Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s call for no wage hikes for public-sector unions a risky strategy for New Democrats

Posted on November 29, 2017, 1:48 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci at yesterday’s news conference in Edmonton (Photo: Government of Alberta). Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, her former chief of Staff, Brian Topp, and former NDP premiers Dave Barrett (Photo: The Tyee), Roy Romanow, and Bob Rae (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Alberta’s NDP Government can’t say they weren’t warned.

Back in the days when Brian Topp was a heavy hitter in the federal New Democratic Party, he wrote a book about how the NDP, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois almost toppled Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in November 2008.

In How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot, published in 2010, the former federal NDP party president and second-place leadership candidate in the 2012 New Democrat leadership race warned his fellow NDPers about the dangers of tangling with their occasionally difficult allies in the labour movement.

“Public sector bargaining is one of the progressive left’s proudest achievements in Canada,” Mr. Topp dryly observed in the book’s prologue. “It is also perhaps our greatest gift to the political right, who lie in wait to destroy our governments, and then often find ways to outlaw it when they rule.”

Some people argue that it is public sector unions who lie in wait “to hold left-wing parties to ransom during elections” – one suspects from his tone in The Boot that one of them is Mr. Topp.

No one can blame any political party, left or right, for giving public employees in Alberta the right to strike. That was done by the Supreme Court of Canada, in 2015, and it can’t be undone.

But surely the corollary lesson implied by Mr. Topp in his book is that every NDP government that has gone to war against its public sector labour unions has lost the next election.

Mr. Topp, significantly, worked in 2015 and 2016 as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s chief of staff.

It is very difficult to believe this lesson wasn’t expressed, and repeated, in the Premier’s Office, the Cabinet Room and perhaps even the NDP Caucus Rooms of the Alberta Legislature during Mr. Topp’s tenure.

Mr. Topp is gone now, however. He left Ms. Notley’s service almost a year ago, on Dec. 14, 2016. (Remember, a week is a long time in politics.) He was replaced as chief of staff by John Heaney, a lower key but savvy operator, who himself returned at the start of September to his old stomping grounds in Victoria, B.C. Nathan Rotman, once national director of the federal NDP, is now the premier’s chief of staff.

So maybe Mr. Topp’s advice is remembered. Maybe it isn’t.

Regardless, here we are in 2017, an election in 2019 close enough now that we can start to feel the vibration in the railway tracks, the United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney polling comfortably ahead of Ms. Notley’s NDP, and the governing party acting very much as if it has, in fact, never heard this lesson.

The first bad sign came about a week ago, when Premier Notley uttered the phrase “compassionate belt tightening.” She hinted the government would sign “common sense agreements,” whatever that was supposed to mean, with public sector unions.

Then, yesterday, there it was again! This time it came out of the mouth of Finance Minister Joe Ceci, who was quoted in a government news release as saying, “I look forward to hearing Albertans’ thoughts on how we can continue to make life better for Albertans while compassionately tightening our belt and returning responsibly and carefully to balance without extreme and risky cuts.” (Emphasis added.)

This smacks of Compassionate Belt Tightening having become an official talking point.

Technically, Mr. Ceci was providing Alberta’s second-quarter fiscal update, a legal requirement. Prompted by reporters, however, he was soon commenting on negotiations now underway between the government or its agencies and the Alberta Medical Association, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the Health Services Association of Alberta, and the United Nurses of Alberta.

At the newser, Mr. Ceci touted the example of the government’s recent agreement with the Alberta Teachers Association – two years of zeroes – as something he’s hopeful other public-sector unions will accept.

“We’re … asking our labour partners to join in our efforts,” he told reporters. “We’re looking for more common-sense settlements like those we negotiated with teachers, which provide job stability in return for no raises and better services for our kids.”

The CBC interpreted his remarks as meaning Mr. Ceci was signalling “no pay increases for Alberta unions.”

Mr. Ceci also indicated there would be a hiring freeze in the civil service and restraint on hiring in health care that would be chilly enough to call it a freeze as well. So far, the details are far from clear.

Public sector union leaders were cool to Mr. Ceci’s suggestion. They are all in good-faith negotiations, in some cases with a public-sector employer that, at least technically, is not the government. Quoted by journalists, however, none of them sounded like they were contemplating holding anyone to ransom.

