Opinions

Efficiency threatens Canadian identity

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Certain ideas invoke fear deep in the souls of Canadians, especially those who gather their socialist identity around them like a security blanket pulled tightly over a child's head during a thunderstorm. One easy way to threaten a Canadian is to mention "privatization" in the same sentence as "health care." Putting critical social services on the market for capitalist consumption has not sat well in Canada for over 50 years. Recent events, however, are attempting to change the face of the Canadian identity and are being touted as the only way to make services efficient.

Efficiency occurs in several ways. One method involves turning some aspects of administrating, regulating and providing a service or product over to the private sector. As well, downsizing within the public sector qualifies as an efficiency maneuver because it reduces the overall number of people being paid government-sized wages.

For example, Alberta's Bill 11 will supposedly make health care more efficient through increased accessibility by allowing private companies to take government money to perform procedures also offered by the public system. It essentially doubles up the availability of services. Ontario's offer to give private universities degree-granting capabilities puts publicly-funded education in competition with the private sector. Presumably, the hope is public education will become more efficient as the number of private institutions offering similar "products" increases. The expectation of fewer students attending public universities means the government can justify budget cuts to education.

Canada's peculiar balance between capitalism and socialism is currently being tipped in favour of the individualistic American dream. Canada's unwritten motto of "the larger the middle class, the better" is being challenged by the dog-eat-dog mentality filtering down from the conservative rich. They feel justified in asking the rest of the country to buckle up in the name of efficiency. This minority expects everyone else to get by with nothing, but forgets that they only succeed within their own community through a support system of patronage. Funny, too, that they continue to benefit from the same government money they don't want us to have. For example, Bill 11 puts government health-care money in the pockets of private medical clinics.

Also, when government cuts back services affecting the welfare of citizens too far, efficiency often goes by the wayside. In public organizations, labour usually becomes the sacrificial lamb during budget cuts. However, in health care, when the number of nurses drops, the quality of care suffers. At that point, the system becomes inefficient because it cannot meet the needs of society. In terms of education, if the conservative rich get their way the gap between rich and poor will grow, increasing demands on a public system already riddled by cuts made in the name of efficiency.

Privatization and slashing funding to public services in the name of efficiency merely mean society cannot access needed services, either due to a lack of money or an inability by the government to offer said services. In short, neither method works.

Canadians need to openly question the efficiency rationale or their socialist security blanket will be callously ripped away. Once faced with the thunderstorm, they might wish they had investigated the meaning of efficiency a little more closely. In hindsight, they might wish they had opted for adjustments to the blanket rather than calmly accepting its obliteration.

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