A plan to lay off more than 1,000 teachers across Alberta is being met with fierce opposition from unions and special interest groups, who say the decision can't be justified.
"Our provincial government wants Albertans to believe these are tough times," said Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "We should not be as a province talking austerity, we should not be talking freezes. We are a province that can afford high quality public services."
Roughly 1,200 teaching jobs are expected to be eliminated this fall, the result of funding cuts to education programs that have left school boards unable to balance their books. On Tuesday Edmonton's Public School Board announced that 229 teachers would be lost.
But members of "Join Together Alberta" - comprised of a variety of unions and special interest groups - say that schools boards shouldn't be forced to consider job cuts when the province has money to spend.
"We think in the short term the provincial government should be drawing from the substantiality fund to make sure our public services are maintained," McGowan said.
Sharon Armstrong, vice-president of the Alberta Teacher's Association, believes a united voice could help convince the province to loosen it's purse-strings.
"The individual in Alberta has a lot of power if they choose to use it," Armstrong said. "I believe if they speak out strongly, the government will listen."
Vanessa Sauve, president of the Holyrood Parents Council, is lending her voice to the chorus, concerned about what cuts could mean for children.
"Parents are worried," Sauve said. "Larger class sizes for their child means less class time with the teacher and things can get missed."
Education Minister Dave Hancock could not be reached for comment Thursday, but earlier in the week suggested that the province has increased education spending by nearly 70 percent in the last decade.
Global Toronto, Thurs May 26 2011
Teachers and the Alberta Federation of Labour plan to fight layoffs that could cost up to 1,200 teachers their jobs. The Alberta Teachers' Association is holding a news conference this morning within the A-F-L to speak out about budget shortfalls that are behind the expected cuts. Union leaders blame the problem on government boom-and-bust budget cycles. They say the province should come up with a plan that would provide the education system with stable funding.
AM770 News, Thurs May 26 2011
December 2010: Leaks reveal Tory Plan to privatize health care; Farm deaths prove safety laws are absurb; Brace for more cuts to vital services; Time for action on domestic violence
- Documents leaked to opposition parties show that the government has a hidden agenda to allow more privatization of health care after the next election. NDP leader Brian Mason said the documents show that Health Minister has misled Albertans. "It's more proof that the Stelmach Tories can't be trusted on health care," he said. Join Friends of Medicare in the fight to save our health-care system. To see the leaked documents ...
Farm deaths prove safety laws are absurd
- Two people were electrocuted while working on an Edmonton area farm - but health and safety inspectors called to the site were powerless to investigate (Dec 3 press release). They had to abandon inquiries when the discovered the tragedy took place on a farm, because agricultural operations are exempt from workplace health and safety laws. "This is clear evidence that the government's recent decision to focus on education and training to improve farm and ranch safety is completely inadequate," says AFL president Gil McGowan.
For more information ...
Brace for more cuts to vital services
- While private-sector forecasters predicted robust economic growth for Alberta in 2011, the provincial government painted a grim picture of our financial future. "Clearly, the agenda for Conservative Finance Minister Ted Morton is to find ways to justify cuts to health care, education, and social services," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. For more information ...
Time for action on domestic violence
- In a recent Alberta study, more than 20 per cent of respondents reported they had experienced the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. However, employers, supervisors, workers, professional associations and unions can take joint action to prevent it. The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters and Health Sciences Association of Alberta developed a toolkit, Everyone's Business, that helps everyone do their part to prevent domestic violence. For more information ...
One more push for REAL pension reformCanada's finance ministers meet in Kananaskis on December 19 and 20 to discuss pension reform. The best option for all Canadians is the expansion of the Canada Pension Plans proposed by the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress. Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton alone is fighting to stop this. Let him and the other finance ministers know he does not speak for Albertans on this issue. To join the fight ...
December 18 - International Migrants Day
December 20 - International Human Rights Solidarity Day
January 14-16, 2011 - CUPE AB Anti-Racism Conference, Calgary
January 17-22 & January 23-28, 2011 - AFL/CLC Annual School, Jasper
Did you know ...
• Only 38 per cent of Albertans contributed to an RRSP in 2008 and the median contribution was only $3,200.
• Average management fees in the mutual fund industry are 2.6 per cent, among the highest in the industrial world and about five times that of CPP.
• In 2007, half of Alberta seniors had no investment income.
• Half of Alberta seniors have no employer pension income.
• Half of Alberta seniors without and employer-sponsored pension have no retirement assets.
