A Week in the Hospital

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I recently spent a week at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta due to repeated falls. It’s a rather involved story as to how I got there but that’s not my point today. Today I’d rather talk about the hospital and some of the conditions.

Staff

Nurses

First, I want to say the nurses were amazing. They all deserve raises. Especially Rosy and Aisha (who work on Section 44). They listened to my fears as though they were profound and always took me seriously. I want to be one of those people who say they do not get paid enough to do what they do and still keep a smile on their face.

Doctors and Therapists

I know they’re busy and, gosh, I didn’t help. However, the doctors and therapists came through. After the tests were run and it turned out to be something fairly minor, they still treated me with respect and dignity.

Nurses’ Aides

This is where things take a dark turn. Some of the aides were helpful and kind but I found that was not the norm. Rather, I found many of them were terse to the point of being rude. They refused to take my concerns seriously and often gave me snarky responses to my questions. Crying (which I did a lot) was met with eye rolls they thought I couldn’t see. Concerns for my safety or well-being were answered with a click of the tongue they thought I couldn’t hear. At one point I had to ring my bedside alarm SIX TIMES before the nurse herself finally came in (she was on her way to another room). Having my alarm ignored was a common practice by the aides. One aide said she thought if she waited I would fall back asleep. My roommate didn’t fare any better with them and I gave up on trying to reason with them.

Going Home

My experience in the hospital gave me a perspective on Alberta’s Health Care system that shocked and alarmed me. This week I’m going to do a series on that experience that will hopefully show people just what’s happening with their tax dollars. To say we can, and should, do better is an understatement. The care that’s being provided is the absolute bare minimum and that minimum isn’t even the best care available. Old and broken equipment, underpaid staff, snarky and rude staff, inedible food…. Albertans should be demanding better for their tax dollars. After a week in the hospital I’ve got only one question:

What is the Alberta Government doing with the money that is supposed to allocated to health care? Why are hospitals having to deal with substandard equipment and food? Where, exactly, dollar for dollar, are our tax dollars going?

Next I will write about my adventures in the emergency room.

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The Circus of Alberta Politics

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I am sick to fucking death of #Ableg and what passes for politics in this province. It’s like a bad version of the song, “Stuck in the Middle With You”

“Clowns to the left of me,

Jokers to the right…”

“Stuck in the Middle With You” – Stealers Wheels

And what’s in the centre is starting to look like the goo left in the container in my fridge (sorry, Greg Clark, but it is). We have these three candidates all talking and not a single one is listening. It’s like a bad script that the Three Stooges turned down. The only thing missing is the theme song from American Horror Story. Since our beloved leaders insist on acting like refugees from a bad sitcom, then I’ll treat them as such.

Starring:

Rachel Notley as the “Good Girl”

Notley will be that proverbial “good girl” who is always trying to do right. She’s the one with the latest fashions and is always involved in all the groups. A cheerleader by nature, there’s nothing she can’t do (except get a pipeline but, by golly, she’s trying). She can flip from being a geek to being an ally in the blink of an eye. You think she’s everyone’s best friend and confident. However, beneath this sparkly exterior is an interior you should beware of. She makes promises and then half-fulfills them. Said she was going to end poverty and then the bulk of the changes she makes only affects children because adults in poverty don’t make feel good stories. Oh and she’s a member of the Glee Club, too.

Jason Kenney as the “Villain”

Kenney thinks of himself as some kind of Sauron figure who is all-knowing and has a ring of power. The truth is he’s more of a Gollum figure who’s tricksy but not much else. He treats people in the same way Gollum fishes. Grabs them by his bare hands and then smashes them against a rock while singing. He’s forever searching for his Precious but those damn hobbits (the media) keep getting in his way. I’m pretty sure there’s a giant spider out there he’s friends with, too, but that may just be my imagination.

Stephen Mandel as the “Heroic Wannabe”

Mandel has this picture in his mind where he’s a cross between the star quarterback and the nature loving hippie. The truth is that he’s so focused on his image and people’s perceptions of him that he never stops to think that he’s actually doing damage. Everyone loves him and when he saves us we’ll thank him (yeah, I’d still love to thank him for that monstrosity in Edmonton called Roger’s Place Arena). The rest of us peons are too simple to understand the grandiosity of his plans. He’s a member of the Glee Club, too but has trouble staying on key.

