This booklet examines what effects this has had on the lives of working people in Alberta. In a sense, it represents a snapshot of daily life for workers that is then compared to a similar snapshot taken 25 years ago in 1975. This provides the perspective of an historic view that compares the lives and working conditions faced by two different generations of Alberta workers and their families.
EDMONTON - The Klein Conservatives are walking into the provincial election with their "eyes firmly shut and their ears closed to the real concerns of Albertans," says the president of Alberta's largest labour organization.
Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, described yesterday's Throne Speech as a big disappointment. She said it proves the government has lost touch with the real priorities of citizens.
"Voters in this province have made it clear that they have serious questions about government policy in areas like health care, taxation and utilities," said Cormack after the speech was delivered by Lt. Governor Lois Hole.
"Yet, there was no mention of Bill 11 or private hospitals. There was also no recognition that government policies have contributed greatly to soaring utility prices. And there was no discussion of the fundamentally inequitable nature of the government's new flat tax."
Cormack said the Throne Speech's silence on these issues suggests that the Klein Tories are content to allow the creeping privatization of Medicare. It also suggests that the government is not listening to the thousands of Albertans who have raised concerns about out-of-control utility prices and new tax laws that favour the well-off at the expense of working families.
"This is more of what we've come to expect from the Tories: vague promises and platitudes masking a hidden agenda that favours privatization, deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy."
Cormack scoffed at the promise of a "Future Summit" to map out a direction for the province once the government has eliminated its debt.
"This is shaping up to be another stage-managed attempt to get a rubber stamp from the public for policies that have already been decided upon," she said, adding that the government appears to be considerably less open and visionary than the school children quoted in the Throne Speech.
"I was pleased to see that 11 year-olds have a vision for the future and are concerned about things like equality, respect and protecting the environment. It's too bad this government can't come up with a similar kind of progressive vision."
For further information call:
Audrey Cormack, President @ 483-3021(wk)/ 499-6530(cell)/ 428-9367(hm)
The Alberta Federation of Labour is criticizing the announcement today of a new Committee struck to review Alberta's business tax regime. The new Committee, says AFL President Audrey Cormack, will be a repeat of the sham consultations held two years ago on the flat tax.
"There is no need to look at business tax right now," says Cormack. "Alberta already has the lowest corporate taxes in the country, and the economy is booming right now. What possible reason could there be for reviewing tax rates?"
"This government won't be happy until business pays no tax in this province," says Cormack, "regardless of what damage that will inflict on essential public services."
Cormack predicts that Treasurer Stockwell Day already knows what he is going to do with corporate taxes, and this Committee is just a sideshow to distract Albertans.
"It will be a sham consultation," observes Cormack. "It will be business hearing from business about what should happen to business - and I think we all know what that outcome will be."
Cormack points out that the committee is made up entirely of businesspeople and government MLA's. "Where is the representation from working Albertans? All Albertans have a stake in what happens to business taxes."
Cormack also highlights that current tax levels are clearly no barrier to investment in the province. "How will dropping corporate taxes even lower help create jobs or improve health care and education in our province? In short, it won't."
"This tax cut game is simply to satisfy Stockwell Day's narrow right-wing ideological fantasies which have no grounding in real life economics."
"Once again, it is the Tories helping the rich get richer, while average Albertans lie on gurneys in hospital hallways and run casinos to pay for school textbooks," concludes Cormack.
For more information contact:
Audrey Cormack, AFL President @ 483-3021(wk) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (hm)
EDMONTON - Members of the federal government are allowing themselves to be unduly swayed by pressure from the Reform Party and other advocates of radical tax cuts - and ordinary Canadians will pay the price, says the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Finance Minister Paul Martin tells us that there needs to be a broad public debate among Canadians about what should be done with budgetary surpluses," says Cormack. "But based on his remarks yesterday, it appears that the debate is already over - and Preston Manning and the National Post won."
Cormack's comments were made in the wake of a speech delivered by Martin yesterday afternoon to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. In the speech, Martin promised that tax cuts would become one of the government's main priorities over the next few years. No promises were made about increased funding for Medicare or other important government services.
The speech was a great disappointment for advocates of public health care and supporters of other programs and services aimed at improving the lives of middle and low-income families, says Cormack. She also says the federal government is missing an important opportunity to fix damage to public services and infrastructure caused by years of brutal budget cuts.
"The foundations of important public programs like Medicare have been seriously weakened by years of under-funding," says Cormack. "Canadians want to see these programs protected and strengthened - but that's not going to happen unless the government makes a more substantial financial commitment."
Cormack says the country's biggest threat now comes not from debt or inflation, but from people in conservative business, media and political circles who are calling for deep tax cuts. Cormack says such cuts will rob the government of the revenue needed to properly fund public services.
"If the government wants to maintain the quality and accessibility of public services like Medicare then it is imperative that they resist pressure from the Preston Mannings and Conrad Blacks of the world," says Cormack. "Reckless and irresponsible tax cuts may help wealthy individuals and corporations pad their bank accounts - but, for the vast majority of Canadians, these kinds of cuts will do much more harm than good."
Instead of yielding to pressure from right-wing ideologues, Cormack says the federal Liberals should listen to the majority of working Canadians who want more attention paid to public programs and services. In particular, she says surplus funds should be used to shore up Medicare; to repair and expand the country's crumbling infrastructure; to increase access to UI benefits for the unemployed; and to finance new initiatives like a national daycare system and a nation-wide Pharmacare plan.
Reforms need to be made to Canada's tax system, Cormack admitted, but she says they should be aimed exclusively at low and middle-income earners - not high-flying CEOs and managers. An increase in the basic personal exemption; the introduction of more progressive tax brackets; or the full indexation of tax brackets to inflation are the only kinds of changes that could be justified, she says.
"Paul Martin and the federal Liberals are playing a dangerous game," concludes Cormack. "Reckless and poorly-planned tax cuts could spell the end for Medicare and other public programs that have helped define Canada as a nation. Let's just hope the Liberals come to their sense before they follow Preston Manning and Conrad Black off a cliff."
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, AFL President @483-3021(wk)/499-6530(cell)428-9367(hm)
In the next twenty pages, we will provide an update of the economic "snapshot" presented in Crumbs From the Table. We will re-examine issues like individual and family income, public services and job quality. Most importantly, we will attempt to determine whether or not ordinary Albertans are benefiting any more from their province's ongoing prosperity-
in the form of increased wages, better services or improved job security-than they did last year.
A report card on jobs, wages and economic security in Alberta (March 1997)