• Half of Alberta seniors have no RRSP or RRIF savings.
For more information ...
October 2010: Pension reform; Lakoff lecture/workshop; health-care proposals; workplace injury and fatality records website
- More than three quarters of Canadians support increasing Canada Pension Plan benefits, according to a new national survey released today by Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. For more information ... To learn more about the campaign for pension reform and events being organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress, go to ...
Why the right wins ... and how we can stop them
- Albertans have a long history of electing right-wing governments. This has seriously affected the quality of our public debate and hampered our efforts to unionize and represent workers. How can progressives slay this political giant? To find out how, the AFL is bringing in George Lakoff, the communications mastermind behind the U.S. presidential campaign of Barack Obama. For more details ...
Drop undemocratic changes to Alberta's health laws
- Friends of Medicare has launched a campaign to persuade Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky to abandon plans to change provincial health laws, after a legal opinion commissioned by the AFL said the proposals were "not consistent with a democratic society." For more information ...
Government's safety records website gets failing grade
- Alberta's new website offering workplace injury and fatality records may be well intentioned, but presents only a bewildering array of statistics and little useful information for workers, says the AFL. For more information ...
Support U of A janitors in struggle for justice
- A group of janitors at the University of Alberta is suing a cleaning company for tens of thousands of dollars, claiming that overtime money has not been paid. The janitors, many of whom are temporary foreign workers, say they have been threatened with deportation by their employer, University of Alberta contractor Bee Clean Building Maintenance. Show your support at an event at the University of Alberta, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19, Education Building Room 106, University of Alberta North Campus. For details of the event ... For information and to sign a pledge in support of the workers, go to http://www.j4jatuofa.org/
- October 25, 2010 - CLC Pension Campaign Lobby Training Session, Edmonton
- October 28/29, 2010 - George Lakoff Lecture/Workshop, Edmonton
- November 5-7, 2010 - AB New Democratic Convention, Red Deer
- November 16, 2010 - AFL Lobby Day, Edmonton
- November 19-21, 2010 - Parkland Fall Conference, Edmonton
- November 27, 2010 - AFL Pension Summit, Edmonton
- December 5, 2010 - AFL Women's Committee Commemorative Brunch, Edmonton
Did you know ...
An analysis by the AFL of Alberta government spending shows that it has cut expenditure on environmental monitoring, while spending on public relations has soared. The research revealed:
- 26% drop in spending on environmental monitoring, compliance, and enforcement. Alberta spent $27 million on monitoring, enforcement, and compliance programs in 2003. Budget 2010 projects Alberta Environment will spend $20 million this year.
- 54% increase in spending on public relations since 2003. The Communications line for Alberta Environment grew from $717,000 in 2003 to $1.1 million for 2010.
- 57% increase in spending by the Minister, Deputy Minister, and Communications from a combined total of $1.4 million in 2003 to a projected $2.2 million in 2010.
Legal opinion commissioned by Alberta Federation of Labour says proposed changes are "not consistent with a democratic society."
Edmonton (14 Oct. 2010) - Friends of Medicare (FoM) has launched a new campaign to persuade Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky to abandon proposed changes to provincial health laws.
"It's time to move on from the unpopular and discredited policies of former Health Minister Ron Liepert and his Advisory Committee on Health and abandon proposed changes to the laws governing health care in Alberta," says David Eggen, executive director of FoM.
"It's clear that Albertans care deeply about health care and don't want or need existing laws and protections to be weakened or removed."
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) commissioned a legal opinion from Gwen Gray of Chivers Carpenter LLP, who examined the existing provincial legislation and the proposed changes.
She found that current laws do a good job of protecting the publicly-funded, publicly-delivered health care system that Albertans want. The legal opinion also finds that protections against private health care are contained within Alberta's laws, not the Canada Health Act.
The legal opinion concludes that changing Alberta's health laws would significantly weaken Albertans' protections against private insurance, extra billing and U.S.-style private hospitals.
The changes proposed by the Minister's Advisory Committee on Health would scrap all existing health care laws - including protections against privatization - and replace them with what is known as "enabling legislation."
The health minister could make new health care laws without even having a debate in the legislature. The legal opinion concludes that the plan for putting health care laws into regulations is "not consistent with a democratic society."
AFL president Gil McGowan says:
"We believe that Zwozdesky shares the concern of Albertans about protecting our public health care system. The revisions to provincial health laws planned by his predecessor sparked legitimate fears among the citizens of this province. It's time for Zwozdesky to make a clean break from those discredited ideas and embark on a new path that will reassure Albertans that the future of health care is in safe hands," McGowan argues.
