Alberta’s “Leap Day” budget leaves working people in a deepening hole

PV Alberta Bureau

The Alberta provincial budget released by the United Conservative Party (UCP) government on February 29 contains no relief for hard-pressed working people in Alberta, no rescue for the environment, and no change in policy of a party that has already given plenty of evidence that they view corporate profit and not human well-being as the aim of government.

Increases for education and healthcare just about match the population increase of the past year, so no adjustment is made for inflation. Effectively, the quantity and quality of services will continue to decline. This is consistent with the hostility to public services the UCP has already demonstrated very clearly.

The government is planning for an effective wage cut for the public service, not compensating for the increased inflation of the last few years. This can only worsen the staffing crisis they have already created in the healthcare system, demoralizing and driving away existing nurses, doctors and other medical workers, and making those professions less appealing to students, and Alberta a less appealing place to live and work for other health professionals from elsewhere.

The budget does nothing to alter the administrative tinkering the provincial government already has in the works, making it easier to privatize healthcare. Furthermore, the UCP is ideologically hostile to the relief that could come from federal government measures. This includes long overdue pharmacare, which Danielle Smith and Co. have shockingly already started to opt out of.

Communist Party – Alberta leader Naomi Rankin told PV that “Alberta’s UCP government is not just indifferent but is deliberately increasing impoverishment and insecurity – working people need to band together in their unions, communities and democratic organizations to resist and reverse these policies.”

Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan said the budget leaves workers behind. “Alberta’s workers have kept this province running through the economic downturn of the 2010’s and the pandemic of the 2020’s. Through it all, their wages have fallen well behind inflation. Investment in workers that lags behind the high 13 percent Consumer Price Index rates of the last three years is a cut. The Premier cannot spin her way out of this fact.”

Rankin says the Communist Party is campaigning for policies that can unite and propel the kind of mass movement needed to confront and challenge the UCP and its corporate backers. “Working people can organize around radical but achievable demands like full employment, transition to a diverse green economy, fully funded healthcare and education, and protection of equality and human rights. And to fund these necessary changes, we need to push for reasonable taxes on corporate profits.”

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