"We know that the provincial economy has been doing well, yet the wealth is still shared by a minority. You see the richest 1% in Alberta making 18 times more than the bottom 90%. This is categorically unfair." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Ottawa (19 Aug. 2014) — After touring seven provinces, the Fairness Express is touring one of Canada's most beautiful, and most prosperous, province: Alberta. The big green bus is kicking off this leg of the national tour in Edmonton.
Goal is to reach as many people as possible to build a movement for fairness
The national tour is part of the All Together Now! campaign promoting tax fairness, public services, good jobs and labour rights. The tour is a way to connect with people across the country, where they live and work, to find out how they are coping with the economy of the post-2008 recession.
"Despite the apparent wealth in Alberta, the issue of income inequality is still of great concern to many who live there," says James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "We know that the provincial economy has been doing well, yet the wealth is still shared by a minority. You see the richest 1% in Alberta making 18 times more than the bottom 90%. This is categorically unfair."
Statistics show that Alberta has the highest income inequality in all of Canada with Calgary having the highest level in the province.
Protecting and advancing public services like pensions is key to the campaign in Alberta
Over the last year there has been a fierce battle between the government and public sector workers over pension benefits. The government has been bent on gutting workers' pensions despite having the funding shortfall shrink substantially and strategies are in place to continue to address unfunded liabilities. Public sector workers who have negotiated in good faith these pension benefits over the years are not willing to allow these changes without a fight. But there is a bigger fight out there they are willing to take on, too.
"Many Albertans understand that the real pension crisis is the lack of a pension coverage for most workers," says Elisabeth Ballermann, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE). "Alberta's union movement has long advocated for good workplace pensions for all — unionized or not — so that all of us can retire in dignity."
"Not only is that fair, it makes good economic sense, "says Ballerman. "Retirees spent their pensions in their communities, supporting local businesses, and allow seniors to stay healthy, stay at home, stay engaged and off government programs."
The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is an excellent example of a valuable public social program but even it isn't providing enough support for those heading into retirement. With more and more people losing access to benefits, having to pay more for what they have, or not being able to negotiate a private pension in the first place, an adequate CPP becomes more essential.
Retirement security is something most workers do not have which makes income inequality worse as people age
"Our national tour is designed to stimulate conversations with people in communities everywhere. We want to hear how people are coping in this economy and what they want to see done differently," says Clancy. "People know that there's a problem with the system — many are struggling while the 1% maintain their hold on wealth. The Fairness Express is a way to show people that we are listening and we believe we can change this course."
HSAA/NUPGE members are taking the lead in running the Alberta leg of the tour.
In every community the Fairness Express has visited, people have appreciated the message and the shared conversations about the state of Canada.
"Knowing there are people across this country feeling the same way about the state of affairs is comforting but also inspiring. People want to get more involved to make a difference," says Clancy.
Tour schedule for Alberta
The emphasis of the Fairness Express tour is to meet people where they live! You'll find the big green bus at major events, farmers' markets, parks and exhibitions!
Here's a glimpse of the first week of the tour:
Tuesday, August 19 — Edmonton Fringe Festival
Wednesday, August 20 — Lethbridge Whoop Up Days
Thursday, August 21 — Taber Cornfest
Friday, August 22 — Pincher Creek Farmers' Market and Waterton National Park
Saturday, August 23 — Calgary Carifest
Sunday, August 24 — Cochrane, Old Tyme Country Fair and Banff Central Park
Monday, August 25 — Lake Louise and Banff Central Park
Tuesday, August 26 — St. Paul Great Canadian Hoedown / Farmers' Market
Wednesday, August 27 — Sylvan Lake, Centennial Park
Follow the Fairness Express!
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE