Alberta Politics
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro asks a group of typical Albertans to find the savings Alberta Health Services will make from laying off 11,000 health care workers; actual Albertans may not appear exactly as illustrated (Image: Public Domain, from the painting by Hieronymus Bosch, 1450-1516).

Math is hard, but not so hard you can’t spot the holes in Tyler Shandro’s cost-saving shell game

Posted on October 15, 2020, 2:00 am
11 mins

Math, apparently, remains hard.

Except, perhaps, calculus of a political sort.

The real Mr. Shandro (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

On its face, Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s claim that firing 11,000 low-paid public sector health care employees will save about $600 million makes little sense.

Others have done the same calculation and come up with similar results, but it a matter of simple arithmetic that if we divide $600 million by 11,000 workers, we’ll see a ballpark “cost saving” of roughly $54,500 per employee.

A look at the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees’ health care general support services collective agreement shows the wages of the workers who are likely to be affected by these changes in black and white.

Annual pay for a full-time lab assistant, one of the job categories targeted for layoff and privatization by the United Conservative Party Government would work out to about $54,800 under the current AUPE contract. Annual pay for many food service and laundry workers is now about $38,700.

So even if their jobs are be completely eliminated from the public sector, even if we add all possible benefits including those supposedly rich public service pensions, it won’t be possible for Alberta Health Services to come up with anything like the promised cost savings.

This is obviously because the work done by lab technicians, laundry workers, food service workers and the like cannot simply be made to disappear. Patients still have to eat; hospital rooms must still be cleaned, and those blood samples our doctors keep asking us to give up will still need to be analyzed for sugar, cholesterol and the four humours.

Mr. Shandro backhandedly acknowledged this during Tuesday’s news conference by pretending that the employees in question won’t be losing their jobs — they’ll just be switching employers.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

That remains to be seen. But even if it turns out to be so, it is a given these workers will be paid less than they were as public employees —as we can assume among this particular government’s goals is restricting their rights in the workplace by making it difficult for them ever again to be members of a union.

Nevertheless, they are still going to have to be paid something.

After all, we have abolished slavery in Canada — if not wage slavery — so these newly privatized workers are still going to have to be paid for their efforts.

Let’s imagine that their new private-sector employers can get away with paying them 25 per cent less. That’s still going to result in a direct cost to their employers in the order of $450 million a year. Add in the cost for corporate profit, corporate accounting services, and corporate borrowing at higher interest rates for new facilities — for example, for industrial washing machines for the laundry — and about the best you could hope for is that the cost would be about … $600 million.

In other words the saving is certain to be illusory. The benefit to the province will be negligible, if not negative. (And it may well be negative, since modestly paid Canadians tend to spend their limited dollars at home, on local businesses, unlike foreign billionaires.)

And who is going to pay that? Why, AHS, of course, through their contract with the new private-sector service suppliers.

In other words, at best this is a shell game in which the government pretends to be saving money on salaries while spending more on services contracted from for-profit corporations.

Given the typical behaviour of large corporations, the first-year contract may be a deal. But costs will rise in subsequent years. So in the long run, we will end up paying more.

Mr. Shandro claimed there will be no layoffs among clinical front-line health care workers. This is almost certainly not true, since AHS says it is proceeding apace with plans to lay off at least 600 nurses in the short term, and possibly as many as 5,000 over the longer term.

But it is also a deception on the health minister’s part, since most of the workers the UCP intends to eliminate are front-line health care workers too. That Mr. Shandro understands this is revealed by his careful use of the word clinical to mean members of regulated professions.

This is making a lot of people unhappy, and not just unions as Premier Jason Kenney’s issues managers pretend.

Even Brad Wall, back in the days he was Saskatchewan’s premier and not just another Calgary oilpatch nobody, used to pay attention to what his voters wanted. And what Alberta voters emphatically don’t want is a health care system once again in chaos — which is exactly where the UCP seems intent on sending it.

There are even rumbles of discontent from among Mr. Kenney’s own handpicked panel members.

So what Premier Jason Kenney is up to with this rolling disaster is something of a mystery.

Perhaps he arrogantly believes that no matter what he does, Albertans will never abandon Conservative government as long as there is only a single dominant conservative Party.

Maybe he’s hoping to provoke a strike or similar crisis from which he can emerge in a Trumpian law ’n’ order gambit as the strongman who can save the nation, or at least the province.

Or perhaps he puts ideology so far ahead of common sense he simply doesn’t care what will happen once he’s broken all the crockery. Face it, Mr. Kenney is going to have a good retirement on his Parliamentary pension no matter what happens to the rest of us.

