This letter to Fellow Albertans by Rebooter Carolyn Schoepp is a very comprehensive summary of damages done to so many Albertans by the Kenney-controlled UCP government. This is our first Guest Post and is worth a read. It gives you a compendium of the actual Authoritarian approach to governing by the Kenney-Harper political conspiracy against our Democracy. There is a call to action at the end I ask you to heed and take some personal leadership to implement.
August 11, 2020
Dear Fellow Albertans,
I don’t know if you have begun to be as concerned as I am. Have you noticed that our provincial government has moved on to priorities they did not campaign on, or even mention? Following are the facts on a few of many areas that concern me:
Ramifications for Rural Residents and Municipalities:
Although our government came to power largely due to support from rural voters, costs are going up and services are shrinking for rural residents and municipalities as a result since the election. Rural municipalities are losing revenue from oil and gas companies that owe money on leases. About 40 percent of unpaid taxes are from companies hard hit by lower resource prices but the remaining amounts are from operating companies that don’t pay. In addition, the government has lowered oil company taxes, and municipalities are expected to absorb the loss. Meanwhile, the government announced new grants to oil companies that could reach $30 billion.
Our government campaigned on crime reduction and vowed to increase spending on rural policing by $286 million. However, they have cut provincial funding forcing rural municipalities to pay for this promised service. They also cut funding for volunteer firefighters, Stars Air Ambulance, nurses, and ground ambulance services.
Our government has chosen to pick a fight with physicians during a pandemic. As a result, doctors are shutting down their practices and leaving the province and many are suspending emergency room services. Drayton valley is losing a home town boy, Dr. Thomson, who has written a letter explaining how government policies influenced his decision to leave Alberta.
Ramifications for Families:
Our government has reduced the education tax credit, the child tax benefit, and the family employment tax credit. They claim they are not raising personal income taxes but they are de-indexing tax exemptions which will result in across the board tax increases. They ended the $25 a day daycare program that was a boon for working parents. They have defunded Parent Link Centres and many other organizations supporting families. In addition, they have cut funding to municipalities causing property tax increases. They have increased the cost for the educational portion of property tax even though they have reduced overall spending on education. They have lifted the cap on utility fees and on insurance rates resulting in increased costs for Albertans.
It turns out that our government ‘maintaining services in health and education’ actually amounts to a plethora of cuts. Initially, they said they were not cutting education funding but did not fund population growth and reduced funding for many related programs (they lied). The government first denied that they had cut school board funding until forced by a FOIP application to come clean. Then they admitted to a $ 126 million cut (they lied). They reinstated $99 million with a net loss of $27 million.
Recently Jason Kenney praised his cabinet for passing 34 bills, more than any other province. The truth is they have used their majority power to hold all-night sessions and limit debate, undemocratically pushing through critical bills while Albertans were distracted by the pandemic. On March 17 our government rammed through a contentious budget at one in the morning less than 48 hours after declaring a provincial state of emergency. They are currently facing legal challenges against the public sector wage deferral act (Bill 9), the critical infrastructure defense act (Bill 1), the public health act (Bill 10), their inquiry into the funding of environmental organizations and their unilateral tearing up of the master agreement with Alberta’s doctors. Using the pandemic as an excuse our government has transferred the power of the legislature to anyone minister under Bill 10. Federal conservatives were outraged when Trudeau attempted to allow his party greater power during the pandemic. Yet Albertans seem unaware of an unprecedented and far greater power grab in their own province.
In the wee hours of the morning, while parents and teachers were reeling over the school opening announcement the government passed bills 30 and 32. They undemocratically limited debate to two hours on these two critical bills. Bill 30 facilitates plans to bring American style, privatized health care to Alberta despite Kenney having signed a public health care guarantee in February 2019, a promise to maintain health care funding and “a universally accessible, publicly funded health-care system”. In a profit-centered model, the not-for-profit hospitals assume the highest risks and costs, while for-profit facilities generate the highest revenue. Everyone pays more.
Bill 32 undermines unions and strips worker rights; an employer can deduct your pay, change your hours, deny you overtime pay and delay paying you out if you get fired. Children 13 and 14 years old are allowed to work for below minimum wage, jeopardizing their safety and denying jobs to adults. This bill will face a challenge for violating the constitutional rights of workers and citizens in general, to peacefully protest and to oppose government actions.
The government campaigned on pipelines, jobs, and austerity but the deficit had already ballooned pre-pandemic. The Heritage Trust Fund is lower than it has been in 8 years and the government plans to withdraw another $1 Billion. They borrowed $25 Billion and redirected $128 Million in Education funding saying it was for covid-19. They will spend $58 Million on 20 private natural gas projects, 5 of which are not even in Alberta. They sold the Oil by Rail Contract causing a $ 1.3 Billion penalty and canceled the superlab at an undisclosed cost. Corporate Tax Cuts will amount to $4.7 billion in lost revenue and the ‘war room’ has a budget of $30 million. They invested $ 7.5 billion into the Keystone XL pipeline which may never be built.
Jason Kenny has 19 personal staff each earning between $100,000 and $224,000 annually for a total of $2.4 million. Ten of these positions never existed before. Each member of the cabinet has two paid personal staff. Looking at these numbers it becomes crystal clear that the government agenda has nothing to do with austerity and everything to do with lining the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of the majority of Albertans.
Did I get your attention? Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg! We haven’t even talked about expenses, cronyism, seniors and the disabled, Alberta Parks, strip mining, selling of crown land, and privatization of care for the developmentally handicapped. The list goes on and on!
Despite the recent rise in COVID-19 cases our government recently announced the full reopening of schools for September without safety measures. They had no plans to fund smaller class sizes or extra cleaning despite concerns from medical experts. In fact, Jason Kenny actually suggested that teachers could ‘tidy up”. There was an immediate push back from parents. Within days the government decided to fund masks and hand sanitizer. With greater pushback, they may announce more concessions. Was the provocative announcement a strategic distraction from the two contentious bills that they were quietly ramming through the legislature?
Medical experts recommend a maximum of 15 students per classroom for safe physical distancing. This could be accomplished by hiring more school staff. Instead, our government is spending 4.2 million on masks. Most will be supplied by Old Navy, an American company, with the rest supplied by a Red Deer company that donated to the present government. If our government really cared about student safety and Alberta jobs would they not put the 4.2 million toward additional school staffing and ask parents to supply masks?
In summary, our government betrayed their supporters who believed promises of more jobs and a prosperous economy. Instead, they have implemented a drastic agenda not shared during their campaign. Under their watch the rich will get richer, the average Albertan will suffer and the Alberta we know will be unrecognizable.
Jason Kenney handed out earplugs in the legislature and he really is not listening to or working for Albertans. All Albertans stand to lose and Kenney has been ignoring complaints and protests. If you voted for Jason Kenney and feel betrayed maybe he will listen to you! Here are some ways you can make a difference:
- Stay informed. Our government needs to be held accountable
- Talk to your friends and neighbours so they become aware
- Phone, write, fax, and meet with your MLA!
- Join a protest! Albertans are using sidewalk chalk, postcards, fax floods, drive by protests, etc during the pandemic.
- In the municipal elections vote for candidates who will work for the good of all Albertans
- Enroll your children in school even if they will not attend immediately in September. The government is obligated to provide funding per child.
I intend to keep an eye on things and you can read more from me at albertaeyeopener.ca