The provincial government is investing $850,000 to help temporary foreign workers adjust to life in Alberta while reviewing the federal program's effectiveness, Alberta's labour boss said Friday.
Alberta's Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said the review will be done by Calgary-Mackay MLA Theresa Woo Paw, his parliamentary assistant.
Now is the time for the review, said Lukaszuk as the economic slowdown has lessened the demand for foreign workers, but that won't last.
"One doesn't really need a crystal ball to come to the conclusion that Canada and most western countries will be facing a severe and very acute labour shortage over several decades to come," he said."The fact of the matter is our natural population growth in this country is pretty well flat-lined at zero."
The money - on top of $1.4 million invested in 2009 - will go to social agencies in Calgary, Red Deer, Banff, Brooks, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray and Edmonton tasked with helping temporary foreign workers settle into life in Alberta, said Lukaszuk.
There are about 66,000 temporary workers in the province.
The Alberta Federation of Labour called for the Temporary Foreign Workers program to be scrapped, saying the money will do little to protect people from exploitation and abuse.
"We also know that many foreign workers have to pay illegal fees of thousands of dollars to recruitment agencies, are forced to work unpaid overtime and live in sub-standard housing with exorbitant rents, and are misled into thinking they will be able to apply for Canadian citizenship," said secretary treasurer Nancy Furlong.
But Lukaszuk said the provincial government has no plans to call for an end to the program.
Companies must first advertise a job in Canada and show there are no Canadians who can or want to do it before temporary foreign workers can be brought in, Lukaszuk said.
Calgary Sun, Tues Sept 7 2010
Byline: Dave Dormer
As members of the provincial government caucus prepare to gather in Calgary tomorrow for a meeting that could decide the fate of the so-called "Third Way", the Alberta Federation of Labour is urging unions across the province to put the issue of private health insurance on the bargaining table.
In a letter sent to more than 350 unions and union locals around the province, AFL president Gil McGowan says one of the best ways to stop the government from proceeding with the Third Way is to remind employers in both the public and private sectors about the high costs associated with any move towards an increased reliance on private health insurance.
"We need to let both the government and employers know that whatever services they take away from our members by 'shrinking the Medicare umbrella� we will fight to get back at the bargaining table," wrote McGowan. "The higher costs associated with this will end up being a major new financial burden for employers in both the public and private sectors."
In addition to his letter, McGowan has also met personally with a number of major union presidents who have agreed to raise the issue of private health insurance with their employers - including unions representing city workers and public school employees in both Calgary and Edmonton.
"By allowing patients to 'buy their way to the front of the line� for certain services and by allowing doctors to work in both the public and for-profit systems, the Third Way will essentially create a market for private insurance in Alberta where there was none before," says McGowan.
"The best way to avoid making health insurance a crippling issue like it is for employers in the U.S. is to stop the Third Way - at least its most controversial sections. This is definitely an area where unions can make common cause with employers - because the Third Way threatens our members� access to health care and it threatens the bottom lines of employers."
To help illustrate just how big an advantage Medicare gives Canadian employers - and how much Alberta employers could lose if the provincial government proceeds with the Third Way - McGowan provided unions with a number of telling statistics.
For example, he pointed out that the average cost for health benefits in Canada is currently about $930 US per employee per year - compared to more than $10,000 US per year for American workers with families.
He also pointed to the example of contracts negotiated by construction unions on both sides of the border. In Alberta, for example, employers who work with the Ironworkers pay extended health benefits of $1.50 Cdn per hour per employee - compared to $7.15 Cdn in Phoenix; $7.38 Cdn in San Francisco; $7.29 Cdn in Minneapolis; and $10.89 Cdn in Buffalo, NY.
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President (780) 915-4599 (cell) or (780) 483-3021 (office)
The so-called Third Way in health care may be Premier Klein's "hobby horse" - but Health Minister Iris Evans shouldn't feel obliged to hop on board, says AFL president Gil McGowan.
In his presentation to the health care hearings being conducted by Evans, McGowan warned today that the Third Way could end up costing Alberta businesses a bundle.
"If the government shrinks the Medicare umbrella, workers - both union and non-union - will have no choice but to push for increased health benefits from their employers," said McGowan.
"And employers, especially in Alberta's current tight job market, will have no choice but to comply in order to attract and retain employees. For public sector employers, this will mean less money left in their budgets to pay for the services they provide. And for private sector employers, it will mean reduced profits."
To understand just how costly the Third Way might be to employers, McGowan asked Evans to consider that the average cost for health benefits in Canada is currently about $930 US per employee per year. In the States, the average cost is $5,500 US for single employees and more than $10,000 per year for employees with families.
