Riding-by-riding poll conducted by major national polling firm paints grim picture for majority of Edmontonians who want a change of government
It is clear Alberta is facing a challenging fiscal landscape. But the problem has much more to do with revenue than spending.
Past Progressive Conservative governments have been entirely unwilling to examine the revenue side of the ledger, which always put public service cuts squarely at the centre of the agenda. Alberta has had a long history of justifying cuts to public services. Whether it is zero-based budgeting initiatives or discussions about “trimming non-essential services,” the narrative has not been whether we will cut, but how much?
The new Government of Alberta has a critical task ahead as it attempts to turn the page on decades of austerity. Since being elected four months ago, it has made considerable progress in raising new revenues needed to support public programs and services. However, given Alberta’s continued reliance on high commodity prices, much remains to be done as Minister Ceci now anticipates a record budget deficit of at least $5.9 billion.
By eroding tax fairness, past governments have placed the new government in an extremely difficult position as it asserts the need to maintain public services and staff levels, while addressing serious revenue shortfalls.Read more
Mothers’ Day marks beginning of week of action for child careRead more
Poll released in advance of Airport Board meeting shows Wood Buffalo residents want outsourcing plan grounded
Fort McMurray – More than 89 per cent of Wood Buffalo region residents oppose the Fort McMurray airport’s plans to outsource cleaning and security services to a firm that hires Temporary Foreign Workers.
The poll comes in advance of a meeting of the Fort McMurray Airport Authority Board on Tuesday, where they will vote on the plan. If the plan goes ahead, dozens of local Canadian workers would be laid off – many of whom have worked for the airport for years.
“If they go ahead with this, they’ll be turning good jobs into bad jobs,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “It’s no wonder people in the community oppose this plan. It’ll be a blow to the economy – and to the community – if it goes ahead. And it comes at a time when the economy is already reeling from low oil prices.”
The poll showed that Fort McMurray residents don’t just overwhelmingly oppose the plan, they are willing to take concrete action to show their displeasure about the destruction of Canadian jobs. More than 62 per cent said that if the plan went though, they would sign a pledge to take one fewer flight out of that airport every year. A further 74 per cent said there would be electoral consequences for members of council who had a hand in the plan going through.
“People in Fort McMurray have seen these TFWP shell games before, where a company gets rid of good jobs and brings in a contractor to get the same work done with exploitable and underpaid temporary foreign workers,” McGowan said. “What’s different this time is that it’s being done by an organization that is supposedly answerable to the public.”
The plan was put forward by Fort McMurray Airport Authority CEO Scott Clements. The poll showed that more than 54 per cent of residents would like to see him fired for trying to destroy local jobs.
“The Temporary Foreign Worker program has had a direct impact on just about everyone in this community,” McGowan said. “Whether it’s your friend, your neighbour, if you live in Fort McMurray, you probably know people who have been put out of work, had their wages slashed, or had problems completing an apprenticeship because of the TFW program.”
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Former Director of Norwegian Petroleum Directorate Rolf Wiborg Addresses AFL Convention
CALGARY – The former head of the Norwegian government’s oil directorate is speaking in Calgary on Friday, April 17.
Rolf Wiborg, who has four decades experience in Norway’s oil industry – both for private companies and as a Norwegian regulator – will address the Alberta Federation of Labour’s biennial convention in the Calgary Convention Centre at 10:35 a.m. Wiborg will speak about the need for a publicly-owned energy corporation to champion value-added development in the oil sands.
"You have to give up this idea that someone else has the right to tell you what to do with your resources or how your society should run," Wiborg said, noting that ensuring Canadians collect a fair share from the oil resources they own will take political will. "It can be done, but do the Canadian people have the power and the will? Do they have the collectiveness and guts to do it?"
Who: Rolf Wiborg, former Director of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate
Where: Calgary Convention Centre (120 – 9th Ave. S.E. Calgary)
South Building - McLeod Hall
When: 10:35 a.m., Friday, April 17, 2015
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail email@example.com
Excitement is running high as union leaders and activists gather in Calgary before an election that could transform Alberta
Delegates to AFL convention wonder: will the power of working people finally trump the power of the wealthy and well-connected?
CALGARY – Leaders from most of Alberta’s major unions will gather in Calgary this week, in the midst of a provincial election campaign in which their main issues have suddenly become pivotal and their preferred candidates are set to make major gains.
We’ve been saying for nearly a decade that Alberta has a tax and royalty system that overwhelmingly favours big corporations and the wealthy,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said on the eve of the AFL’s biennial convention. “Suddenly our issues and proposals for reform are being talked about by thousands and thousands of voters and many of the party leaders. To say that we’re excited and hopeful would be an understatement.
