Friday, March 27, 2015

Our Premier Missed His Chance!

Shortly after the Provincial Budget was tabled in the Legislature yesterday, my son Rhys phoned me and said he thought that Jim Prentice had blown his big chance to put Alberta on a safer financial path.  After going over the details of the budget, I agree with him!

The Alberta Progressive Conservatives had a chance to really set things right in this province, but they wussed out!  They zapped the smokers and the drinkers, which is a usual target when the governments need more cash; the so-called "sin tax."  But then they hit drivers, too!  I think the fuel tax increase will do more harm than good.  Ours is a huge province, with very little public transportation except in the larger cities. 

In my opinion, the fuel tax is just another punishment to Albertans for trying to move around their province for business or pleasure!

The health care surcharge won't even be applied to health care!  What kind of sense is that?  The well-to-do in this province were given a very small increase in their taxes and, from what I can read, the huge rich corporations got off basically scot free!

The ailing Heritage Trust Fund was propped up - instead of being drawn down to almost zero for this definitely "rainy day!"  Alberta's future education and health programs were ignored.  I guess the government expects all those folks moving into booming communities, like Airdrie, to drag their own hospitals, schools, seniors' care centres, and infrastructure in with them.  That, I gotta see!

Diversification was mentioned a few times. We'll have to see what comes of that.

The provincial opposition parties are in total chaos, so the Alberta PCs can't be worried about them, especially with their huge majority.   According to law, the Premier cannot call an election for another year yet. 

So why did he wuss out?  I don't know.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Gracie Landage Passes

I was saddened to read that Gracie Landage passed away March 15.  Gracie and her late husband Jack Landage were the first to build a hangar out at the Beiseker Airport

When the Village all but abandoned the airport, Jack and Gracie kept it going as best they could!  Jack would do some of the field maintenance while Gracie kept the old terminal building clean.  In fact, we named one of the roads at the airport "Landage Way" as a tribute to their work keeping that airport going through those dark days.

You would often find them out at the Beiseker Airport; Jack tinkering with one of his antique airplanes while Gracie would be doing her needlework in the cab of the truck!  Those two complemented each other.  They raced motorcycles and race-cars together.  She and Jack would strike out cross-country to antique plane gatherings across North America.  Jack held a valid pilots' license and flew well into his eighties, and Gracie was always his co-pilot.

Gracie passed away quietly.  She was 94 years old.  My condolences to all her friends and family.

To see two of Gracie's and Jack's favorite planes, first go the Aero Space Museum of Calgary to see his WACO Cabin Biplane, seen in the photo above.  The other aircraft (a blue and yellow open cockpit WACO biplane) is now flying in Hawaii - you can see a video of it flying on YouTube, here.  If you look at the video carefully, you can see Jack's and Gracie's names still painted on the side of the cockpit.  The new owner has left the plane pretty much exactly as the Landages had it; a tribute to their restoration skills!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Daylight Savings Woes

Every spring it takes me a little longer to adjust to the loss of an hour when we change over to Daylight Savings Time.  Tack it up to my advanced years.  I hate it!  I am very grumpy while I slowly adjust!   

Not only that, everyone I talk to hates it, too!  I have yet to meet a single person who LIKES Daylight Savings Time!

Many of us are now going to work in the dark, again.  The kids are harder to get to bed. And us older folks find it hard to adjust to it!

If Daylight Savings Time is so universally hated, the why don't they get rid of it?  Wait a minute, we are "they!"  Those who decide this is such a good idea are supposed to be representing us!  Their ultimate bosses are elected by us!  So why don't we get rid of it?

Maybe we and they don't know how to put the bag on Daylight Savings Time!  Then let's ask Saskatchewan for help.  They don't have it, there.  Most of the folks in Saskatchewan seem fairly normal.  They don't appear to be badly maladjusted because they don't turn their clocks ahead every spring  (those who wear watermelons on their heads at certain football games, notwithstanding). 

Let's dump Daylight Savings Time.  My wife would be happier, too!  She wouldn't have to put up with a grumpy old fart every March!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

No Need of an Airdrie Hospital?

I have learned from a reliable source that Alberta Health Services and the provincial government have not yet even identified any need for a new hospital in Airdrie!

They have identified the need to expand the Airdrie Regional Community Health Centre!  Expansion of the Health Centre is a great start, but what about the desperately needed hospital?

In light of the current economic conditions and the state of the province's coffers, I didn't expect to see them digging a hole and putting in the foundation for the new hospital.  But I did expect there to be something in the preliminary planning stages.  I might have even thought that the province and the city would have scouted out a good spot for a hospital, and maybe even started the process to acquire the land.

Hospitals are expensive to build and operate.  I don't expect to see one built in Airdrie in the near future.  Now it appears the new Airdrie hospital has moved into never-never land!

Here we have a fast growing city with around 50,000 inhabitants, without a hospital - or even future plans for a hospital!  Somebody has dropped the ball, here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Looking in a Mirror

I don't understand what all the fuss is about over Premier Jim Prentice's comment the other day about Albertans looking in a mirror to see who's responsible for the state of the province's finances.

He's right!  Almost all Albertans have benefited from programs, facilities, and services paid for, in a good part, by non-renewable resource revenues.

No provincial sales taxes, no medical surcharges, no toll roads, low provincial income tax; mostly just oil revenues.  The provincial government has had no meaningful direction from voters to diversify that revenue base.

Diversification of industry would make our province less dependent on those oil revenues.  Then, when oil prices tank, the provincial finances wouldn't be in such deep trouble. When was the last time you heard a candidate from any provincial party mention diversification during a campaign, other than just paying it lip-service?

And our provincial government has been spending and spending.  What about saving and saving?  What happened to building up the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, for those "rainy days"?   Peter Lougheed, our fist Conservative Premier, set that up.  If regular deposits had been made to the Heritage Trust Fund over the past 40 years, it would be worth billions now!

And who among us gave back those $400 'Ralph Bucks' checks?  I look in the mirror and I see someone who spent his Ralph Bucks.  Do you?

Now when you and I, and our Premier, are peering into that mirror we're also seeing those responsible for surviving this downturn and fixing it so it won't happen again

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Are We Doing Something Wrong?

I was shocked to learn that about 200 young Canadians have run off to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (often called 'ISIS' or 'ISIL'), the radical terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.  It also bothered me that about the same number of young Americans ran off to join, even though the population of the United States is ten times that of Canada!  

Is Canada becoming a terrorist recruitment center?  If so, we're doing something wrong here.

Is it our "Cultural Mosaic" idea that is fostering this?   Canada prides itself on being a mosaic of cultures instead of the American "Melting Pot."  We encourage folks to enrich our Canadian culture with their own, brought from the four corners of the Earth.  We're also encouraging our native groups to resurrect and build back their cultures, so many of which have been almost lost.

I personally think this approach makes Canada stronger and more tolerant, in a world here practically everywhere and every culture is accessible in hours rather than months!

But we are, first and foremost, Canadians!  But do these young people heading over to Syria understand that?  Maybe they're heading over there looking for risk and adventure, much like the Canadians who ran off to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. 

I don't know.  But I do think we have to examine what we are doing (or not doing) that encourages these young people to join a terrorist group overseas.