Fast Eddie's 'Revenge of the Farmer' government has been in the saddle now for three months. So far, it has shown that with one single exception it is no different from the Klein government. The exception of course is the new government's treatment of the Province's major cities. It took power away from the cities and transfered it to rural Alberta.
Without belaboring the point, the cities of Calgary and Edmonton have about two-thirds or 67% of the Alberta population. Eddie has given those two cities only four out of a 19 member cabinet - about 21%.
The hallmark of the Klein government was that it was cheap. It did not like to spend money (unless it was on its many friends). It did not like to spend money on health care, on schools, on universities, on roads, on most of the responsibilities a Provincial government has in this country.
The Klein government's many fans, sycophants, as well as neocon ideological campanions and cheerleaders in the establishment print media, all thought that this was quite alright - because Alberta would soon 'hit the wall' as far as deficits and debt were concerned, because the single important legacy that could be bestowed on future generations was a debt-free Province, because belt-tightening was good (so long it was their belt that wasn't being tightened) and so forth.
Oh, the Klein government liked raking it in. VLT machines started pumping the greenbacks into the government coffers to such an extent that it even surpassed its annual take from oil revenues. One senior Klein Minister was reported to have joked to some of his colleagues that with the VLT machines, the government had finally discovered a way of taxing the poor. Some joke. Yes, raking it in was fine for the Kleineys. But paying it out was quite another matter. In a perverse reversal from human nature, they could take it but they couldn't dish it out.
Going logically hand-in-hand with the reluctance to spend was utter inaction in doing things. Not wanting to spend meant not wanting to build. The result: Alberta's crisis-level state of crumbling infrastructure and the exponential growth of costs to improve it, a deteriorating health care and education system, and homelessness that a few years ago would have been unimaginable. Among other problems.
For the first three months of his administration Fast Eddie's Government has shown itself to be a clone of Klein's. They are not spending. They are not building. There are no hospital construction sites being excavated. Ditto for schools. Medical staff shortages, doctors, nurses and the like remain in short supply.
And a crisis is growing from the lack of affordable housing. This past week, the cold spell in Calgary coinciding with the closure of a temporary homeless shelter brought the plight of affordable housing to everyone's attention. Fast Eddie's response, as parroted through his Jeremiah Johnson look-a-like Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Ray Danyluk: it's Calgary's problem, not ours. Let the City deal with it. In other words, its business as usual. Don't look to us to solve your problem.
But on the 'raking it in' side the Stelmach government is as alert as its predecessor. Broadening the use of Photo Radar to catch speeders incidentally increases the cash cow production of hidden cameras for government coffers. That's OK with Ed. Let's do it, he says.
So, don't expect much from Fast Eddie's so-called new team. His new team consists of most of the old team as well as the bench warmers for the old team. The bench warmers are just as inculcated with the Klein way of doing things as the city slickers that are now on the back benches.
Alas, to get government working again and doing the things they should be doing, the people are going to have to throw Fast Eddie and his gang out of the saloon. They must be beaten at the polls and confined to the trash heap of history. And the sooner the better.
It is extremely disconcerting that there is nothing novel or challenging coming from this Tory government. Its steady as she goes and do as little as possible. Most of the reasons for this must be laid at the doorstep of the the Premier and his Tory politicians. The buck must certainly end there.
But what about the senior bureaucrats? Have they become so steeped in do-nothingness, that they don't have any ideas either? Having regard to the boring and lacklustre performance of Fast Eddie and his posse, it would seem so. And so, when the house cleaning comes . . well, it should be quite a house cleaning.