With the presentation of the throne speech to the legislature this week, Premier Alison Redford has passed the stage of outlining her legislative agenda. Following a little wrangling over some of her recent travel expenses, she got to work immediately.
Bill C-1 may seem like an altogether innocuous piece of legislation, merely the first step in passing the 2014 budget. But hidden within the bill -- under an equally-innocuous-sounding name -- is something of a Trojan horse.
The Redford government is calling it "the Social Innovation Endowment." Bill C-1 describes the Social Innovation Endowment as such:
"The Social Innovation Account, for the purpose of supporting innovation in the social service and support sector and in the cultural sector, including
i.) Research and knowledge dissemination on social and cultural innovation,
ii.) Design and implementation of innovative interventions and
iii.) Development of new funding and partnerships."
The endowment will be funded with $500 million from the Alberta Heritage Fund on April 1, 2014, with another $500 million on April 1, 2015.
Some critics have raised the spectre of the privatization of social services. The professed idea of the endowment is to introduce an incentive for business and special interest groups to work together to fight things such as poverty and family violence. And if Albertans could honestly expect that to be the case, then such an endowment would indeed be a valuable thing.
But Bill C-1 doesn't describe the program in even remotely sufficient terms. It places almost few discernible limits on what could be funded with it. In the hands of unionized provincial bureaucrats, which is who will ultimately end up in control of this fund, it's far more likely to turn into a left-wing slush fund. And once radical left-wing groups get a taste of that money, they'll consider themselves entitled to it in perpetuity.
To great end, that's how similar programming by the federal government was treated until it was cut off in 2012. Far-left groups that were using the money for their activism, rather than providing actual valuable services to the groups such funding should benefit, howled bloody murder. Having gotten a pay-out from what amounted to a radical left-wing slush fund, they considered themselves entitled to it forevermore, even if such funding actually compromised their political independence.
Fortunately for such groups -- and unfortunately for the rest of Albertans -- the Social Innovation Endowment is designed to pay out indefinitely. The endowment is designed to replenish itself through its own earnings. Theoretically Albertans won't even notice it.
But what they will notice is the kind of divisive and obstructionate activism that will almost certainly sneak under the radar of a program designed, presumably with the best intentions, to offer value-added programming.
As described in Bill C-1, the Social Innovation Endowment is a left-wing Trojan Horse; an early, recurring and permanent April Fool's joke. And it's already passed its first reading.
It's probably too late to put a stop to it altogether. But the endowment could be dispersed -- or at least the legislation creating it suitably amended to prevent demagogic abuse -- by a new government. That may be the best Albertans could hope for.