopular notion of staying the election until 2024, for the sake of their own interest of staying on the publicly funded gravy train as long as they can, the suffering in Smith’s alternate reality will go on.

    1. Just Me: The UCP can only hold off the provincial election for so long, until they are forced to have one. Then, it must happen. Procrastinating on the provincial election will only make things worse for the UCP.

    2. I agree with you Just Me that it could indeed get that bad. However, I do reserve a small sliver of hope that maybe it won’t.
      At this point, I am wondering what is this batshit crazy lady not capable of doing. I don’t think there is a limit to the damage she is willing to visit on Albertans. At the core, I don’t think she accepts what the fundamental role of government is. It’s like trying to play football with someone who doesn’t grasp the concept, and instead insists on playing using rules from the sport of baseball. She may as well be a space alien.

    3. The Constitutional term limit is five years. The fixed four-year term is a statute which may be repealed by any government of the day. Neo-right governments imposed it ostensibly in reaction to Chrétien getting an early election that caught Reform-Alliance leader Stockwell Day with his pants down, and the partisan right feigned outrage at the Liberals “playing politics” with the election date. The neo-right BC Liberals were the first to do it and it soon became obvious their rationale was to allow them to govern secretly and to cultivate a lazy Opposition.

      The fixed term is one of several devices by which the neo-right weakens voters’ ability to interfere with private investment (others include, for example, foreign trade deals which undermine sovereignty, vote-suppression techniques, demagoguery, electoral cheating, &c). Fixed terms break with tradition—a sign that these neo-rightists are conservative in name only—, but no government has yet been denied an early election: that jurisdiction belongs to governors who, in addition, may not allow a party which cannot get bills passed to govern. Thus, if a government loses parliamentary confidence and no other group of parliamentarians will commit to passing bills, the parliament will be dissolved and an election called, the fixed-term rule notwithstanding (the BC Liberals lost a confidence vote soon after winning a minority in 2017; premier Christy Clark asked the governor to call another election but, since the NDP and Greens formed an alliance that satisfied the governor of their commitment to pass bills, Clark’s request was denied and the Green-Dippers became government without another election. Premier Horgan was granted an early election in 2020 on the ground that Covid needed a government with a stronger mandate—and in spite of BC’s fixed-term law. The NDP won a majority and remains in power today).

      Anon is correct: a government which tries to keep power much longer than four years is usually already unpopular and, by breaking the tradition of going to the polls after about four years ( without a defined schedule), is usually defeated. To B-Ray’s point, that would probably be doubly so for voters in Calgary-Elbow who have already been without an MLA since last August and have been told to just go suffer by Danielle Smith. To Athabascan’s point, she’s some kinda crazy so ignoring the fixed-term schedule in order to extend this crazy UCP term—now even crazier—certainly isn’t beyond her. Her agenda is so over the top that she might have to extend beyond four years to get it done—on paper, at least— which probably wouldn’t trouble her in the least.

      Quebec was the last sovereign jurisdiction to adopt the fixed-term. Legault’s CAQ government passed it during his previous term but it didn’t kick in until the next term (which the CAQ recently won)—so who really “playing games” with the election date, anyway? Harper adopted it, naturally, for federal elections only after BC did, both their rationales being ulteriorly motivated to dilute democracy.

  20. Perhaps Smith ought to have a chat with those who work in Food bank services. She’ll see how many people can’t afford $1K a year for anything.
    Smith does not take into consideration people who have chronic diseases which may require them to be at the doctor’s a whole lot more than ten trips a year. A child with any number of diseases, including cancer, may have to see a doctor once a week.

    The easiest way to deal with health care, if a province doesn’t have enough money, is to raise taxes. Might I suggest a sales tax. Of course that may result in some albertans fainting, but trust me, life will resumme,, things will be just fine. We here in B.C. have been paying it for as long as I can remember. It was there when as a kid I first bought something and now its still there. Has it turned my life upside down? NO. Has the province of B.C. collapsed? No.

    If Smith plans to eliminate some services which are now provided “free”, wait until some one can’t afford it and because very ill, dies, or uses MAID.

    Smith may not have noticed, but there are a number of people in Alberta who live below the poverty line, are homeless, use food banks to feed themselves and their children, seniors whose pensions are not indexed and can’t make ends meet due to inflation. Checked, one in eight people in Edmonton live below the poverty line and one in ten in Calgary. I’m sure those in rural areas are also living below the poverty line. So if people can’t afford, housing, food, heat, how are they going to afford medical care.

    Oh, well some are going to have to learn to live with how they voted or in some cases die because of it. Its just that kids don’t vote and they could die due to a lack of health care.

    1. Sales taxes are the most regressive form of tax. You may as well just say you expect the working class to pay for the largesse of the elite. Working class folks spend the majority if not all of their income. Rich folks do not, LEAVING THE VAST MAJORITY of this hoarded wealth UNTAXED. The elite would rather see the rest of us worked to the bone before they ever pay a cent of taxes.

      1. Sales taxes are the MOST PROGRESSIVE forms of taxation. The reason is because it places a higher tax obligation upon the richest segment in our society. The rich who are the most privileged, in a capitalistic society, end up paying more taxes. They pay more taxes because they have, and spend more money buying “stuff.” That’s also why rich people complain the most about sales taxes. They know.

    2. I mean the easiest solution is to tax the rich individuals and corporations properly.
      They have all the money yet pay nothing, comparative to any other demographic.

      Hell many corperations frequently get more money back than taxes paid; they are literally being rewarded with our tax dollars for finding way to not pay taxes.

