The president of Alberta's largest union advocacy organization is baffled as to why the Stelmach government seems determined to cut public sector jobs and services even though the province's fiscal outlook has improved dramatically.
"The $6.9 billion deficit that the government announced over the summer has shrunken down to a $4.2 billion deficit today and may melt away almost entirely by the end of the fiscal year," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"And yet, the government is still talking about hiring freezes, wage freezes and outright cuts to core services. Given that our schools, hospitals and municipalities are still recovering from the damage caused by a decade or more of austerity under Ralph Klein, it simply doesn't make sense to impose deep cuts when they're not really necessary."
McGowan says the government is irresponsibly overstating the seriousness of Alberta's financial situation by using the same kind of rhetoric they used during the so-called Klein Revolution of the mid 1990s.
"Albertans have been conditioned by successive generations of Tory politicians to panic whenever the word 'deficit' is mentioned," says McGowan. "But the truth is that the sky is not falling. Alberta still has no debt and we won't be taking any on. All that's happening is that we're dipping into a rainy day fund that was set aside for exactly this purpose. There is no crisis."
McGowan says the government shouldn't hesitate to draw significant amounts from its $17 billion sustainability fund for the one or two years it might take for the province to ride out the global recession.
"Basically the whole world agrees that governments should be spending more, not less to help their citizens weather the recession," says McGowan.
"But unfortunately, it seems the Conservatives didn't get the memo - or they're allowing themselves to be unduly influenced by Danielle Smith and her fellow privatizers in the Wildrose Alliance party. This is all very troubling, because if the Tories don't wake up, the cuts that they're planning will jeopardize our province's fragile recovery and inflict further pain on an Alberta families who are already hurting as a result of job losses and pay cuts."
For more information call: Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 218-9888