Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will last longer without budget support
EDMONTON – Alberta’s 2021 budget does not provide Alberta the tools it needs to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Alberta Federation of Labour today.
“Kenney’s head-in-the-sand budget ignores the deep and ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “Just as Premier Kenney ignored the advice of public health experts leading into the pandemic, he’s ignoring the fact that the province’s economy and labour market are still deep in the throes of the pandemic and associated recession, and will be for a while.”
“It’s as if Kenney thinks they’ll snap back into shape without government support. He’s dead wrong,” says McGowan. “While there’s some COVID-19 spending cushion built into the 2021 budget, history tells us that it’s too little. Jason Kenney has a clear track record of downplaying the effects of the pandemic. This is no different. The effects of the pandemic are deep and will be long lasting – even longer lasting because the 2021 budget pivots too quickly away from a pandemic response and doesn’t give families and workers the tools they need to succeed in a permanently changed economy.”
“The 2021 budget foreshadows chaos in our health care system. It cuts $1.3 billion from public-sector wages. The majority of that - $1.2 billion – will be cut from wages within Alberta Health Services over the next two years, yet pretends to add nearly 3,000 jobs at far lower wages. This is not sustainable for the workforce needed to continue with the high-quality health care system we now have. There will be a brain drain of health care workers to other provinces and other countries,” says McGowan.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that while Kenney wants to cut $1.3 billion from public-sector wages, his failed Keystone XL Pipeline boondoggle will cost Alberta about $1.3 billion, on top of the failed corporate tax costing us billions without creating a single job. Public sector workers can be forgiven if they think that the Kenney government is making them pay for his failed corporate-welfare experiments.”
“Working families need quality affordable child care to get back into the labour market and they need it now. Funding for Kindergarten to grade 12 education is flat, but every year there are more students added to the system and costs rise with inflation. If the government isn’t providing funding in line with enrollment and inflation growth, that’s a cut – a cut that will hamper our economic recovery,” says McGowan. “And post-secondary education is, once again, a blood bath. The Kenney government has cut billions of dollars and more than 1,200 jobs from our universities and colleges over the last two budgets. Without properly funded education – child care and basic and advanced education – there will not be an economic recovery for our province.”
“Alberta’s economy and labour market needs an ambitious post-pandemic restructuring plan, kind of like the Marshal Plan after the Second World War. Instead of support, this budget offers underfunding and uncertainty and only promises tough choices and ‘fiscal reckoning’ down the road. Jason Kenney’s 2021 budget fails to provide the support and stability we need as a province to grow.”
Director of Communications, AFL