      But we can’t talk about how that 0.1% of the population sits on wealth that would make Smuag envious.

  21. Many employers will not be happy if Smith eliminates the current health care system. It will cost them. Workers will start negotiating with employers for health care coverage. It can cost quite a bit of money for employers.

    If Alberta no longer has a “Canadian health care system” but other provinces do, some companies looking for new territory or relocation may not be interested in Alberta, no Canadian health care.

    If Smith tries her ideas out, she may find Ottawa will no longer send the cash. In B.C. many decades ago a Premier decided the people of B.C. would hence forth pay $10 per visit to the emergency. It was to deter people from going there for frivilous reasons. The federal government stopped sending those cheques. B.C. lost lots of money. In the end the premier was unelected and we no longer pay a fee to go to the emergency.

    A number of Indigenous chiefs in Quebec, back in the day, when Quebec was holding referendums to seperate, simply told the Quebec premier, fine if you want to go, leave, but we and our land are staying with Canada.

    1. @theo Nelson All bills (federal or provincial) require royal assent.

      As for the Alberta fixed election date law, the term is 4 years. The Canadian Charter of Rights specifies 5 years, so I can’t see the Lt. Governor having any grounds to withhold assent – if and only if Smith sticks to 5 years max.

  22. An American cousin of mine has been saying it for years
    “ For gods sake don’t let anyone destroy your Public Health Care System, trust me you don’t want ours”. Who will suffer the most if it’s destroyed the same fools who allowed it to happen. After Klein destroyed it by closing hospitals, closing 1,500 hospital beds and cutting 5,000 nursing positions and drove 14,783 health care workers out of the system we had seniors stating that it was the fault of the workers. They wanted more money and when Klein refused to pay it they left, that’s how they convinced themselves that their hero had nothing to do with it. I bet they will do the same.

  23. I fear this is correct. Changing fixed elections will be easy.

    I was reading about what makes a government totalitarian vs. authoritarian. The Smith UCP are skipping right to totalitarianism by dissembling our Canadian culture of egalitarianism and the social safety net. Dissembling our health care system is the weapon. Destroy the culture’s core values, replace them with a dog-eat-dog set of values, everyone out to grab what they can, selfish is as selfish does. In a few months, we could be fully Republican here. So Smith and the UCP leopards should be eating our faces by about…February? They’ll declare sovereignty without a referendum or a general election. Quebec at least got to vote on sovereignty association. They voted no. We get nothing. Danielle Smith will declare herself Queen of Canada. She’s already let slip some hints about her ambitions. Then she’ll declare herself leader for life. She’s already created some fantastical myths about her origins. Perhaps she is a direct descendant of the sun goddess. Hail the monarch of malevolence!

    The rest of Canada is watching us go down the tubes. We’ll be singing the Apocalypso by Christmas in Smithberta.

    https://youtu.be/Zw03AAVUFtA

    1. I’ve noticed that Canadians don’t say “egalitarianism” anymore. IMO “feminism” is to “egalitarianism” as apples are to fruit. By restricting discourse around equality to gender/sexuality issues, the racial, economic, and religious inequality that is necessary for Canada to exist in its current form can more easily fly under the radar. Sort of how like many “feminists” seem unaware that the first and finest of the fruits of feminism tend to be reserved for white women. I listened to a self-described feminist go on a tirade about how unhealthy women-on-women violence is and agreed while also thinking that it would be really nice to see someone care about the male-on-male violence that is endemic to our society (I am NOT an MRA I’m an egalitarian). I’ve always hated the Mulan “Be a Man” song. Wouldn’t it be great if there was something more “manly” than killing other men? If we didn’t show men every day in a thousand ways that we approve of the violence they use against each other, perhaps they would gradually become less violent, and less willing to tolerate violence against others. Just an idea.

  24. “The problem this has now created is that people think someone else should pay for the social services they need. That “someone else” is assumed to be the wealth and job creators of the province. But if you tax the wealthy too much, their capital is mobile. It can move to Panama and the government will get less than it has now. If you tax corporations too much, they don’t 7 have the means to create new jobs that generate new personal income taxes, which has proven to be a more stable long-term source of revenue” DS
    Oh Dani
    Not collecting tax… never created a single job…ever.
    If you don’t tax they take it ALL to “panama”
    What they can’t take is the resources (the wealth) and someone will develop them at almost any tax rate that leaves something on the table .
    Shell was paying Libya over 70% of their profit for oil and still playing. We get 5%?
    If Dani actually believes Albertans can do it … then nationalize “aberta-ize”? and cutout the corporate untaxable job creators .
    If we kept the money …WE WOULD HAVE MONEY… simple.
    The argument that we are so special, talented and competent and yet unable to develop our resources without foreign corporate untaxable capitalists is enough for me to give her drivel a FAIL .

  25. Kenny felt generally corrupt and seemed like he was just trying to get out in front of the parade of his conservative base and corporate donors as they lurched along.
    Danielle Smith seems to take immense pleasure in trying to burn down any positive form of social welfare, inclusive societal change and environmental regulation that managed to take hold in Alberta. She seems so fervently mean-spirited in general to overall society’s well-being in each of the new pet projects she announces. Smith is the worst attribute of cold libertarians, wacky conspiratorialism with a sour whiff of authoritarian Christian theocracy mixed in ta boot.

  26. No surprise. I have no doubt that the next target/boogeyman will be The Canada Health Act.

    Perhaps Danielle Smith is counting on Albertans not understanding the provisions and the Provincial limitations that are linked to Federal funding.

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