Welcome to the dark side of capitalism

Now that we’ve endured a string of open houses that didn’t really tell us anything, and now that we’ve endured months and even years of fear-mongering from big industry, along with their cohorts in the provincial government, about how without new power lines the lights will go out in Calgary, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that there’ll be some new Alta Link construction rolling soon, even if they’re running the lines right down Rimbey’s main street. But the big question remains why are industry and the government forcing the average Albertan to absorb the $20 to $25 billion expected costs of infrastructure work for a private corporation?

It’s interesting to note that just prior to the outbreak of the global economic crisis that still plagues us, an Ipsos-Reid poll was conducted in late 2008 to gauge the public’s reaction to the federal government’s plan to bail out the auto industry in the amount of $2.5 billion.

While 58 per cent of Canadians believe it was “unwise” for the feds to spend that much on what was then a collapsing industry, the number of Albertans saying the same thing rose to 69 per cent, by far the highest in the country.

So where’s that defiant, rebellious, ‘not on my nickel’ attitude from the Albertans now? After all, the federal bailout would have been absorbed by every taxpayer from coast to coast, yet now that industry and the provincial government has decreed that we should pay an amount more than ten times higher by a population more than ten timers smaller, aside from a few, there’s been nary a complaint from anyone.

Perhaps things will change when the electrical bills several times in size start rolling in.

In the meantime, it’s also interesting to note that our neighbours to the east are also mulling over the need to replace the power lines in Saskatchewan, but that’s where the rub comes lies.

As a Crown Corporation, SaskPower’s expenditure for new lines will also be absorbed by the citizens of that fine province but at the end of the day, it’s the citizens who own the power company so everyone benefits from the work, not just a handful of millionaire executives and shareholders who are about to become multi-millionaire executives and shareholders.

Following the 2004 provincial election, then-premier Ralph Klein decided to privatize the energy industry in Alberta and within weeks, utilities bills rose dramatically to the point where the government was forced to issue rebates. Further, claiming the government had more surplus oil-revenue cash than they knew what to do with, in September of 2005, the Klein government issued $400 cheques to every man, woman and child in the form of “Prosperity Bucks”.

Turn the clock ahead five years or so, and the average Albertan is about to see another huge increase in the size of their power bills, but this time around, there’ll be no “Prosperity Bucks” for anyone – except for a very few.

So when you’re shelling our three, or four, or five or ten times the amount of what your power bills used to be, don’t look to old King Ralph to bail you out, or even his predecessors, because that’s not the way it works in the Cronyism Capital of the World.

In fact, King Ralph now has himself a sweet gig working with Alta Link’s legal team and you can bet the farm they’ll be getting most or all of those “Prosperity Bucks” back and a whole lot more.

Instead, expect to see exactly what the Old Boys Club wants, that being socializing the costs of replacing the transmission lines, and privatizing the profits.

Welcome to the dark side of capitalism. – JT