AFL political action paper presented to AFL 47th Constitutional Convention, April 28 to May 1, 2011
Over the past five or six years, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has significantly improved its ability to influence the debate over important issues of public policy within the province. Issues like workplace health and safety, the use (and abuse) of temporary foreign
workers and the job implications of exporting raw bitumen were our issues first – but they have now become major items for discussion by policy makers, the media and the broader public.
Alberta needs a revolution in political thinking and that will require going back to the future to recall the kind of thinking that helped establish the province.
A hundred years ago, settlers in Alberta found a way to prosper amid harsh conditions and isolation.
"Back then, before oil, Alberta was not a wealthy place," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, at Thursday's Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs session. "People eked out a modest living, they raised cattle, they planted crops, they scratched coal from the coalface."
Today in Alberta, sod houses have been replaced by climate-controlled homes and tradesmen earn healthy wages building oilsands projects. Even though Alberta today is a world apart from what it was in 1910, McGowan said the lessons of the past hold the key to solving today's problems.
Rather than being rugged individualists who made their own way, Alberta pioneers worked hard but also valued co-operation.
"They knew that some challenges, some problems were too big for one person to handle so they banded together to find public solutions to public problems," he said.
They created school boards, irrigation co-operatives, wheat pools and marketing boards.
"It's important to say that those things didn't come with private enterprise; it was public enterprise that brought those services to these far-flung communities," McGowan said.
That kind of approach allowed Peter Lougheed to establish a petro-chemical industry, by using regulation and public ownership, when he saw that jobs were being lost because raw forms of natural gas were being shipped out of the province.
"What previous generations of Albertans knew was that some problems were too big and some issues too important to be left to chance or the vagaries of the free market," he said.
McGowan said he doesn't see things have changed that much. The environmental implications of oilsands development, the loss of jobs down the pipeline as raw bitumen is exported, education for the technical jobs of the 21st century, better health care, meeting the needs of rapidly growing populations and declining pension coverage are all public problems.
Public solutions are one thing; paying for them is another. McGowan said Alberta has the resources to deal with the problems. Despite the recession, Alberta has a rainy-day fund and no public debt. Over the past 20 years the provincial economy has grown by leaps and bounds and corporate profits are four times greater while their tax rates have gone down.
"We have a situation of unprecedented private wealth while at the same time we have a government that's pleading poverty. There's a disconnect," he said.
McGowan said politics lies at the heart of the matter. Over the past 20 years, politics in much of the western world has been dominated by a "virulent" form of conservatism that demonizes the public sector, that rejects community solutions and puts the free market up on a pedestal.
"Politicians in Alberta have embraced what I would describe as a dangerous mythology, one that sees a vastly diminished role for government in promoting and protecting our public interest," he said.
McGowan said he sees three problems with that approach: It's simplistic; it doesn't reflect Albertans' values; and it imposes a restraint on debate.
Instead of having a range of options to consider, governments with this narrow view won't even consider options previous governments would have. Government interventions of the Lougheed kind wouldn't even be considered in today's political climate.
"We have to start expanding the range of possible. In many ways we have to go back to the future," he said. "We have to go back to that pioneer thinking which characterized Alberta from the beginning which took a very pragmatic approach to political problem-solving."
Byline: Caroline Zentner
Applications are now being accepted for the second year of Next Up Alberta: A Leadership Program for Young People Committed to Social and Environmental Justice
The application process is now under way for a new cohort of Next Up participants. This is an amazing, intensive and transformative program for young social change activists between the ages of 18 and 32. This year we're excited to announce that the program will operate in three provinces: Next Up BC in Vancouver, Next Up Alberta in Edmonton and Next Up Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
In each province, 13 young people will be selected. Participants will develop life-long relationships, explore different leadership styles, meet some of the province's leading change-makers, learn new leadership and organizing skills, and be exposed to current and topical social justice issues and progressive governance.
The application deadline for Next Up Alberta is Tuesday, Sept. 14. The program runs between October 2010 and April 2011.
Please forward this call far and wide -- to individuals, organizations, institutions and your progressive networks, with a special focus on networks that will boost the diversity of the program). And pass it on to specific people for whom you think this is a great fit. Thank you in advance for helping us find the fabulous young leaders for Next Up 2010/11 - you'll be thankful you did years from now!
