Alberta Politics
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange with Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Government of Alberta social media).

No warning, no consultation, UCP yanks school funding using COVID-19 pandemic as excuse, costing 20,000 jobs

Posted on March 28, 2020, 4:05 pm
10 mins

Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., Alberta school trustees learned funding was about to be yanked by the provincial government with no notice or discussion with boards.

Massive layoffs are expected to result — up to 20,000 substitute teachers, educational assistants, non-essential support staff and bus drivers will all face layoffs immediately.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Kenney Government used school closings resulting from the COVID-19 epidemic as the excuse.

Under the headline “K-12 education funding temporarily adjusted to match cost,” the public announcement from Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says that “with in-school classes cancelled indefinitely, funding for K-12 education is being temporarily adjusted to reflect the cost of at-home learning by students during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Bridget Sterling (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“This funding will be restored when in-person classes resume,” it continues. (When that will happen, of course, is unknown.) The cuts will amount to a 14 per cent reduction to the base instruction grant and 51 per cent to transportation funding, a government spokesman told the CBC.

During a COVID-19 news conference on March 15 at which the school closings were announced, Ms. LaGrange had assured Albertans that “school authorities will receive their full allotment of funding for the 2019-2020 school year.” As recently as yesterday, one source said, Ms. LaGrange indicated no changes or announcements were expected.

Well that’s one way to get Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s execrable behaviour off the news media’s front burner! School boards were totally blindsided.

Reaction was immediate and strong.

“We figure this could be up to 20,000 people, about 10,000 CUPE members and about 10,000 others,” said Rory Gill President of CUPE Alberta.

“It’s a very surprising event,” he told AlbertaPolitics.ca. “It’s incredibly disruptive and incredibly short-sighted on behalf of the government.”

“On a Saturday afternoon, the Kenney Government has just fired thousands of people who look after and educate our kids,” Mr. Gill said in a news release. “The minister has just passed the buck to the federal government and told education workers, ‘good luck out there, there are programs you can access.’

University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“You can’t just fire thousands of educational assistants and expect them to all run back to the system in the fall,” he added. “This is a recipe for a massive brain drain. … We should be helping people keep their jobs during the crisis, not putting front line workers out on the street.”

Using Twitter, University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach asked: “How does cutting funding to schools and forcing layoffs of staff advance the safety of all Albertans? Which other businesses should advance the safety of Albertans through layoffs and/or cuts in payments to contract suppliers at this time?”

Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Bridget Sterling tweeted to Ms. LaGrange: “This is incredibly cruel. The federal government has directed employers to keep people working whenever possible. Even your government has asked the same. And yet you are putting thousands of workers onto aid programs at a time when they need their government the most.”

Edmonton Public School Trustee Michael Janz (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“I hope Albertans remember that when they needed their government to be there for them the most, you failed them,” she continued in another tweet. “You instead decided to send thousands more working families into precarity and fear during this time. For shame.”

Michael Janz, another Edmonton Public School Board trustee, agreed, tweeting: “My fear for the future is that this government won’t hire back the people they have laid off, as an attempt to cut investments in education and avoid the headlines of future job losses. You can’t fire those that you don’t hire back.”

Orders to school boards from the deputy minister of education include the following instructions: “Our direction to school authorities is to limit the use of substitute teachers effective March 31 so these individuals can apply to the expanded federal employment insurance program, as well as other federal support programs.”

Misbehaving Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Government of Alberta).

“School authorities should immediately begin to provide notice to educational assistants with the expectation that their services continue until no later than the end of April,” the memo from Deputy Minister Andre Corbould said. “School authorities should immediately begin providing notice to non-essential support staff … School authorities should immediately begin to provide notice to board employed bus drivers.”

And in the middle of a global pandemic when it’s vital that no one panic, no less.

This cynical use of the deadly and disruptive COVID-19 pandemic as cover for such a destructive announcement with no consultation reinforces the willingness of he United Conservative Party Government of Premier Jason Kenney to use the “Shock Doctrine” to undermine public services.

Ms. LaGrange’s news release continued: “While funding for teachers and most other aspects of the K-12 system is being maintained, funding for transportation and some services not being utilized in an at-home learning environment, such as substitute teachers and educational assistants, is being temporarily reduced while in-person classes remain cancelled.

“Any savings from these adjustments will be re-allocated to support Alberta’s COVID-19 response,” the release added, although as with precipitous actions of this sort, whether settled upon for political or ideological reasons, or both as is likely in this case, the actual savings will be small. The government expects that sum to be $128 million, the CBC reported.