I am sick to death of the mockery that has become Alberta politics. I look at my friends and see them hurting because of politicians who don’t really give a damn about the people they’re supposed to be serving. Like my one friend who’s been waiting 3 YEARS for a hip replacement and can barely walk some days. Or my other friend who was working above minimum wage before the increase. Now she’s just making minimum wage and there’s no raise in sight. She works for a small business owner who pays her what they can as it is. Or my other friend who finds himself at the whims in the Alberta Oilsands industry. Not one of them is being heard by the politicians who run around in some horrific slapstick of what the Alberta Legislature is supposed to be. Let’s not even start talking about the reconciliation that’s supposed to be happening or the future of AISH recipients once they age out at 65. None of this even touches on rents skyrocketing in Edmonton or the problems in healthcare. Not one of them has even looked at the base amounts for those on Income Support (which haven’t changed since the late 70s). You want a laugh? Ask any one of them what they think about the Universal Basic Income program.

The only person in all of this who has ever approached me to listen to my fears and frustrations was Greg Clark. A man I supported until Mandel stole the leadership away from him. Am I bitter? Yes. Clark is everything a politician is supposed to be and now he’s relegated to the back seat. I guess that’s what you get for actually caring about your constituents.

I’m done. This whole thing makes me sick.

Media and Politics

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When I was a 20-something with big dreams, no clue and a broken inner compass, I decided on journalism. As someone with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (although I didn’t know it at the time), journalism was perfect for me. Tell the story, don’t get involved, know all the facts. The rules were clear. I could do this.

Journalism is a weird hybrid, inbred creature. A journalist does not involve themselves in the story. A journalist is merely a tool to help tell the story. I loved being able to chase a story down and then getting that last minute twist that threw everything you thought you knew out the window.

See, here’s the rules; the journalist is unbiased. No matter your own personal beliefs, you tell the story as it comes to you. That’s it. You don’t get an opinion. The story is the telling of facts. You don’t omit or twist facts to get the story you want. A journalist works for their readers. Not the paper or station, not the editor or owner. The audience. A slant is allowed but if the slant breaks the rules, it’s out. You have the option of not telling a story.

That’s how it used to work. Now, the audience new they weren’t getting the whole story sometimes or there were some stories that were buried but the media was trusted to tell the truth. However, in the last couple of decades or so something bizarre has happened in the world of media.

It used to be that the media was owned by various people. In my own city of Edmonton, Alberta, the people that owned The Edmonton Journal were different from those who owned The Edmonton Sun. Now both are owned by Postmedia. These are the same people that own The Calgary Herald, The Calgary Sun and The Daily Herald-Tribune in Grande Prairie. One media company owns all the major daily newspapers (or dailies) in Alberta.

Why is this frightening?

Traditionally the media has been a watchdog of politicians. Watergate never would have been uncovered if it hadn’t been for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post. However, lately things have changed and it all has to do with who owns what.

When the media was in the hands of smaller companies, they competed with each other to get the story out. That was journalism. They also competed to ensure they were more trustworthy than the other. Now that the media is owned by a few large corporations there is no drive to keep them trustworthy. A large corporation with a large wallet doesn’t really care about a few small lawsuits. The media is no longer driven by the public’s need to know. Now it’s being driven by a corporation’s need to get information out. More specifically, get the right information out.

Back in May of 2015, The Edmonton Journal acknowledged that Postmedia told them to write a story endorsing Jim Prentice’s bid for Premier of Alberta. Not only did they tell the Journal to do this but they also told The Edmonton Sun, The Calgary Herald and The Calgary Sun to do the same thing.

Are you scared yet?

Now Alberta elected Premier Rachel Notley and we’re now seeing her being vilified in major media. There’s some seepage happening, too. She’s also being demonized in major social media as well. Social media that media outlets are quick to use. Truth be told, Notley could save orphans from a burning building and they’d nail her to a tree saying she didn’t prevent the fire.

And this is happening throughout the western world.

