Stuff Happens, week 42: Red is the new orange; attack of the killer bacon

The orange wave that swept across Alberta earlier this year has turned to a decidedly darker hue.

The NDP government released its first budget this week, and boy, are their faces red! The government will run up a deficit of $6 billion this year, which is not entirely unexpected. The government is going ahead with building schools and hospitals and such, using borrowed money. And to me, this makes sense. Alberta has the best possible credit rating, so money is cheap. Building will spur the economy and provide job, and building in a down economy saves money, as desperate builders compete hard for government money. So, I’m fine with this. We can’t allow Alberta’s infrastructure to rot, Klein style, just to keep the books balanced. But wait, there’s more! For the first time in more than 20 years, Alberta will borrow nearly $4 billion between 2016 and 2018 to pay for operational expenses such as government programs and services. In other words, we’re not taking in enough money to pay for the teachers and nurses for the fancy new schools and hospitals. Now, this is a problem. If you have to put your groceries on your credit card, and you only pay the minimum monthly payment, you’ve got serious economic troubles. And that’s basically what the Dippers are are doing. Instead of doing the hard work of cutting costs, the government is hoping that oil will rebound and we can go back to spending beyond our means. I can’t expect an new government go overcome years of PC mismanagement in one budget, but c’mon guys, give it a try.

So this week, we learned that bacon causes cancer. Worse yet, it’s rectal cancer. Rectum? It nearly killed ’em. Sorry.

Anyway, the World Health Organization, the world’s leading killjoys, announced this week that after reviewing some 800 studies from around the world that there is enough evidence to indicate that processed meats — bacon and its delicious friends — are carcinogenic. That means that they cause cancer, most particularly colorectal cancer. Yeah, I know. That’s shitty news. But does this mean you should stop eating bacon and other processed meats? Well, in general terms, you probably should; nothing that tastes as good as bacon can be good for you. But it’s nothing to worry about, really. The risk, as always, is extremely minimal. A person who consumes 50 grams of processed meat a day (which is about one hot dog, or two slices of bacon or a few slices of smoked turkey) has an 18 per cent increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Hey, I’ll take those odds. If I’m going to give up bacon to prevent cancer, the odds of getting bacon-related cancer should be around 90 per cent. Besides, everything, it seems, causes cancer. It’s just a matter of time before someone discovers that saliva causes cancer, but only if swallowed in small amounts over a long period of time.

A business scandal here in Alberta got little publicity, considering how egregious it was.

Utilities giant Trans-Alta payed a $56 million settlement — the largest of its kind in Canadian history — for deliberately timing outages at power plants to drive up electricity prices. In other words, it ripped off its customers. So who gets the benefit of the record penalty? The government! Yes, the $56 million goes entirely to the government of Alberta. Here’s a thought: maybe TransAlta should have been forced to cut cheques to thousands of customers, with a letter of explanation and an apology for ripping them off. As it stands, TransAlta’s shame is limited to those who read the inside pages of the business section. A public shaming, and a refund, would have made a lot more sense.

RIP: Al Molinaro, 96, goofy, big nosed actor best known for his roles as Murray the cop on The Odd Couple, and restaurant owner Al on Happy Days … Tillman, the skateboarding bulldog, age 10.

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