As is customary in such documents nowadays, Ms. LaGrange got a single canned quote: “COVID-19 has changed both how we provide student learning, and the operational needs of the education system. I want to stress that this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning. I have full confidence the system will continue to be equipped to successfully deliver our education continuity plan.”

“Any staff impacted by these funding adjustments will qualify for the federal government’s enhanced employment insurance program and other support programs for Canadian workers,” the release also said, signalling the Kenney Government’s intention to download the costs of this policy on the federal government as it responds to the COVID-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, school authorities must still submit their 2020-21 budgets by the usual date of May 31.

The fact there’s been very little chatter about this as a possibility in government circles suggests it was cooked up in a hurry, although that will probably have to remain speculation given the secretive proclivities of the Kenney Government. If the sudden move was decided on short notice, the most likely reason was to get the Shandro brouhaha off the media agenda before Postmedia’s newspapers were shamed into covering it.

Well, this will give Matt Wolf, the premier’s “issues management” guy, something to scream about. Mr. Wolf has been mysteriously silent on the topic of Mr. Shandro’s performative tantrum a week ago in front of the home of his neighbour, a physician who dared to repost an uncomplimentary social media meme about the health minister.

32 Comments to: No warning, no consultation, UCP yanks school funding using COVID-19 pandemic as excuse, costing 20,000 jobs

  1. Public Servant

    March 28th, 2020

    The cruelty is the point. Kenney never misses a chance to insult, belittle or hurt anyone who is paid from the public purse.

    This is a blatant attempt to take attention away from the Shandemic conflict of interest fiasco.

    Reply
    • Mr. Wu

      March 28th, 2020

      I hope those 20000 remember the betrayal during the next election. Shameful stuff from a closeted Alberta leadership.

      Reply
      • Athabascan

        March 29th, 2020

        Yes, closeted indeed!

        Reply
  2. julia raby

    March 28th, 2020

    This is beyond ridiculous!!! I have 4 special needs students that rely on daily contact with their EA’s during this time!!
    It’s been a saving grace and a little normalcy for them, especially after all day routines have been turned upside down.
    EA’s are not expendable!!! We need them.

    Reply
  3. Michelle

    March 28th, 2020

    Shady as F$&k

    Wow that’s a new low.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      March 29th, 2020

      Agreed.

      Sorry to say there are more new lows to come from Kenney in the next 30 days.

      Reply
  4. Sub-Boreal

    March 28th, 2020

    It will reinforce the misery of the victims to this latest sado-austerian spasm to realize that the majority of their AB neighbours would probably re-elect this government, albeit with a somewhat reduced majority.

    Face the facts: Alberta’s political culture is in its terminal phase of peak obliviousness. Educated, compassionate folks should get past any sentimental attachments they might have to the province, and prepare to vote with their feet. Once the COVID-19 dust has settled, the sensible minority should make their plans to move to BC or SK, where a well-distributed influx of decent newcomers would make a beneficial political difference.

    Reply
  5. Eric

    March 28th, 2020

    People, why the surprise? Alberta Conservatives have historically done their level best to kick healthcare and Education in the slats at every opportunity. Did you really expect Kenney’s draconian Ed minion to grow a brain AND a heart? The sad thing is that any cuts made under the guise of ‘COVID-19 necessary’ won’t be restored once this virus is eradicated. Learn from history, people. With this government, the worst is yet to come for the public sector.

    Reply
  6. Abs

    March 28th, 2020

    So now we know that the $500 million Jason Kenney pledged to fight Covid-19 is not new funding. It is coming out of other budgets. These layoffs account for $128 million. Where will the remaining $372 million come from? Health?

    Shifting this to the federal level by telling workers to go on EI is Kenney’s answer. Let the feds pay for it.

    Reply
  7. Just Me

    March 28th, 2020

    The recently approved budget is moot. There is no way any of the objectives will ever be met.

    However, talking advantage of this pandemic and the cancellation of the school year assures that more cuts can be implemented by stealth.

    Laying off custodial staff, teaching assistants and others – totally 20,000 persons – is only the beginning. And if the cancellation extends into the latter part of this calendar, all the better for the UCP. They will cut even further, claiming it as an emergency.

