If you're finding it more and more difficult to keep up with the bills each month, you're not alone. Recently released figures show that the amount Albertans earn each week is falling far behind the increase in inflation - meaning real weekly income for most Albertans is shrinking.
Reports from Statistics Canada show that inflation increased the cost of living in Alberta by 7.6 percent between March 2002 and March 2003. At the same time, average weekly income (unadjusted for inflation) increased by only 1.3 percent.
The result is that, even though paycheques are slightly larger than they were last year, the average Albertan has experienced a 5.9 percent cut in their actual purchasing power.
"In a province that is supposed in the midst of an economic boom, this is a truly disturbing revelation," says Les Steel, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "If working people can't maintain their standard of living in the good times, what's going to happen when we hit the next down-turn?"
Alberta's inflation rate is by far the highest in the country and Steel says the biggest cause of that jump is the provincial government's ill-advised decision to de-regulate power (gas and electricity).
"For a year or so after the last election, the government managed to hide the true extent for their bungling by using our own tax dollars to subsidize power bills," says Steel. "But now those subsidies have been phased out and the real costs associated with de-regulation are clear. Basically, the Tories are taking a huge bite out of our wallets and eroding our standard of living."
In addition to being largely responsibly for Alberta's unprecedented spike in inflation, Steel says the Klein Tories must shoulder a large share of the blame for stagnant wages - the other half of the "cost-of-living squeeze" now being experienced by Albertans.
"This government has driven up costs for Albertans by deregulating power and failing to protect us from things like increasing auto insurance premiums," says Steel.
"But they've also hit working people hard by deliberately putting downward pressure on wages. They've done this through their anti-union and low minimum wage policies - both of which have weakened the ability of workers to get a fair share of the economic pie even during boom times."
Steel says the time has come for Albertans to "connect the dots" between declining real income and the policies of the Klein government.
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 499-4135 (cell)
Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 910-1137 (cell)