Still, everyone has to understand that thanks to the Supreme Court, this is dangerous territory for any Canadian provincial government, especially one led by the NDP.

We all understand the NDP is tired of being blamed for an economic downturn it didn’t cause and would like to be able to say, as Mr. Ceci did, that the recession is behind us.

It is not quite over, however, just yet. It is too soon for cuts and austerity. That’s the economic reality, even if it’s not the political reality – which is the conundrum the Notley Government must grapple with.

So is another NDP premier about to wade into a fight with the party’s own supporters – as Dave Barrett’s government did in B.C. in 1973, Bob Rae’s did in Ontario 1993, and Roy Romanow’s did in Saskatchewan in 1999, with unhappy results in the subsequent general elections?

We’re not there yet. No one has proposed extending Rae Days – Mr. Rae’s imposition of mandatory unpaid days in addition to a wage freeze on Ontario’s civil servants – into Rachel Days.

Still, these are worrisome developments.

The NDP’s opponents may praise them for talking about compassionate belt tightening – as UCP House Leader Jason Nixon half-heartedly did after Ms. Notley’s remarks last week. But UCP supporters will never vote for the NDP.

On the other hand, if this isn’t handled deftly, the NDP can persuade its own supporters to stay at home on election day, or even vote for someone else.

I wonder what Mr. Topp would now advise?

37 Comments to: Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s call for no wage hikes for public-sector unions a risky strategy for New Democrats

  1. Sam Gunsch

    November 29th, 2017

    Pretty ugly situation in AB… Union leaders have to consider whether they want to push back on the NDP and risk a UCP-Kenney government like Thatcher/Reagan/Trump.

    Accept being stalled out for a few years by the current economic circumstances or increase their risk of an existential fight with a RW anti-union, pro-private sector corporate movement.

    Reply
  2. Farmer B

    November 29th, 2017

    Three things caught my eye in Joe Ceci’s 2nd quarter fiscal update. Projected deficit reduced 100 million from $10.4 billion to $10.3 billion. Oil revenues are $96 million higher than projected in the spring and revenue from corporate and personal income tax are lower than projected in the spring although no numbers were given as far as I know. One other thing spending by the government is a bit higher than projected in the spring. Interesting with the 4% projected growth in GDP that budget numbers show little improvement.

    I can certainly understand your trepidation about holding the line on wages but there is no doubt that if the NDP are still running a $10 billion deficit in 2019 their chances of re-election are zero. As for Brian Topp, was extremely happy when he left!

    Reply
    • Farmer Dave

      November 29th, 2017

      I just visited as small town just north of Edmonton and a few months ago hardly anyone was in town. Yesterday you could hardly find a parking spot and all the restaurants were busy. My son is a site superintendent for a large construction company building large high-rises in Edmonton. He is hiring labourers starting at $20.00 an hour with potential for more if they work out. Most of these applicants are asking for $200,000.00 a year. Maybe we should elect Kenney and these applicants will be lucky to get $15.00 an hour. ECONMOMY????????????

      Reply
  3. Mike

    November 29th, 2017

    Worrisome developments? Ask the private sector about “worry” over the last few years here in Alberta.

    Now that Brian Topp is gone, the Alberta NDP are able to govern according to what needs to be done in Alberta, not what Brian Topp wants done to Alberta.

    Reply
  4. David

    November 29th, 2017

    If the government doesn’t get its deficit under control, it will not get re-elected. If that happens it will likely be replaced by a party that will cut the public sector considerably. Zero percent may not sound that appealing to some, but considering the alternative, it would seem the less risky approach.

    Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    November 29th, 2017

    The NDP’s re-election chances have 2 things going for them that Bob Rae’s government did not.

    One, has to be the fear of Jason Kenney, and the memory of Ralph Klein. Don’t like a zero percent increase? Vote UCP and you can have a rollback instead. Ralph Klein managed 5%, so that sets a precedent – who is to say Jason Kenney won’t go for even more. I can already hear him saying ‘The books are even worse than we thought’ (but not bad enough to consider a tax increase)

    Second, the Ontario public sector wound up regretting their decision to turn their backs on the NDP. “At least a Rae Day was only one day a month” was a familiar refrain after Mike Harris was elected.

