“Here’s hoping the Alberta Advantage applies equally to all residents of the province”

So, has anyone found that elusive Alberta Advantage yet?
Me either.

So, has anyone found that elusive Alberta Advantage yet?

Me either.

In case you missed last week’s edition or are a new reader to the paper, this is the second part of a two-part editorial revolving around the concept of an Alberta Advantage, what it is, and where it is.

Last week several vital areas were searched including privatization, the minimum wage, the lack of provincial sales tax here and housing, but in every case finding any sort of advantage, particularly for those on a fixed or low to medium income, was very difficult to find.

Admittedly, the search was made in a somewhat subjective manner – that being by a middle-aged, low to middle income wage earner based on the provincial average salary, who is a relative newcomer to Alberta.

In the area of health care, there’s both good news and bad news for the ‘sort of’ new guy. I finally received a health card in the mail – it arrived exactly six months to the day from when I applied.

Unfortunately, that’s the only good news.

The bad news is that just a few weeks later I received a bill from the government in the amount of $88. After getting over the initial shock of the bill, I thought to myself that if only they were as efficient in getting me the health card as they were in getting me the bill, things might be a bit different.

Keeping in mind that my former province of residence has long been recognized as the home of true universal health care, I’m sure you can understand my disbelief in getting the bill. For the better part of 25 years – and after a broken wrist, two separated shoulders and many, many stitches, I never, ever was billed for anything from a province that apparently, doesn’t have nearly the wealth as this one.

Also worth mentioning is the fact the bill claims the registration was effective Oct. 1, 2007, yet I didn’t receive the actual health card until Jan. 16 of 2008 and therefore unless it was a critical emergency, most likely would have been denied any health care services.

Isn’t this a lot like signing up for cable television and when the installer finishes hooking it up, he gives you a bill for the previous three months as well? And who among us would accept that?

Luckily for me, I haven’t required any services offered by the health care system in Alberta and hopefully never will. I’m also fortunate that, as part of the benefit package, my employer has now taken over payment of the bill as of Dec. 1, 2007. But that doesn’t explain how, or why, my personal bill covers the time from October of ’07 to January of ’08.

As for the health care system itself and how it relates to the Alberta Advantage, it’s an open and shut case of if you have the means and the ability to afford it, you and your credit card get to go straight to the front of the two-tiered health care line while the masses are forced to wait for weeks or even months for the same services.

As for the environmental impact of all the oil and gas developments here which, I guess, has something to do with the Alberta Advantage – if you have shares in Syncrude and Suncor, that is.

Otherwise, things don’t appear to be too bright on the horizon especially for the next generations.

The Feb. 16, 2008 edition of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported that after 12 years of testing lakes and the ground within a 200 kilometre distance of the oilsands project in Fort McMurray, scientists have found that 70 per cent of the toxic spew generated up there, including sulphur and nitrogen oxides, has fallen in Saskatchewan.

In an age of needing courts of law to settle basically any dispute between two entities, you don’t have to be a psychic to see a massive class-action lawsuit launched by the government of Saskatchewan against Alberta forcing them to clean up their mess.

From there, it’s easy to connect the dots.

The irony of it all could be incredible if, in Alberta’s blind lust for wealth and power, it tripped over itself and was forced to dip into the Heritage Fund and was forced to use a big chunk of it to clean up a mess created in another province.

And then what?

It’s hardly a stretch under those circumstances, to imagine Alberta’s next generation in 10 or 20 years faced with cleaning up the noxious catastrophe in Fort McMurray – which according to an organization known as Environmental Defense is the, “most destructive project on Earth,” and not have the funds to do anything because of spending most of the Heritage Fund cleaning up the mess in Saskatchewan.

Having said that, a very credible argument can be made that there won’t be any Alberta Advantage for the children and grandchildren of this province.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire you life-long Albertans who will defend and go to the mat for the province no matter what the facts may be. I for one would be at the front of the line waving the Maple Leaf if it came down to determining the greatest country on Earth.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right.

The only way to truly determine if one particular geographical area is better or worse off than another is to actually live there for a while, and I don’t mean in a luxury villa on the beach. I’m talking about life on the ground level where most people struggle to barely make it from paycheque to paycheque, if at all.

Unfortunately it doesn’t happen here or anywhere else for that matter, but a society shouldn’t be judged on how rich and powerful it is. A society should be judged on how it takes care of its most vulnerable citizens – the elderly, the poor, the physically and mentally ill, children, and so on.

With the election now behind us, here’s hoping that a rejuvenated, or even a new provincial government will make sincere efforts to ensure that the Alberta Advantage – whatever it may be, applies equally to all residents of the province especially those who are least likely to be able to afford it.