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Battle of the Austerity Allstars!

Left Jab by John Bell

July 8, 2021
Alberta and Ontario are in a pissing contest to determine which Conservative regime will take the mantle of “Worst Provincial Government Ever”.
Alberta: Big Smoky Sky Country
Not only is the Calgary Stampede not canceled or scaled back because of COVID, it is being extended across the province as a paean to Jason Kenney and his UCP government’s triumph over nature.
The annual spectacle of animal torture, public vomiting, truck-nuts and big, ill-fitting hats was extended far beyond Calgary. Massive firework displays blew up the skies over Edmonton, Lethbridge and Red Deer as well.
The pyrotechnics occurred simultaneously over each city, accompanied by the same UCP-approved soundtrack. The playlist wasn’t divulged but expect Gregorian Chants, UCP-approved hymns like Onward Christian Soldiers, an insignificant big band selection by grandpa Mart Kenney, and the country classic, Ghost Riders in the Sky.
Worries about pre-mature opening in the face of a new surge of COVID Delta variant have been brushed aside. Just because the particularly virulent Delta strain of virus rips through the un-vaccinated population, and the Yee Haw Stampede traditionally draws heavily from that anti-vaxx demographic, is no reason for alarm. After all, the horses, mules, bulls and cows have all achieved herd immunity.
Like the rest of the northwest, Alberta has been experiencing record high temperatures, and experts warn that wildfire risks are entering “uncharted territory”. Recently Kenney attended an Okotoks Dawgs baseball game in the town of Okotoks, and there was a fireworks display to celebrate. The resulting grass fire sparked up a few thousand acres of prairie but was quickly dealt with.
To further celebrate the Stampede, the province managed to find $850 million in the pocket of its rhinestone suit, to buy a half interest in the nearly-bankrupt Sturgeon Oil refinery. That’s how you thumb your nose at the very idea that your roasting, hellscape of a province is in the grip of a climate change crisis.
Exactly 24 hours later the Alberta Health Service announced it could no longer afford some luxuries, like nurses. They cut nurses’ pay by 3%. 
About 3000 years ago, Roman satirist Juvenal coined the phrase “panem et circenses” (bread and circuses) to describe how despotic governments kept the population in line. But times have changed and Jason Kenney has decided to dispense with the bread.
Ontario: For the People (parents, students and teachers excluded)
Doug Ford and his Ontario Tories are itching to get back to business. He and his ministers have made sly use of the pandemic emergency to ram through austerity measures like a $1.6 Billion cut to education funding alone.
In the age of COVID, quality public education actually demands greater spending: for better ventilated, modern schools; for smaller class size; to invest in new technology and teaching tools; and for extra, trained personnel to include students with special needs and individual challenges. How can a government do all that and cut a billion and a half from the budget?
Well, they can’t. And the Doug Ford government barely pretends to try.
The Education Minister, Stephen Lecce, is a private school boy who went directly from the ranks of his student Tory club to working as a gofer for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He has never worked a day in the “real world”, or ever spent a day in public school.
So it is odd that Lecce is bringing in a new math curriculum that emphasizes “real world” applications.
“Yes, everyday life. Like learning how to pay taxes, or how to build a budget to repay debt or manage a credit card,” wrote Lecce in an article published in the Conservative Party organ Pravda…oh sorry, I mean the Toronto Sun.
Only a cynic would believe that the changes are part of a broader campaign to undermine public education, eliminate critical thinking and problem solving from the curriculum, and cater to the narrow interests of corporate overlords. That would require destroying teachers’ unions, and tearing the heart out of the very vocation of teaching. 
Who would suggest such a thing?
Over to you, Thornhill Tory MPP Gila (Monster) Martow.
On a constituency zoom town hall, focused on education issues, Martow, a local teacher and a student discussed the experience of on-line education during the pandemic. 
“Online learning is awful. I can’t imagine any teacher goes into their career wanting to do it. They’re doing it out of necessity,” said the teacher.
“It has really made teens’ mental health suffer. School isn’t just the class participation in the classroom, it’s also really the social environment,” said the student.
MPP Martow decided to go in a different direction, getting rid of teachers altogether: “Why should we pay a teacher maybe even to do this virtual learning? Should we just be recording the teachers and the students could just log on? Teachers would just record their lesson and you would just download that lesson and watch that lesson.”
Was Martow, a Ford appointee to a variety of committee and ministerial positions, speaking for her party? Within hours Lecce was rushing to repudiate Martow’s ranting, He emphasized his commitment to getting students back in the classroom, although he has yet to divulge how that can be safely done just 7 weeks from now. He issued a possibly less than sincere thanks to Ontario teachers for their above-the-call-of-duty service during COVID.
As he beat a hasty retreat, one could only think back to the days before the last election, when a leaked video of Doug Ford and a room full of developers carving up the Green Belt. When the news blew up, DoFo back-pedalled furiously, swearing he would never touch the critical GTA watershed.
But under the emergency provisions intended to deal with COVID, Ford gutted the rules for Conservation Areas, forced the board overseeing the Green Belt to resign en masse, and instituted Ministerial Zoning Orders. MZOs allow government to circumvent environmental assessment processes and fast-track development.
Ford lied about the Green Belt, and the video evidence proved true. Might we suspect that Lecce is lying, and that the Martow video evidence is a warning of things to come. 
Which Conservative government is worse: the runaway chuckwagon of cuts that is Jason Kenney’s UCP; or Doug Ford’s anti-conservation Conservatives, hinting at straight-up scrapping the teaching profession? Vote early, vote often!

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