    Reply
  6. November 29th, 2017

    Thank you David, for mentioning the book \How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot\ Covers a very interesting and disturbing event in Canadian politics.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      November 30th, 2017

      IMHO, the real reason the “coalition” failed to garner public support, was that the Liberals & NDP chose to have “truck or trade” with the separatists, i.e. to involve the Bloc. Had they avoided Gilles Duceppe like the plague, we might have seen the HarperCon government fall. Instead, they allowed that radioactive politician to sit beside them at the press conference, and gave Harper the ammo he needed to defend the prorogation that keep his government in office.

      It’s entirely likely that had the Grits & NDP introduced a non-confidence motion in the House, the Bloc would have supported it anyway; they didn’t need to be so apparently cozy with them.

      Reply
  7. David Bridger

    November 30th, 2017

    As long as Notley’s and Ceci’s comments on public sector unions are the end of it and they don’t continue to pick away at it, then likely no harm done.

    But the reality is that no right wing voters from past elections are ever going to vote for the NDP in the future so no matter what the premier and finance minister say about restraint there is nothing to be gained by antagonizing anyone who supports the government.

    Mulcair proved in the 2015 federal election that the NDP campaigning from the right cost the party a fair chance at forming the federal government and gave the Liberals an opportunity to occupy the electoral space vacated by the NDP leader.

    In fact Prentice gave the NDP their good chance to form government by antagonizing the casual PC voters who just voted PC because past times had been good for them job wise under PC governments. Those people were not committed right wingers and so they voted NDP because they felt Prentice’ austerity budget betrayed them.

    Reply
  8. Doug Brown

    November 30th, 2017

    Anybody who thinks zero percent is unreasonable is living in a dream world. At best, each $1 in WTI contributes about $250 M while each 1% HST would bring in $1B. So oil at $65 and a 9% HST would leave AB with a $5B shortfall. A more than generous 10% roll back would reduce the shortfall to $2.5B which would go to zero over 4 years if public sector wages were frozen and a hiring freeze 8n place

    The NDP likely realizes it was an accidental government and will scortch the earth by locking in some generous wage increases. Outside the Edmonton reality distortion bubble, there is little sympathy for workers who have job security and risk free retirement prospects and who earn 10-15% more than private sector comparables and 10-20% more than peers in other provinces. AB is in this mess largely due to the spendthrift Stelmach and Redford governments who cozied up to Big Labour. I couldn’t care less about Jason Kenney’s irrelevant social values. Bring on the tax increases, budget cuts and most of all implement measures to stop this insanity from happening again

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      December 1st, 2017

      Doug, something that does not get enough attention is the fact that Alberta’s population has increased by over a million people since the 2001 census. This means that we have essentially built an extra city the size of Calgary during that time. That is a lot of infrastructure that the province had to build. People like to make a big deal of how much government spending increased during that period, but don’t realize that it was necessary.

      Lets see: a 9% HST brings in 9 billion dollars, and the deficit is 10 billion. Five billion short sounds about right I guess.

      Finally, if a job in the civil service is so wonderful, why don’t you apply? If Jason Kenney gets elected there will likely be a lot of openings when others decide to leave.

      Reply
      • Doug Brown

        December 1st, 2017

        Infrastructure is capital. $6-7B of AB’s deficit is operational. Yes the population has increased but so has the number of taxpayers. BC has about 500K more people buy somehow manages to get by on $4B less in spending.

        A 9% HST would bring in $4B as 5% would still flow to the Feds.

        I worked in the public sector when I was a university student. It was great because I could study at work and still be more productive than anyone else. That said, it was a soul crushing experience being around so many demotivated people. If anything, the excessive pay and job security afforded by the public sector negatively impacts morale because employees who hate their jobs stick around, which drags down other employees.

        Government is an employer of last resort. There will always be a subset of people who seek security and predictability. They will be willing to work for sub private sector wages in return. Retention is not a concern
        -even with say a 10% roll back followed by an indefinite freeze, AB would still pay better than other Provinces
        -for many government jobs, there are no private sector comparables so even if the private sector paid more, it wouldn’t matter for the majority of positions
        -when the job market is weak, security means a lot. Employees will trade off compensation for security

        Reply
        • Bob Raynard

          December 2nd, 2017

          Doug, I am sorry your experience in the public sector was so unrewarding. As a retired teacher, I can tell you that not every public sector job is as awful as you describe.