Or maybe as an acquaintance of mine, a professional observer of politics, puts it, he’s actually not very smart and he’s still looking for an oil-price miracle.

It’s hard to say. One thing that’s clear is that the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic derailed any plan the UCP had to do its worst in the first year of its mandate.

The electoral window during which damage like this can be perpetrated by any government that hopes to be re-elected will be closing soon. If Premier Kenney is to implement his ideological program in his government’s first term, the imperative he faces is to march or die.

Of course, with Mr. Kenney at the helm, the choice faced by the UCP’s increasingly nervous MLAs in Calgary and even some rural ridings may be march and die!

Meanwhile, in B.C., John Horgan plots a different course

Meanwhile, over the Rockies and not so far away in British Columbia, where the NDP Government will go to the polls in eight days, Premier John Horgan is taking a dramatically different approach to the same difficult file.

B.C. Premier John Horgan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Premier Horgan said yesterday that cuts made by B.C.’s so-called Liberals (who are really conservatives) during their years is power left the province vulnerable to COVID-19, and he vowed to keep making progress on the B.C. NDP’s efforts to fix the mess the Liberals left behind.

“The B.C. Liberals passed laws that devastated long-term care and led to the layoffs of 10,000 workers, most of whom were women,” said Mr. Horgan, a description that would surely ring bells in Alberta if our local media was paying attention.

Many of the health care workers laid off under the Liberals had to reapply for their old jobs at less pay, he noted, and many had to work multiple jobs, helping the spread of COVID-19 when the pandemic arrived in Canada.

So, Mr. Horgan said, if the NDP is re-elected, “We’ll make sure that the pay increases we put in place to get through the pandemic are made permanent.”

What’s more, he vowed his government will press ahead with its plan to hire 7,000 more long-term care workers, and it will build new public long-term care facilities throughout the province.

Not in Alberta? Pity.

35 Comments to: Math is hard, but not so hard you can’t spot the holes in Tyler Shandro’s cost-saving shell game

  1. Dave

    October 15th, 2020

    So what is Premier Kenney up to? I pick your third possibility – he’s just not that smart and hoping for a big oil price turn around. Well I don’t think Kenney is totally stupid, but I do think his political smarts have been vastly oversold by his Conservative promoters.

    Yes, he is fairly good at organizing certain groups of mostly Social Conservatives to turn out for various past campaigns when needed. However, governing requires more strategic thinking beyond a reflexive playing to a diminishing base. Heck on strategy I think he is not even close to as good as Harper. If Kenney is the best of the current Conservative lot, god help them!

    Health care was the Humpty Dumpty that the PC’s broke apart and tried to put together again and again. However while somewhat Conservative, they were more a natural governing party coalition and seemed to have no regret to clean up their own messes when needed.

    The current UCP has no Zwozdesky to help them repair and smooth things over, even if they wanted to, which they don’t. So they will keep doing what they are doing, as they have no other or better ideas, until the voters get a chance to pass judgement on them.

    Reply
    • Bret Larson

      October 16th, 2020

      Its not just Alberta.

      The whole of the western world is dealing with the demographic shift and entitlement programs based on the labour of a shrinking working population.

      The Harper government tried to start to deal with the problem, by increasing the entitlement age, however, the Liberals convinced the electorate they could stick their heads in the sand for another 8 years.

      Good luck having these entitlements having any buying power in 10 years time.

      Reply
      • Kang

        October 16th, 2020

        Brett: The labour force is shrinking because of increased productivity gains made possible by better technology. Big business has captured all those productivity grains over the past 40 years because government has failed to maintain corporate tax levels around the 80% level where they were between 1947 and 1973. This Conservative failure has created an artificial deficit.

        Incidentally, most, if not all of those productivity gains have come as the direct result of government financed and directed research and development which was then given to the corporations. That applies to all the high tech stuff like micro processors (think DARPA and Star Wars) and other things like tar sands and canola. For example, Canola, was created by Ag Canada. The Cons gave it to the agrochemcial seed companies who promptly added herbicide tolerance to the stuff. All the foodstuffs grown in Canada were developed and adapted by the Canadian government with tax money and money kicked in by farmers. The Cons are still trying to take the rest of the food genome away from farmers and the public and privatize it. This is why the Kenney and Harper destruction of our agricultural research libraries was so unforgivable.