Application forms and more information can be found at: http://www.nextup.ca.
Next Up is a project of genius (the global youth education network society), in partnership with the Columbia Institute Centre for Civic Governance, The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the Parkland Institute.
Aliya Jamal, Program Coordinator
Next Up Alberta
780-248-5846 (w) 780-691-3044 (c)
May 2010: Health-care reform; Workplace safety; Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights; Spring/Summer 2010 Union Magazine
Have your say on health-care reform!
- The Alberta government is hosting 28 "invitation-only" meetings around the province as it plans sweeping changes to the health-care system. Friends of Medicare, supported by the Join Together Alberta campaign, is fighting to make sure the public has a voice by staging eight fully public meetings across the province. For more details ...
Alberta unprepared to keep workers safe if boom times return
- New research released by the AFL shows that government spending on workplace safety has not kept pace with growth in the provincial economy and population - and, as a result, workers around the province are being put at risk, especially if the economy ramps up for another boom. Click here for more information ...
Albertans have a right to a clean environment
- Inspired by NDP MP Linda Duncan's private member's bill to create a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights (Bill C-469), the AFL Environment Committee wants the Alberta government to craft an environmental bill of rights covering the citizens of the province. For full text of the bill ...
Alberta's political landscape is changing
- The emergence of the Wildrose Alliance Party and the fracturing of the political landscape presents challenges and opportunities for the labour movement. Read all about it in the new Spring/Summer edition of the AFL's Union magazine.
Keep up the pressure for workplace health and safety
- The Auditor General's report severely criticized the government for failing to enforce workplace safety laws and called for action, including the naming of repeat corporate offenders. The AFL has long fought for stronger health and safety standards and enforcement. Workers have a right to know whether their workplace is safe or not. There is still time to pressure the Employment Minister to act. See the AFL press release on the report and the Auditor General's report - occupational health and safety
June 9, 2010 - Calgary/June 11, 2010 - Medicine Hat
On to Ottawa Trek
Saturday, June 5, 2010, Changing Together - Annual Multi-cultural Day (Centre for Immigrant Women) - light supper and entertainment
June 25/26, 2010 - EDLC/CLC Municipal Election TrainingJune 25, 2010 - 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; June 26, 2010 - 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Labour Centre Meeting Hall (downstairs), 10425 Princess Elizabeth Avenue. For more information...
June 18, 2010 - deadline for registrations for 2010 AFL Kids' Camp Camp dates are August 9 - 13, 2010Camper Registration Form and Union Donations and Volunteer Form
Did you know ...
- Alberta has more workplace fatalities than the national average, at 5.9 per 100,000 workers compared with 4.2 nationally
- The number of Albertans working in the four most dangerous industries has almost doubled since 1991, growing to 620,000 workers from 341,000
- Alberta employs fewer health and safety inspectors than the national average: 1.4 inspectors per 10,000 workers compared with the national figure of 2.1
- Alberta spends less per worker on occupational health and safety today (when 22 per cent of Albertans work in the top four dangerous industries) than the Getty government did in 1991 (when only 15 per cent of Albertans worked in the four most dangerous industries)
March 2010: Budget is cutting budget; Alberta women falling behind; Sklar Peppler boycott; Join Together Alberta
Despite all the spin, the recent budget is a cutting budget
- While the Stelmach government boosted health-care spending and held the line on education spending, in other ministries it was cut, cut, cut - a total of $1.3 billion in cuts in 14 ministries. Cuts include: Advanced Education and Technology by six per cent, or $205 million, which will lead to low-income students having to take on more loans, and to increased tuition fees; Children and Youth Services has by 3.1 per cent or $36 million, meaning less money for child care and for children in need; Housing and Urban Affairs by 18.6 per cent or $112 million, mainly in grants for affordable housing. For AFL analysis ...
Alberta women are falling behind
- A new study by the Edmonton-based Parkland Institute and the Womanspace Resource Centre in Lethbridge shows that the battle for rights and equality continues in this province (see AFL news release). The median income for Alberta women working full year, full time is 66 per cent of that earned by men. The gender wage gap is worse in Alberta than in all other provinces. The boom years have made things worse, not better, for Alberta's women. In 1993 women working full time earned 71 per cent of what men earned. For fact sheet ...
