Saskatchewan, Heal Thyself
Wary of the so-called “Brain Drain” (http://ca.fullcoverage.yahoo.com/fc/Canada/Brain_Drain/)of medical professionals, Saskatchewan has embarked on a plan to ensure that they manage to keep their health care workers.
The next instalment of this plan was recently announced (http://www.gov.sk.ca/newsrel/releases/2003/09/26-715.html) by the Saskatchewan government, and the program seems to be ramping up. The program is one where the Saskatchewan government presents bursaries to medical students, on the condition that once they graduate, they stay and work in Canada for a minimum number of years. These programs seem like a great idea to me. After all, without this program, the government is still supporting those students who take Canadian medical programs and then move down to the United States to practice, it’s just that we are not receiving the benefit of that money.
I don’t advocate throwing good money after bad, but in this case, it seems that the additional money provided turns it all to good. This most recent announcement indicates over 230 students have accepted the bursary, and a possibility of as many as 250 students taking advantage of it over the year. Having a bursary like this available not only help Saskatchewan keep the doctors it trains, but it actually encourages more students to train as doctors.
With an aging population, a shortage of doctors in the near future is a distinct possibility, both from an increased demand as well as the retirement of many older doctors. By planning ahead like this, Saskatchewan not only protects themselves, they help all of us as well by bringing more health care workers into the market place.
Perhaps the best thing about this program is that it is evidence of a government actually thinking past the next budget and the next election. Something that seems to take place far too little in the halls of our politicians.
Alberta, Heal Thy Aboriginals
Not to be completely shown up by their NDP neighbours to the East, the Government of Alberta also has a bursary program in place for Health Care workers. Except Alberta’s program is missing two key components that the Saskatchewan solution has. To begin with, the Alberta program is only available for aboriginals (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200309/15170.html). The second difference is that the Alberta program has no post-graduation requirement.
These two changes, while seemingly minor, change the entire character of the bursary. By limiting the bursary to aboriginals, the Alberta government has very effectively limited the potential of the program to really be of benefit to all Albertans. The tighter focus shows that this program is not to help the state of education in the province as a whole, but simply to help one disadvantaged group. While there’s nothing wrong with this in itself, it could have been so much more.
The second change, that of no requirement post-graduation, means that this bursary program is a much more traditional mode of funding. If those who take advantage of it subsequently move to the states following their graduation, it has become a case of good money following bad. While I’m a strong supporter of public assistance to people who need it, I’m also a strong supporter of that assistance being used or given in a way that benefits not only the people who receive it, but the rest of the province as well.
Education is one of those areas where it is so easy to see that public funding is not only benefiting the individual but benefiting the province too. The only time there is a loss is when the education is not used to the benefit of the people in the province that subsidize the education, so why does our government leave the door open for this kind of action when Saskatchewan has already shown a way to deal with it?
The Results of Deregulation
Once again the Alberta Government is offering (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200309/15180.html) rebates to its citizens if the price of gas rises too high for the average consumer. Notable in their press release is the lack of any mention of why gas prices are continuing to spiral through the roof. It wasn’t too terribly long ago that Premier Klein was busily telling Albertans about the wonderful benefits deregulation would bring to us all. We were promised lower gas prices, more efficient service, and more choice to give the citizens the ability to deal with the gas companies on a more equal basis.
Instead, we’ve seen gas prices shoot through the roof, with no signs of reversing the trend. We’ve seen two years in a row where the government has had to set aside extra money to pay the gas companies because of the fear of a general public revolt if we had to line the pocketbooks of the gas companies directly. More choice? Every plan I’ve seen has been one to lock in your gas price for the next five to ten years, often at a rate that’s ridiculously high to begin with, in hopes that it will protect you if the price of gas continues to rise.
I pay more for gas now in the summer than I did in the winter three years ago. Thank you de-regulation and thank you Premier Klein. About the only benefit I see to the entire thing is that it really does encourage trying to save on gas. Of course, there’s only so much you can actually save, as how often your furnace goes on depends more on the weather outside than anything most people can do inside.
Of course, most of the Alberta taxpayers, being the cattle they are, simply moo contentedly at receiving the rebates instead of thinking back to before deregulation when there was no need for rebates. Few of them seem to realize that this money they’re getting back is only money they paid in the first place – money that instead of funding actual energy efficiency improvements for the average citizen, is instead going to pay the directors and shareholders of the gas companies, folks who have a decided stake in seeing that we do not become more efficient.
De-regulation can be a wonderful thing, as a free-market is great at handling short term desires. For necessities like heat, medical care, or education however, we have to remember that the market isn’t really free. If you need to heat your home, you need to heat your home. You can’t simply say “Oh I’ll wait until the price drops.”
A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.