Rally at the Leg to defend pensions
The Redford Government has proposed costly and irresponsible changes to your pension plan. Make your voice heard on the first day of the new Legislative sessions.
For more information on the proposed government changes visit www.truthaboutalbertapensions.ca.
ACTION: RALLY at the Opening of the Legislative session today (bring your bannners and signs). Let's send a message to the Redford government.
WHEN: Monday, March 3, 2014
4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
WHERE: Steps of the Alberta Legislature Building
For more information, please contact the Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.483.3021
EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford was named the winner of a “Political Academy Award” this afternoon for her remarkable promise-breaking performance persuading so many Albertans she would fight to protect their right to a secure retirement.
“When Ms. Redford said she wanted Alberta seniors to be able to live their lives with dignity and respect, who could have imagined she would attack the modest pensions of her own government’s employees,” asked Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, speaking on behalf of the Labour Coalition on Pensions.
The mock “Oscar” award ceremony in Churchill Square during which Premier Redford was also nominated for convincing Albertans she would protect their public health care system and for convincing them she would protect their public education system may have been light-hearted, but it had a serious point.
“The point was that the Progressive Conservative government is breaking promises to many groups of Albertans and attacking public services that Albertans value,” McGowan said. “What incredible acting skill it took for them to get elected!”
The judges picked the premier’s broken pension promise because her government is consistently doing the opposite of what it claims to be trying to achieve.
- It says its policy on public sector pensions is designed to make the plans sustainable, while the report of the Auditor General of Alberta says it in fact puts the survival of the plans at risk
- It says it wants to encourage inter-generational fairness while it in fact it intends to treat younger workers much worse in future
- It says it wants to encourage recruitment and retention of the best public employees in government and health care, while it is in fact likely to prompt a serious skill shortage in those fields as workers rush to depart
Premier Redford did not attend the ceremony. Her award was accepted on her behalf of the thousands of Albertans who voted for her party thinking she would deal fairly with public employees, all Albertans and our public services.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Online calculator at TruthAboutAlbertaPensions.ca
shows impact of destructive pension proposals
Edmonton – Public-sector workers all over Alberta are learning how much the Redford government's pension proposals could cost them.
In one week since the Alberta Labour Coalition on Pensions launched a web-based pension calculator, 3,375 members of the Local Authorities Pension Plan and the Public Sector Pension Plan have found out how much they stand to lose if early retirement provisions are eliminated and Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) are reduced or suspended as the Redford Government has proposed. The calculator, which was created with the help of actuarial firm Brendan & George, can be found at www.TruthAboutAlbertaPensions.ca
"This pension calculator takes a complicated policy debate and makes the changes tangible and personal to the people who will be affected by the changes," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "These workers have earned their pensions, they've paid for their pensions, and now the government is cutting these pensions with no justification."
As an example, the calculator shows that someone born in 1980 who retires with 30 years of service at the age of 65 with a salary of $65,000 will see her retirement income reduced by as much as $794 per month in inflation-adjusted dollars by the time she's 75. Someone born a decade earlier, in 1970, who retired with only 20 years service with the same salary of $65,000, might see his pension cheques reduced by $364 each month.
"If you know anyone who is retired, and on a fixed income, you know that losing $364 a month would cause problems. Losses of $700, $800 or more each month could be disastrous," McGowan said. "For most Alberta voters, there's a difference between hearing that their pension will fall behind inflation. It's another thing to know that it will mean a specific number of dollars fewer in their pocket every month after their retirement. It's information that they need to know when they follow this debate."
In the fall, the government announced major changes would be made to Alberta's four public-sector pension plans, including the two biggest, the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) and the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP). Taken together, these proposed changes would slash the value of pensions earned by Alberta public-sector workers by 25 per cent or more on benefits earned after January 1, 2016.
The Pension Calculator was commissioned by a coalition of unions and associations that have members in LAPP and PSPP. The coalition includes: the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), the Alberta Fire Fighters Association (AFFA), the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) and a number of smaller unions.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com
Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) ads say Redford has an opportunity to make positive history – or to go down in the books as the Premier who ignored Canada’s retirement income crisis
Edmonton – The Redford government has an historic opportunity to be part of the solution or part of the problem when it comes to dealing with Canada’s looming crisis of inadequate retirement income for seniors.