We learned that fake news was happening online and that major media was picking up on those stories. It’s part of how Donald Trump got elected. The same thing is happening here in Canada. Look at the mess that is Doug Ford and if you think he’s content with Ontario, think again.

This isn’t ending. It’s just beginning. I’m not one to cry wolf but I see a furry dog-like creature heading our way and its hungry.

A Modern Proposal

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I believe I have finally found a solution to Alberta’s poverty problem and if it works here it can be exported to the rest of Canada. Think of it as a social experiment that should please all the good people of Alberta.

In Alberta there are two classes; those who have and those who don’t. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking there’s a middle class any more, the Alberta PCs have nicely done away with it and it’s about damn time, I say. Too much time and effort wasted trying to accommodate those who can’t pay for themselves and don’t add to the Alberta coffers enough. So, either you’re a have or a don’t have.

However, I’ve seen too much whining about the poor and have been guilty about it myself. Let’s face it, politicians aren’t interested in poverty because the poor don’t vote. Well, not enough to make a difference, anyway. Even if they did, they don’t pay enough in taxes to be worth worrying about. In other words, it doesn’t pay to look after the needs of the poor.

I have always been one to look for solutions wherever I can find them. It’s not enough to simply point fingers at a problem and hope someone takes care of it, I’m a person of action. So I think I’ve found a solution to that pesky poverty problem in Alberta. One that will be very palatable to the haves and politicians alike. Let us address each problem the poor face in turn.

  1. Housing. The damn homeless are everywhere. Like bloody cockroaches. You can’t walk a block downtown without tripping over one and the diseases they carry are worse than cockroaches. So let’s house them. I propose we erect a small camp just outside of city limits with large skyscraper apartment buildings. These complexes, which we will call “camps” for  convenience, will be walled for the poor’s own protection and feeling of safety. It will be just like current upscale walled communities. We can place it near the prisons as we all know how rampant crime is among the poor. This way they can have an easy walk to visit loved ones within prison from their homes. After all, the government isn’t cruel. Keeping loved ones together is important.The apartments will all be the same. From one to three bedrooms with built-in bunk-style beds that fold down from the walls. The living room will be similarly accommodated with sofa, chair and coffee table that is overlaid with easy to maintain cushions for comfort. This design will allow the poor to live in relative comfort while freeing them from having to buy furniture. After all, if you’re poor, having nice new possessions such as furniture is a luxury and the poor cannot afford luxuries.
  2. Food. There is a problem with nutrition among the poor. Currently, the poor buy low-quality, high fat, high sodium, easily stored food that is cheap. This leads to deprivation which leads to health issues. Science has found a low-cost, high nutrient quality food source that can easily be made into a paste. Insects. Insects are high in protein and nutrients, cheap to farm and eco-friendly. They don’t require the vast tracts of land to accommodate like cows or pigs do. Added to this are other high nutrient foods like rice or quinoa and all the nutrient needs of the poor can easily be met at a low cost.
  3. Work. This food will need to be processed. The poor need to work. We can build factories just outside the camps to process the new food source. At these factories the paste can be made and flavored and easily distributed. As well, the factories can be modified to perform a number of functions. Instead of processing clothing in third-world countries, these factories can allow the clothing to be processed right here in Canada. Everyone will work, even those with disabilities. Those with disabilities can work fewer hours unless they choose to work overtime. Of course, the camps will need to be maintained so some of the able bodied will be pressed into that work. This will give them much needed skills and a feeling of contributing to the greater good. This, in turn, will lead to a sense of pride and the poor can eventually work their way out of their situation. From time to time, the good citizens of Alberta may need to hire labour at a cost-saving price. The camps will have easy access to inexpensive labour and a bussing solution can be worked out to bus workers to their jobs outside the camps.This brings me to another problem; prostitution. We are all grown ups and know that prostitution is going on. Largely it is poor women who are supervised by gangs in this line of work. Yet there are those of the good folk who enjoy a good prostitute now and again. I am not going to judge. Therefore, a red light district will be built in the camps where those with money can go to enjoy their services. Instead of paying the prostitute, the consumer will simply pay at an entrance booth. There he or she will get a ticket stating how many prostitutes he or she wishes to enjoy that evening. The prostitute will mark the ticket before their session begins and everyone is happy. This will keep prostitution and its accompanying drugs and crime out of the good neighbourhoods while still making it easily available.
  4. Health. If the Alberta Government is to be believed, everyone’s health is of prime importance. Therefore a health facility will be built in the camp for immediate needs. This will not be a hospital but simply a quick-care facility attended by nurses. Since there will be no need or desire to treat issues at this facility, a doctor only need come once a month to oversee operations. For larger health issues and emergencies, the poor can be taken to a hospital in the city proper and attended to there where there is full access to necessary equipment. The poor can be attended in the hospitals in a discrete, out of the way area designated for them. In this way, the good citizens of Alberta need never see them.
  5. Education. Since higher education is wasted on the poor, we need only accommodate grades 1 to 12. Such frivolous classes as art and drama can be eliminated and replaced with factory education or sewing or maintenance. This will give them real world skills when they go to work in the nearby factories and such.
  6. Crime. We all know that the poor are more likely to commit crime. This, of course, is due to their lazy natures and lack of education. I do not see any use in wasting police resources in trying to stop the inevitable. Therefore, there will be no police presence in the camps.
  7. Waste. I suggest we move landfills near the camps to accommodate for the large amount of refuse that will be processed there. It will be an easy, low-cost solution to the problem.
  8. Clothing. Need, not want, is the rule of the day. Let us not waste time on useless fashion or colours. A simple jumpsuit in beige will be sufficient. Of course, given Canadian winters, there will need to be two different designs; one for summer and one for winter. The winter one will be insulated while the summer one will have ventilation. Shoes will be simple boots for winter, good and functional, and sandals for summer. The jumpsuit will be accommodated with a hood to eliminate the need for a jacket.
  9. Green space. The haves are well aware that nice things are wasted on the poor. The poor cannot take the same pride in their  living conditions as those with money do. However, it is necessary to have some green space so that the poor can be encouraged to take walks to maintain their health. Therefore, one small park in each of the camps with a small playground for children will be constructed. In the parks such plants as apple trees, plum bushes, tomato and potato plants can be planted to supplement their diet needs. These will be luxuries as the Government of Alberta and its good citizens are not without pity.

