Mudcat Café message #340809 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #26844   Message #340809
Posted By: GUEST
14-Nov-00 - 08:10 PM
Thread Name: Canadian Election: Nov. 27, 2000
Subject: RE: Canadian Election: Nov. 27, 2000
Just thought that those of you who are scared of the alternatives to Stockboy might be interested in this fascinating little history.

CALGARY: Stockwell Day is keen to portray himself as a righteous defender of democracy. But his record as a member of the Alberta government for 14 years tells a different story. Then, he was much more interested in securing power for a small group of politicians and corporations than in making sure government was accountable to citizens. His most recent defence of democracy occurred last week when he launched an attack on Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who's been in power so long, according to Mr. Day, that "democracy has been diminished." "Any time somebody accumulates that much power we know that it tends to have a corrupting influence on the individual," Day told a crowd of supporters in Napanee, Ont. Really? Day's Bill 57 became so controversial - the Fraser Institute was among its few endorsers - that Ralph Klein eventually dropped it

If you live in Alberta you can only shake your head and wonder why Mr. Day is so sure that the Liberal government has been corrupted by power but quite willing to give the Alberta government the benefit of the doubt. Premier Ralph Klein has been in power for longer than Mr. Chretien - eight years - and is set to run again in the spring. The Alberta Tories have been in power for - count 'em - twenty-nine years. There have been Lougheed Tories, Getty Tories and now Klein Tories. Apparently, Mr. Day would have us believe that an almost 30-year uninterrupted reign in Alberta is okay but a seven-year tour of duty by the current Prime Minister is verging on dictatorship.

Cuts, power grabs and central control As Government House Leader, and as a cabinet minister (Labour, Family and Social Services, Finance) in the Klein government, Mr. Day supported and implemented deep cuts to health care, education and social services as well as the privatization of many government services. But he didn't utter a peep when Mr. Klein moved to centralize authority in his office in order to expedite that rapid deficit elimination program. The control was so tight that all public statements by ministers were first vetted by Mr. Klein or his chief of staff Rod Love - the same Rod Love that is now working to elect a Stockwell Day government.

Jobbing out services, glomming power When he was Government House Leader/Minister of Labour Mr. Day himself authored one of the most undemocratic pieces of legislation ever put before the Legislature. Bill 57 - The Delegated Administration Act - would have transferred responsibility for government services to corporations and appointed boards without the approval of the Legislature. The cornerstone of the Klein government's privatization initiatives, Bill 57 not only allowed government ministers to shed responsibilities to private sector corporations, it enabled those corporations to avoid government monitoring. Contractors would have had full authority to collect their own taxes and fees but they would have been exempt from Alberta's Financial Administration Act, which requires the Auditor-General to conduct annual audits of government agencies and departments. Nor would they be required to abide by the province's pending Freedom of Information legislation. At the time, Mike Clegg, a former parliamentary counsel to the Alberta government said: "It is to my knowledge unprecedented in terms of its almost unlimited scope and the degree of initiative it gives to the government without any further debate in the legislature.'' Bill 57 became so controversial (the Fraser Institute was among the few to wholeheartedly endorse it) Mr. Klein eventually dropped it. Mr. Day had to concede that it was clear Albertans wanted more say in the government's privatization plans. Privatization and the off-loading of government programs and responsibilities to appointed boards proceeded apace anyway. Mr. Day even mused publicly about selling the Workers' Compensation Board. He didn't go that far but it is now a quasi-public, self-regulating, non-profit insurance monopoly where the CEO earns $355,000 a year - three times more than the Premier. As for appointed boards responsible for delivering government services, there are plenty of those in Alberta too. Board members of the 17 regional health authorities are all appointed by the provincial government and are often prominent Tories. These boards have immense power. In Calgary and Edmonton they control $1 billion dollar budgets and are responsible for all aspects of health care in the region.

Shutting down debate all in a Day's work The Klein government has introduced a blizzard of legislative changes since coming to power. But it has also stifled debate on many of the most important measures by invoking closure of debate 27 times. Bill 11 was the most notorious example. Even though all independent polls showed that the majority of Albertans did not support the legislation that would allow for private, for-profit hospitals, the government invoked closure and rammed the bill through Mr. Day was campaigning for the Alliance leadership at the time. But he flew back to Alberta and cast his vote for Bill 11 amid the din created by thousands of protesters outside the Legislature. Two weeks later the Alberta government invoked closure again when it passed the provincial flat tax put forward by Mr. Day when he was Treasurer. Alberta as a one-party state with tight control of just about everything centred in the Premier's office and the executive council of cabinet doesn't seem to upset Mr. Day at all. No wonder his crusade for democracy in the rest of the country seems a little hypocritical to many Albertans. It's business as usual in Alberta, but those power hungry Liberals in Ottawa? They absolutely have to go.

Gillian Steward is a Calgary-based journalist and former managing editor of The Calgary Herald. She co-authored with Kevin Taft Clear Answers: The Economics and Politics of For-Profit Medicine.