Berenyi: Detailing some UCP changes, by the numbers

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Almost daily, the numbers hit the news. Alberta’s provincial government is failing on a number of fronts, I believe.

To stay abreast of what’s happening here, I recently began keeping stats as a rather grim hobby, much like someone might do to track a floundering baseball or other sports team.

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By the end of March, I’d collected more numbers than I knew what to do with. Here’s an abridged version of the UCP’s punishing policies for the 4.8 million people it governs, as demonstrated by the numbers:

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4 cents: The amount per litre that the provincial gasoline tax went up on April 1 (a.k.a the April Fool’s Tax), worsening Alberta’s inflation rate. It “coincided” with the federal government’s carbon tax increase, which added another 3.3 cents. Double April Fools! (Note: most Albertans will get back all of the carbon tax in a rebate, but not a penny of the gasoline tax.)

4.2%: The rate of inflation in Alberta in February, putting it at the top of the heap in Canada. Rising costs for groceries, natural gas and rent were fingered as the culprits.

2.8%: The average rate of inflation in Canada in February. In Manitoba, inflation’s been beaten down to less than one per cent.

20%: The promised tax saving for Albertans earning less than $60,000 a year that was dangled by Danielle Smith in the 2023 provincial election campaign. Those earning over $60,000 were told they could expect tax savings of $760 a year. Smith snatched the treats away in February. Maybe, she mused, they’ll appear in 2026 or 2027.

No. 1: The position Alberta held as the wind and solar capital of Canada until that status was shaken to the core last summer when the UCP government placed a controversial moratorium on approving new renewable energy projects, ostensibly to protect agricultural land.

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4%: The amount of renewable energy projects currently located on Class 2 (less than prime) agricultural land, according to a report by the Alberta Utilities to Commission (AUC). All other wind and solar projects are located on even less productive agricultural land, says the report, commissioned by the government and released to the public in March. It notes that wells, mining, roads and urban sprawl are the real causes of agricultural land loss.

35-kilometre buffer zones: Despite the AUC report, in February the UCP introduced new rules regarding buffer zones around protected areas; ill-defined “pristine viewscapes” rules could prevent the development of renewable energy, but not other forms of industry.

$250 million: The amount of unpaid property taxes owed to rural municipalities in Alberta by oil and gas companies.

$11,601: Spending per student in Alberta in the 2020/21 school year – the lowest spend on public education of any Canadian province. The average for all provinces in that year was $13,332 per student, according to Statistics Canada.

159%: The “utilization rate” of some high schools in north Calgary. “Could you imagine sending your child to a school that is 160 per cent full? I couldn’t,” Calgary Board of Education board chair Laura Hack said in an interview with the Calgary Herald.

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33%: The rise in post-secondary tuition since 2019 when the UCP took office. That’s four consecutive years of tuition increases, including hikes for the 2023-24 year.

Zero: The number of times Smith and the UCP mentioned the plan to break up Alberta Health Services into four separate silos – with a fifth silo to govern them – during the 2023 election campaign.

126: The number of planning jobs terminated in AHS – key skills needed to move forward with dismantling and rebuilding Alberta’s highly complex and ailing health-care system.

20,000: the number of health care and social assistance workers who left Calgary in 2023, according to Statistics Canada. Health-care workers repeatedly warn that the system is buckling and more departures are imminent.

$75 million: The cost of buying children’s acetaminophen from Turkey in Smith’s misguided attempt to fill a temporary drug shortage. Only a tiny fraction of it was used, and it proved dangerous for neonatal use.

68%: Albertans who do not want political parties involved in municipal elections– an idea pushed by the UCP – according to a 2023 poll done by Janet Brown Opinion Research for Alberta Municipalities; it represents 260 of the province’s 334 municipalities, making it the largest municipal group in Alberta.

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67%: Albertans opposed to the UCP government’s proposal to replace the RCMP with a provincial police force, believing it would have little or no effect on reducing crime. The 2023 poll was conducted by Janet Brown for Alberta Municipalities; its members also oppose the idea of a provincial police service.

57%: Albertans surveyed who oppose the government’s proposal to leave the Canada Pension Plan, according to a recent poll by Common Ground, a research project at the University of Alberta. The government’s finance ministry has refused to release the results of its own surveys about a potential Alberta pension plan.

10 million: Alberta’s population, according to Smith’s forecast for 2050. This, as the government is already reluctant to properly fund the province’s fraying infrastructure – education, health care and services – in what is already Canada’s fastest-growing province.

These stats represent a government that has decided that it knows what’s best for Albertans. But the UCP government isn’t listening to all Albertans and it affects every aspect of our lives. At best, It is ignoring the wishes of some Albertans; at worst, it is treating them with contempt. It is shortchanging Alberta’s children and young people – and compromising their chance at a greener, more hopeful future.

I believe we need a better government to build a better future. Say, isn’t there a “new” guy with better ideas on the provincial scene…?

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