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Jun-05-2009 11:58printcomments

Privatization in Alberta

Privatization of public interests are not necessarily bad but they usually are. The key question for a citizen to ask in each instance is: WHO BENEFITS?.

Alberta, Calgary
Alberta, Calgary
Courtesy: albertacanada.com/

(CALGARY, Alberta) - Private good, public bad is the standard cry of economic and political conservatives. They have been saying it so long, that over the last half century or so, they’ve framed the argument that even liberals have had to respond to.

I don’t know anything about privatization issues in Oregon, but the actual experience here in Alberta may offer a lesson.

Up to 1993 the Alberta government controlled a lot of things for the benefit of Albertans. One was the Alberta Liquor Control Board (ALCB) which operated 202 liquor stores throughout the province.

In 1993-4 the newly elected Premier, Ralph Klein (but still from the same political party since 1971) sold the liquor stores to private interests. Some stores were deemed uneconomical and shut down.

With respect to the ALCB stores that were converted to private liquor stores, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) was denied successor rights to the private stores.

All non-management ALCB employees in 1993 belonged to the Union, but as of today, no privately-owned liquor store is known to have become unionized except for those owned and operated by Loblaws under the Great Canadian Liquor Store and those owned and operated by Safeway in conjunction with a Safeway Grocery Store.

The ALCB as a government monopoly was inefficiently run. Too few stores and deliberately restrictive hours. Those two issues could have been easily and directly remedied. But the sale of the ALCB stores ended up being an outright financial gift to the private sector.

Before the sale, AUPE members were fairly paid. After the sale wages (for those who kept their jobs) were cut by about half. Prices remained roughly the same. The result was that the difference in wage rates went directly into the pockets of the new owners. At the same time small businessmen opened up hundreds of new stores across the province.

Many failed and many others subsequently sold out to larger interests so that there are now larger and larger liquor store chains.

In the next five to ten years I expect virtually all liquor sales in the province to again be under a private monopoly which may have been the Klein government’s initial intent. Government monopoly bad, private monopoly good.

A second giveaway occurred with motor vehicles and vital statistics.

The DMV controlled licensing of all motor vehicles and issued license plates. Other departments managed birth and death certificates and other public documents. Those functions were all handed over to Alberta Registries, privately owned businesses around the province.

The outright gift occurred here as well. Under government control, registration of a private car could be $50.

At a registry office, it is still $50 plus an additional $5 fee. Plus no unionization and significantly lowered staff costs so that there are two sources of revenue to flow directly into private owner’s pockets.

Privatization of public interests are not necessarily bad but they usually are. The key question for a citizen to ask in each instance is: WHO BENEFITS?. Some forethought on the part of Albertans may have prevented these two (and other) giveaways.

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Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class—a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves—writing and trying to make the world a better place




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Henry Ruark June 6, 2009 4:53 pm (Pacific time)

dude et al:
  For convincing proof of my previous one, see TIME 6/13, on both Twitter-impact and vexing healthcare complexities facins us after study since Wilson Administration.

  IF you or any other socalled "conservative" have ANY solid
answers, esp. for less action by strong central government AND at lower costs, NOW is the  time (NO pun !) for you to speak out in full detail, and become worldfamous by that single "so-easy" action, if you can pull it off...

  Otherwise cut out the guff and learn to confront reality and really-demanded action to react to its full scope, now demanded of us all instead of jargon, myth, pretend, and possibly other perverted conclusions flying in the face of these realities today.


Henry Ruark June 6, 2009 3:27 pm (Pacific time)

dude: That's longterm claim, yet every so-called "conservative" administration is noted for far-out radical rising of the national debt and equally radical public expenditures. WHO is kidding WHOM here ? Reality is that 21st Century demands for definitely needed public expenditures are doomed to out-run those of the past, despite any determined effort by ANYone, with ANY political "principle" as motivation. More programs, demanding far more dollars, far more vexing problems in administering for equality-for-all, will arise just so long as we neglect the demanded remedies obvious to any cogitating citizen now studying what has happened since that mythical GOPster, fancied as "conservative", R. Reagan Himself, succumbed to neocon fantasies now at heart of worldwide economic crisis.


dude June 5, 2009 12:50 pm (Pacific time)

Conservatives want smaller government, not privatization. We want them to make cuts and don't replace it with anything, let us keep more of our money in the hands of the people.

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