Getting our act together - at the AFL Membership Forum in April
- The end of the recession may be in sight - but storm clouds are still gathering on the horizon for workers and unions. Here in Alberta, we're facing the prospect of yet another round of deep cuts and privatization in the public sector. At this year's AFL Membership Forum we will address discuss how we can "Get Our Act Together" to more effectively protect the interests of working people in an increasingly hostile economic and political environment.
- The Canadian Labour Congress has endorsed a national consumer boycott against Sklar Peppler, Alan White branded furniture, and its manufacturer, AW Manufacturing (http://documents.clc-ctc.ca/Officers-EAs/USW-request-EN-only.pdf). The boycott is in support of the United Steelworkers, which saw 100 members lose their jobs and severance pay when Sklar Peppler declared bankruptcy in 2008. The president of Sklar Peppler bought the assets out of bankruptcy, bought AW Manufacturing Inc. in Mississippi and now uses product from that plant to sell to Sklar's customers.
Join the fight for jobs, justice and equality at the Legislature, Saturday, March 20th
The fight to protect Alberta's public services is far from over. Last month's budget included spending cuts of $1.3 billion in 14 ministries. These cuts will damage the fabric of communities throughout the province and the Join Together Alberta coalition is keeping the pressure on government to save our services and will stage a march to the legislature on Saturday, March 20, 2010.
Join Together Rally
- March 20, 2010, 12:30 p.m.
- March from Shaw Conference Centre/MacEwan University/105 Street and Jasper Avenue
- Marches meet up at the Legislature at 1:00 p.m. for rally
Membership Forum 2010
- April 23 and 24, 2010
- SAIT Polytechnic, Calgary
- Deadline for registration is April 16, 2010
- Deadline for hotel registration is April 2, 2010
Did you know ...
According to research by the Parkland Institute, Alberta spends less than 12 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on services, while the average among other provinces is 22.5 per cent. On the revenue side, if Alberta reverted to a progressive income tax (like all other provinces) instead of the flat tax, it would generate $5.5 billion in annual revenue, erasing the deficit at a stroke and provide funding for health, education and other vital services! For more details ...
October 2009: Attacks on health care; EI failing working people in Alberta; Pension reform; Send Old Dutch a message
Wrong Way! Stelmach vows to proceed with attacks on health care ...
- In his recent televised address to the province, Premier Ed Stelmach vowed to press on with plans for major changes in health care - but he declined to explain what those changes would involve. The AFL believes the government's "reform agenda" essentially boils down to privatization, lay-offs for health care workers and more downloading of costs onto patients and their families. That's why we're supporting the Friends of Medicare's "Wrong Way" campaign aimed at stopping yet another Conservative push to privatize our public health care system. Learn how you can help keep Medicare public!
EI fails working people - especially in Alberta
- As the global recession drags on, more and more Canadians have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Unfortunately, the federal government's Employment Insurance (EI) program is failing to provide a safety net for many of those who have lost their jobs. In fact, a study released last month by the AFL shows that less than 40 per cent of unemployed workers in Alberta are eligible to receive EI benefits. Albertans have to work longer to receive fewer benefits than any other workers in the country - and the majority of Alberta's unemployed receive no EI benefits at all. For the publication ...
Alberta leading in the wrong direction on pension reform
- The recession has proven that Canada desperately needs pension reform, but a proposal for a government-sponsored supplemental pension plan being floated by the Alberta and B.C. governments may actually make a bad situation worse. That was the conclusion of an actuarial analysis commissioned by the AFL and conducted by the Vancouver-based pension firm PBI. After crunching the numbers, the consultants found that the so-called ABC plan would, in most cases, generate only a paltry amount of income for pensioners. AFL president Gil McGowan warned that, in addition to being inadequate, the ABC plan would likely distract attention from discussion on more substantial proposals for reform. Read the full text of the analysis ...
Privatization by stealth
- How would you like it if someone sold your property out from under you without even asking your opinion? That's exactly what happened when Edmonton City Council voted behind closed doors to sell large chunks of the power generation assets owned by the citizens of Edmonton through the City's utility company, Epcor. Now a majority on City Council has voted to bar the public from all future privatization decisions related to Epcor. Frustrated Edmontonians are encouraged to get involved with the new citizen's group, Our Power, which formed over the summer to demand that the public - as owners - be given the final say on all privatization debates. Our Power's latest effort is to get enough signatures on a petition to force a plebiscite on privatization during the next municipal election. Find out how you can get involved! For more information ...
