Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, October 27, 2005

If you don't mind, I'm going to take a minute to rant about the Government of Alberta.

First up: the lobbyist registry. This has been a minor issue for a few years now. People are pushing to create a lobbyist registry for the provincial government. It seems like a good idea. I mean, the federal government has one. Other provinces have them. And, wouldn't you like to know who gets paid the big bucks to try to influence our leaders?

An all-party committee was commissioned to analyze the situation. They delivered their report. And you know what? They said it was a good idea. It's very rare when here in Alberta the Tories, the Liberals, and the NDP all agree on something.

Except, of course, Ralph Klein.

Klein's been dead-set against a lobbyist registry ever since the issue first came up. Originally, he'd try to shrug off the issue...say that it would be difficult to set-up because "it's difficult to define a lobbyist." And now, today, when the committee came back with their report and said it was needed, do you know what Klein said? His exact quote:

"We don't need a lobbyist registry. I know all the lobbyists. You know all the lobbyists. The opposition knows all the lobbyists. Everyone knows all the lobbyists!"

Umm...no we don't.

If I were paranoid, I'd say Klein's trying to hide something.

Power deregulation. What's up with that?

I've never understood it completely. This is my closest to grasping it.

See, back in the good ol' days, TransAlta Utilites ran everything. If they wanted to increase the cost of electricity, they'd ask the government. Nice and simple.

But then...deregulation. "Look," said the government. "Stop asking us if it's OK to increase power costs or not! Here's what we're gonna do. We're going to open the doors! We'll allow more power companies than TransAlta to operate! Then, the free market can determine the prices! Viva la capitalism!"

So, they did that with electricity and natural gas. Some of the bigger players in the game right now are Epcor (formerly Edmonton Power) and EnMax (formerly Calgary Power). And suddenly, power prices shot up like a rocket. Electricity became outrageously high. The power companies had you signing into contracts, similar to a long-distance plan with your phones, in order to guarantee a fixed rate. But, because prices were so high, and the fixed rates on the contracts were even higher, no one wanted to sign onto a contract.

"Oh, don't worry!" said the government. "Once we all get used to this and the market stabalizes, the prices will come plummeting down! Just you watch!" Guess what? The prices never came down.

So, the government decided to re-regulate. When you sign up for your power, you have a choice: you can either go on the government-decided floating rate, or you can sign onto a power company contract.

As I write this, only 7% of Albertans have signed onto a contract. Ralph Klein, the mastermind of this project, doesn't even have a contract. And, Klein tells us that the re-regulation is going to end in 2011, so if the market hasn't stabalized by then, we're screwed.

I don't know. This was triggered by EnMax and their new ad campaign. They finally got the bright idea to offer a bundled electricity/natural gas contract. They promise it'll save you $100/year. "Not even Klein can turn down this contract," they said!

They say the $100/year savings comes from administrative costs...they'll be sending you just one bill instead of two, you see.

Turning on the lights became a whole lot more complicated because of deregulation.

You probably never expected me to say this, but our education system is fucked.

This was brought on by reading a letter to the editor in the Edmonton Journal last week. A mother had just come from NAIT's open house and was lamenting that her "average" daughter couldn't meet NAIT's minimum 60% average for admissions. This mother was also distraught over NAIT's requirement of the Career Investigation Report for part of your application. "What happened to the good old days, when the demands of the course weeded out those who weren't acceptable?" decried the mother.

OK, I'll admit, because I was an honour student, i have no concept as to what the average average is. So, I asked my mother, former school board trustee who lived with these stats for 15 years, and she assured me that 60% is around the average average. So, if 60% is too high for the "average" person...then what kind of standard is this mother using?

Secondly, the Career Invesitgation Report. I had to write one to get into NAIT. The instructors explained to me why. See, those "good old days, when the demands of the course weeded out those who weren't acceptable," were incredibly stressful. Drop-out rates became phenominally high. It was frightening. Radio actually had the dubious distinction of having the highest drop-out rate in NAIT. So, the Career Investigation Report was brought in to seperate those who were serious about it from those who were just goofing around.

A Career Investigation Report is the easist thing in the world to write, too. Just grab the phone book. Just pick anyone who's doing the job you want to do. Call them up, ask them a few questions about the job. Then, stretch it into a one-page essay. IT'S JUST THAT EASY! If you're too lazy to do even that, then you don't go to NAIT. And those who aren't serious about it are weeded out.

I will admit, though, that this shows how our education system is fucked. The mother lamented in her letter that they were only bothering with NAIT because her kid's grades weren't good enough for the U of A. And this is where the problem is.

The entire school curriculum has become geared for university entrance. As soon as you start grade 7, to when you graduate from grade 12, you are being groomed to go to universtiy. No where along the line anymore are the teenagers told, "You know, you might do good in a trade! Why don't you start looking at the trade schools?" It's become all "university or nothing."

And that's got to change.

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