Friday, November 16, 2007

Yep, there's an election coming

After their farcical claim that the treasury cupboard was bare was greeted with almost universal hooting, the Alberta government has now bitten the bullet and bought labour peace with the teachers.

There are many complex details to the deal-in-principle that Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach did with Alberta Teachers Association president Frank Bruseker yesterday over pensions and wages.

It's a pact so important it had Education Minister Ron Liepert pulling an all-nighter back from Japan, where he was on a jolly junket, so he could get some quality podium time with Ed and Frankie.

But in raw Alberta political terms, it means Steady Eddie can tick off another big box on his to-do list as he ramps up to the spring election.

And while the royalty review was tough - and the municipal stability initiative proved it was not exactly a piece of cake to give away $11 billion -the ATA deal could have been a greater problem than all of the above.

That's due to the pension issue - the hole in the teachers' pension fund is a problem going back to the Peter Lougheed days.

Even though the unfunded liability could have cost Alberta taxpayers $45 billion to wipe the red ink off the books and pay the interest costs over the next 50 years, it's nobody's hot-button issue.

The danger is the mayhem that Bruseker and some of the ATA hotheads could cause in March, April or May when Stelmach is expected to pull the pin on the present legislature and seek his own mandate. With large numbers of ATA local contracts already up, Bruseker has been talking strike since last summer.

So-called 'fiscal responsibility' doesn't mean risking angry parents during a campaign. Remember this the next time the Alberta government claims poverty to avoid social spending: If there's an election in the offing they'll find the money somewhere.

Hat tip to Eugene.

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