For those who think that such accommodations are cruel, let me assure you that this is kinder than the current situation. It is well-known that the poor are most comfortable among their own kind. It is cruel to expect the poor to try to rise above their station and it is bad economics to try to help them. The camps are a quick, convenient solution that is best for everyone.

The Worth of Poverty

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A homeless person's camp

In Edmonton, this is someone’s home

There is a shame that is associated with poverty that no one has addressed so far that I’ve seen. I’ve heard politicians talk about “strategies” and social workers talk about “assistance” but no one talks about the unbelievable humiliation that occurs when you’re poor.

When humans stopped their hunter-gatherer ways and started farming, they gained something; knowledge of what it meant to own property. Suddenly we started comparing what we own to what our neighbours own. Everything became property. From our sperm and eggs to our offspring to our spouses to our farms. We stopped looking at each other as people and started seeing property.

All this means that if you’re one of the have nots, you have less worth than the “good” folk.

I know some people will protest. After all, there are such good works as Income Support, the Food Bank and the Hope Mission. If you’re one of the haves, you support them, give your hard earned money to them and help those less fortunate. You maybe give a coffee to the bum on the street corner begging for change. In a really generous mood you might buy them lunch. Not once do the “good” folk think about the cost to the poor.

At Income Support there’s a belief that if they pay less than a person needs to live it will motivate them to find a job. There’s a few assumptions being made here that are horribly wrong. First, there’s an assumption that if you’re coming to Income Support, you’re too lazy to be motivated to want to work. Second, that anyone on Income Support does not deserve to live in dignity. Then there is the demand that you lay your life bare just to pay your bills and eat for another month. It isn’t enough that the Alberta Government demands that you account for every moment of your time, this “keep em hungry” mentality only perpetuates this cycle. There’s nothing to address how the person got to that position in the first place, nor is there any way to stop the cycle that starts once a person is on support. Humiliation leads to depression which leads to a sense of hopelessness which leads to humiliation. This isn’t addressed by front line workers or Income Support.

