Cuts hurt

Despite government reassurances that “we can do more with less,” Albertans know from experience that deep cuts hurt. Albertans know that the kind of multi-billion dollars cuts being contemplated by the Stelmach government will have negative impacts that can last for years, even decades.

Lessons from the Klein cuts

That’s what happened the last time Alberta resorted to major cuts during a recession.

Albertans remember that those cuts – part of the now infamous “Klein Revolution” – led to the creation of a “lost generation” of nurses, teachers and other Alberta-trained professionals who left the province, often never to return, as a result of mass layoffs and hiring freezes.

Albertans also remember that deep budget cuts led to the creation of a massive infrastructure deficit (embodied by crumbling roads, out-dated schools and over-crowded health facilities) and a critical shortage of hospital beds that we’re still struggling to recover from.

Just as importantly, Albertans remember those brutal cuts made the last recession deeper and more painful than it had to be. Economists now agree that it was economic growth and the prosperity generated by rising energy prices that allowed Alberta to eliminate its debt and deficit – not the deep budget cuts imposed by the Klein government.

All pain, no gain

In other words, the budget cutting approach championed by Ralph Klein, Mike Harris and other conservative politicians in the 1990s was all pain and no gain. It inflicted real hardship on individuals, families and communities when they were already struggling – and it weakened the very services and institutions that were necessary for a return to sustained prosperity.

Why would any current government even consider returning to those kinds of failed policies?

A return to cuts – and their predictable consequences

Unfortunately, when it comes to ill-conceived budget cuts, 2009 and 2010 are starting to look more and more like 1993 and 1994.

We're already seeing the impacts of recent cuts, cuts that have led health care employers, school boards and post-secondary institutions to impose hiring freezes, eliminate front-line positions and increase fees.

If we fail to join together and challenge these cuts, more teachers will be laid off; classroom sizes will continue to increase; post-secondary institutions will become more expensive and less accessible; nurses and other health care workers will lose their jobs and hospital waiting times will increase.

Does it really make sense to dig ourselves another hole, just as we’re finally close to climbing out of the last one?

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Comments (4)

Mr. Klein was the best thing that ever happened to Alberta. I miss him as he tough and he said it like it was and thats a good leader to me. Although now I'm really worried with all these cuts to public education, its ridiculous and how do we stay on TOP economically if our children are missing so many days to Pro-d-days? Something has to change for the sake of kids, they are the FUTURE.

Yes Mr. Klein was a masterful "Politician", but little else. Before the most tecent propesed Education cuts, Alberta's Public Schools altready had the HIGHEST number of STUDENTS per Educator of any Province of any Province in Canada. Check with Statscan.i

As a former nursing instructor I saw the effects of previous cuts and urge you to learn from past mistakes. It is short sighted to cut education funding especially in light of the current spike in birth rates (ie. future students) How many fewer criminals would we have if their educational potential been reaches? Perhaps better education would actually save money.

Cuts are personal. They cause harm to people by harming the institutions serving people. Are we as a society so endangered financially that we can start, in effect, tossing our fellow citizens over-board to keep the boat afloat? Is it really that bad?

These debates always become abstract when the time comes to harm people. We don’t like to think of ourselves as mean spirited and callous. So we fashion the victims of cuts into imaginary little baskets of our own petty resentments. Cheaters, scammers, takers of things they didn’t earn or deserve.

It would do us well to personalize cuts and not allow the debate to stray into generalities. List the people hurt by cuts by WHO they are (names aren’t important as long as their stories are real). Bring them out of their nameless / faceless state that makes them “safe” to be disposed of. Describe programs to be cut, talk about facts and make the advocates of cutting stay at that level too.

Stay real.

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