Normally, Halloween scares are supposed to be fun, but this last week my friends back home woke up to a very real horror story as the Alberta government released a Carthaginian budget that raises taxes across the board while either freezing or slashing applied income for the severely handicapped, education, health care, drug coverage for seniors and other essential services.
On top of this, both Edmonton and Calgary were treated to surprise funding cutbacks in excess of $100 million once all the numbers were added up as Premier Jason Kenney ripped up City Charters signed by the previous leader, Rachel Notley.
Maybe more of a trick than a treat.
This comes on the heels of a ‘Wexit’ surge, where many Albertans are effectively telling the rest of Canada they don’t want to be Canadian anymore because Justin Trudeau is still Prime Minister.
Time will tell if thumbing their noses at their target markets and gutting the two main drivers of the economy will give Albertans the resource boom they so earnestly crave, but in the interim their decisions play right into the priorities listed by our own legislative assembly this last week.
Prominent on the list of 22 goals is a desire to increase healthcare professionals in the territory by at least 20 per cent. There are going to be plenty of nurses, aides, orderlies and other essential staff down south looking for ways to make ends meet very soon.
Similarly, Premier Caroline Cochrane’s call for increased student education outcomes is going to need teachers and their support staff, a crop Alberta appears ready to export in abundance.
Our desire to establish a University of the North will need researchers and administrators. Alberta just so happens to have slashed the budgets of their major universities and removed the cap on tuition. Again, that’s going to lead to a lot of highly-skilled professionals looking for jobs elsewhere and students will follow.
As the province is cutting funding to municipalities, there will be plenty of public works experts left in the cold. With our new government pledging to step up funding for municipalities and return some decision-making powers back to them, opportunities will abound.
A smart government knows its most valuable resource is people. Whether we’re talking Inuvik, Yellowknife or Sachs Harbour, the story is the same. Hospitals, schools and pretty much everything else are looking for good help.
A few carefully targeted programs could bring that talent here. Some incentives, like covering moving expenses, helping people get settled or possibly a tax break could offset the higher cost of living to make the transition more feasible. Throw in incentive pay and northern tax allowances and you’re looking at a package more generous than most oil patch jobs at the best of times.
It’s no secret government employees — particularly teachers — are treated as villains in Alberta. Even outside the public service, scientists, economists, software developers and green energy entrepreneurs have all been made to feel very unwanted in Alberta.
They would all be more than welcome in the Canadian North.