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Alberta’s UCP: smash and grab government

John Bell

November 27, 2022
Alberta’s UCP Premier Danielle Smith is ideologically dedicated to smashing public services, especially education and healthcare. She has never made a secret of it. And she is in a hurry to implement that agenda before she has to face an election in May, 2023.
She is dressing her far-right “anti-government” agenda in the costume of Alberta independence. She rose to leadership campaigning on her as-yet unwritten Sovereignty Act. In November she declared: “As Albertans we must no longer ask permission from Ottawa to be prosperous and free. We must be free to chart our own course as a senior partner in a strong and united Canada.”
For decades the federal government has bet its economic future on exploiting Alberta’s tar sands. Stephen Harper bragged Canada would be the “energy superpower of the 21st century”. All that rhetoric has gone to the heads of Alberta’s increasingly right-wing politicians, who now insist on federal transfer payments with zero accountability.
The good news is that Indigenous people stand in the way. Reminding Smith that she cannot claim “sovereignty” over land that isn’t hers, Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of Treaty 8 told the press: “We take offence to Danielle Smith's forthcoming sovereignty act and outright reject it.” 
PayPal healthcare
Smith wants to replace universal public healthcare with a crackpot social credit scheme giving Albertans a Health Spending Account (HSA). “We have to find a way to get more money into the system that doesn’t mean more taxes. That’s what the beauty of the Health Spending Account is all about. Not only would we seed it with a bit of money, but we would give you the incentive to put more money in for your own medical needs, to get your employer to put some in, raise money to put some in, get family members to donate some.”
So universal public healthcare is out, and PayPal begging bowl healthcare is in.
Faced by a storm of outrage over her proposed “gift”, she sort of walked it back. She didn’t mean you should pay for treatment of “catastrophic” conditions, like cancer. But you should pay for regular checkups and visits to family doctors and clinics. 
But who decides what qualifies as “catastrophic”? Do people with chronic but non-life-threatening conditions count? Is your mom going to have to pay for her hip replacement or forget it? Is COVID catastrophic when the majority of her supporters deny it really exists? Smith has already started to dismantle Alberta Health Services. Who will replace them? Probably insurance companies, and we need only look south of the border to see how well that works. 
Education is the enemy
UCP Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has been in charge of underfunding and wrecking public education since 2019. A right-wing Catholic ideologue, staunchly homophobic and anti-abortion, she is in sync with Smith. 
LaGrange has overseen the importation of a school curriculum which many Alberta teachers simply refuse to use. The curriculum was virtually cut and pasted from that of US-based Core Knowledge Foundation. It was demonstrably socially backward and centred white European culture.
In 2020 a panel of over 30 educators gave thumbs down to the curriculum, that replaced any critical thinking with rote learning and memorizing lists of names and events – most extolling European colonialism.
In 2021, the Alberta Teachers Association annual meeting voted 99% to reject the UCP curriculum.
Smith and LaGrange attack unionized education workers and education itself. Layoffs and pay freezes have weakened the teacher ranks. Tax breaks and subsidies encourage parents to choose private or charter schools, or to home school.
They are hurrying to implement plans to create an army of teacher/entrepreneurs to open “micro-schools” in their own homes: “If we can … allow more teachers to set up their own schools as competition, its going to have a transformative effect,” Smith said.
That transformation will be a nightmare for a generation of Alberta kids and parents who will face two-tiered private education.
Cash for cops
Danielle Smith doesn’t want to spend tax money on kids or on the sick, but when it comes to cops the sky’s the limit.
Alberta has never had a provincial police force, relying instead on the RCMP. For years the UCP has had a proposal for a made-in-Alberta police force on the back burner. Now Smith, with her daft separatist scheme, has turned it up to the boil.
Naturally, any suggestion that plans to scrap the RCMP are in any way connected to ongoing Mountie investigations into UCP election fraud, dating back to 2017, ls purely coincidental.
The feds currently pay 1/3 of Alberta’s direct policing costs and provide more resources through its national infrastructure. It has been estimated that it will cost between $500 million and $1 billion just to replace the Mounties. The only justification for the cost is ideological, the notion that a provincial para-military force would be loyal to sovereign Alberta.
So the Smith agenda in a nutshell: destruction of public services and the unionized workers who provide them; investing in a local para-military police force; all wrapped up in fairy tales about Alberta’s sovereignty and oil-based economic superiority.
And lurking behind it all, poisoning the lives of Albertans the way it poisons everything it touches, is the fossil fuel industry.
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