“They’re using the current crisis as a pretext to pass an ideological budget that does not fit the times and which will hurt, not help our province.”
Statement from Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour
For Immediate Release
March 16, 2020
EDMONTON - “The budget tabled two weeks ago by the Kenney government is no longer worth the paper it’s written on. The revenue side of the budget is in tatters because oil is now trading nearly $30 per barrel less than projected. The spending side also no longer makes sense. Despite the government’s claims to the contrary, the budget will clearly reduce inflation-adjusted per person spending on public services by around 15 percent over the next three years. It also launches a war on the very health care professionals who are being asked to keep Albertans healthy and safe in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the unprecedented challenges currently facing our health care system and our economy, this kind of austerity will only make a bad situation much, much worse.
“It is clear to everyone who is not a hard-core right-wing ideological warrior that we need to be spending more at this moment, not less – to ensure our health care system does not become overwhelmed and to prevent our citizens and our businesses from being dragged under. It is also pure fiction to say that passing the budget is the only way to keep the wheels of government turning. The fact that the government is making this argument – when everyone knows it’s not true – raises serious questions about their true intentions. It’s clear to us that they’re using the current crisis as a pretext to pass an ideological budget that does not fit the times and which would hurt, not help the province. They should be ashamed of themselves.
“With all of this in mind, we demand that the budget be scrapped. We also think the government should put the rest of its planned agenda for the spring session of the Legislature on hold. At this troubled time in our province’s history, the government shouldn’t be playing politics or using public fear and anxiety to sneak through an ideological agenda. Instead, they should be focused on three things only. Those three things are: flattening the curve of infection; fortifying our healthcare system for the coming surge in sick Albertans; and providing income supports to citizens and businesses until the crisis passes. If the UCP is successful in ramming this deeply-flawed budget through, it will set us back on all three of these fronts. And people shouldn’t be fooled by the promise of an additional $500 million for healthcare. That’s not even enough to keep pace with inflation and population growth, let alone pay for the unprecedented demands that are about to be placed on our health care system.
“I’m honestly shocked and appalled that Premier Kenney and his UCP caucus would put their political agenda ahead of the best interests of Albertans. I urge all Albertans to see this move for what it really is, and demand better from the government.”