        Reply
          • Death and Gravity

            October 18th, 2020

            and your explanation is unconvincing with respect to the problems of most of the under 30s I know, which stem from thet fact there ain’t no jobs that pay enough to establish a life. How can this be a consequence of shrinking labour pool? Wait, I think I can guess. You’re simply lying.

            Not everyone is inclined or welcome to hop abord the wingnut welfare gravy train which seems to have embraced you to its face-sucking bosom.

          • Kang

            October 19th, 2020

            Brett: while I appreciate your literal mindedness and determined attempts to divert attention from more salient points, “increasing productivity” means one worker does more “work” (which means producing goods and services) than several workers did even a decade ago – hence a “shrinking labour force.”
            Fewer workers using cheaper tech to produce much more is a basic trend in industrialized societies. Without the high corporate income taxation rates and regulations around efficiency, environment, and occupational health and safety that produced the post-war economic boom, we are slipping back into the feudal economic conditions that produced so much misery for the vast majority between 1900 and 1945. Just look at the exploitation of young workers in the gig economy.

          • Kang

            October 19th, 2020

            Brett: while I appreciate your literal mindedness and determined attempts to divert attention from more salient points, “increasing productivity” means one worker does more “work” (which means producing goods and services) than several workers did even a decade ago – hence a “shrinking labour force.”

            Fewer workers using cheaper tech to produce much more is a basic trend in industrialized societies. Without the high corporate income taxation rates and regulations around efficiency, environment, and occupational health and safety that produced the post-war economic boom, we are slipping back into the feudal economic conditions that produced so much misery for the vast majority between 1900 and 1945. Just look at the exploitation of young workers in the gig economy.

        • karl roth

          October 16th, 2020

          thanks Kang, appreciate your reply to the resident all Kenney good all the time troll

          i just want to say rude things, really tired of the same old regurgitated rightist blather

          Reply
          • Kang

            October 19th, 2020

            Thank you, Karl,: his and other comments remind me of many undergraduates who have a grasp of general theory but a very limited background and experience in the subject area. They often mistake an internally consistent theory for an accurate prediction of how reality works. This tends to blind them to the faulty assumptions many of their theories are based on, not to mention the paradoxes and contradictions created by changes to the world. This seems especially true of those who think the United States represents a sustainable development and social model.

          • Bret Larson

            October 19th, 2020

            Its where the boom in Boomer came from.

            If you dont understand the demographic challenges brought along by the baby boomer generation its going to be hard to have a meaningful discussion.

            I suggest you ask Linda Duncan about it.

            A few elections ago it was her goto on the phone for convincing people to vote NDP.

  2. Anonymous

    October 15th, 2020

    At the rate the UCP are going, they are making Ralph Klein look good by comparison, (even though Ralph Klein was an absolute failure). These cuts are absolutely stupid, especially when cases of people with Covid-19 are escalating fast in Alberta. Comparing what is happening with the UCP in Alberta, and what the NDP in British Columbia are doing, is like night and day. British Columbia voters would be smart to reject the Liberals (who like you said are Conservatives). The neoliberal way is make any excuses for cuts, and keep doing them, forcing privatization. Putting vital services into private hands is a disaster waiting to happen. As if Ralph Klein’s insane and brutal cuts weren’t bad enough, (we still have the after effects of them to this present juncture), we have the UCP giving more needless cuts. When the sun rises in the west, we will see another oil boom. Many people in Alberta are suffering great hardship right now. The UCP are just adding to that hardship. Albertans had better come to their senses and wake up. Now, we have the UCP wanting to have Albertans have a say, via online and public forums about Alberta’s budget and finances, before the next provincial budget, due in the spring. This is a total farce, because the UCP already have their earplugs in their ears, and their minds made up. The UCP know what they want to do, despite how badly it affects Albertans. This is an atrocity, and a shame.

    Reply
  3. tom

    October 15th, 2020

    One of the few salutary effects of this pandemic has been the way it’s laid bare a lot of things about governors and governance. Jason Kenney has been shown to have a very shallow bag of tricks and shockingly little adaptability. But then he waited all his life to get his hands on the gears of government and then Covid struck.

    Reply
  4. P.Hertel

    October 15th, 2020

    “What’s more, he [Horgan] vowed his government will press ahead with its plan to hire 7,000 more long-term care workers, and it will build new public long-term care facilities throughout the province.

    Not in Alberta? Pity.”

    Gee I wonder where those laid off health workers are going to go. It’s a puzzler eh?

    Reply
  5. !?

    October 15th, 2020

    One of the cruel tricks the BC Liberals pulled was abolishing successorship.

