Testing our ability to trust

What surprises most — and disappoints most — about people’s apparent willingness to believe stories of outlandish conspiracies by superpowerful, super-secret cabals governing world affairs is how little it surprises that people do believe in them.

What surprises most — and disappoints most — about people’s apparent willingness to believe stories of outlandish conspiracies by superpowerful, super-secret cabals governing world affairs is how little it surprises that people do believe in them.

Sure, the moon landing was a fake, organized with the perfect, silent compliance of hundreds of co-conspirators — to convince America it had won the space race, while fleecing its people of billions of dollars needed to secure global domination. Right?

Sure, the assassination of U.S. President John Kennedy was staged by plotters, in order to draw America into the Vietnam War — and make them the billions of dollars they needed to secure global domination. Right?

Sure, the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was the work those same secret plotters who wanted to drag America into Afghanistan — and make them billions of dollars needed to secure global domination. Right?

Sure, the high-capacity power lines to be built across Alberta farmers’ land (without their consent) is needed to provide America with a stable source of coal-fired power, and to fleece Alberta consumers of $14 billion needed to secure . . . just a minute here. It appears we’ve wandered from the realm of comfortable conspiracy into something more uncomfortably real.

WikiLeaks recently made secret documents public indicating that the power line project is indeed planned to conduct coal-fired electricity from Alberta power plants into the U.S., contrary to every official statement made in the province to Albertans.

The official line has always been that our infrastructure had fallen behind population growth and demand for more electricity. We were threatened with cyclical brownouts and shortages if we did not accept abridging the property rights of Alberta landowners, and the cost of the line itself.

Three separate Alberta laws were drafted or amended to facilitate shortening the approval process and to quash the ability of landowners to intervene.

This was all done because, as we were told, the rights of the many (that’s the entire Alberta economy) must trump the rights of the few. But not to allow investors in mining, power production and transmission companies to profit greatly, at our expense.

Yet the doubts and protests of people opposing the power line now appear to have merit beyond those of cranks and conspiracy theorists.

If, of course, you choose to believe the nameless people at WikiLeaks, or the people who sent them the documents they published.

Therein lies the greatest disappointment of all: that it has become entirely plausible to presume that our provincial government could lie to us — through two premiers and their cabinets, through official spying on people exercising their legal rights of intervention, through passage of laws that landowners believe strip them of their property rights under the law (later amended, as if by “clarification”).

Then, on the same day that school officials announced they need to lay off perhaps 1,000 teachers, the government drops a money bomb worth half a billion, to build schools that the boards can’t afford to staff. There is no money in any budget to do this: it is just an announcement of intent.

What is the average taxpayer, or parent of a child in school, to make of this?

Alberta Education Minister Dave Hancock says the system works; that school board projections of population in the next decade in each area of the province makes these new schools necessary, and that building them today is a good investment. The schools will be ready and will be funded for staffing when enrolment numbers dictate.

Trust the system. Trust the numbers. Trust that government knows best, even when they don’t tell us what they’re planning until the last minute — if at all.

Albertans want to do just that. But trust, in an age of doubt, that much trust is hard to come by.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.