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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Average Leaders Give Us Easy Answers - Great Leaders Invite Us to Consider Better Questions

Just looked at the GrassRootsAvenger blog comments on the Hancock policy platform. He/She bemoans the fact Hancock poses questions and presumably does not offer enough answers. Fair enough and to the Avengers credit, some comments are posted to some of the questions they have on the Hancock policy. I would like to respond from my perspective on the answers...and I will check with Dave Hancock to see if his positions are different and report back if necessary.

Expanding school breakfast and lunch programs wherever needed; Is this a role for the provincial government?

Yes! Children are the responsibility of parents first and then each and every Albertan, individually and collectively where needed. Where a child is not able to realize their potential or is in danger or is hungry - we as a society ought to be helping to fix the problem...short term and long term. Feeding children in need is a no-brainer! If kids are not ready to learn and grow into healthy, productive, confident and self-reliant citizens because they are hungry, or scared, in need or at risk for whatever reason...society needs to step up to the plate. That, in part, is why we have government!

Implementing strategy to create 60,000 new post-secondary learning spaces; And just how much is this going to cost?

Plenty and worth every dollar! Education is the key to a prosperous productive and cohesive society especially in the knowledge based, technologically driven globalized reality of today. To not maximize our greatest assets - our human capacity is not just short sighted...it is stupid! Besides this is already official GOA policy - but like so many such "decision" of recent - it is not being implemented. Investment - the long view and strategic planning is what this is all about. The Alberta Republicans seem to know the cost of everything and the value of not very much.

Discontinuing Alberta Health Care Premiums and offering tax incentives for healthy lifestyle choices; Like Dinning's proposed tax on junkfood?
Not really! Dinning's junkfood tax is not likely to change much of the behaviours of those who are being harmed by poor nutrition - the poor! His tax is actually going to penalize and hurt poorer people disproportionately because research shows they are more likely to buy cheap, convenient but unhealthy fast food. Hancock is suggesting an incentive system to reward positive changes in behaviours that will reduce demands on the health care system. Fresh carrots not stale sticks!

Instituting a province wide ban on smoking in all public places; What about personal freedom?
What about personal freedom -it is not absolute. It is proven that your second hand smoke puts my life in danger. Smoke on your own property and not where children are around either. Consider it your "personal property" right to kill yourself on your own property and on your own time. By the way I will be paying your health care costs - even heroic ineffective interventions to extend your life through technology with my tax dollars to keep you alive. I will also be paying for your cancer treatments all because you lack the personal responsibility to take care of yourself. Thx a bunch! What about my personal freedom to chose not to pay for your irresponsible behaviour? Why not take individual responsibility here. You smoke you pay your own health costs. That is some two tier medicine that I could "live" with but will gladly forfeit the tax savings for a universal system - even if smokers are abusing it.

Instituting a government-run liability program for the volunteer sector; Whoa! Doesn't this mean taking on some huge potential liability...Isn't this expanding the role of government further into the private realm?

Yes and yes! If we do not support volunteer organizations to ensure safety and security of the people they serve - often our most vulnerable citizens. We neet to protect the volunteers too from abuse, unfounded litigation or allegations. Otherwise they will disappear along with the entire not-for-profit sector. Then government will end up hiring staff to do the work - because the issues and problems will not go away. Government replacement programs will be much more expensive and less likely to get optimal results as well. The private sector insurers are boosting rates in the face of greater perceived risks because the volunteer sector cannot afford to screen volunteers now. We are seeing more claims so the solution is more and better screening, more training and a backstop on liability insurance. We do co-insurance for workers compensation - why not the not-for-profit and voluntary sector?

The responses from The Grassroots Avenger are classic old-style shallow short term and narrow fiscal conservative thinking about reducing taxes and government's role. To them it is all about the costs and rarely about the value of effective outcomes. PROGRESSIVE conservatives see both sides - value for tax money and a postive role for government to step in but only where individuals and markets can't do the job.