The AFL’s 2015 convention – titled “Dream No Little Dreams” – starts Thursday morning, April 16, and wraps on Sunday, April 19. The event is being held at the Calgary Convention Centre (South Building- McLeod Hall).
Highlights of the Convention include:
AFL president Gil McGowan will address the convention about the AFL’s cheeky and much-discussed Better Way Alberta campaign, which many observers agree has “primed the pump” for the current debate that’s raging on corporate taxes.
Thursday, April 16 – 10:40 a.m.
Dr. Alex Himelfarb, the former Clerk of the Privy Council (the top bureaucrat for the federal government), whose new book, “Tax is NOT a four-letter word”, makes the case for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for quality public services.
Thursday, April 16 – 2:30 p.m.
Childcare Resource and Research unit director Martha Friendly will make the case that Canada needs a national child care program.
Friday, April 17 – 9:30 a.m.
Former director of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate Rolf Wiborg will present a case for a publicly-owned energy corporation to champion value-added development in the oil sands. Wiborg, a petroleum engineer with more than 40 years working in Norway’s oil industry, is a leading expert in managing petroleum wealth.
On Friday, April 17 – 10:35 a.m.
Former Canadian ambassador to the UN Stephen Lewis will speak about the upcoming Federal election, and make the case for why Canadians need to rise up against Stephen Harper and take their country back.
On Saturday, April 18 – 2:10 p.m.
Delegates will also debate plans for helping progressive candidates “get over the top” in the current provincial election campaign.
This is a crucial moment for working people. We think ordinary citizens in this province have finally reached the point where they’re ready to say: "enough is enough" McGowan said. This is shaping up to be the election we’ve all been waiting for: the election in which the power of working people finally trumps the power of the wealthy and the well-connected. At our convention, we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to take advantage of this historic opportunity.
2015 Statement from Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan on the federal government’s April 1 TFW deadline
Statement from Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan on the federal government’s April 1 TFW deadline
On the eve of the federal government’s April 1 deadline for Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs), Canadians should feel sympathy for the thousands of people facing the prospect of being sent home … and they should feel anger and disgust towards the federal government for the ham-handed way they’ve handled this file.
It’s appropriate to sympathize with individual Temporary Foreign workers, because – quite simply – they’ve done nothing wrong.
They came to Canada in good faith. They worked hard. They dreamed about better lives for themselves and their families. They don’t deserve the lies, broken promises and outright exploitation that they’ve suffered at the hands of the Harper government and many unscrupulous employers and fly-by-night labour brokers.
However, while it is appropriate for us to feel sympathy for these workers, we cannot lose sight of what needs to be done. And what the federal government needs to do is shut down the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) – or, at the very least, scale it back to what it was before they made the decision to expand it a decade ago.
We take this position because Canada doesn’t need an exploitative guest worker program. What we need is real immigration. We also need better training – both in our schools and from employers – so that Canadians can benefit from the opportunities offered in our national and regional labour markets.
The Harper government’s dramatically expanded Temporary Foreign Worker Program was never a good fit for our country. It was never a good fit because Canada is a country built by immigration – and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is not immigration; it’s exploitation.
The Temporary Foreign Worker program flies in the face of Canadian values: values like fairness, tolerance and inclusion. It also represents a dramatic break from our traditional approach to bringing people into our country from abroad.
For generations, we embraced an immigration model that welcomed newcomers as citizens. It’s a model that served us well. But now, as a result of the Harper government’s approach – an approach which, I might add, was never brought to Parliament for approval – we’re now bringing more people into the country each year as precarious guest workers than as permanent residents and citizens.
The reality for the vast majority of the 350,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada – and the 85,000 TFWs here in Alberta – is that, despite the promises made by politicians and many employment brokers, they will never become citizens. Instead, they’re status is more akin to the indentured servants or the so-called “coolies” of the 19th century.
The defining characteristic of TFWs in Canada today is their lack of full mobility rights. For most of them, they can only work for the employer that brought them. Even if they’re being cheated, mistreated or underpaid, in most cases they can’t do what Canadian workers can do – they can’t quit and apply for a job across the street.
This is exactly what many employers love about the Temporary Foreign Worker program. It has allowed them to ignore market signals about wages and impose working conditions that would never be tolerated by Canadians.
This is why so many employers love the program, but it is also why we at the Alberta Federation of Labour have so strongly opposed it.
We simply cannot tolerate the continued existence of a federal program that has facilitated the creation of a two-tiered labour market in which unscrupulous employers are allowed to use a vulnerable underclass of precarious workers to drive down wages, displace Canadians and avoid their responsibilities related to training.
That’s our bottom line: Canada needs to say “no” to a two-tiered labour market based on the exploitation of vulnerable guest workers.
