Compare and Contrast

We’re heading in to a Very Exciting Year, you and I. There will be both a Federal and a Provincial hellection in 2011. I know, I know, you say you don’t care much about politics, and that’s fine, I understand. I used to say the same thing. I really thought for the longest time that I didn’t care about politics. I was wrong. I care about politics because I care. Full stop. I *care*. Caring’s a good thing. Caring is the glue that holds people (not ‘society’), but *people* together.

So I’ve been paying attention to what politicians are doing and what they’re saying. I mean, it’s not like most of the time I just disregard whatever comes out of our elected officials’ mouths as pure blather and lies, but…you know, that’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Ostensibly, we elect these jokers to speak for us, and ninety percent of them couldn’t find their arses with both hands tied behind their backs, a map, a shirpa, and an entire line of dancing girls singing a jaunty tune about where it is. What’s wrong with this system? I’m sure it’s something huge that I can’t fix just by wondering about it, but when you hear people talk about politics, and about the people *we have elected*, we always hear them talk about what horrible liars politicians are. And, for the most part, it’s difficult to disagree.

Oh! Hi Smarty Pants! I’m doing that thing again where I start talking about something and then go somewhere else. Sorry. Here’s the main bit back again.

I was listening to our very own Premier of our very own province this morning, and he was talking about spending millions of dollars on helicopters and airplanes to provide emergency services in the Saskatoon and in the Regina areas. I mean, bully for you, Saskatchewan Ministry of Health. So my first reaction was: “I wonder how much money we’d have to put toward the emergency services system to not have 911 be answered by a machine. Put more positively, how much money we’d have to put toward the emergency services system to have 911 calls answered by real, live, *qualified* people who are willing to take emergencies seriously and to not belittle or denigrate someone’s emergency by saying bee ess like “don’t be pushing it, girl”? How much money would that take?

Then, my second thought was, how much money will the Ministry of Health put toward improving the helicopter and airplane emergency services addressing the Prince Albert, La Ronge, and Meadow Lake areas, where these services are *just as* necessary, if not moreso.

Then my THIRD thought was, damnit I’ve got bread dough all over the floor.

Then my fourth thought was, I wonder how much money the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health is going to put aside to support midwifery services not just for pregnant and labouring women, but for young girls, women in all stages of their lives, pregnancy, prenatal care, perilabour care, and post natal care (including, but not limited to: how to deal with the terror, pain, and madness of parenthood; nursing; sex after babies…sex DURING babies, for that matter), and general healthy living.

Then I wondered for a while whether I’d remember to sweep up the bread dough and flour. Then I forgot about doing that and wondered instead whether the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health had bothered to think about how the hell they’re even going to incorporate fancy jets and helicopters into an “Emergency care system” that doesn’t even have enough triage capacity, never mind physician care or even goddamned BEDS to service the communities they’re *already* servicing. I wondered if the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health had thought to set aside money to re-open all of the small community hospitals for clinic care for rural residents.

Then the Premier did something that pissed me off.

He said something about how in Alberta, they use private air ambulance services and it works for them, blah blah blah blah blah. I tell you it’s a good thing I had a couple of nice, firm buns in my hands or else someone would have been hurt when I heard that. Why the hell do our politicians feel it necessary to CONSTANTLY COMPARE SASKATCHEWAN WITH ALBERTA!?

If we wanted to be just like Alberta, we’d move there. And sure enough, half of us have. A quarter of those folks have seen the error of their ways and they’ve returned to the province, where all the cool kids live. The rest of them, and Bne, will probably never come home. But for the love of little baby Jesus clinging for life to a redneck’s plaid shirt, STOP DOING THAT. Sure, we might be neighbours. But you know what? This whole keeping up with the Joneses business really needs to stop.

Saskatchewan is different from Alberta. Distinct. I certainly don’t think Saskatchewan, as a province, is inferior in any way to our neighbours, and I don’t think that we need to do things the way Alberta has just because, it seems, Alberta has done them that way. I don’t give a rat’s ass what the Alberta government has chosen to do with its taxpayers’ dollars. I really, really don’t. If I did, I would MOVE THERE. You may care to note, I’m not moving a gorram muscle in that direction.

So just. Stop. If you’re not bloody creative or innovative enough to come up with solutions for your problems without peering over the fence to see how your mullet-headed neighbour is fixing his fence, then at the very least, keep your bleeding mouth shut. Sometimes, silence is best. Taken another way, the less you open your mouth, the fewer people will be convinced of how much of a dunce you are.

Sure, someone’s going to ask, “so, what, you think the NDP are going to do any better? The NDP invoked the Holy Name of Alberta this time, and this time, and this time, and this time…The NDP had X years in which to change things and make them better and they didn’t”, etc., etc., etc.. That’s not the point and you know it. It’s not about the bloody scorecard. It’s about the *current premier* being a twat. It’s about the *current* premier doing something ridiculous and stupid. I KNOW the NDP has said the same thing. I KNOW he’s not the first premier to do it. I KNOW he won’t be the last. I KNOW other politicians do it. My point is that it’s a terrible thing to do. Every time I hear that kind of bee ess, I cringe.

Let’s look at it another way.

Your kid comes home from school and says, “I’m going to start dressing like a whore in my grade one class.”

You say, admirably, “I’m not sure that’s the right decision to make here.” (‘Admirably’ because what you WANT to say in this situation is No you’re effing not, princess.)

Your kid says, “Well Mrs. Jackson, our neighbour, dresses her kids like whores *all the time*, and they seem to be getting ALL of the attention.”

Or, another example, along the same lines:

“We’re going to buy a new car!”

“We don’t need a new car,” your partner informs you.

“But we WANT a new car!” you say.

