Alberta Premier targets workers while letting wealthy off scot-free | National Union of Public and General Employees

Alberta Premier targets workers while letting wealthy off scot-free

Premier of Alberta chooses to attack the province's front-line workers instead of addressing its revenue problem.

Edmonton (04 March 2015) — There were some gaping holes in Premier Jim Prentice’s March 2 speech to the Rotary Club of Edmonton, holes as big as the $7 billion one he’s predicting in the Alberta government books, says Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) President Elisabeth Ballermann.

Two sides to balancing the books

“The Premier spent a lot of time attacking front-line workers, including health care professionals, but he had nothing to say on how he plans to increase revenue,” says Ballermann, whose union represents about 25,000 health care professionals.

“You don’t need to be an accountant to understand that there are two sides to balancing the books—revenue and spending. While the premier unveiled plans to undermine the ability of our vital front-line workers to negotiate fair wages and working conditions, he had absolutely nothing to say on what to do to fix our clearly broken revenue problem,” she says.

Alberta has a revenue problem—not a spending problem

Last week, research by RBC showed that the Alberta government is collecting in revenue a far smaller share of the total wealth in the province than is any other province in Canada. The bank predicted that Alberta revenue for 2014–15 would be 12.4 per cent of GDP, while B.C. will collect 19.6 per cent and Saskatchewan will collect 16.9 per cent.

“There is money in Alberta, lots of it, but the government is failing to collect a fair share of that wealth for its citizens. That failure is the result of decades of unfair tax giveaways to the wealthy and massive tax cuts on profits made by corporations in Alberta, often from exploiting resources owned by the people,” says Ballermann.

Not everyone will be "sharing the pain"

“The premier talks about all Albertans having to share the pain, but focuses solely on the wages of front-line workers. He attacks public-sector wages in Alberta, while ignoring that they lag far behind private-sector wages and the fact that wages are higher in Alberta because it costs more to live here,” she says.

“He chooses to ignore the role successive governments have played in creating chaos in our hospitals—and then indicates he’s going to head down the same destructive path. Repeating the slash-and-burn mistakes of the past is not leadership. It will result in higher costs in the long run and poorer services now. In health care, it’s not only workers who will pay for this folly, it is patients. Albertans deserve better.”

NUPGE

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