You are now entering the Alberta Advantage free column zone. No fare is required to travel past this paragraph. You may find this a refreshing change of pace.
Few aspects of daily life currently appear to be escaping privatization (public services), inflation (consumer goods), and sheer breakdown of online platforms… Twitter and Netflix, anyone? From the downtown TD Free Fare Zone on Calgary's LRT line – first of its kind in Canada! Alberta leads the way! – to Scotiabank teaming up with Little Free Libraries, previously non-branded entities enmesh with corporate conglomerates to maximize exposure like never before.
Disorienting and dispiriting as such changes can be, naming rights are the tip of the private iceberg. Long-held pillars of Canada’s hallmark welfare state have seen escalating attacks from provincial Conservative governments in the perma-pandemic world. The federal Liberal government doesn't push back; Prime Minister Trudeau only lightly brushes off the wildest theoretical proposals to gut healthcare and education, while not commenting on actual implementation as it’s happening. Their rhetoric might be slightly different, but these two parties are parties of business.
At a time when many folks need enhanced and ongoing health treatments, job supports, retraining, and education opportunities, Premiers Smith, Ford, and others continue to push their wealth transfer agendas.
Underfunding of public services is a deliberate political decision. We must keep this front of mind when we hear leaders grasping at straws. Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek calls the Toronto-Dominion sponsorship an “innovative revenue source” for Calgary Transit, one that will ostensibly help improve service. Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones cites the need to be “bold, innovative and creative”, as for-profit surgery and diagnostic centers are set to gobble up public insurance funds. (Naming rights for your knee surgery have not been secured as yet.)
No need to simply take our word on privatization. The sorry current state of former Alberta Precision Laboratories provides a fine case study and reality check.
The province’s lab services provide community medical testing to the population, as ordered by medical professionals. Originally public, the labs were privatized by the Klein government in 1996, under DynaLIFE Labs. The company’s operations were found to be inadequate (by the very same government!) in 2006, and the services were again made public.
History was bound to repeat, as then premier Jason Kenney – in one of his final acts in office – handed the contract for labs in most Alberta regions (notably, all city clinics) to DynaLIFE in June 2022, with Premier Smith finalizing the deal. “More and better services” were initially promised.
The change rolled out to patients in December 2022. Health Minister Jason Copping claimed DynaLIFE would draw on its “innovative” history while Mauro Chies, Interim AHS President & CEO, said “the transition of community services to DynaLIFE will ensure hospital labs, operated by APL, are able to focus on the emergency, inpatient and urgent needs of acute and ambulatory hospital patients.” An age-old distinction laid out directly on the operating table, DynaLIFE profits from routine work and lets the public system continue to handle what’s most difficult, risky, and expensive.
In Calgary, the dozen or so collection clinics remain virtually the same, albeit with significantly reduced appointment openings and increased waiting room times, obvious to rightfully annoyed patients. Workers experience bait-and-switch tactics regarding their pensions, moving from defined benefit plans to RRSP contributions. Touted “cost savings” (which never pan out) and shareholder payouts are swiped directly from nurses’ financial futures.
“It’s always going back and forth [between AHS and DynaLIFE]. Usually nothing changes," says one nurse at a Northwest clinic, unfazed. She continues her bleak observations. "I think this one might stick, though. They’ve changed the signs. Before, they hadn't done that.”
Examining this situation in detail, we can see privatization for exactly what it is. Not innovation, not improvement. Newspaper pundits claim that knee-jerk reactions to privatization are overwrought. Much like the “jurisdiction” crowd, they explain that the public misunderstands the delicate, nuanced interplay between public funding and private delivery.
But, in fact, your wary friends and neighbours are correct, understanding very well that life is getting worse for them and better for those at the top.
What is to be done?
We must reject the rationale for privatization. Time and again, it’s been proven to erode public trust, drain public funds, and make things more complicated for ordinary people. Conversely, we can even consider decommodifying “market-based” goods and services as one aspect of embracing a more equal and just society.
We can use tactics, strategy, and arguments of workers' resistance, from historic moments like the 1995 Laundry Workers' Strike. We can hear brave voices like Cindy Pendon, laundry worker and CUPE member, call to us from the past: “We’re all little people – laundry staff – and we were the first ones to stand up to the big guys. We didn’t care if it was illegal to go on strike… we didn’t have anything to lose.”
Tried and true resistance might not not look like innovation. We can be grateful it doesn’t! If it ain’t broke… it just might bring about genuinely free conditions.
-Karen, Team Advantage
🏴There isn’t enough tax money to run Canadian cities anymore after everyone realized their email job could be done without spending 10% of your earnings on business casual clothing and commuting. You will get a higher tax bill (if you can afford a home) and your city will cover the risk of converting office space into apartments because fuck you.
🏴The idea was that if you profit from doing oil things in the oil province you have to clean up your oil mess when you run out of oil at the oil place. The new idea, after decades of those clean-ups being done with the enthusiasm of a prisoner submitting themselves to waterboarding, is that you have to clean up your oil mess but taxpayers will pay for it. Our provincial government knows that paying to clean up your own mess is a bit of a downer! She’s actually helping!
🏴Danielle Smith is an expert in leveraging those effete Quebecois in getting her dullard agenda done and by God she is not above using La Belle Province to give billions to the billionaire owner of the Calgary Flames.
🏴A reminder that Alex Dunn bodyslammed a woman in handcuffs into a concrete floor. The woman later died suddenly and protestors insisting Dunn face justice were charged with trumped-up bullshit. Dunn might face a 30-day staycation.
🏴Toronto Police Service cross the line and try to FUCK WITH OUR BAG.
🏴What do you get when a pro-cop mayor is elected along with a slate including retired cops and at least one wife of a cop? You get the cop/nurse crossover the world has been waiting for. NURSECOP! COMING THIS SUMMER TO THEATRES EVERYWHERE.
🏴Remember when a gang of armed rural ecoterrorists broke some stuff along the Coastal Gaslink line? The cops desperately want you to believe it really happened and it wasn’t just dinner theatre.
🏴That (relatively) new, shiny pilot’s union is looking to put foot to ass over at WestJet.
It appears that the Steelworkers got the goods from CP Rail.
A dumbass was shouted down by comrades in Lethbridge.
📉A dumbass, a girlboss, and the elected leader of a western province walk into a bar.
🎧Chatting about that idiot who got shouted down in Lethbridge by comrades.
🔇Drugs are decriminalized in BC despite the provincial NDP being dumb as hell.
🎚️The most dangerous peepee in the whole country.