Alberta Politics
Labour Minister Christina Gray addresses the Alberta Federation of Labour’s mid-term conference on Saturday in Calgary (Photo: Alex Shevalier).

Call it what it is, says labour minister: successive Conservative governments denied Alberta working people their rights

Posted on May 09, 2018, 9:45 pm
4 mins

CALGARY – For many years, Alberta working people were routinely denied rights other Canadians take for granted, Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray said last weekend in a bluntly worded speech on labour relations policy in Alberta.

The speech provided insights into the direction the NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley will take in its campaign for re-election in 2019, and as such it deserved media coverage.

It got nada. No reporters attended. The paid media, at any rate, were all busy watching the United Conservative Party shoot itself in both feet an hour and a quarter to the north in the city of Red Deer, best known as the halfway point between Calgary and Edmonton.

Ms. Gray’s remarks to the Alberta Federation of Labour’s mid-term conference at the University of Calgary were the sort of thing that, once upon a time, the Calgary media would have covered as a matter of responsibility and routine.

No more. And while the UCP bunfest was unquestionably the more important political story in Alberta, it wasn’t the only one. Alas, the days are apparently gone when Alberta media are capable of covering more than one story on the same topic on the same day.

So it falls to me to help readers catch up on another important story in a busy week for Alberta political news.

Given her assertion, Ms. Gray started her remarks by observing that “denied” is not too strong a word to use when addressing the rights of working people in Alberta. “What do you call it when our workplaces were deliberately kept unsafe? When government after government ignores a recommendation to give workers the right to participate in health and safety matters? When our workers can be fired for caring for a sick kid?

“I call that rights denied!”

Governments have choices, just as individuals do, Ms. Gray observed. “Previous governments chose to do nothing. Our government chose to act. Welcome to the 21st Century in Alberta, friends.”

Well, to the mid-20th Century anyway … since the reforms to labour law introduced by the NDP are highly significant, but far from groundbreaking in the Canadian context. Nevertheless, Ms. Gray said, Alberta has finally joined other Canadian provinces by giving our workers the right to refuse unsafe work, a significant development that will take effect on June 1.

“We’re also making health and safety committees mandatory in workplaces that have 20 or more workers, so there’s no excuse for unsafe working conditions. This was a recommendation made to the Progressive Conservatives in 1974! We’re finally getting the job done.”

“The Conservatives didn’t forget about these policy gaps,” Ms. Gray explained. “They consciously chose not to do them.” Indeed, the United Conservative Opposition led by Jason Kenney has vowed to roll back these basic improvements to Alberta workplace safety law, which are common in most other Canadian jurisdictions.

In other words, Ms. Gray noted, “Jason Kenney and his friends aren’t talking about building this province, they’re talking about cuts, and pain, and dialing back the clock on everything Albertans have fought for. They’re talking about incoherent and unconstitutional ‘right-to-work’ laws. They’re talking about cutting back teachers and nurses …”

She concluded: “Let’s keep Alberta moving forward.”

And mainstream media didn’t have a word to say about this sharp riposte to the nattering nabobs of negativity in Red Deer. What’s with that, anyway?

NOTE: I’m on the road this week in various parts of Canada. As a consequence, there may be a longer lag time than normal in posting comments. DJC

6 Comments to: Call it what it is, says labour minister: successive Conservative governments denied Alberta working people their rights

  1. Bob Raynard

    May 9th, 2018

    Safe travels, David. Thank you for all the work you do.

  2. Ron

    May 10th, 2018

    For better (and often worse, alas) many younger folks get all their political info from Facebook.
    I just found you on that platform.

    I don’t trust where the fb managers or the anti-net-neutrality folks are taking us, but at the moment, social media can sometimes find and influence the audience that ignores the self-censoring corporate media.

    Alberta was very lucky to ‘accidentally’ elect an NDP gov’t at the outset of another ww oil-bust. They bucked the austerity trend and steered your economy back to the top in Canada .. even on low (ww) oil prices. And Notley seems to have drunk the fossil-fuel kool-aid that has driven the rest of our political class crazy.

    So, tar-sands-ninja NDPers are currently leading Alberta and otherwise providing responsible, economically stimulating leadership. If the corporate media gets its way then you will replace the NDP with … tar-sands-ninja SoCons who will wreck you economy and engage in endless civic vandalism to MAGA/Make Alberta Great Again.

  3. Farmer Dave

    May 10th, 2018

    There are many examples of working people and their rights that have been violated by the private sector as well as government, I’ve seen both sides. My wife worked for a private firm and when her parents turned ill and she needed to look after them the private firm said you can choose to look after your parents or work here without any time off or you are fired. Another person I know ran into the same type of situation in fact one of Jason Kenney’s firm supporters who belittled people in this same situation and now he is in a difficult situation living out in the country and is crying that the government isn’t doing anything for him, so as him being an avid church supporter (Alliance – nothing against this religion, I’ve attended the church many times) the bible will help him as he preaches for the UCP to win the next election and return to the 1930’s. A prime example of neglect is the people/cowboys who wanted to rid the Province of bill 6 and rode into Edmonton, the Alberta Farm & Ranch Workplace Legislation, who didn’t want to pay for insurance to protect their workers but would throw the injured workers to the curb and let taxpayers support them through ASH (who were those cowboys and why did they ride into town? Where are they today).

    • Pogo

      May 14th, 2018

      The fact that I know this person has no affect on my copying this link for you. PS: David Climenhaga’s new website still sucks while he and you likely never will!


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