May 2023

As I write there are a number of phenomena occurring in Alberta. The most pressing issue many of us in the province are facing is the danger of losing a home and livelihood because of forest fires. I pray that God would prevent life’s being lost, and homes being destroyed.

The second issue all of us are talking about is the looming election for a new Alberta government, to take place on May 29th.

“Memories
Light the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were

Memories
May be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply to choose to forget”

The above are the first and third verses of a song from 1973, written for a movie entitled: “The way we were”. They bring focus to memories of the past that can be interpreted differently for different times and by different people. Conservatives (big C) in the province hanker back to the Ralph Klein days, because they see the beauty of balanced budgets, and not what is painful to remember. For those willing to remember, I’d like to take you back to some of the painful memories that are associated with big C thinking as it is defined by PC/ UCP.

By 2003 the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary had been forced to split its services across two sites in the city (Holy Cross and Foothills Hospital), simply to meet the demand of cancer care in Southern Alberta. Between 2006 and 2012 more than 8 different proposals for building a cancer centre that would bring services into one location had gone to the Progressive Conservative government. Overseeing the health portfolio during that time included: Dave Hancock, Gene Zwozdesky, Fred Horne, Ron Liepert and Steven Mandel. Our sister city in the north was able to see their cancer patients through one facility, and plans were afoot to put services in the small cities in the province. Calgary’s patients were simply allowed to suffer.

As those of us in Calgary await the opening of a large new facility for cancer patients in 2024, it is important we review how this facility came to be, relative to politics. In late 2014 the then PC government reneged on their commitment to build a single facility at the Foothills Hospital and attempted to plan for split services between the South Campus and the current TBCC at the Foothills. In May 2015 the NDP was voted into power and immediately committed to consolidate all services into one location at the Foothills. They also committed to starting to plan for a new centre in the southern part of the city by 2030. That is why there is a building being completed!

Some will say that the UCP government is not the same as those PC governments who were so dismissive of Calgary’s cancer patients. Others will say that the Wildrose faction has made them even more conservative! My decision to vote for NDP this time around is linked to several clear facts: Danielle Smith has flip flopped on support for cancer services in the province during the past 4 years; she shows ambivalence towards public healthcare; her personal choices put her clearly on the very far right (support for US style politics/ support for Coutts blockade, etc).

This month’s newsletter ends with a reference to how we want the future to look. Humans’ ability to predict the future is all thanks to our ability to remember the past. (Julie Beck). Simply put, if we want the future to be better for those living in Alberta we have to learn from the past!

Peter Craighead

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