Hey, sorry it’s been so long since I ranted in this space. I’ve been working on a big project – still am – that’s consuming a lot of time and attention. You know how it is. When you’ve got to get that report finished for the boss or buy the groceries or get the kids to soccer, it takes something pretty outrageous to divert your focus to s**t the politicians and the bureaucrats say or do.
Here’s what did it for me today. Alberta Health Services has decided to deny veterans free parking when they go to the hospital in Calgary. I quote from the Calgary Herald:
“The decision…is not a matter of cost savings – it comes down to making sure parking is consistent and fair across the province,” said Penny Rae, senior vice-president for capital management with AHS. ‘The challenge is it’s not really fair to other constituencies not to give it to them. And we’re really not in a position to give away parking for free,’ Rae said.”
Here’s the thing: AHS wasn’t giving away parking for free. The Calgary Poppy Fund paid AHS $46,000 to purchase about 385 passes. Not huge money, I know. Certainly not enough to cover an AHS middle manager’s salary, to say nothing of a senior vice-president’s bonus. But not free, either, so let’s not pretend that it was.
In my opinion, Alberta Health Services and its predecessor, the Calgary Health Region, has been charging the sick and their loved ones outrageous parking fees for years.
Why do I pick on AHS, you ask, and give the City of Calgary a free pass on its outrageous prices to park? After all, did I not just drop $19.50 last Friday on just shy of three hours’ parking at the Convention Centre Parkade while I was at the Celebration of Life for Ralph Klein? (Yes, I went. And I’ll come back to that in a moment.)
Yes I did. But I chose to park downtown because it was more convenient than trying to get there by transit, and I paid for the convenience without flinching (much)(I can only hope that a little bit of what I paid goes towards buying some more C-Train cars).
But one doesn’t choose to become sufficiently sick or injured to need to go to the hospital. And one doesn’t choose to visit an ailing loved one in the hospital because it’s a fun getaway and one has nothing better to do. People park at the hospital because they have to be there, and Alberta Health Services treats them with all the sensitivity of bandits robbing a stagecoach.
When I was an MLA, and before the PCs decided to get their revenge on Jack Davis and the CHR for having the affrontery to ask for more money for health care during an election campaign, Davis and I would argue periodically about the cost of parking at Calgary hospitals. The answer was always that they had to charge a lot for parking because the Calgary Health Region was underfunded (it was, relative to Edmonton) and because there were few other options for raising revenue that wouldn’t have the CHR running afoul of the Canada Health Act for extra billing.
Well, as they say, that was then – and this is now.
Compared to 2005 or 2007 or 2008, Alberta Health Services is awash in money. The tragedy this year is that its budget increase this year (3%) is lower than in previous years and “requires both transformational change and disciplined budget management to position AHS for long-term sustainability.”
And with that mandate, they take it out on the veterans.
It’s not fair to allow a veteran to park at a hospital in Calgary for free when I have to pay full price.
Just like it’s not fair to the veteran that he put his life on the line and I’ve never been shot at.
Except, of course, he put his life on the line in the fervent hope that his children and his buddies’ children would never have to be shot at.
This is a cold, petty, mean-spirited and stupid decision. When government or one of its agencies does something like this (as they all do from time to time), bureaucracy overcomes common sense and human kindness.
But I guess what really rankles is that neither Health Minister Fred Horne nor anybody else in the Redford Government has intervened on behalf of the veterans and told AHS to make this right.
I disagreed with what Ralph Klein was doing – and the way he did it – far more often than I agreed with him. But if he were Premier today, I can’t imagine him not stepping in and telling AHS to fix it.
I went to Ralph Klein’s memorial service.
I doubt that I’ll go to Fred Horne’s.