    Every time a contract turned over the employees had to reapply for their jobs.
    eg: hospital cleaners worked for the hospital before the BC Liberals came in, then their work was contracted out (lower pay , benefits etc) and even if the workers managed to unionize, when the contract went to a new employer the workers went back to square one – they were forbidden by law to take their union & contract with them.

    To be fair to the workers: the unions did very little to support the workers except whine, whinge & prattle.

    Reply
  6. Bill Malcolm

    October 15th, 2020

    Your math is correct. As are your assumptions. The UCP is just an organ in the general oligarchal plan to make rich people richer. We’ve heard the same damn drivel from Conservatives in general for decades now about big inefficient government. And the usual armpit scratching apes cheer in unison to this Ronnie Raygun/Maggie Thatcher “idea”.

    If the end result of dumping public servants is that the same work is carried out by schlock privateers for the same or less money, then these privateers need to extract filthy lucre for their oh-so-valuable contribution to society. The only give to ensure this occurs is to reduce wages of the people doing the actual work. Or make people do more work individually or automate the process. It’s not rocket science or even hard to understand. Like trickle-down theory, it’s as risible a Con notion as can possibly be imagined. Used car dealer principals can see that new UCP norm as a way to prey off other people’s labour for an easier way to get rich than to merely spend a life misrepresenting reality. It’s the temp agency model writ large.

    Apparently, however, Alberta public education in the past was so poor that great swathes of people cannot work out this simple notion for themselves, and thus fail to see how they’re getting rooked while the wealthy get wealthier. Oh they can do the math all right, they just can’t fathom basic logic because most people seem incapable of it and it was never taught. If you spend a career as an engineer, well you get used to meeting people incapable of analyzing a situation; it’s all magic to a lot of them. And the UCP themselves are also as dumb — they’ll enjoy lower income tax receipts from the now lower-paid workers, so the projected savings to the provincial purse are even more illusory than the talking heads like Shandro suggest — it apparently doesn’t occur to people like him to carry on their “modelling” to the next stage. Nobody ever claimed the UCP could do math either – they’re all ideology and nothing else. The whole scheme was dubbed race-to-the-bottom decades ago, but nobody told little Stevie harper, economist. Government by incompetents is what we end up with.

    It’s not as if prairie dwellers in Saskatchewan or Manitoba are any brighter. These simpletons also vote in Cons who rip them off. And these Cons then don’t even use money advanced to them by the feds to upgrade school ventilation facilities or provide better Covid testing. schMoe wants to irrigate Saskatchewan or something to grow broccoli, grapes and tomatoes because of all that prairie sunshine, and who the hell knows what Palliser is about besides gross incompetence? It is a mystery for the ages. kenney just wants a future sinecure from some rich as Croesus pal or another, and bugger the people while he’s at it, the true sociopath at work.

    Apparently the dolts in the media are also logic deficient. Just amazing how un-public-spirited Conservatives are, but not a peep from the MSM except the occasional CBC piece. So of course, Cons want to be rid of them as well, because they’re poisoning the stew of nonsense they’re cooking, and oh my god, they’re public servants too. Off with their heads!

    Reply
  7. Abs

    October 15th, 2020

    It is possible that Jason Kenney has simply lost his mind and entered some kind of drunk-on-power delirium. It is possible that he enjoys mayhem, and watching the suffering he creates for others. And/or, he is skating around the net of the Canada Health Act, to avoid the feds withholding health transfer payments, as has happened before in Alberta history. And/or the smug college dropout thinks the little guys and girls are all stupid?

    One thing’s for sure: he doesn’t like old people. Downgrading their care from long-term care to the lower level of supportive living is sure to hasten the demise of many. Since the buildings that receive provincial funding for care are specifically designated for certain levels of care only, some elders will have to be transferred. During a pandemic. Aging and degenerative disease processes are a one-way trip. Moving very old people and taking away familiar surroundings and people can be a devastating blow. People do not recover from being elderly and frail, but never mind. Outliers must fall in line with the average age of death in Alberta, a situation Jason Kenney coldly calculated and underlined in the legislature. And since they are not getting care in hospitals, which are covered in the Canada Health Act, there will not likely be a federal financial spanking for this decision. Foil those feds!

    As for laundry workers, children can be brought in to work at a fraction of the cost of adults. Minors aren’t just for mines in the new millenium. Sure it’s heavy work, and some may die, but who complained in the days of Big Coal? Know your role, and stay in the hole.