If you ever had to use the services of the Food Bank, there is a humiliation that happens when you don’t have enough food to feed yourself. The people at the Food Bank are aware of it and try to lessen it but that doesn’t change that it’s there. It’s not just the Food Bank. Stop and talk to the homeless guy on the corner. He’d love to go home to a shower and a good meal but he holds out his cup knowing you think that loonie you put in the pot is going to another bottle.

Those who have pity those who live in poverty and are repulsed by them in equal measure. The repulsion is covered by good works, donations of food and clothes cover up the guilt that somehow those who have less taint the city. Don’t believe me? Talk to someone about the homeless problem sometime. The usual answers involve a belief that the person must be lazy or crazy. “Get a job, any job” is a familiar refrain to the homeless. Money is thrown at the surface problems of addiction and mental illness but the problem of poverty never goes away.

There is a misconception that there will always be poor. Yes, this is true in a society where we are more concerned about things than we are people. Alberta is one of the richest provinces in Canada. Hell, we’re richer than even most areas in North America yet we have this poverty problem. Alberta’s job prospects are growing at a rate that is unbelievable but even that’s not enough to address our poverty problem.

So what’s the answer?

Let’s start by eliminating the humiliation.

Stop looking at those who are poor as some kind of animal to be rescued. Start seeing their humanity, their person. Let’s address the core problem of poverty; there is an unequal distribution of wealth going on in Alberta that leaves people to suffer horribly. It isn’t a matter of things. It isn’t about who has what. There’s a deeper problem that needs addressing; we assess each other’s worth based on what they have. We are people first and foremost. Strip us all naked and that’s who we are at our core. Let’s start from there.

I can foresee a lot of politicians who will nod and smile and tell me I don’t understand the depth of the problem. I understand better than they think. It’s time that many of our government systems get a serious overhaul. Alberta Income Support, Health Care, MLA expenses and pay, so many more. It’s time to get rid of some of the outdated thinking that’s going on and listen to those who are most deeply affected by these systems.

It’s time to change.

The True Cost of Premier Alison Redford’s Travel

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Alison Redford's picture as it appeared in the Calgary Grit website

Alison Redford’s picture as it appeared in the Calgary Grit website

I usually steer clear of politics because, to be honest, I’m not sure I understand all of it. There are better writers than me touching on some very important topics. I’ve dedicated this page to furthering small business in Edmonton and the surrounding area. However, there are times when something political jumps out at me and just won’t let me go. I wanted to write this blog in a fit of anger but I’m better than that and I didn’t spend all those years as a journalist just to throw out all my integrity because of one person’s actions. After some weeks of milling this over, I came to the conclusion that this issue affects the small businesses I’ve come to know and love and I cannot remain silent any longer. I must say something.

Premier Alison Redford’s spending is out of control.

Let me do a breakdown of some of the costs her trips AROUND THE WORLD have cost Alberta Taxpayers. I found this list alarming and I think my readers will as well.

  1. $9,200 for a return trip from Palm Springs – According to the CBC news article, Redford was on vacation in Palm Springs with her family when Klein’s memorial came up. She needed to return home to attend the memorial. I get it. I get that she needed to get there. However, I’ve been on commercial flights. Surely there was a less costly solution? Especially in the wake of the South Africa fiasco.
  2. $45,000 for the trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral – this is the outrage that had me spewing brimstone and fire for a week. Her assistant, which she apparently needed to help her grieve for Mandela, cost $19,024.39 according to the article in the February 19, 2014 edition of the Edmonton Sun. Oh please. Where can I get a gig like that?
  3. $29,541.08 for a trip to Washington and New York – according to the Government of Alberta’s own website, it cost nearly $30,000 to go to Washington. Her travel alone cost $23,164.89. I don’t know the last time you rented a car but I’ve never racked up a $23k bill. Nor have I ever known anyone who has. Let’s assume she had a limousine to take her everywhere. The disgusting cost to the environment of that indulgence aside, I cannot imagine racking up that kind of cost.
  4. $87,135.38 to go to London – again, according to the Government of Alberta’s OWN website, it cost over $85,000 to go to London in which she spent $38,763.47 in hotel accommodations. Um, pardon me? What did she do? Bunk with Will and Kate? Sleep in the Queen’s bed? For $40k I’d better be getting a happy ending with that room. Her hotel costs ALONE cost more than many Albertans make in a year. Let that sink in for a moment.
  5. $120,000 for a trip to India – I love the Huffington Post. They can always be counted on to deliver interesting and timely articles such as the one on Redford’s trip to India. $120,000 for that trip. Now, the purpose of that trip was to go to the Petrotech Oil and Gas Conference. Wait. What now? So she spent all that money to help the Alberta oil companies. Is that it?
  6. $120,200 for a trip to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum – As much as I searched, I could only find a brief mention by Global Edmonton about this trip. I am sorely disappointed in Alberta’s journalists for not raising more of a fuss about this. I’m not sure but perhaps there was a lot of chocolate involved in this trip?