In other parts of the world, guest worker programs have turned whole economic sectors into low-wage ghettos. It starts with jobs that are already low-status and low-pay, like child care and farm labour. But, if guest worker programs are allowed to flourish, the ghettoization creeps up the wage scale to areas like food service, retail sales, construction and even sectors like IT and health care.
When this happens, wages and job opportunities are suppressed and tensions between citizens and newcomers become enflamed.
This has already been happening here in Alberta. A wide range of experts – from the Parliamentary Budget Officer to the former governor of the Bank of Canada to former Employment Minister Jason Kenney himself – now agree that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was being used to suppress wages. Instead of being used as a last resort, the program was a first choice for many employers – especially in the low wage service sector.
This distorted the labour market and was clearly uncalled for in Alberta when oil was trading above $100 a barrel. It’s completely unacceptable now that the price of oil has collapsed and unemployment is on the rise.
However – and this is a big “however” – while we think the TFW program should be scrapped in its current form, we feel strongly that something needs to be done to help the thousands and thousands of TFWs who are already in the country. They are just as much victims of bad public policy as the Canadians who have been displaced by the program whose wages have been suppressed.
With this in mind, this morning I have made a formal proposal to the federal ministers of Employment and Immigration. We’re urging them to close off most TFW streams going forward and impose new limits and restriction on the so-called International Mobility Program which is allowing a growing number of foreign workers into the country without even the minimal oversight afforded to the mainline TFW program.
But we’re also asking them to let the TFWs who are already in Canada stay. Most importantly, we believe these workers should be granted permanent residency and eventually citizenship.
As permanent residents or citizens, these workers will have full mobility rights within the Canadian labour market, meaning it will be much more difficult for employers to use them as pawns to drive down wages and conditions on individual worksites or across sectors of the economy.
Closing off most streams of the TFW program and granting permanent residency to the TFWs already in Canada will accomplish three important things:
- It will put all participants in the Canadian labour market on equal footing. It is most certainly NOT in the broad interest of the Canadian public to have a labour market divided into two segments: one with full rights, including the right to mobility, and another with constrained rights, including limits on mobility. Closing off the TFW program and granting permanent residency to the workers already here, will re-establish balance and fairness in the Canadian labour market.
- It will go a long way towards correcting what is, essentially, an historic injustice. For generations, Canada has been a beacon for immigrants seeking to create a better life for themselves and their families. But, as I’ve said, the TFW program is not immigration, it is exploitation. By closing off the program and granting permanent residency to TFWs already in the country, we could re-establish our reputation as a nation that welcomes, instead of exploits, newcomers.
- It will encourage businesses and governments to focus on the REAL solutions to meeting the needs of the Canadian labour market: training, flexibility on compensation and conditions and REAL immigration. Instead of relying on cheap, vulnerable and exploitable workers, governments and businesses will have to do what they should have been doing all along, which is to nurture, develop and support our domestic labour force – which is a labour force that has always included new immigrants with full citizenship rights.
Will Pierre Poilievre and Chris Alexander do the right thing when their predecessors would not? Will they hear our plea that Canada should be a country of citizens, not serfs? Honestly, I don’t know. And based on the track record of this government, I’m not hopeful. But we need to ask and we need to lobby. If the Harper Conservatives continue to mishandle this file, then the only choice for Canadians will be to view the next federal election as an opportunity to put an end to this sorry chapter in Canadian history at the ballot box.
March 2015: Sign the BWA petition; BWA campaign turns a mirror on Tory mismanagement; Looming TFW deportations highlight inhumanity of program
Sign the Better Way Alberta petition
The Better Way Alberta coalition is urging the government to fix the province’s broken revenue system. And we’re asking you to sign our petition. Join the thousands of Albertans who have already signed, and help be part of the solution.
We the undersigned residents of Alberta, petition the Legislative Assembly to ensure there is enough money to pay for necessary public services like education and health care by introducing tax and royalty reforms that include the following measures:
- increasing the tax on corporate profits to a rate that is closer to the national average;
- replacing Alberta’s flat income tax with a progressive tax that requires high-income earners to pay higher tax rates than middle and low-income earners;
- and introducing royalty changes that ensure Albertans receive a fair share from the sale of their resources.
You can sign the petition online at www.BetterWayAlberta.ca or in person at the Alberta Federation of Labour offices (Parkington Plaza, #300, 10408 – 124 Street NW, Edmonton, AB T5N 1R5).
Better Way Alberta campaign turns a mirror on Tory mismanagement
Over the next few weeks, voters will be hearing from the Better Way Alberta campaign, showing them that there are sensible, moderate measures that can help ensure the long-term financial stability of the province.
The province-wide campaign will consist of a central website and petition; a radio and online advertising campaign; a direct-mail campaign to every household in Alberta; and a door-to-door campaign in which canvassers will have face-to-face conversations with Albertans about the Better Way Alberta campaign.