    This serves as an indication of what’s coming post-pandemic to the health care system. Massive layoffs coming there as well. Kenney will just declare the storm is over and we don’t need them anymore. (That’s sounds very Trumpian.) Of course, if there’s a second round of the pandemic (The 1918 Influenza Pandemic had one.) then this could be huge misjudgement.

    It should be clear to many by now that Kenney is a gambler and he’s playing with lives. All he has to do is wait it out until a year before the next election and walk away. He will be 54 and one year away from collecting his sweet and fat MPs pension. And it’s likely his transition allowance from the premier’s office will be well over $500K, not including the fat premiums he earned scamming and selling influence.

    Third World corruption Alberta-style.

    Reply
  8. Kelly

    March 28th, 2020

    Thanks a lot! I am a relatively new widow with one 17yr. old and one 18 yr. old. What am I going to do now? Just keep kicking us why we are down. Shame on you UPC government. And shame on you Jason Kenney.

    Reply
  9. Unknown

    March 28th, 2020

    I have 1 student that relies on daily contact with me during this time. Not only do I play an important role within the school but I have become important to the family. They are struggling with their own changes….dad loosing his job and not wondering how to make ends meet. My student waits daily for my phone call, let’s him know I still care even though his daily routines has been turned upside down. I don’t think you understand just important we are to these kids….I am heartbroken!!

    Reply
  10. Trailblazer

    March 28th, 2020

    As a BC’er,
    It’s time for the ROC as many Albertans like to describe us to be cut loose from the ‘constraints’ of accountability and responsibility.
    Whilst I do not like the term; You are with us or against us,as it is too simplistic I must use It against Alberta.
    North of the 49th, Alberta has always tried to live the American dream.
    Considering world events ,which Alberta only does in good times, I would say.
    Go for it!

    TB

    Reply
  11. alan

    March 28th, 2020

    Considering what has occurred from the beginning ( As in, what could be so important and why would it be so important for a former Federal politician to apparently engage in cheating, lying, and cover-ups in order to become the Premier of little old Alberta? “With more than $200,000 in fines handed out over a “kamikaze” campaign that had the sole purpose of getting him elected as party leader . . . . ” ), everything else probably should be viewed as business as usual for these mangy, tick and flea ridden political mongrels.

    https://medicinehatnews.com/commentary/opinions/2020/01/04/laying-it-out-in-a-world-of-spin-and-lies-you-can-still-see-the-truth/

    Maybe someone has decided that it is the right time for the Alberta taxpayers to get taken to the cleaners once again.

    Reply
  12. Just Me

    March 28th, 2020

    To put the UCP’s seemingly bizarre judgements in some kind of perspective, I recall something US conservative talk-radio host Glenn Beck said almost a decade ago.

    During one of his weirder programs, mixed in with all the declarations of ‘deep state’ activities and black helicopters, Beck said something that was actually profound and had a basis in reality. He told his listeners — instructed and demanded of them — they should move to other parts of America. He told them, if they prize and believe in the authority of traditional values — marriage, family, politics, lifestyles, etc. — but they are surrounded by people who are not like them and don’t believe or live those important and life sustaining values, then they must move. Move! Move to where there are people who care about the same things that you believe in and value. Find a safe part of America where you can live and call your own – today. And, never more than ever, was the notion of Red and Blue states more defined.

    As the UCP engages in its scorched earth campaign across Alberta, they are remaking the province and its society. Diminishing the importance of education, health sciences, and any chance of moving beyond a fossil fuel economy, they are determined to keep Alberta trapped in the past. And those who don’t like that, as Craig Chandler so bluntly put it years ago, they can leave. Alberta is conservative, God-fearing, straight, and for traditional families only.

    As the price of Alberta oil plunges even more, making it even too costly to draw from the ground, Kenney will dream up even more ways to keep pumping money into that dead industry. Pension funds do run out, and there’s not enough in any of them to fulfill Kenney’s wildest and most desperate dreams. Once it becomes clear to Alberta that there’s nothing left, and the robust economy will not restored for a very long time, if ever, they will leave.

    They will leave and go to places where they will be safe with people just like them.

    What will be left of Alberta will be a rural rump 10x over. Anything resembling what was once a modern secular society will be expunged and wiped away. What is left behind will be like some place out of the deep Southern United States, superstitious, ignorant of science, and enormously racist.

    The UCP will be perpetually re-elected in such a society, so it’s not a good idea to be attached to Alberta.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      March 29th, 2020

      If Alberta is so “straight” as you say, why then are we being lead by Kenney?

