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Friday, July 27, 2012

Alberta's Deregulation Disaster

We know that neoliberal deregulation made the US airline industry the strongest, most efficient, most reliable, most comfortable, and most economically viable in the world, as Reagan predicted, right?

Maybe not.

NAFTA made Canada stronger, improved the economy and wasn't responsible for any plants moving to Mexico, driving down wages and eroding labour rights. Right, Mulroney? 

No?

Then let's try a more modern example. Surely they have it right by now. It's been thirty years since Thatcher and her two boyfriends began the neoliberal revolution.

Alberta's wise, neoliberal Progressive Conservatives, whose only plus is that they're not the neoconservative Wildrose Alliance, deregulated the electricity market in Alberta a few years back, promising better service, fairer rates and roses for everyone. What we got was a confusing mess of convoluted agreements, outrageous prices mixed with outright scams, extra fees, and no stability in the market or supply. When the heat caused a foreseeable usage spike, the system became overloaded and six plants went down, triggering rolling blackouts. This is because, unlike in a regulated system, there is no incentive to reserve capacity, you run at the limit all the time. And maintenance takes second priority to profit.

Deregulation has done what it always does, open the market up to exploitation, price fixing, and scams. The average consumer has to be part lawyer, part energy expert, part economist and part conman to understand the byzantine contracts and various rate programs, all with extra administration fees.
Isn't administration a company expense? What the hell am I doing paying their clerks?

There is no oversight or any protection for the customers, especially considering this is an essential service. There is no standard except profit and, because it's essential to modern life, the customer is at the tender mercies of electrical producers and distributors (which used to be one and the same - some efficiency, having two layers of companies charging you for the same power instead of one). That's what deregulation means, taking something everyone should have access to and restricting it as much as possible according to your financial capability.

They also want to deregulate health-care, and most other government services. You know, those things we can't do without, like air. That will be deregulated next.

Neoliberal conservatives believe government is a waste of their money because they claim they believe they got where they are in a universe of one, governments hamper their schemes, and, most importantly, they have the money to do without it. They are intent on making sure we have to do without as well. If profit controls essential services, instead of elected representative, we're at their mercy.

Just where the feudal lords want us.