Now, just in case anyone thinks I’m being unfair to the Premier let me tell you what I went through to try to get their side of things. I sent five or six posts through the Premier’s Facebook Page. Each post removed except one which was a comment on one of their posts. No answer was given. I sent about four tweets to the Premier’s Twitter Page. Not one response. I called the Office of the Premier’s press office three times and made it very clear that my blog was going to publish that morning. I also made it very clear that I was trying desperately to allow them to have their say. I received a promise to send me a press release the Premier issued on the whole travel expenses issue. I’ve given them their chance.

Rob Pearson, Constituency Manager to Brian Mason (Highlands-Norwood), gave me a prompt and very thorough email detailing their concerns. In it he says,

” Brian Mason said he doesn’t think the premier has the proper respect for citizens’ money. “She loves to go on foreign trips, a number of which have simply been photo ops – massively expensive photo ops,” he (Mason) said.”

I have to agree with that assessment. I see nothing here that warrants $38k on hotel costs. He goes on to add that,

“Weakening  our public care facilities, not living up to the social contract and protecting the vulnerable seniors, children and adults and weakening of the public pension plan is just another feather in their (the Progressive Conservatives) cap toward a long-standing policy of gutting public health-care, public pensions, seniors care and a host of other public services and benefiting the private sector in providing services our society relies upon.”

Again, I think I agree with much of this statement. I spent ten years caring for my aging parents and found myself dismayed at the government’s response to their situation. Two people who had been together for over 50 years would have had to go into different care facilities and be split up simply because their health needs were different. Yes, there were, at the time, some private facilities but my parents, blue-collar workers with minimum pension benefits, did not have the means to go there. Meanwhile, I struggled to give them care while battling my anxiety and mismedication. That’s just my experience, though. I’ve heard other stories about the people who have to deal with the fallout of government spending and cutbacks.

Let’s consider, for a moment, the fact that a single person in Edmonton on Income Support only gets $667 per month to live on. A cheap studio apartment in Edmonton often rents for at least $700. I went to the Mainstreet Apartments website and took a look for myself. Boardwalk Rental Communities’ studio apartment prices were even higher. These are the two rental management companies I could think of in Edmonton. Two of the biggest. Trust me, the prices aren’t getting any better.

That $667 per month to cover food, rent, entertainment, travel and bills. I challenge the Premier and her office to live on $667 per month. Oh. Wait. She’s going to London and China and India while people in Edmonton must find food at such places as the Food Bank. By the way, I’m a huge supporter of the Food Bank and encourage everyone else to support them as well. They supply a need that should never exist in our province.

Alberta is wealthy by any standards. Compare us to any province in Canada or many of the states in the United States and we are RICH. We have oil and lumber and some of the best beef in the world. We are not lacking for money. So how is it that I walk downtown Edmonton and see panhandling? How is it that people are living on the streets? How is it that children are going to school hungry and dependent on such programs as the Food for Thought program? Let’s assume that perhaps as high as 10% of the people panhandling are bilking the naïve and have a wealth of money in the bank. That means there are still 90% of people who need to BEG for money. Can you imagine having to stand on a corner and beg for enough money to have a warm place to sleep and some food in your stomach when the Premier spends $38k on hotel costs? If you’re not disgusted yet, then you’re far more jaded than I am.

I first contacted the Premier’s office at about 8:30 am this morning. I called them three times. It’s now 10:37am. I was promised a statement. I was promised a call back. A lot of promises. Still nothing.

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