UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

One thing you can say for Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government: they don’t even pretend to act in good faith!

Early this month they mailed public sector unions a letter asking them to take part in “a consultation session” about the government’s wish to delay contractually stipulated wage arbitration included in a number of public sector collective agreements, including those for thousands of nurses, medical professionals, hospital support staff and other health care workers.

“Blue ribbon” panel chair Janice MacKinnon (Photo: CBC).

Now, without even bothering to do any “consulting,” they’re introducing something to the Legislature today called the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act.

This isn’t a surprise. Finance Minister Travis Toews has been saying repeatedly he’s prepared to use legislation to override legal contracts between unions and provincial agencies to delay contractually mandated bargaining and arbitration. That delay, in turn, is the set-up for the government’s planned attack on public service wages.

Say what you will about these guys, at least they don’t pretend. With the exception of when they’re whining about pipeline protests in Vancouver, they have complete contempt for the rule of law!

I mean, face it, this government and its lawyers know perfectly well that thing called the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms nowadays includes a guarantee of meaningful collective bargaining.

This doesn’t mean the process ensures a specific result. It’s easy to find lawyers who will tell you it lets governments dictate terms and conditions as long as there’s a veneer of meaningless consultation with the union in the crosshairs.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (David J. Climenhaga).

But they’re not even pretending to obey the law – which, after all, Alberta Conservatives have always believed is only for other people.

Naturally, Premier Jason Kenney and his government know the affected unions are sure to challenge them in court, and win there eventually, but in the mean time they believe they can act as if the law doesn’t apply to them – with some evidence they may be right.

Well, welcome to the new Alberta, just like the old Alberta.

Of course, there will be some naïve souls who preach that if the government won’t abide by one contract (say, with a labour union) it may just as likely ignore another (say, with a corporation). But if you still believe in such quaint notions as the rule of law, it’s said here you can count on it you are almost certainly outnumbered in this province by people who will support the government over due process and fundamental rights.

So if you’re a public employee about to take a haircut to finance huge tax cuts for billionaires and foreign corporations, you can also be confident many of your neighbours and family members will take quiet satisfaction from your bad fortune. You might want to think about that the next time your right-wing brother-in-law comes to you for a loan!

Today’s legislation, as noted, is a lead-up to the government’s presumed plans to roll back the wages of public employees.

We can say this with confidence even though the government hasn’t yet officially admitted it plans to roll back wages. After all, it’s hard to avoid that conclusion when the person they’ve appointed to lead their “blue-ribbon” panel to find ways to cut, recently published a paper calling on the government to declare war on public employees by engaging in quick, bogus consultation, then legislating a 2-per-cent wage cut followed by two more years of frozen wages.

Janice MacKinnon is a University of Saskatchewan history professor and, as you’re sure to be reminded, a former NDP finance minister. In the latter position, she was the one who closed 52 rural Saskatchewan hospitals and went on a privatization spree.

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  1. At least the Kons are consistent. See 1988:

    As they come for the public service workers’ pensions, perhaps we can look at this, do a little math, and laugh at the picture that resolves:
    “Mr. Swartout received $2.9-million for retiring, even though he will remain the company’s chairman and chief executive officer for most of this year, according to a company circular issued last week. He also pocketed $12.6-million in special severance-like payments (and was allowed to buy his $74,000 company-bought vehicle for a loonie) because of his company’s conversion to an income trust last fall.

    Never mind that Precision’s managers didn’t change, and that no round of pink slips was issued. Never mind that the shareholder roster is pretty much unchanged, or that the corporate offices didn’t move. Precision determined that its transformation into a trust was a change of control, and that was enough to unshackle tens of millions of dollars in stock options for senior management, and to trigger the lucrative payments to Mr. Swartout.”

  2. Happy Public Service week! A deliberate slap in the face to let public employees know in no uncertain terms just how much Jason Kenney’s government despises them. I don’t understand what the UCP hopes to achieve with this illegal provocation. Sure, it will play well to his wealthy backers such as the car dealers, but it destroys any hope of collaborating with the public service who took 2 and 3 year wage freezes in good faith. Albertans are going to be wasting millions of dollars on lawyers in the next 4 years.

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