"This is far too great a risk to public health care," adds Eggen. "Perhaps Zwozdesky might be able to assure us that he won't allow more private health care, but he cannot make that reassurance about future health ministers. They would have the power to do whatever they wished, without public consultation or even debate in the legislature."
Many organizations are members and supporters of Friends of Medicare, including the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
NUPGE Newsletter, Thurs Oct 14 2010
Two advocacy groups say the proposed Alberta Health Act will be a piece of "shell legislation" that will give politicians the power to privatize health care without any public debate.
Friends of Medicare and the Alberta Federation of Labour say the province is planning to overhaul health laws so the important parts are in the regulations, not in the law itself. Regulations can be changed by ministers at any time, behind closed doors, while laws must be debated in the public forum of the legislature.
"Albertans spoke out loud and clear during the spring and summer; they wanted their public health system improved, not dismantled," said David Eggen, executive director of Friends of Medicare.
"We believe the Alberta Health Act has national implications, making a piece of shell legislation that can attack the fundamental principles of the protection of health care in each of the provinces of this country."
Eggen said his organization, along with the Alberta Federation of Labour, will launch a campaign to persuade Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky to move away from this kind of "enabling legislation" and "blaze his own trail" in health care by improving the current system to give Albertans better health care.
Zwozdesky said his critics are misleading the public.
"People should wait until they see the act when it is introduced in the legislature before they start scaring people with misleading information," he said. "It's time for that to stop."
He said the government has listened to Albertans, who say they want meaningful involvement in a publicly funded universal healthcare system, along with a health charter and a health advocate.
"Let me be perfectly clear -- we are not privatizing health care. The premier has made that clear. I have made that clear."
Asked if the new law would open the door to privatized care, he said "absolutely not."
The organizations have obtained a legal opinion that says the proposed changes to the health act are "not consistent with a democratic society."
Lawyer Gwen Gray said that contrary to popular belief, protection against the privatization of health care is contained in provincial laws, not the federal Canada Health Act. As a result, she said that a promise to abide by the Canada Health Act doesn't guarantee the province won't legalize private health care.
"The Canada Health Act guarantees the existence of a public healthcare system for all Canadians. It is silent on whether there is a parallel private system for the wealthy that can be purchased, with private insurance, from doctors who opt-out of the public system," she wrote in the four-page summary.
"It is the Alberta laws that make a private health-care market impossible, and it is those laws the Minister's Advisory Committee on Health is proposing to change."
AFL president Gil McGowan said Albertans should be concerned that the province's health laws are about to undergo radical reform.
"Consolidation of existing legislation under a new Alberta Health Act is far from mere administrative housekeeping. It has the potential to be something much closer to radical reform.
"The kind of reform envisioned by the former minister, Ron Liepert, and the advisory committee, could dramatically undermine the ability of Albertans to have a say in the shape of their health-care system."Edmonton Journal, Wed Oct 13 2010
Byline: Karen Kleiss
EDMONTON - Medicare and labour groups want Alberta to shelve planned changes to laws that govern the province's health-care system.
The Friends of Medicare says the new Alberta Health Act to be introduced this fall would make it easier for the government to expand private health insurance.
Executive director Dave Eggen says it would also make it easier for the province to de-list health services from medicare coverage, a move that would force Albertans to pay out of pocket for some services.
The Alberta Federation of Labour has also released a legal review of the province's existing health laws, which limit the use of private medical insurance.
The review says the province's existing laws do a good job of protecting public health care.
Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky is to respond to a government-commissioned review of the health system by the end of next week.
Department officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The changes proposed by the Minister's Advisory Committee on Health would scrap all existing health care laws - including protections against privatization - and replace them with what is known as "enabling legislation." The Health Minister could make new health care laws without even having a debate in the Legislature. The legal opinion concludes that the plan for putting health care laws into regulations is "not consistent with a democratic society."
Lethbridge Herald, Tues Oct 12 2010
Friends of Medicare launches campaign to drop health law changes: Legal opinion commissioned by AFL says proposed changes are undemocratic
Edmonton - Friends of Medicare (FoM) today launches a new campaign to persuade Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky to abandon proposed changes to provincial health laws.
"It's time to move on from the unpopular and discredited policies of former Health Minister Ron Liepert and his advisory committee on health and abandon proposed changes to the laws governing health care in Alberta," says David Eggen, executive director of FoM. "It's clear the Albertans care deeply about health care and don't want or need existing laws and protections to be weakened or removed."