Send Old Dutch a message!
Workers at the Old Dutch potato chip plant in Calgary have now been locked out by their employer for more than 200 days - and winter is fast approaching.
Please remind all your locals, members, friends and family to stop buying Old Dutch products until the company agrees to the very basic contract provisions that the workers are asking for.
Also, please head down to the picket line and let the workers know that the rest of the labour movement is still behind them! The picket line is located at 3103 - 54 Avenue SE, Calgary.
Parkland Institute's 13th Annual Fall Conference
Crisis and Opportunity: It's Time for a Progressive Economy
November 20 - 21, 2009
University of Alberta, Edmonton
Last year Alberta was in a boom and then the world economy collapsed.
What do we do now?
Information is shock resistance.
This conference is about providing the information and the ideas that can be used to promote a better future for the common good.
Did you know ...
Over the past ten months, unemployment in Alberta has more than doubled. No other province has seen a faster spike in joblessness.
October 2008 - 78,300
August 2009 - 158,000
Unemployment by region (Sept 2009 vs. Sept 2008):
Edmonton Region: 7.7% vs. 3.7%
Calgary Region: 7% vs. 3.8%
Red Deer Region: 8% vs. 4.6%
Lethbridge-Medicine Hat: 7% vs. 3%
Grande Prairie Region: 9.1% vs. 5.1%
May 2009: New TFW Report; New Labour Economic Monitor; New safety rules coming; Keep jobs in Canada petition
Entrenching Exploitation: Canada's Shameful Record on TFWs
- In its latest report on the working and living conditions of Temporary Foreign Workers, the AFL's Foreign Worker Advocate reports that things are getting worse, not better. Called "Entrenching Exploitation" the report recounts how, without public debate, the Canadian and Alberta governments are quietly creating a European-style guest worker program, which threatens to create a permanent exploited underclass of foreign workers who work in Canada for years without receiving the rights that come with citizenship. Read Entrenching Exploitation...
LEM: The Recession Edition
- What do a "dead cat bounce" and sheep on drugs have in common? Both are part of the insightful economic analysis to be found in the Spring 2009 issue of "Labour Economic Monitor." The latest issue looks at the recent Alberta budget and the effects of the recession on wages and earnings. All explained with entertaining prose and colourful graphs. Check out the latest economic data ...
New Safety Rules Coming
- On July 1, an extensive series of amendments to the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code come into force. The changes will likely affect every workplace in one way or another. Some of the major changes include: revamping fall protection standards, updating chemical hazard exposure limits, tougher working alone rules, and new section related to health care workers. To help workers become acquainted with the new provisions, the AFL has produced a document summarizing the changes. Find out about the OHS Code Amendments ...
Solidarity in Hard Times
- The latest issue of Union Magazine is out and it takes a good look at the challenges to maintaining solidarity in this era of globalization and aggressive union tactics. It explores new forms of solidarity and examines ways workers can stick together in tough times. And remember, if you want Union sent directly to your mailbox or email inbox, be sure to sign up for a free subscription. Read the latest issue of Union ...
Keep Jobs in Canada Petition
- The Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU) has launched a cross-Canada campaign to raise awareness about the growing problem of unemployment in Canada and to demand governments do something to keep jobs in Canada. They are touring a National Unemployment Clock across Canada, which will be in Alberta May 24-26. They have also set up an online petition where Canadians can add their voices to the growing numbers demanding action to save Canadian jobs. Do your part to save Canadian jobs ...
Public Interest Alberta's 5th Anniversary Celebration
Friday, June 5, 2009
Chateau Louis Conference Centre
11727 Kingsway, Edmonton
This evening will give us an opportunity to come together to socialize and reflect on the important work we have undertaken over the past five years. We will also be presenting our annual Public Interest Award to this year's recipients.
Tickets - Individual $65.00 / Table of 8 - $500.00
6:00 pm - Cocktails
7:00 pm - Dinner
8:00 pm - Celebration & Entertainment
Did you know ...
Top Six Source Countries for temporary foreign workers in Alberta (2007):
2. United States
3. United Kingdom
AFL action plan presented to AFL 46th Constitutional Convention, April 23-26, 2009