Government has one job

April, 2015

I think that I am a pretty average Albertan with typical Albertan values: I care about my kids and my neighbours, and when somebody is sick or needs help, I do what I can. I taught my kids what I could. I look after my property and my home. I don’t litter and I don’t throw hazardous chemicals into the ditch. I keep the peace. When I want to do something that might affect my neighbours, we talk about it. I work when I should and I play when I can.

To me, a good government takes these very simple, reasonable personal values and makes them public. The only reason we need government at all is because none of us can be a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a social worker, a police officer and a soldier at the same time. We cannot each maintain our own piece of highway, inspect our slice of the arenas and curling rinks to make sure they don’t fall down on us in the middle of a game. We cannot give our kids a decent education while working full time at another job. We cannot perform our own surgeries and medical tests.

We have government in order arrange these services on our behalf, and these services are not free. It’s up to us to decide the level we want: is it okay to live in agony for 18 months waiting for a critical surgery? It is okay that poor kids starve? Is it okay that our own kids graduate high school without basic knowledge about our culture and the skills to get a job? Is it okay for our kids or grandkids to play hockey in a building that hasn’t been inspected for years? It’s up to each of us to decide what quality of life we want.

We have to decide, and then we have to pay the bills. Most of us do that; I pay my share and I bet you do, too. I know that small- and medium-sized businesses are paying their share. We know who isn’t: the rich and the corporations. Why is that? Because we believed what our provincial and federal governments told us: that our economy will fall apart if we make corporations pay a decent tax rate.

Well, guess what? The economy is falling apart anyway. So here is what I want to know: if countries like Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden manage to maintain a prosperous economy, deliver great public services and charge much higher taxes and royalties, why can’t we? (And who benefits when we don’t?)

Nora Abercrombie
CEO, Green Party of Canada for Battle River – Crowfoot
(Submitted to local newspapers April 7, 2015)

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