Stuff happens, week 12: Prentice sets the stage; Smith shut down; no future in Future Shop

The story this week in Alberta is The Greatest Budget Ever Sold.

After weeks of Grim Jim Prentice telling us that the sky was falling, and it was falling on your head, his government delivered a budget that was full of cuts and tax increases. But it was full of little cuts and little tax increases, just enough to make people frown and go ‘harrumph’, but not enough to go ‘WTF??’ He raised funding for education by 2% – but won’t hire any new teachers (which will make all those new schools he promised kinda empty). He made cuts to health care, but with a scalpel, not a bone saw. He increased taxes — horrors! — but only to the better off. He hinted at the return of health premiums, but brought in something else that only deals a glancing blow to the wealthier. And for big corporations and big oil — nothing. Apparently, Alberta’s mega-corporations are so sensitive, that even a half-percent rise in what is already Canada’s lowest corporate tax rate was just too damaging to these delicate flowers. Overall, not the “transformative” budget he promised, and certainly not enough of a change to demand an election. But that won’t stop him. The election train has left the station; the only question left is the estimated time of arrival.

The election, whenever it is called, will have to be held without Danielle Smith. The former Wildrose Party leader, who came as close as anyone to toppling the Tory dynasty before betraying everything she stood for by joining the PCs, was rejected by the party she joined. On Saturday, she lost a bid to be the PC nominee for her new party, bringing an ignominious end to blazing political career. But don’t shed any tears for Danielle Smith: the end of her political career was entirely of her own making.  (Oh, and the Wildrose has a new leader. Brian Jean, a former federal PC, is the new, entirely unfamiliar face of the party.)

Meanwhile, in Ontario, the government released its ‘sunshine list’, made up of every government employee who makes more than $100,000 a year. Turns out, being a government employee in Ontario can be a pretty good gig — more than 111,400 of the province’s municipal and provincial employees topped six figures. In some of the larger police forces, more than half of the employees top $100,000. One constable made $245,000; ten constables topped $200,000. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s chief of staff makes more — way more — than President Obama’s. And a number of top execs at government agencies make staggering salaries, like the president of the U of T Asset Management Corp, who took home $937,000. Save this blog for the next time somebody complains about poor, underpaid civil servants.

Omar Khadr got his day in court this week, pleading for parole. Canadian-born Khadr, now 28, has been in prison since he was 15 for a ‘war crime’, which was basically being the winner in a battle to the death with an American soldier. The Harper government has been utterly irrational in its attempts to keep Khadr — who was a child soldier under the control of his radical parents — in jail for as long as possible. The simple fact is that if Khadr had committed murder in Canada as a 15 year old, he wouldn’t have served remotely as much time in prison as he has as a so-called ‘war criminal’. It’s all politics right now, the Harper government calling his crime ‘heinous’. What’s really heinous is the Harper government’s handling of this case.

The big get bigger: this week, Heinz and Kraft agreed to a merger that will create the North America’s third biggest food company, with sales of $22 billion. And here in Canada, the big retail news is the closure of fomerly-Canadian owned Future Shop. Some Future Shop stores will be converted into Best Buys, the American owners of Future Shop. But as for the others … they not only closed, they closed on Saturday.

A Germanwing jet with 150 people on board crashed into the Alps this week, killing everyone on board. This would have been a two- or three-day tragedy story, until it morphed into something much, much worse. The co-pilot, an apparently normal 28-year-old German, deliberately crashed the plane into the mountain after the pilot had been locked out of the cockpit. An airplane crash is now a mass murder/suicide.

RIP: Don ‘Smokey’ McLeod, former pro goaltender and briefly and Edmonton Oiler, at 68. Goalies are famously weird guys, but McLeod was in a league of his own. When McLeod was a member of the WHA’s Houston Aeros, he demanded a six-figure contract. When the Aeros offered him $99,999.99, he walked away and joined another team.

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