AFL Statement on Premier Kenney’s Response to the federal Throne Speech
The unions affiliated with the Alberta Federation of Labour wish to make it clear that Premier Kenney does not speak for everyone in our province when he says that “Albertans are disappointed” with the federal government’s Throne Speech.
On the contrary, we agree with the federal government’s decision to continue prioritizing action to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to continue supporting individuals and businesses through the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. There will be no true economic recovery in Canada until the pandemic ends and Canadians can return to their lives without fear of infection.
We are also very pleased by the federal government’s commitment to “build back better” after the pandemic. The federal government’s recognition that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women, lower-wage workers, racialized Canadians and young people is, from our perspective, profoundly important; as is their commitment to strengthen our economy and “build resilience” in Canadian society by creating a national child care and early education system, expanding the Medicare umbrella to include Pharmacare, reforming the Employment Insurance system to cover all Canadians and ramping up supports and protections for seniors in long-term care facilities.
These, truly, are the things needed to get Canada (both our society and our economy) back on its feet again after the pandemic. The fact that Premier Kenney dismissed these initiatives – and especially his promise to opt out of Pharmacare – is disappointing and, frankly, shocking to us.
On behalf of the 175,000 Albertans we represent, we also wish to acknowledge and express sincere thanks for the crucial financial support that the federal government (supported by the federal NDP) has provided to working people and their families in Alberta (and, indeed, in all provinces) through programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for individuals and the Canada Emergency Wage Supplement (CEWS) for businesses. The federal government has also provided billions to the provinces (once again, including Alberta) to support things like pandemic-related health care, pandemic-related support for municipalities, and safe school reopening initiatives.
The question from our perspective is not why hasn’t the federal government done more, but rather, why has our provincial government done so little, in comparison?
Finally, we want to address Premier Kenney’s misleading political narrative that the crisis in our oil and gas sector was somehow caused by the federal government and that Ottawa and the rest of the country are not doing enough to help Albertans working in the sector.
To put it bluntly, this is pure hogwash. If the federal government was really “out to get us” or “determined to destroy our oil and gas industry” why did they spend $12 billion to purchase a pipeline to get our resources to tidewater – a project which, not incidentally, is currently employing thousands of Alberta tradespeople?
Even more importantly, the federal government is acknowledging the reality that the world has started the process of moving away from fossil fuels – partly as a result of concerns about climate change, but also as a result of technology change and market forces. Premier Kenney’s approach of sticking his head in the sand won’t change this reality; but what it WILL do is leave us unprepared when change hits our province like a freight train.
As advocates for Alberta workers we ask these questions: Given that the oil and gas sector will likely never again be the engine for job growth that it once was, why should we oppose federal proposals that might create jobs for Albertans in other sectors and in oil and gas initiatives aimed at reducing the sectors emissions? Why is the Kenney government criticizing the federal government on economic policies, when their own policies – particularly their austerity policies and their wage-suppressing labour policies – will do serious harm to the Alberta economy?
The federal government is not perfect, nor is their Throne Speech. But at least they’re trying. Our provincial government, on the other hand, seems hellbent on implementing policies that will hurt, rather than help our economy. And they’re attempting to craft political narratives aimed at distracting from their own failures and short comings. The old “blame Ottawa” strategy is always shallow and distasteful; but it’s particularly unwelcome and unconstructive during times of crisis, like the one we are currently living through. Do better, Premier Kenney.
Alberta Federation of Labour Executive Council
September 24, 2020
Director of Communications, AFL