EDMONTON - The budget unveiled by the Klein government late this afternoon is a "triple whammy" for working people in Alberta, says the president of Alberta's largest union organization.
As a result of the new budget, Albertans will be paying higher taxes and facing declining quality of services in areas like health care and education, says Les Steel, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Before the last provincial election, the premier wooed working peoples' votes by offering a big tax cut. A year later he's broken that promise by substantially increasing health premiums - which are a tax hike in all but name. That's the first whammy."
Steel says the second "whammy" has to do with the way the government is handling education funding.
"This budget represents a lost opportunity to resolve the dispute with the teachers," says Steel. "They could have dealt with some of the problems that lie at the heart of the dispute - like the issue of over-crowding. But by refusing to put more money into the classroom they've basically guaranteed more labour unrest."
The third assault on the interests of working people cited by Steel has to do with health care. In particular, Steel says the government has failed to make funding adjustments that reflect Alberta's growing population.
"On the surface, a seven percent increase in funding sounds great. But in reality it doesn't keep up with the combined pressures of inflation and population growth. In effect this so-called increase is actually a cut for our health care system. So much for the government's supposed commitment to Medicare."
Steel concluded by pointing out that many of the cuts announced today are a direct result of the government's "irresponsible flat tax and cuts to corporate taxes.
"We're a wealthy province but our government has basically impoverished our public sector by slashing taxes for big business and the wealthy. Today we see that it's ordinary working people who are going to have to pay for these irresponsible cuts."
For more information call:
Les Steel, President @ 780-499-4135 (cell)