      Reply
  13. f

    March 28th, 2020

    It”s hard to get School bus drivers now, thanks for the Kick in the face Kenney!!

    Reply
  14. AD

    March 28th, 2020

    I am a Teacher assistant in Alberta and I work daily helping teachers support their students learning needs online.

    Reply
  15. Maarten Vanmarcke

    March 28th, 2020

    This is just unbelievable. You would expect this government to provide the education for which we paid taxes, and make sure we get back the lost months by opening the schools during the summer break. Or prepare to catch up the next years. They could just raise taxes on the top salaries and raise millions, but that was again not opted. Years and years of tax gifts to companies and rich individuals have not led to more jobs and wealth in Alberta. Time for change.

    Reply
  16. Bill Malcolm

    March 29th, 2020

    On CBC Radio’s The House yesterday, the main suggestion Scheer could come up with in the Covid-19 discussion was a giant federal transfer of funds to remediate old oil and gas wells in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Yup, that’s Canada’s number one problem right now and the country should hop right to it. The man is barmy, nothing new there. But these Prairie conservatives have a one-track mind and empathy for one’s neighbour at street level is non-existent.

    Kenney should be publicly flogged for the extra misery he so cavalierly hands out to citizens of Alberta. Does no one in the complaisant press even notice that harper, kenney and scheer have all lived like leeches off the public purse their entire lives? Cognitive dissonance. Barring the tone-deaf Mackay from my province who wanted to keep the CPC leadership convention going until even the dolts in his own organization figured out that might not be a smart thing to do, the CPC is going to consist only of blithering idiot prairie dogs wedded to out-of-date political thinking, a regional party of nonentities like the BQ but far less socially responsible.

    This corona virus has exposed conservatives as complete dolts all over North America, and when it runs its course of three infection spikes in true pandemic fashion 18 months from now and the country is in economic ruin like everywhere else, it doesn’t seem likely to me that people are going to embrace utter dorks for leaders. Deficit spending is only an IOU society places on itself for future repayment, so anyone (large corporations and oligarchs) hoarding the money currently being forked out will not be viewed in a positive light. If we as a country bail out a company, then we own it, not the former owners – that’s capitalism at street level. The only thing saving Alberta from complete dystopia is the fact that it has a federal police force, or as I’ve been saying for years, it would be Emperor Jason by now.

    Reply
  17. jj gibbons

    March 29th, 2020

    Geez … from Wexit to “let the feds pay for it”!

    Reply
  18. jerrymacgp

    March 29th, 2020

    One of most offensive & cowardly aspects of this affair, is that when these employees receive their proverbial “pink slips”, they won’t be issued by the Government of Alberta, but by their putative employers, the school boards. How many of them will be politically aware enough to know it wasn’t the school board that triggered this, but the province? How about the feds?

    Reply
  19. Jim

    March 29th, 2020

    Add this one to the growing number of examples for all Albertans, when you are in need the only help you are getting is from the Trudeau government. Kenney’s response and that of his ventriloquist puppet LeGrange it to kick you in the teeth.
    I would be interested to know how much it is going to cost to lay off these workers? I am sure can’t just stop paying them.

    Reply
  20. Athabascan

    March 29th, 2020

    Very sad news indeed. However, Albertans should brace themselves for even more cruelty to come from Kenney.

    1. Nurses to be laid off in April.
    2. University professors to be laid off.
    3. Rolling blackouts
    4. gasoline price hikes
    5. continued under funding or budget cutting of services
    6. More civil liberties infractions and restrictions
    7. More subsidies, oil royalty reductions, or tax incentives for oil and gas companies.

    Let’s watch! Remember, you voted for this man Alberta, even knowing the incredibly cruel campaign he engaged in while in bible school in San Francisco. Denying dying aids victims from having visitors in hospitals. That’s a level of cruelty beyond measure.

    Reply
  21. brett

    March 29th, 2020

    Clearly the health minister should resign. I do not think that even the most ardent UCP member would disagree with this.

    His behavior is unacceptable. I suspect the issue is not is not if, but when.

    I will make one off the wall prediction. The Government will bring in a sales tax before the next election, possibly in the next 12 months. The covid crisis will be the justification to sell it.

    I am not saying that I am for or against it. I just think this is in the cards for Alberta.