As finance ministers from across the country gather this weekend to discuss the crucial issue of reform to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), the provinces largest workers’ advocacy group, the Alberta Federation of Labour has placed ads in Alberta’s four largest daily newspapers urging Premier Redford to do the right thing and drop her opposition to CPP expansion.
“All the experts and eight out of ten provinces agree. Millions of middle-income Canadians who don’t have workplace pensions are facing the prospect of poverty or significantly reduced standards of living after they retire if something isn’t done,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “Right here in Alberta, Canada’s wealthiest province, only one in three people will be able to retire with a measure of security. This is a crisis and an expanded CPP is clearly a big part of the solution.”
The ads remind Albertans that before she became Premier, Redford told labour and seniors’ advocates that she supported an expanded CPP. Since being chosen as Premier, she has bowed to pressure from business and banking lobby groups who oppose CPP reform for reasons related to ideology and self interest.
McGowan says Redford is actually making the crisis worse by attacking the pensions of the minority of Albertans who have them.
“Instead of pulling up those who don’t have retirement security by supporting and expanded CPP, she’s dragging down those who have some security by attacking pensions for public sector workers,” McGowan said. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. This weekend, the Alberta government has an opportunity to do the right thing. If Premier Redford joins the majority of provinces who support CPP expansion, future generations of seniors, both here in Alberta and across the country, will thank her.”
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
NDP opposes environmental rule changes
While Ottawa and the province have clashed in the past, the Conservative federal budget released Thursday received a warm reception from Alberta's two main contenders for the premier's office.
The budget's highlights include raising the age for Old Age Security from 65 to 67 for those currently under the age of 54, the elimination of nearly 20,000 civil service jobs over three years and cuts to program spending, though overall expenditures will continue to climb as the government projects being out of deficit in 2015-2016.
The federal Tories are also promising a new shortened environmental review process for major natural resource industrial projects, including the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to British Columbia, and to put some environmental reviews strictly under the provinces.
With a provincial election underway, both Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford and Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith linked themselves to the budget's measures.
Redford said her PC government has been working with the federal government to streamline environmental regulations and is similar to measures undertaken already in Alberta.
"We know that industry thinks this is a better way to be competitive. I think we'll see not just on the Gateway project but on other projects, this will be a tremendous improvement," she told reporters in Edmonton.
Redford praised the federal government's plans to balance the budget in three years without tax increases and noted her government's projection of a balanced budget in 2013, with no tax hikes.
In a news release, Smith - who has slammed the PCs for out-of-control spending - compared the federal financial document to Wildrose's budgetary plans.
She applauded the Tory budget for reducing "wasteful government spending and . . . unnecessary levels of bureaucracy."
Ben Brunnen, chief economist of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said "this is a good budget for Alberta business."
The changes to OAS include allowing for recipients to defer receiving their payments for up to five years with no penalty.
That's an incentive for those wanting to stay in the workforce to do so, helping to ease the labour shortage that is beginning to bite the province and is expected to get worse.
Raising the eligibility age in 2023 should also have a positive effect in the longer term on the labour pinch, said Brunnen.
While details are lacking, Ottawa has also pledged to make the temporary foreign worker program more aligned with labour market needs and to work with the provinces on improving the recognition of foreign credentials.
"This is just a full-marks budget," said Brunnen.
A spokesman for the Public Service Alliance of Canada said there has been no indication yet where the planned federal job cuts will take place, meaning the impact on Alberta civil servants is uncertain.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said the Conservatives are destroying jobs, cutting services and making life harder for seniors for no good reason given the relatively healthy state of the government's books and the Canadian economy.
"These cuts are particularly galling because they're so unnecessary," he said. "This is a road map to a more conservative future where corporations matter more than citizens."
Redford said the government would review the impact on Alberta seniors of raising the age for OAS.
Ted Menzies, the MP for MacLeod and minister of state for finance, said the budget was designed to ensure there was no downloading to provinces.
The federal government will work with the provinces to ensure that changes to OAS don't affect provincial programs that kick in at age 65.
New Democrat Linda Duncan, Alberta's lone Opposition MP, said the federal promise of "one window" for environmental regulation is full of smoke given issues of federal, provincial and aboriginal jurisdiction.
The claim that major projects are hamstrung by red tape is a fallacy, she said.
"Show me one single project that's been denied. Show me an oilsands project that's been denied," said Duncan.
Calgary Herald, Fri Mar 30 2012
Byline: James Wood
Spending cuts, OAS changes and giveaways to corporations are unnecessary and irresponsible, say Alberta unions
Based on the magnitude of the cuts and changes contained in today's federal budget, you'd think that Canada was about to "hit the debt wall."