"Private health insurance costs have been literally eating American businesses alive," said McGowan. "The bottom line is that Medicare, as it is currently constituted, lowers costs for our businesses and gives them a huge economic advantage when competing with their American rivals. Creating a new tier of private insurance in Alberta will substantially reduce that advantage."
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 915-4599
Fast Facts on Private Health Insurance
Private health care costs more. Canada's single-payer public system pools risk, thereby lowering cost. Our public health insurance system also has very low administrative costs (less than 2%). This helps explain why the Americans - who rely on private insurance - spend 16 percent of their GDP for a health care system that leaves 48 million people without coverage. We spend about 9 percent of our GDP on a much more comprehensive system.
Private health care has a much worse track record of cost containment than public health care. Costs in the public system have been going up, but not nearly as much as costs in the for-profit health care sector. In the U.S., private health insurance premiums have been rising at an average rate of more than 10 percent a year for each of the past seven years. The only way private insurers have been able to stop costs for completely spiralling out of control south of the border is by denying more people coverage, reducing the scope of coverage for those who are enrolled in plans and by charging ever-increasing deductibles and co-payments.
Private health insurance companies make money by not be giving people the care they need - but by denying it. In the U.S., people with pre-existing conditions are routinely denied coverage. Even with those with coverage, some studies suggest that up to 30 percent of claims are denied. This is already happening with supplemental coverage in Canada. In other words, private health insurers often exclude the people who need it most.
The companies most likely to step in and provide expanded private health insurance here in Alberta are the same American companies that have been found guilty of fraud on an almost mind-boggling scale. Columbia/HCA, for example, was fined $745 million for fraud. Tenet Health Care was fined $683 million. Even AON, the private insurance company that your government contracted to draft this framework, was fined $190 million. Are these really the people we want to turn to as saviours?
Private health insurance will hurt Alberta employers. The average cost for health benefits in Canada is currently about $930 US per employee per year. In the States, the average cost is $5,500 US for single employees and more than $10,000 per year for employees with families. Canadian Medicare, as it is currently constituted, lowers costs for our businesses and gives them a huge economic advantage when competing with their American rivals. Creating a new tier of private insurance in Alberta will substantially reduce that advantage.
Private health insurance will give an advantage to large employers over smaller employers when it comes to attracting and retaining workers - because the large employers will more easily be able to afford extended health benefits. This advantage will be particularly problematic for small business in the current tight labour market.
Less than 35 percent of Alberta workers (582,000) currently have access to supplemental health benefits through work. These are the people most likely to received increased benefits to cover the new tier of private service that the Third Way would create. Everyone else will have to make do with the second-class public system. Even if you add in the families of workers covered by private insurance, more than 50 percent of the Alberta population will be left without supplemental insurance.
Costs for extended private health insurance could easily run into the hundreds of millions. One way to estimate the cost would be to look at monthly cost being projected by Accure Health, the private insurance firm associated with Jim Dinning. They're planning to offer a plan that will cover access to services like hip and knee replacements - at a cost of $70 per month. So if all 582,000 Albertans who currently have extended health benefits are successful in getting that kind of coverage - that would translate into an extra cost to employers of about $41 million a month and more about $492 million a year. And that's just for the one procedure - costs would be higher if more services are de-listed or opened up for private payment.
EDMONTON - Premier Ralph Klein will go down in history as the man who killed Medicare if he goes ahead with recommendations put forward by the so-called blue ribbon panel on Bill 37, says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"The panel is recommending a new kind of private health care system where the taxpayers still foot the bill, but private hospital operators take home a profit," says Cormack.
She is convinced that the panel completely misinterpreted the problems with Bill 37. "The reason that Bill 37 had to be withdrawn in the first place was the absolute rejection by Albertans of the possibility of for-profit hospitals accessing Medicare dollars," says Cormack. "Now the panel comes back recommending the integration of for-profit hospitals into the public system and, at the same time, a much larger role for private clinics."
"The panel recommendations are totally unacceptable to working people in this Province," says Cormack. "I can assure you that Premier Klein will hear, in no uncertain terms, from our members and thousands of other concerned Albertans, that we do not want Medicare undermined by the American-style intrusion of the profit motive into our health care system."
Cormack wants the government to stop playing around with for-profit health care models. "Albertans opposition to the whole idea is obvious," says Cormack, "now its time for the government to obey the wishes of the people by dropping this ill-conceived notion."
"In fact," she concludes, "the only legislation we want to see right now is a clear and unambiguous ban on for-profit hospitals in Alberta, and an end to private, for-profit institutions accessing public health care dollars."
For further information contact:
Audrey Cormack, President @ 483-3021(wk)/428-9367(hm)/499-6530 (cell)