The Alberta Federation of Labour commissioned a legal opinion (click here for AFL summary) from Gwen Gray of Chivers Carpenter LLP, who examined the existing provincial legislation and the proposed changes. She found our current laws do a good job of protecting the publicly funded, publicly delivered health-care system that Albertans want. The opinion also finds that protections against private health care are contained within Alberta's laws, not the Canada Health Act. The legal opinion concludes that changing Alberta's health laws would significantly weaken Albertans' protections against private insurance, extra billing, and U.S.-style private hospitals.
The changes proposed by the Minister's Advisory Committee on Health would scrap all existing health care laws - including protections against privatization - and replace them with what is known as "enabling legislation." The Health Minister could make new health-care laws without even having a debate in the Legislature. The legal opinion concludes that the plan for putting health-care laws into regulations is "not consistent with a democratic society."
AFL president Gil McGowan says: "We believe that Zwozdesky shares the concern of Albertans about protecting our public health-care system. The revisions to provincial health laws planned by his predecessor sparked legitimate fears among the citizens of this province. It's time for Zwozdesky to make a clean break from those discredited ideas and embark on a new path that will reassure Albertans that the future of health care is in safe hands."
"This is far too great a risk to public health care," says Eggen. "Perhaps Zwozdesky might be able to assure us that he won't allow more private health care, but he cannot make that reassurance about future health ministers. They would have the power to do whatever they wished, without public consultation or even debate in the Legislature."
- 30 -
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour, 780-218-9888
David Eggen, Executive Director, Friends of Medicare, 780-887-0446
Gwen Gray, Chivers Carpenter LLP, 780-4393611
Friends of Medicare and the Alberta Federation of Labour are joining forces in an effort to derail the proposed Alberta Health Act, which is expected to be introduced this fall in the legislature.
The healthcare lobby group and the province's largest union claim the new legislation will make it easier for the government to expand the use of private health insurance and de-list health services from Medicare coverage.
The Executive Director of Friends of Medicare tells 660News the proposed Alberta Health Act will weaken existing laws and won't do anything to fix the problems people want addressed.
"Work with what you have and get down to solving the practical problems that our healthcare system is also wanting in, which is wait times, access to a doctor and acute care beds," says David Eggen.
Eggen tells 660News Albertans who are concerned about where health care is headed need to speak out and now.
Alberta's health minister will respond to the government-commissioned review of the health system next week.
660News, Tues Oct 12 2010
By: Kevin Usselman and Lisa Grant
This fall, an advisory committee to the Minister of Health recommended that Alberta tear up its health care laws in favour of vague and unclear statements of "principles" and "guidelines."
Minister of Health Gene Zwozdesky is now considering those recommendations. The Friends of Medicare is urging all Albertans to send the Minister a message: Don't Tear Up the Laws!
Alberta's existing health care laws put us on stable ground.
Our current laws provide protections against U.S.-style private insurance, extra billing by doctors, two-tier health care and queue jumping, and private hospitals.
It is noteworthy that these protections are not contained in the Canada Health Act - they are the responsibility of the provinces. And it is these laws that Alberta is proposing to change.
Scrapping our existing health-care laws is a dangerous path for any health minister, given the way the Minister's Advisory Committee is proposing that new laws be written. The Advisory Committee has proposed that new laws put most of the details into regulation - structuring health-care laws as so-called "enabling legislation." This would put an enormous amount of power in the hands of the Health Minister.
Furthermore, it shields changes to the health-care system from public debate, as changes do not have to go before the Legislature. If the Advisory Committee's changes are accepted, private insurance, private hospitals, or two-tier health care can be brought in with the stroke of a pen, and behind closed doors.
Improving our public health-care system doesn't involve tearing up the laws. We can save money, deliver better care, and preserve the system for the future with innovations like bringing down the price of pharmaceuticals, improving primary care, and investing in prevention and promotion.
Call, write (click here for sample letter), and e-mail Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky. Urge him to consider real and lasting improvements to the health-care system, by strengthening public medicare for all Albertans. Ask him to reject the Minister's Advisory Committee recommendation to tear up our health-care laws. And tell him that Albertans want their government to spend their time working on better public health care, not trying to invent new ways to privatize medicare behind closed doors.
To contact Minister Zwozdesky:
#208 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-3665
Fax: (780) 415-0961
8207 Argyll Road
Canada T6C 4B2
Phone: (780) 466-3737
Fax: (780) 468-3359