Friday, June 22, 2007

A sop thrown to urban Alberta

Two Calgary MLAs have been promoted to junior cabinet portfolios, and Stelmach named Calgarian and Justice Minister Ron Stevens as his Deputy Premier.

Don't expect any real changes though. Yvonne Fritz is the new associate minister of affordable housing and urban development but it's not as if she'll actually be able to do anything but look concerned for the camera. We won't be getting even a temporary rent control measure or any real commitment to affordable housing in response to predatory landlords and Calgary workers being priced out of a city already suffering from a labor shortage.

Ms. Fritz said housing is “the top issue, not just in Calgary but in Alberta.”

Mr. Stelmach said he doesn't see the need for a major policy shift but added his new ministers will focus on hot-button issues that are frustrating many, including a lack of affordable housing.

“What Albertans have been saying is, ‘Your priorities are right, let's stay focused, let's work together, let's unite Alberta towards one common goal',” said the Premier.

Really? Is that what we're saying? Because what I've been hearing is that this province is being run by and for the benefit of corporate interests and the board-room elite with a very small proportion of the population actually benefiting from this boom. And that the rich are getting richer while everyone else worries whether there will be a middle school actually built when their kids need it or if they'll be priced out of their neighborhood anyway.

Calgary sounds like Redmonton these days - I suspect Redmonton still sounds even redder. The inwardly focused boomers and suburbanites who've been voting Tory for a generation are starting to sound like steelworkers on the picket line.

Really, cosmetic junior cabinet appointments for two Calgary MLAs and a symbolic title for another do not constitute meeting the needs of Calgarians. Maybe for some of the populist media it was just a cynical campaign to earn Calgary's elite greater influence, but they helped accelerate a wave of popular dissent that was already building and which won't fade away easily.

At the end of August the preordained conclusions of the oil revenues royalty review will be released - despite the urgings of such well known commies as Peter Lougheed the government will conclude that the oil companies should be able to continue to walk away with the store.

This is about as suspenseful as Kabuki.

The only mystery is what kind of response to expect from a restive Alberta public.

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