“Who created the current budget mess? It’s time for Premier Prentice and the Tories to look in the mirror,” says Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan. “We’re not facing a budget crunch because of anything individual Albertans did. The real problem is that successive PC governments have blown holes in the revenue base we need to fund education, health care and other services that Albertans rely on.”
According to the government’s own numbers, Alberta could increase the amount it gets from taxes by $11.6 billion a year and still have the lowest taxes in Canada. Most of that $11.6 billion that is going uncollected by Alberta’s inequitable tax code is being left in the pockets of the province’s richest individuals and most profitable corporations.
“If we’re all in this together, as Premier Prentice says, why should corporations and the wealthy get a free pass?” McGowan said. “And why should ordinary Albertans pay for the mistakes of politicians again?”
The campaign was created by a coalition of the Alberta Federation of Labour, United Nurses of Alberta, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta Division). Visit www.betterwayalberta.ca for more information about the campaign, or to sign the petition calling on the government to reform its revenue system.
Looming Temporary Foreign Worker deportations highlight inhumanity of program
Thousands of vulnerable Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) are facing deportation.
On April 1st, thousands of work permits will expire, and the workers who hold those permits will be forced to leave. They and their employers were not allowed to renew those work permits because the government tightened the rules on the Temporary Foreign Worker program.
“The Temporary Foreign Worker program needs to be reined in, but without affecting the workers who are already here,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “There should not be any more TFW permits for low-wage employers, but the workers who are already here should have been allowed to stay.”
There are more than 70,000 Temporary Foreign Workers in Alberta. The province has the highest percentage of its workforce composed of Temporary Foreign Workers of any jurisdiction in the country. In particular, it is in Alberta where low-wage employers have made the most aggressive use of the program in an attempt to drive down wages.
Did you know…
- Even before the price of oil crashed, revenue generated from Alberta’s shrunken taxes on personal income and corporate profits covered only about 40 per cent of the cost of public services, compared to about 60 per cent in other provinces.
- Women working full-time only earned 63 per cent of the annual average salary their male counterparts earned in Alberta.
Alberta’s spending is $9,786 per person on public services — $434 less than the national average, despite the fact that cost-of-living is higher here.
• March 21: International Day for the Elimination of Racism
• April 16-19: AFL Convention “Dream No Little Dreams”
• April 28: International Day of Mourning for Workers Injured or Killed on the Job
Edmonton – Workers in Edmonton took to the street on Thursday to protest the fact that they’ve been passed over for jobs on the city’s new arena.
Instead of hiring some of the 300 qualified ironworkers who are on the jobs list at the hiring hall a few blocks from the arena’s location, the company that was awarded the lucrative contract for the construction of the arena has applied for – and been approved to hire – Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs).
In protest, workers rallied at noon on Thursday at the corner of 104th Street and 104th Avenue in Edmonton, across the street from the arena’s location. The workers carried signs reading “Built for Edmonton, Built By Edmonton,” and “Where’s The Home-Ice Advantage.”
“Denying an application to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) should have been an easy call when there are 300 workers qualified and ready to do the work just blocks away,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “It should have been an easy stop. Have the TFWP regulators pulled their goalie?”
Since the contract was awarded, and the applications were submitted, Ironworkers Local 720 has lobbied the city, the contractor and the federal government asking for the jobs to be made available to qualified Canadian workers, and for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program permits to be revoked. These requests have been rebuffed.
“This is the sort of project that ironworkers love to work on – It’s going to be a beautiful building. And in thirty years, local workers who had a part in it will point to it and tell their kids ‘I built that.’ We have literally hundreds of qualified tradespeople who are eager to do this job,” Ironworkers Local 720 business agent George Papineau said. “And most of these workers are local Edmontonians. They’re the sort of folks who haven’t given up on the Oilers season yet – which is why it’s so galling that the company building the new home of the Oilers has turned its back on them.”
Rogers’ Place – set to become the new home of the Edmonton Oilers in 2016 – began construction in March of 2014. The 20,000-seat venue will cost $480 million, and will involve hundreds of thousands of man hours to build. Since the project was first proposed, it has been plagued by concerns that the economic benefits would not go to residents of the city.
“Who is this arena for? Edmontonians were sold this project – and it was approved by the narrowest of margins – based on an argument that it would be good for the city. Is it good for the city for our tax dollars to go to American workers with no investment in the community? Is it good for the city that hundreds of Edmonton ironworkers are watching from the sidelines?” Edmonton and District Labour Council president Bruce Fafard said. “The arena is being paid for by tax dollars – and most citizens would rather see their tax dollars going to their neighbours than being sent out of the province and out of the country.”
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan speaks to demonstrators outside of Edmonton’s arena project.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org