          There is no doubt there is a different mindset in public and private sector jobs. What you seem to regard as unmotivated I look at as motivated by something other than dollars. I really can’t imagine a career so incredibly unfulfilling as chasing dollars. I don’t know how many showers I would have to take at the end of the day if I was a mutual fund salesman encouraging people to invest in something that I know will benefit me more than the person who earned the money. (Please tell me you aren’t a mutual fund salesman!) I did not get rich teaching junior high kids their math, and I happily acknowledge that many of my former students now make more money than I ever did, but I have a lifetime of wonderful memories watching kids’ faces as they grasp a concept, and the appreciation both students and their parents gave me for my efforts. In my mind I am richer than the mutual fund salesman.

          Think about it. What kind of attitude do you want the people who teach your children or look after your aging parents to have? Treating civil servants like punching bags is not the answer.

          Neither is Jason Kenney. The bottom line is that Alberta has lost a large segment of its revenue stream with the collapse in the price of oil, and unfortunately Jason Kenney is pushing the idea that he can magically make the problem go away without any pain. As long as Kenney promises to balance the budget without a tax increase it perpetuates the Alberta attitude that Jim Prentice was getting at with his ‘look in the mirror’ comment, namely that somehow being Albertan creates different economics. To try and balance the budget just by cuts will only create another huge infrastructure deficit like the one Ralph Klein left us with, which in turn will force another spending spree in the future.

          As I reread your comment I realize I did not give you enough credit initially. We have a lot of people here who write a quick post after reading Rick Bell’s column, just before their mom calls them upstairs for supper, and my initial, but wrong, thought was that you were one of them. I am pleased that you acknowledge the need for a tax increase, or as Farmer B so eloquently puts it, an adjustment. Alberta’s tax structure is so much lower than the rest of the country that we probably would not be eligible for an equalization payment if we ever became a ‘have-not’ province.

          If you think a tax increase is part of the solution, don’t you think the Alberta Party would be a better fit for you than the UCP?

          Finally, with regards to infrastructure, I have to challenge you on a couple of points. The capital/infrastructure breakdown is not as clear cut as it seems. When a new student comes to a school he/she needs a desk, textbooks, a locker etc. These are all items that should be considered capital, as they are one-time expenses, but they fall under operational expenses. Expand that line of thought across the entire civil service – uniforms for police officers, protective gear for firefighters, books for libraries etc. and you can see the effect the massive population increase Alberta has experienced has had on its operational expenses. And yes, new people do pay taxes, but they bring with them more expenses than the taxes they pay.

          Reply
      • David

        December 1st, 2017

        The insurmountable problem is the party that promises a 9% HST will get about 9% of the votes, so it isn’t going to happen. You might be willing to pay 9%, great if you can afford it, but that is really not where most Albertans are at.

        Kenney won’t be hiring civil servants if he wins, but if some want to leave that will just make his cuts easier to implement. Perhaps by then the economy will have recovered sufficiently for them to find work elsewhere, but not likely with the same pensions and benefits.

        Reply
      • Famer B

        December 2nd, 2017

        Bob a 9% HST would only bring in $4 billion imo. 5% of the HST would be federal GST and 4% Alberta sales tax. If you want $9 billion of revenue you would need a 14% HST. As for the deficit, when Joe Ceci reports a $10.3 billion deficit it doesn’t seem to mesh with what is projected in the budget which when capital spending is included it looks to me like a deficit north of $14 billion. Enjoy your day.

        Reply
        • Bob Raynard

          December 2nd, 2017

          You are, of course, right, Farmer B. Doug wrote HST but I read PST.

          Reply
    • anon

      December 1st, 2017

      Doug: the problem with your 10% wage roll back is Klein killed the credibility of this method. He promised a 5% wage roll back with zero lay-offs and program cuts. Then the Cons stabbed everyone in the back by firing people, giving away or destroying government assets, and gutting services anyway.

      Reply
      • Doug Brown

        December 1st, 2017

        That was over twenty years ago. Most of the hiring prospects are Millennials who only know the Klein mythology.

        From my perspective as an early twenty something during the Klein years, the difference in quality of service was imperceptible. As much as the unions and professional associations tried to conjure the illusion that service suffered, there are no stats to back it up. Healthcare waiting times in AB, for example, were not much different than those in other Provinces. The notion that government assets were destroyed is powerful but laughably inaccurate. Are you talking about the asbestos laden, poorly HVAC’d, leaky roofed General Hospital in Calgary? It was beyond repair and met an appropriate fate. Calgary had numerous unused hospital beds at newer facilities that were opened to replace those lost at the General. The Rockyview had several never used wards in its Highwood building and the Lougheed in the NE had never full opened.

