EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has another thing coming if he thinks a few free hot dogs and drinks will make up for years of brutal budget cuts, wage rollbacks and public-sector lay-offs, says a spokesperson for Alberta's largest labour organization.
"The Premier wants to throw a party, but what would really be more appropriate is a wake," said Les Steel, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "Most Albertans are in no mood to celebrate the declining quality and accessibility of public services in this province."
Steel's comments were made in response to a public party held on the steps of the Legislature over the lunch hour today. The party - which included free hot dogs, drinks and ice cream - was staged to thank public-sector workers and members of the general public for their help in paying off the province's so-called "net debt."
"This government has balanced its books on the backs of public-sector workers and at the expense of public services," said Steel. "They have cut funding for health care, education and municipalities. They have undermined support for the poor, the elderly and the sick. They have thrown thousands of people in the public service out of work. And now the Premier wants the very people who have been hurt most by the cuts to join him in a celebration? It's insulting and it's insensitive."
Steel says that if the Premier really wants to thank public-sector workers for their contributions, he should increase their wages, provide better guarantees of job security and ease workloads by hiring more staff in core areas like health care and education. He also said the general public would be in a better mood to party if the government had taken a more balanced approach to fiscal issues.
"Paying off the net debt may be a cause for celebration for bankers and conservative politicians but it's a milestone that doesn't mean much to most Albertans. They know it was only reached by sacrificing the quality of our core public services," says Steel.
"If the Premier really wants Albertans to celebrate, then he should reverse chronic under-funding in areas like education, health care and municipal services. That would be a real cause for celebration. Using all of the budget surplus to pay down Alberta's debt is reckless and irresponsible. It's like a family using all of its income to pay-off the mortgage and leaving nothing to feed and clothe the kids. The bank may like it, but it's not really in the best interest of the family."
For more information call: Les Steel, Secretary Treasurer: 483-3021 (w) or 499-4135 (Cell)
Note: Mr. Steel will also be available at the Legislature grounds between noon and 1 p.m.