Redford Tells Albertans Corporatism is More Important Than Education

04/06/2013 03:34 EDT | Updated 05/26/2013 05:12 EDT

The Redford government gave Shell, $745 million back in 2012 to build the Quest CCS plant outside Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. At a time when our budget is operating under a deficit, the Premier is spending our taxpayer money to prop up billion-dollar corporations.

That is what we call old fashion crony capitalism.

Alberta is an oil haven, and producing oil is important for our economy. I get that, but when we have a provincial government that hands out cheques to big oil, while giving them sweetheart deals, and then tells us that education cuts were needed, your government can't be taken seriously.

As reported by CBC Calgary in 2010, successive provincial governments have been giving oil companies too much of a break when it comes to paying royalties for drilling Alberta land. The report by the Parkland Institute calculated, from 1998-2009, the Alberta government has lost $69 billion in lost revenue by not reaching loyalty targets.

Not only have Alberta governments not gotten enough from oil companies, they are handing them our money.

In 2011, the Redford government gave $495 million to the Alberta Trunk Line, and when you combined that money with the $745 million, you have more than $1 billion going to oil companies, when that money could be used for more important things. But for Redford, corporate welfare is more important than providing students with an education they need.

Education in Canada is in a crises, and by cutting funding to post-secondary institutions, the Redford government is making the situation worse.

In a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, since 1990 tuition rates have risen 6.2 per cent annually, which is three times the rate of inflation. Not including the cost of books, or lodging, the average cost of tuition per year in over $6,000. If the current trend continues, by 2017, our student will be paying an average of $7,000 per year to attend school, in hopes of securing a good job as an adult. However; those jobs simply aren't there.

In a chart posted by The Economist, back in 2010, Canada is second in the world behind only Spain in the number of 25- to 29-year-olds who work low-skill jobs. It doesn't take an economics degree to realize that having 25-year-olds working at Starbucks is not good for the economy. According to a StatsCan report posted in the Financial Post, 13 per cent of youth in Canada are unemployed. The 25-year-olds with college degrees, and years of work experience are taking the jobs from young Canadians who need the jobs to gain valuable work experience.

With college grads taking up low-skilled jobs, they are starting families later, are unable to buy cars, and homes, like typical young adults did only a few short years ago. By cutting post-secondary funding, the Redford government is ignoring this crisis, by placing even more of a burden on young Albertans.

In Alberta, 53,000 students pay for school through loans, they graduate on average with a debt of $23,000. With funding being cut, that average debt will grow, and many Canadians will be in the same situation Melanie Cullens is in. Her story is not a happy one, she, and her husband are barely getting by.

Telling her story to Maclean's, Cullens graduated at the worst time, with a degree that at one point seemed to be the ticket to a great middle class lifestyle. In 2008, with an applied linguistics degree, she found the employment opportunities dwindling. People said her hometown of Victoria would see an influx of immigrants who will need to learn English. To save money, programs closed down, and Cullens, now living in Vancouver has two kids, a husband and a career in finding any job she can to pay her family's bills.

The problem isn't just about the loss of funding, and high tuition rates. Our young people are graduating from university and colleges with degrees they can't use.

Citing a report by the Conference Board of Canada, the Walrus wrote back in October 2012, "...a shortage of a million workers is expected in this country by 2020." The reason is simple, "those with non-specialized degrees, bachelor's in the arts and sciences face prolonged underemployment."

Alberta's government has a gold mine they are getting pennies out of. By not getting enough royalties out of oil companies, and by subsidizing these companies, Alison Redford is telling Albertans that propping up rich oil companies is more important than education.

Not embracing the need to fund proper education, and providing our young with the opportunity to lead successful lives will lead us to a future of even more debt, more unemployment, and more poverty. Without educations that get young people quickly out of debt, and into valuable industries we will be faced with a vast infusion of high skilled workers, working low skilled jobs that will do nothing for the economy.

By funding oil projects, while cutting education, Alison Redford is telling us what she finds is more important, and that is, good old fashion corporatism.

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