        I actually voted for Decore as I didn’t belive Klein would deliver. Times were bleak and something needed to be done to reinvigorate the economy after a series of setbacks: NEP, high interest rates, oil price crash, Lougheed and Getty deficits, early 90’s financial crisis, uncertainty from Canadian constitutional debate. Klein attracted capital back to the province which ignited a nearly two decades long boom. The early boom days were mostly outside traditional oil and gas as scrapping the machinery and equipment tax attracted investment to petrochemicals and the overall business friendly environment attracted companies like Canadian Pacific. The Klein government was sloppy in its late days, indiscriminately throwing money at problems. Stelmach was one of Alberta’s worst premiers who oversaw massive spending hikes with no accountability for delivering value. So no one can convince me that the path forward is anything other than austerity and attracting business investment. As per my earlier post, AB’s challenges are immense. It will take huge tax increase combined with probably a decade of provincial spending cuts and freezes to dig out from this hole.

        Reply
        • anon

          December 4th, 2017

          Government assets? How about “Maps Alberta” or the highways equipment? How about the giveaway of Alberta Energy and its substantial oil and gas reserves? All were valuable government assets/services which were given away. Or how about the regulatory system which was essentially given to industry to run? What price the legitimacy of the state apparatus?

          You obviously know nothing about the petro-chemical industry which was pretty much set in place by Lougheed and company when they changed the regulations to provide ethane to fill the Empress to Ft. Sask pipeline and NovaCorp was set up to take further advantage of that value adding opportunity. Klein just screwed up further development.

          How about the rural hospitals which were closed and the misery inflicted on fragile patients as a result? Or how about the private elder care services which sprang up to exploit and abuse helpless seniors?

          All austerity will achieve is the reduction of effective demand in the economy. There is not much left to give away to attract new business and the staples led economy which provided so much wealth in Alberta is pretty much a thing of the past. All that is left is to lay blame and hold the Conservatives responsible. It is just a pity the NDP were not more bloody minded. Kenney and the Cons will not be so restrained. Enjoy your day.

          Reply
          • Farmer B

            December 5th, 2017

            Anon as far as Peter Lougheed, I certainly agree he was a smart man but he also created an unsustainable level of government infrastructure. The deficits that occurred after his retirement show that.

            As for your assertion thar our oil was given away. I would say the same problem existed under Klein that exists today. Albertan’s want somebody else to pay the tab. If a sales tax had been implemented back in say 2000 and energy revenues had been saved instead of being spent on day to day operations, imagine how the revenue generated from those savings would help today! Those on the left feel business should pay the tab through higher taxes. Those on the right want lower taxes and have that payed for by lower wages for government employees. Always nimby. Albertan’s recieve the services, Albertan’s should pay. Enjoy your day

          • anon

            December 5th, 2017

            Farmer B: You may not recall that “Alberta Energy” was a crown corporation holding and producing large tracts of oil and gas reserves – many of them in SE Ab. Klein sold it for a few cents on the dollar. Those assets are still producing, but the profits now go into private pockets.

            Under Lougheed we had a sustainable welfare state with great services. Business wanted lower taxes and financed the overthrow of Lougheed. The Cons then gutted the revenue stream making the whole thing unstable. Klein putting the “pedal to the metal” hastened the fall.

            But many Albertans drank the cool-aid that we could lower taxes and have more govt. services. So I find it hard to blame the parasites for drinking deep. What is unforgivable is the pathetic response of the NDP if for no other reason than their failure paves the way for the Kenney wrecking crew.

          • Farmer B

            December 5th, 2017

            Anon, When Alberta Energy was formed in 1973 the government owned 50% of the shares. By 1993 when Klein was elected that share was only 36%. Having said that I agree over the long term retaining ownership of those shares would have payed off. Today I think AEC produces about 300000 barrels a day or about 8% of Alberta’s production.