    Reply
  22. Lulymay

    March 29th, 2020

    They should change the name of your provincial legislature to “JASON’S GYP JOINT” I guess he thinks his manufactured “gawd” will solve everything and all Albertan’s will follow him into Alberta’s sunset phase. I’m sure that most of you that voted for him did so in good faith. but unfortunately that is a personality trait the little tyrant does not possess.

    Reply
  23. Brenda Hungrywolf

    March 29th, 2020

    We need everyone to call, email, write your MLA, the Education Minister whoever else you can think of. Tell them why this is wrong. If you have a child who has an EA they need to know how important that EA is to your child, what their support does for your child and how they have been working with your child over the last few weeks. If you want to make sure they are hired back next year, that any EA is hired back they need to know that your child is just an important as every other child and they deserve the same education as every other child!

    Reply
  24. Jennifer

    March 29th, 2020

    Wow I am just shocked that Kenney can say he is a man of faith . He a piece of work with absolutely nothing that resembles that claim. Action speaks ,his constant cruelty and abuse combined with lies of wanting to make Alberta better is the truth. Does he not understand that when we are able to go back to work that people will not be waiting ? They will be getting the work in other provinces ? There is nothing left in alberta unless you still had a job …so here we come B.C Sask Ontario Manitobia and every other province where they are still trying to keep people working. The federal EI pays everywhere. So if there was ever a time to move away before this ship sinks since the captain is pushing everyone off the boat to drown. Leave now start a new life . Sadly when school starts again the bus drivers will not be here and since that is one of the hardest jobs to fill because it doesn’t pay well and is hard as hell ! Then the support staff wont be here because again a hard as hell position and the parents and teachers will be so overwhelmed and bitter because it’s not their fault the real consequences will be handed to the children. Who will suffer more with the quality of attention and education poorly lacking already. Congratulations Jason you are right Alberta is open for business the funeral business and you are the undertaker

    Reply
  25. Just Me

    March 30th, 2020

    During those years, when I hung around with far too many conservatives, there was a pattern of behaviour that I noticed among them more often than not: they lived to rebel.

    Rebel against what? Whatever they perceived as evil, but it wasn’t the usual suspects, like racism and hatred for the sake of hating. No. They were in rebellion against their parents. Usually, if the parents in question were stable, tolerant, and kind, their mad conservative offspring were determined to destroy anything or anyone that represented anything that their parents would like, like stable social institutions.

    They’ve live for one thing and one thing only: to burn; burn it all down. While normal people would regard this sort of behaviour as anti-social and irresponsible, they embraced it as part of their mission in the war against the evils of security, stability, and civility. For conservatives, life is a constant gang fight – their gang against all other gangs. They belong to a hyper-masculine cult, whose only wish was to be the finally manifestation of what they considered to be the ideal reality: the world as divined by the hard-core of the GOP.

    They indulged in the conspiracy theories that spoke of of the secular-humanist agenda, an agenda that would make all perversions normal, and deviancy divine. Looking back, comparing the conservative rebels to today’s alt-right, little has changed.

    Kenney was of this angry gang who sought to destroy. Judging by his life as he has defined it, a life free of familial responsibilities or adult obligations, he deceives, throws tantrums, and makes demands that the world turns the way he wants it, and everything and everyone else be damned. If others betray their obligations and engage in corruption, he has no problem with it; he sees it as normal behaviour. If humans are flawed, then let them profit from it.

    Everything that has happened as will happen is on Alberta’s voters. Many didn’t even know who Kenney was, but they believed his message as though it was divine. In the end, Alberta deserves every ounce of hardship that Kenney slaps them with.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      March 30th, 2020

      That aren’t, in fact, conservatives at all. Canada has had Conservative governments at both provincial & federal levels that would never think of behaving like this. This is fascism, pure & simple — not Naziism, to be fair, but more aligned with the Franco-era Falangists in Spain, or Pinochet in Chile. Corporations have more rights & privileges than individuals, and workers are disposable.

      Reply
  26. Craig Michael Vandertie

    April 6th, 2020

    If your institutions of learning are every bit as much of being programming centers as they are here in the United States those indoctrinator/programmers have been undeserving of pay for decades.

    Reply
  27. Craig Michael Vandertie

    April 6th, 2020

    Hmmm!, psychotic Progressives defining Conservatives as rebellious, ROFLMAO, a Facist calling the genuinely cognizant Facist while they align themselves with terrorist organizations like Antifa or BLM, wow!, you people from Alberta truly do suffer from an extreme form of the Crazies.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)