An Oximoron of Governmental Proportions

 

The community of Wetaskiwin was invited by the Wetaskiwin Addictions Office, Alberta Health Services, to participate in the Addictions Awareness Walk on Nov 21, 2012. As explained by Erin K. Bowers, BA Psych, Addictions Counselor III and organizer of the event, “The purpose of the walk was to raise awareness in the community about issues related to substance abuse and problem gambling and lower the stigma related to addictions.”
NAAW occurs during the third week of November every year, and is celebrated throughout the country.  A bright yellow banner displaying NATIONAL ADDICTIONS AWARENESS WEEK was unveiled on the steps of City Hall and was marched down 50th Avenue to the AHS Addictions office in the Provincial Building (2nd floor). Participants included staff from the addictions office, RCMP, Mayor Bill Elliot and members of Horizons Center.
Erin describes other addictions awareness strategies. “Additionally, display boards have been set up at some schools in the city to help educate youth around substances and their effects. Display boards have also been set up at Wetaskiwin Hospital and Primary Care Network offices.”
The group participating in the walk may have been small in number but the importance of what they were doing was huge. It’s extremely important that the community acknowledges the problems individuals and families face because of addictions. It is even more important to know help is available and resources and services are easy to access within this community. 
 
The oxymoron – alcohol and gambling addiction vs. alcohol and gambling revenue
On one hand, one provincial government department (Alberta Health Services) is stressing the importance of individuals and families knowing that help is available to achieve a lifestyle that is free of addiction to gambling and addictive substances such as alcohol. 
On the other hand,  Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, (AGLC) a Government of Alberta agency has recently released some startling numbers about revenue from sales of liquor and gambling in their 2011/12 Annual Report. (April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012)   The Annual Report also states AGLC has a vision statement of:  Ensuring gaming and liquor sustainability for Alberta. “Our business focuses on:  (1) ensuring the gaming and liquor activities in Alberta are conducted honestly, openly and with integrity, and (2) maximizing the economic benefits of gaming and liquor activities in the province to benefit all Albertans. 
http://aglc.ca/pdf/annual_reports/2012_aglc_annual_report.pdf  
It’s all about the money 
To analyze the numbers per Albertan, Alberta’s population according to http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ig-gi/pop-ab-eng.htm is 3,862,360.  
 
$687 million in liquor revenue & $1.5 billion in gaming revenue, both up from previous year
“In 2011-12, the AGLC collected $687 million in liquor revenue which was provided to the Government of Alberta”, which they suggest, “to benefit the people of Alberta. In 2011-12, the AGLC also reported nearly $1.5 billion in gaming revenue. The province’s share of the net proceeds is placed in the Alberta Lottery Fund to support thousands of volunteer, public and community-based initiatives.”
“Gross profit from liquor sales in 2011-12 was $708.8 million, compared to $689.1 million the previous year. Our liquor sales totaled $2.1 billion and $1.4 billion was paid to suppliers and the federal government in the form of taxes and duties. The AGLC also collected and remitted container recycling fees. Our liquor-related operating and regulatory costs were $20.7 million, leaving $688.1 million which, along with $13.2 million collected for licenses, fines and other charges and after adjusting for a loss on unfunded pension liability of $14.2 million, provided $687.1 million to the provincial General Revenue Fund.”
“Provincial Gaming Summary - Gross profit from ticket lotteries, slot machines, Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) and electronic bingo was $2.19 billion in 2011-12, compared to $2.14 billion the previous year. Of this amount, costs of commissions for operators and charities and federal payments were $526 million. The AGLC’s gaming-related operating costs were $194 million. The net amount, almost $1.5 billion, was transferred to the Alberta Lottery Fund. “
“Charitable Gaming Summary - Licensed charitable and religious groups earned almost $314 million in 2011-12, compared to almost $300 million the previous year, from charitable gaming events.”
In all its activities, the AGLC suggests it, “weighs social responsibility with Albertans’ right to personal choice and the economic benefits generated by liquor and gaming. Finding a balance and acting with integrity is how we achieve our goals and shape the gaming and liquor businesses of the future.”
Alberta Health Services Addiction in Wetaskiwin offers a range of services to the general public. Treatment, information and education services are offered to all ages and include referrals to community organizations. AHS provides  services to all citizens of Wetaskiwin and the surrounding area.
All services are free of charge, completely confidential and bound by the Health Information Act. You may also contact Alberta Health Services Mental Health at 780-361-1245.  If you are experiencing an emergency, or have an after hours issue please contact any of the following numbers:
• Addiction Help Line 1-866-332-2322 
• Mental Health Help Line 1-877-303-2642 
• Health Link Alberta 1-866-408-5465 
• Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868
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