            As for your assertion he had created a sustainable welfare state, if you look at Alberta’s financial history you will see that deficits started to accumulate in 1986-87 and by 93 Alberta was over $14 billion in debt. I would say that this was a result of an unsustainable public service created by Peter Lougheed’s previous government. I was 21 in 1985 and as I remember it Peter Lougheed decided it was time to retire. In the 82 election he won 75 of 79 seats I believe. He was still popular and I always believed he retired on his own accord.

            As for the NDP, I would agree they have created a situation that a Kenney win is quite plausible. I have no doubt you and I would disagree on what the NDP should have done different. Enjoy your day

    • Blumenschau

      December 1st, 2017

      Doug Brown couldn’t agree more. Little sympathy for workers who have job security, risk free retirement etc, plus can retire often at 55 or shortly after, 5-10 yrs before the rest of us, while we fund the biggest portion of their extremely generous pensions. It’s simply unsustainable!

      Reply
      • Doug Brown

        December 2nd, 2017

        Accounting rules need to change. The real cost of future pension payments should be recognized at the time the liability is incurred meaning that the reals cost of the low 20 some billion that AB pays its employees is much higher. Before the excesses of the 2000s, public sector employees earned below market wages in return for job security and fat pensions. Now they earn significantly above market even though security should be worth more than ever. The kicker is that higher salaries automatically multiply through to pensions. Stelmach really set AB for failure with the reckless wage increases awarded around 2006. Kenney may be a careerist but he is likely the only leader with the combination of cunning, stubbornness and agility to right the province. That will entail tax hikes, layoffs, wage rollbacks, pension and benefit concessions and service cuts.

        Reply
    • Mary Nokleby

      December 2nd, 2017

      Anyone can throw around figures to suit their perspective. The fact is, we need a living wage for all Albertans, we need a progressive tax system, preferably not of the regressive sales tax type, and we need public sector workers to deliver quality education, health, infrastructure, policing, waste collection, etc. etc.

      Expecting the folks who do the real work in this province to constantly take it on the chin….so that the most privileged sectors of our society can have a relatively easy ride, isn’t a good plan for a sustainable or prosperous future. As a retired teacher, I know how hard educators work, if they are doing the job. We’d be up to our necks in our unsustainable lifestyles very quickly if garbage collection failed. And as to health care, an aging population is going to need it.

      Wage increases are going to ‘scourge the earth”? Seriously? I thought it was rising CO2 from fossil fuel extraction, aided perhaps by endless war over these depleting resources.

      We’re cooked if we continue to blame the little people while giving the real polluters and poverty creators a complete pass. Even in Alberta, that reality is sinking in.

      Reply
      • Doug Brown

        December 2nd, 2017

        Teachers are amongst the most privileged professionals in Alberta. A teacher with 6 years education and 10 years experience earns over $100k. Combined with high end benefits and a pension that will pay 75% of the best 5 years earnings after work as few as 25 years, teachers earn north of $150k per year.

        AB has had a progressive income tax since the Prentice budget. So far it hasn’t raised revenues.

        Reply
  9. brett

    December 1st, 2017

    It is very reasonable. I hope that they make it happen.

    Reply
  10. December 1st, 2017

    Spare us. There’s nothing less convincingf than a bunch of figures thrown out to prove that the people who do the work in thie province should now get the cut back Jimmy had planned for them prior to the NDP majority win. And as to your lack of sympathy for workers with job security, why not start asking yourself why the much vaunted ‘private sector’ pays so poorly……….or why, in a province supposedly as advantaged as Alberta, fiscally challenged conservatives decry a 15 dollar minimum wage as something sure to break the economy.

    Resentments and jealosies aside, why not work for worker’s unions in all sectors, and stop arguing for an economy where the top 10 % continue to increase their share of the economic pie, while skilled workers like teachers and nurses are expected to swallow a…..what was your proposal Doug….a 10% rollback?

    Are you one of those coupon clippers my dad used to warn us about?

    Reply
  11. Doug Brown

    December 2nd, 2017

    The saddest aspect of the NDP’s reign is lost opportunity. It inherited a runaway train of spending but only further stepped on the gas. Stats Can had the number of provincial and municipal employees up by 50K since 2015. Assuming the all in cost of an employee at a conservative $80k (salary, benefits, pension, office space, admins support etc), the deficit could have been at least one third smaller today.