“We can’t *afford* a new car,” your partner insists.

“Scott, who lives next door, just got a new car, and if we don’t get a new car too, people are going to think we can’t afford a new car.”

“Well, we *can’t* afford a new car,” your partner repeats.

“That’s not the point,” you insist, regardless of seeing how stupid your argument is at this point.

“Actually, that’s *precisely* the point,” your partner says. Your partner may, at this point, be considering throwing something at your obstinate self.

“No, dummy. The *point* is that if we want jobs as good as our neighbours have, and kids as well behaved, and a commensurate amount of fun and satisfaction in our lives, we’re going to have to buy a new car.”

This discussion never ends well.

You might even argue: “well, what if it’s more like my neighbour knows how to install fences so I ask her to give me advice on how to build a fence in my yard?” or “what if my neighbour’s dog is really well behaved and I, also, want a really well behaved dog”.

But that’s not what’s happening here. Every goddamned time some politician trots out the “in Alberta…” line, what that politician is saying, implicitly, explicitly, or otherwise, is “…and if we ever want to be as successful as Alberta, we’re going to have to…” and whether that’s do something in a similar manner, or whether that’s do something in a DISsimilar manner, we’re still saying that we’re not as good as our neighbour. Our politicians have been trotting out Alberta’s financial success for years. Their gas is cheaper, they have no provincial sales tax, they have more jobs, their jobs pay better, their wives are more fertile, and their poop does not stink. Oh, and let’s not forget about things like the fact that the sun rises and sets on their no-waiting time healthcare, their superior public education system where students learn the difference between a noun and a verb, their incredible support of arts and culture which ensures every single person in the province can read, and the free parking. Don’t forget the free parking. And the absence of rats.

I have nothing against Alberta. I would not want to live there, except possibly on a farm outside of Edmonton, but it’s a lovely province. It has precisely too many mountains, and not enough lakes, but it’s a very pretty place, horrible wicked tar sands and oil-hungry magnates and stupid Calgary and all. But I have nothing against it.

It’s like when I used to live in Saskatoon and had the insufferable opinion that Saskatoon was God’s gift to civilisation in the province. Saskatonians *constantly* compare their city to Regina and talk about how much better Saskatoon is. But it isn’t. They sound like douches when they do that. And we sound like douches when we constantly compare ourselves to Alberta.

It’s time to remove the douche nozzle and take the risk of not feeling fresh.

cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.


  1. Having lived in Alberta (and returned). I can say that there are some things worth looking at. Their health care model is NOT one of them. Any health care system that actually uses a pay per use system (and sends people to collections for not paying it) is doing it wrong. The way they handle midwifery care is also not the best, but unless you are in Holland, where you get midwifery by default and medical care ONLY IF NEEDED, you are getting a substandard version of it…regardless. I agree with Cenobyte on this, if you want to be Alberta… do us a favour and move there. If we are going to aspire to be anyone why would we not use a slightly broader scope than just our immediate neighbour? There are lots of different places in the world many of which have innovative methods of problem solving.

  2. One of the first things I noticed about Saskatchewan when I moved here lo those many years ago was the (to me) baffling inferiority complex this province has – in general terms, it must be said, but particularly towards Alberta. It reminds me in many ways of Canada’s attitude towards the U.S., kind of a dysfunctional “little brother” thing that mixes resentment, admiration, sycophancy, insecurity, and a self-image based almost entirely on the “bigger brother”, whether in comparison or contrast.

    Even now that the economy is doing well and people are moving back, it’s just as you say – the self-image has shifted too “Hey, we’re doing great! Almost as great as ALBERTA!”

    I still have enough British Columbian in me to look at the whole situation and just…shake my head.

    ‘Cause everyone knows B.C. is the very bestest province, anyway.

  3. Geeze Louise – I don’t think we’re comparing ourselves to Alberta…in the sense that you’re getting at.
    With helicopters, we’re comparing because *they already have the system in place and we need to see how it works and doesn’t work.* That’s not inferiority, it’s common sense.

    I think it’s silly to not try or do anything anybody else does, ever ever ever, because we’re “different”. Or “special”. Or “whatever-the-Hell”. You say it’s dumb to constantly look over the neighbours fence and covet things…I say it’s just as dumb to lock all your doors, pull your shades, and collect cat hair in ziplocs cuz “that’s what we do”.

    1. Why the hell wouldn’t our Premier then choose to say “we’re going to spend millions of dollars on this system because it’s worked well in other places”? Why do he and his cronies (including other parties in this province) always choose to use Alberta as the gorram measuring stick? Why not use Minnesota? Or Newfoundland?

  4. The crux of the “Alberta’s doing better than us” syndrome is the strange idea that high population = good. Having recently moved to a small town, partly to get away from the growing city of Saskatoon with its increasing traffic problems, crime and suburban sprawl, I disagree. I’d like it better if we measured our success by low infant mortality, low debt of citizens, low number of hoboes and junkies who die on the streets, low number of artists who have to work at New York Fries to survive, and low pollution.

    Personally, I also measure society’s health by low drive-times to work, low number of ducks smothered in bitumen, low number of drunk premiers who tell homeless people to get jobs, low number of people who work in Fort McMurray per capita. So yeah, Alberta’s not my favourite place.

  5. I don’t really care about being compared to Alberta, I just wish it was less frequent. Why can’t we be compared more to Manitoba or North Dakota? It feels lazy.

  6. I’d frankly like to go on the Bhutanese Gross Happiness scale for measuring whether our society is working. And if we’re going to play the “{Place X} is doing things this way, and it seems to be working out pretty well,” tune it would definitely be better to have X=(Sweden,Netherlands). Low taxes? Piffle. Taxes is how we pay for civilization.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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