But the truth is that Canada has weathered the global recession better than almost any other industrialized country – thanks largely to its natural resource wealth, decisions made by previous governments and pressure from opposition parties that stopped the previous minority Harper government from enacting harsh cuts at the height of the recession.
"Given the reality of Canada's current economic situation, there's no good reason why we should even be contemplating cuts on this scale," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"What we see with today's budget is a plan that will turn a rough patch into really tough times. It's the opposite of what this country needs. It's both unnecessary and irresponsible."
If there's a problem, McGowan says it's that the Harper government's various tax cuts have cost the federal treasury more than $200 billion since 2006. For example, the effective federal tax on corporate profits has dropped to its lowest rate since before the Second World War.
"The only reason that the Harper government isn't looking at a balanced budget right now, or at least in the very near future, is because it has given away literally hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in a very short period of time," says McGowan.
"If there's a crisis, it's a crisis caused by the Harper government's irresponsible tax giveaways, especially to profitable corporations that are no longer being asked to pay their fair share of the cost of keeping this country running. The crime in this budget is that ordinary Canadians – especially seniors – are being forced to pay the price for Stephen Harper's ideologically driven irresponsibility."
Despite Finance Minister Flaherty's argument that the cuts really only amount to "backroom efficiencies," McGowan says ordinary Canadians will feel the bite of this budget in three important ways.
First, there will be a real and noticeable erosion in the quality of service provided by the federal government. With fewer workers, the government simply won't be able to provide the same level of service that Canadians need and expect in everything from handling passport applications to inspecting food.
Second, the Harper government's plans to restrict payments to the provinces and remove the "strings" attached to the remaining dollars will mean it will become even more difficult for provinces to pay for things like health care and more likely that governments like ours in Alberta will resort to increased privatization.
Third, by increasing the age of eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67, the Harper government will be taking thousands and thousands of dollars out of the pockets of seniors. This will force many seniors into poverty or to the brink of poverty.
"As it stands right now, Canadians between age 65 and 67 get an average of 25 per cent of their income from OAS," says McGowan. "By taking that income away, we run the risk of reversing one of the biggest public policy successes of the 20th century: which was the use of GIS and OAS to pull almost all Canadian seniors out of poverty."
McGowan points out that the attack on OAS is particularly galling because the federal government's own Parliamentary Budget Officer has concluded that the current OAS system is affordable and that increasing the eligibility age to 67 is unnecessary and unwarranted.
"The real thread that runs through this budget has to do with gifts and giveaways to Stephen Harper's corporate friends," concludes McGowan.
"The cuts to public-sector jobs and benefits are being made so Harper can finance his tax giveaway to big business. His changes to OAS eligibility rules are being made to address business concerns about a looming labour shortage – just make seniors work longer! And the so-called streamlining of approvals for resource projects is really a gift to oil companies so they no longer have to worry about pesky things like environmental impacts and the public good.
"In many ways, this is more than a budget: it's a road map towards a conservative future in which corporations matter more than citizens. The Harper government should be ashamed of itself ... and ordinary Canadians should be deeply concerned."
CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888
Unions fear attack on jobs will undermine economy, throw seniors into poverty
Labour leaders from across Alberta will be keeping a close eye on the federal budget today to assess the impact it will have on working families in the province.
"The federal government has an opportunity today to make the Canadian economy stronger and to make it work for average Canadians," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
"This budget could be used to help create good jobs – the kind of jobs that support families. We fear, however, that the Harper government will do the opposite and destroy jobs, which will weaken an economy they have described as fragile," he says.
"We also fear that the budget will undermine the retirement security of Canadians by cutting back on Old Age Security benefits to seniors, which risks throwing more elderly citizens into poverty."
Budget Watch 2012 events will be held in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer this afternoon. McGowan will be among labour leaders at the Edmonton event and will be available for comment. Other labour leaders will be available at the Calgary and Red Deer events.
- BUDGET WATCH 2012, EDMONTON
LOCATION: CUPE 474 Meeting Hall, 10989 – 124 Street, Edmonton.
- BUDGET WATCH 2012, CALGARY
LOCATION: Greenwood Inn, 3515 – 26 Street N.E., Calgary.
- BUDGET WATCH 2012, RED DEER
TIME: 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
LOCATION: Unit 4, 7464 – 50 Avenue, Red Deer.
Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888
Amanda Freistadt, CLC Prairie Representative, 780-904-0517
There have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases of elderly and disabled Albertans being abused in provincially funded facilities over the past seven years and thousands more have filed complaints that were dismissed for lack of proof or other reasons, the Herald has learned.
The province has received an average of 500 abuse complaints a year from facilities housing more than 40,000 seniors and disabled adult residents, according to documents obtained under provincial Freedom of Information legislation.
Less than two per cent are referred to police, government documents show.
Government officials say the figures prove tough new reporting legislation is working, but elder advocates and opposition critics say the system needs major changes to protect Albertans in provincial care from harm.
"It just goes on and on," said Ruth Adria of Elder Advocates of Alberta. "Complaints are usually trivialized or dismissed. There has to be accountability. It has to be known that when there's an assault, someone will be held accountable."
Since the governing Tories proclaimed Protection of Persons in Care legislation in July 2010 to make it against the law not to report abuses, there have been 142 confirmed cases of abuse, documents show.
That data, until the end of January 2012, includes 37 confirmed cases of bodily harm, eight incidents of nonconsensual sexual activity, 67 cases of emotional harm, 22 cases of residents being denied basic necessities, four cases of them being over or under medicated and one case of misappropriating residents' money or property.
Seniors Minister George VanderBurg said he is partly responsible for the high number of abuse complaints because he promotes an abuse hotline number whenever he speaks to seniors or is questioned in the legislature.
"Part of the reason we're getting more concern and more reported incidents is probably my fault," he said. "Every time at question period I'm saying if you have issues of abuse, you're obligated to report it."
He noted most of the cases of abuse reported are emotional, "but that's important, too."
"We're seeing more instances of reporting and I think that's good. It tells us it is working and our message is getting across."
He said the department's contracted investigators do thorough investigations of complaints. "Sometimes they're founded; sometimes they're not."
VanderBurg wasn't concerned 70 per cent of complaints are dismissed and less than two per cent reported to police. "It's a very small number that are criminal in nature," he said.
Since April 2005, there have been 1,021 confirmed cases of abuse, according to government documents.
That includes 549 cases of emotional harm, 216 cases of residents being denied basic necessities, 160 cases of bodily harm, 55 sexual offences, 27 thefts or money or property, and 14 cases of improper medication, according to the Protection of Persons In Care summary of founded complaints.
"We care for a lot of people," said VanderBurg. "I am not downplaying the numbers, but I am telling you one is serious to me."
Wildrose seniors critic Heather Forsyth said many seniors and their families don't want to complain about their treatment in long-term care for fear of retaliation or retribution. She said a former RCMP inspector was "too afraid to complain" and the daughter of a senior delayed filing a complaint until her mother died.
"We're dealing with seniors who are afraid to report incidents and that sends shivers down my spine," she said.
Forsyth said there are not enough inspections of care facilities and not sufficient public reporting of the complaints. The situation cries out for whistleblower protection legislation and a mechanism for anonymous reporting of abuse, she added.
Seniors Department spokesperson Carolyn Gregson said the law puts the onus on the service providers in publicly funded facilities to report any abuse of residents.
"We're making them the front-line watchdog under the act. They are obligated to report anything and everything they see and when it comes to us, it's reviewed and investigated, if warranted."
She said the abuse line receives almost 4,000 calls annually.
"I think this has made a difference," she said. "Any time you actually report it and it is investigated, results and outcomes can happen from that."
Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald said he was surprised when the Alberta Seniors deputy minister told the Legislature Public Accounts committee he chairs that there were 22 fatal accidents or serious injuries in provincial care facilities last year and refused to elaborate.
But VanderBurg said Tuesday there was only one death and five serious injuries and they were all attributable to falls.
MacDonald said the protection of Persons In Care legislation doesn't seem to be improving the plight of people in care.
"It's good legislation, but it's obviously not being enforced," he said. "It's necessary. It's needed, but it's frightening that it doesn't seem to be making a difference in the number of allegations or incidents where people have been abused and neglected."
But PC MLA Neil Brown, who introduced the legislation, said it make take some time for the law to show positive benefits.
"I believe the changes we made are working," he said.
Abuse reports, by the numbers:
Founded complaints of abuse of elderly and disabled adult Albertans in provincially funded facilities since 2005:
Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 21 2012
Byline: Darcy Henton