Sharing Needs To Apply To More Than Just Resources

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The mandates of charitable groups and non-profit societies in the countryside are no different than in the urban centres.

A proposal floated by the Alberta government would see some casino charity profits generated in the major cities pooled with profits generated in rural areas. The idea is equalization, since the charity profit share of a city casino averages $60,000-plus and rural profits run as low as $5,000. That’s due to the reality that the big cities not only have a larger population, but also have many more high-rolling gamblers. It’s the repeating gamblers with big bucks that generate the real business for casinos in Alberta.

When casinos were legalized in Alberta there was a provision that eligible charities and non-profit organizations had to receive a percentage of the casino profits. In return, the participating organizations had to provide volunteers to help run the casino. This wise arrangement has turned out to be a bonanza for charitable groups, as profits added up to tens of thousands of dollars for the organizations. They are so successful that groups have to wait up to two years in order to partake in a casino.

Besides the main urban centres, casinos sprung up in smaller cities and towns, but due to economic and population demographics in those areas profits just aren’t the same. The mandates of charitable groups and non-profit societies in the countryside are no different than in the urban centres. Many are local service clubs, but most provide some sort of assistance to the disadvantaged or some other social need. Those activities are as important in rural Alberta as they are in urban Alberta. Its just that the groups in the countryside have less money to work with from local casino profits.

The Alberta government is considering a way to equalize this financial disparity by pooling some of the profits from both city and rural casinos. This would see rural groups receiving more money from casinos and city groups receiving less. At this stage it is just a proposal, but it ignited a firestorm of protest from city media and urban groups who were not very charitable towards their poorer country cousins. To deal with the matter the government formed a committee headed by Doug Griffiths, MLA for Wainwright. It is to come up with some recommendations to resolve the proposal or perhaps abandon it altogether.

City media commentators have condemned the proposal as nothing more than a political reward to shore up the PC government’s rural base. That would be nothing new in Alberta. Governments are forever balancing the political considerations of many programs between Calgary and Edmonton. What is forgotten in the fulminations and rhetoric by urban media pundits is the clear inequality of what cities contribute to Alberta’s wealth and what the countryside produces.

There are no oil wells, oilsands, mines, forests, farms or ranches in downtown Calgary and Edmonton. The folks that drill, service, extract, cut down, produce, grow and transport the products from those activities live in small towns and the countryside. The billions in royalties, taxes, stumpage, land sales and other fees that the government receives comes from those products and the labour of those folks living way out there.

One would hope that reality would register on city folks but in most cases it doesn’t, which sees somewhat ignorant comments that folks outside of the main cities don’t deserve anything more than those that don’t produce in the urban centres.

This is not the first time that the urban me-first mentality has reared its head. Whenever government cutbacks are in the works we hear the tedious demands that rural hospitals need to be closed to save money. That’s always a curious idea as it presumes that if those facilities are closed that somehow rural people will no longer get sick or have accidents. It then doesn’t take long to hear complaints that city hospitals are crowded because of an increase in patients from rural areas.

The point here is that that people living in rural areas that produce the wealth of this province deserve equal if not better access to services received by city residents. That includes an equal share of pooled casino profits to be shared by deserving rural charities and non-profit groups. As a comparison can you imagine the howls of outrage that would come from city media if landowners and rural municipalities imposed royalties on the energy products that came from the countryside. Apparently some believe resource profits from the countryside need to be shared equally, but profits from city activities are not to be shared.

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