    Reply
  12. Doug Brown

    December 2nd, 2017

    Agreed. Too much wealth is accruing to the top 10%. In AB that includes most provincial employees, especially teachers. Factor in benefits and pensions that often pay out for 20 to 30 years and the median teacher compensation is easily $150 k. I’m unwilling to support government borrowing to pay above market wages.

    Coupons haven’t paid much in over 10 years but I wouldn’t expect an entitled risk free defined benefit pension holder to have the need for financial literacy.

    Reply
    • Mary Nokleby

      December 5th, 2017

      Seeriously? Since you’re the numbers man, why not tell us what that progressive rise is…from say the working folk who make well under 100,000 to the so called privileged teachers. And don’t forget to include the people making in excess of 200,000.

      I know teacher’s salaries have gone up since I retired, but seriously Doug…you should see the hours they put in. I spent my work life listening to the cons play fast and loose with educational realities, and quite frankly, most Albertans don’t know the half of what teachers dealt with then. I doubt its much better now.

      So while you’re gathering those numbers, find out what the average class size is…from elementary to high school. Because good education is not a business proposition, and classrooms packed like cans of sardines don’t bode well for our collective future.

      As an aside, I always insisted on courtesy in my classrooms…where dialogic inquiry was the order of the day. Insulting people who disagreed with you wasn’t on. I tried to teach them its always a sign of intellectual inadequacy of one sort or another.

      We need to stop blaming…we need to stop suggesting candidates, other than ourselves, for cutbacks…and we need to let go of the past and consider how we are going to prosper tomorrow and in the foreseeable future. Without firing, impoverishing, or tanking the ecosystem.

      It’s a challenge. And it will take all of us working together….including people with advanced degrees and smart farmers like my dad. Join us.

      Reply
      • Doug Brown

        December 9th, 2017

        Teachers are amongst the most underworked. How many paid days off do they get? At least 60 per year? How many professional development days? At least 5. How many years of paid retirement? At least 20.

        The odd time I drop my kids off at school in the morning, the teachers’ parking is still mostly empty 10 mins before school starts at 8:30. Same situation at 3:10.

        More important is the supply of people willing to take on teaching as a profession. Universities graduate thousands of Arts students per year to generally poor employment prospects. Many go on to Education after degrees. The supply of teachers is not even close to being scarce. At 10% lower pay and say a pension plan that requires working 4 years longer than now and say pays 67% of the best 5 years rather than 75%, recruitment would still not even approach becoming a challenge.

        Some will counter that the quality of teachers would suffer. A far more efficient approach than overpaying everyone with no consideration of quality would be pay per performance, but the union would never agree.

        Reply
        • December 11th, 2017

          Ah, another self appointed expert based on a few casual, and no doubt biased, observations.

          Doug, an effective pay for performance model does not exist. First, teachers are not motivated in that direction, thank heaven. Second, if you managed to eventually replace teachers with people who pursued their performance pay, the law of unintended consequence would leave schools a pretty barren environment to try and learn in. Go into a store in rough clothes and see how a performance pay based salesman ignores you because there is no prospective return in it. Now imagine how a weak student would feel being ignored the same way.

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          • Doug Brown

            December 14th, 2017

            Pay for performance exists in most of the economy. Your cherry picked example is of a pay of performance model that only considers revenue. One for teachers would include many metrics such as performance evaluation by the school principal, feedback from other teachers, survey of parents, standardized testing results, change in student performance throughout the year. When I was in Washington State, teacher performance ratings were public record and the lowest performers usually quit in advance for being fired. A healthy organization should have a dismissal rate in the single digit percentages.

            If teachers aren’t motivated by compensation, then what are we discussing? They should accept total compensation more in line with either the private sector or with teachers outside Alberta. That number would be at least 10% lower. I would also like to see stats on the number of teachers on payroll who actual teach. Student enroll can’t haven’t grown that much yet the ranks of teachers on payroll seems to have soared. Id be surprised if student enrollment has grown Canada wide at all in the past decade or two, further adding to the argument that teachers do not offer scarce skills.

    • anon

      December 5th, 2017

      So if the NDP’s credibility rests on curbing wage growth, as a logical corollary, does the credibility of Conservatives lie with their willingness to curb the greed of the one-percent and the growth of income inequality?

      Reply
      • Doug Brown

        December 9th, 2017

        No it also lies in curbing spending. With annual borrowing of $16B per year, austerity will dominate Alberta’s agenda for a long time.

        Reply

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