In case you were wondering if Alberta’s United Conservative Party was also going to apply for funds from Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to keep party staff employed, that question has now been answered.
Of course they are!
The UCP trotted out the same excuse as its federal counterpart for the decision to apply for federal cash from the CEWS: political donations have dwindled, what with the pandemic lockdown, social distancing and all that.
“Our fund-raising opportunities have been restricted during the pandemic and we have lost fund-raising events in our 2020 calendar due to the restrictions on gatherings,” UCP Communications Director Evan Menzies told Global News.
The alternative, according to Mr. Menzies, would have been — quelle horreur! — to have to lay off eight staffers and make them apply to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to keep body and soul together until their federal Employment Insurance came through.
Although Mr. Menzies didn’t mention this in his conversations with media, that would obviously be unacceptable because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals would get the credit. Presumably the UCP staffers might also have had to stop churning out tweets and memes attacking Mr. Trudeau while they looked for work on EI.
Not to worry, though. There remains a legion of political appointees including issues managers, press secretaries, tour managers and the like — 19 of them in the Premier’s Office alone — paid lush salaries financed directly by your provincial taxes to serve members of cabinet. Their comfortable employment was never at risk.
So the UCP’s daily stream of vituperation directed at Mr. Trudeau and his Liberal Government for not forking over more dough to the oil industry will not be impacted, even as staffers in the party office are paid by the feds.
One might have thought the UCP would have found other cuts it could make to its spending to save the jobs — after all, aren’t these the people always telling us, when it comes to Ottawa, “there’s only one taxpayer”? Apparently not.
Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!
Observers like Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt called it “a horrible idea” for political parties to use Ottawa’s program for a bailout. “It looks really bad politically,” he told Global.
But Dr. Bratt diplomatically forgets that the United Conservative Party has, literally, no shame. Anyway, the UCP’s favourite excuse is also literally true in this case: No rules were broken.
For its part, Alberta’s New Democratic Party Opposition told Global News it had met its fund-raising goals and wouldn’t have to apply for federal help to keep its eight party staffers on the job.
Meanwhile, as far as anyone knows, Alberta’s low-paid health care aides, doing dangerous and essential work on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, are still waiting for the $2-per-hour top-up Health Minister Tyler Shandro promised them on April 20.
When the modest payment Mr. Shandro told them to expect more than a month ago failed to show up on their paycheques last Thursday, Albertans learned the money has been given to their private-sector and not-for-profit employers, who for some reason have not passed it on to their front-line workers. (For reasons never clearly explained, aides working for public sector long-term-care providers Carewest and Capital Care were not included in the top-up promise.)
This raises an interesting question: Which group of aides will see their money first?
- UCP party staff relying on Ottawa to keep attacking the federal government?
- Or Alberta health care aides relying on the UCP for a modest top-up while they risk their lives to keep their patients safe from COVID-19?
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said CEWS when it should have said CERB. You all knew what I meant, though. DJC
Who will see their pandemic money first? The UCP’s political staffers, or Alberta’s health care aides?
— David Climenhaga (@djclimenhaga) May 24, 2020