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Friday, January 24, 2003

Alberta government strikes another blow for on democracy!

The Alberta Tories have a long history of democratic tradition, but since Ralph Klein came to power, that tradition has been seriously eroded. Kevin Taft has described from an inside point of view the restructuring of the non-partisan Legislature Communications office into a highly-partisan Ministry of Truth in Shredding the Public Interest. Opposition members make an annual tradition of rightfully criticising the Message from the Premier, which is essentially a twenty-minute ad for the Tories. (That would be fine if the Tories paid for it. Or if the government used the public airways to broadcast it, allowing opposition rebuttal.) And I cringe when I hear an ad arguing that private hospitals are great, or that Kyoto will leave us all living in cardboard boxes, because, agree or disagree with the issue of the moment, it pisses me off that I'm paying taxes to be influenced. (There's a wide difference between a public service message advertising services a citizen might want to use, and a government-sponsored ad telling me what to think. I digress.)

When I ran against Lyle Oberg, this was my litany of affronts to democratic practice that I trotted out at the forums. I added two others: the firing of an entire democratically-elected school board, and the lack of Regional Health Authority elections (promised from the first establishment of RHAs in 1994). So with this history, it comes as no surprise to me that the government has determined democracy failed again.

Health Minister Gary Mar says electing board members didn't work and things will run more smoothly with appointed directors.

Is there any other way to read this than: "Albertans are too stupid to govern themselves"? I think we should all thank Alberta's Tories for their continued effort to get the trains to run on time.

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