    Reply
  8. Jim

    October 15th, 2020

    I think your acquaintance is correct but then again the ventriloquist dummy doesn’t have to be smart, a lot of Albertans likely will relate to the dummy after Kenney is done. What is happening is really an old playbook, they haven’t come up with anything new here, privatize profits and pass along all the risks and costs to the taxpayer. Lock the taxpayer into contracts that will be too expensive to break if the party in power changes. Now that Harper has made his intentions clear with the Harper junior placement Kenney’s dreams of being the PM seem to have been dashed. One wonders how he is feeling being treated like the help when he thought he had a place at the adults table.

    Reply
  9. Hammer

    October 15th, 2020

    I see the writing on the wall for this province. As a transplanted BC resident of 40 years I came here for the adventure and the future opportunities that lay ahead. Forty years later I am telling my family it is time to go back. Alberta has been good to me, but I fear for my children’s future. We are going down a slippery slope. When I met JK at a private function during the leadership race I was astounded at his thought process. All he cared about was O&G and hammering the public service ( though he used much kinder words). I thought I was in a time warp and it was 1980! It was plain as day that who ever was backing him didn’t understand what a paradigm effect is or simple macroeconomics. Two and a half years later he is carrying out exactly the boneheaded policies that will continue to lead our province to have not status and pit constituents against each other, especially the rural city divide. I love Alberta but I am much more akin to the policies of BC. They have their issues but at least they don’t vilify anyone that belongs to a Union or employee association. We are not the enemy but if he only listened we could be part of the solution. Unfortunately their ideology has blinded them to common sense.

    Reply
  10. lungta

    October 15th, 2020

    there may a lot fewer kennys and shandros
    if law and order actually was the rule
    to bad we can’t call people retarded anymore
    it is like going for car repairs and the service manager says
    i can save money by firing the mechanic before we start
    where is darwin when we need him?
    oh…btw
    i am exactly as illustrated
    first on the left actually

    Reply
  11. Bret Larson

    October 15th, 2020

    Its not the savings based on wages. Its the political will to buy votes and support rent seekers by politicians. This leads to an economy heavy on government services and increases the cost of living for everybody in society as this part of the population gets paid higher then the market will bare.

    Then you get things like people going out of country for dental work, medical services, retirement, hockey sticks, commodities and everything else.

    A reasonable chunk of our population chooses not to spend their money in Canada, until they have to get government services: https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/more-than-a-million-canadians-and-permanent-residents-return-from-abroad-amid-covid-19-warnings-1.4865042

    Years
    Average age Total, all retirees 63.6
    Public sector employees 3 61.5

    Two years of wage slavery for private sector workers compared to public sector workers.

    So, it will certainly save more than 600million a year if we can avoid interest groups voting themselves higher pay from the tax payers of Alberta.

    Reply
    • Political Ranger

      October 16th, 2020

      what the hell are you talking about man?
      are you stark raving mad?

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        October 16th, 2020

        I am concerned for the efficiency and good governance of Alberta.

        So, I could be construed as mad by those who are on the rent-seeker dole.

        Reply
        • karl roth

          October 16th, 2020

          well bless your heart ! as they say in the deep south

          ever heard of Denmark ?
          Has there ever been a conservative / neoliberal point of view you haven’t religiously espoused ?

          didn’t think so

          Reply
      • Death and Gravitys

        October 18th, 2020

        He’s quite sane. He’s simply a malicious liar. And an accomplished asshole…but I doubt he can claim credit for that accomplishment…probably he was born that way.

        Reply
    • Maximum

      October 16th, 2020

      Since your UCP trolling supervisor wasn’t available to oversee your latest word salad, I’m happy to fill in and make the necessary corrections.

      “Rent seekers”, or rentiers live on property or investment income “from whatever the market will bare (sic)”, and are the very wealthy in our society, not your average public or private wage earner.

      You provide no proof of your “out of country” spending claims, which makes it invalid.

      Canadians outside of Canada returned home in March due to a Government of Canada travel advisory that resulted in the cancellation of their travel insurance. Since most, if not all of them pay taxes in Canada, then subject to meeting annual residency requirements, they are fully entitled to government services. Your claim of abusing government services is therefore false.

      It’s unclear, but you seem to be making a case for private sector workers to be smarter and to invest in a properly funded, well run pension fund so that they can retire 2 years sooner like public sector workers. “Wage slaves” by choice apparently.

      With no supporting facts or calculations, your claim of saving “more than 600 million a year” has no basis in reality.

      Due to not showing your calculations, false claims and no supporting evidence, I’m grading this assignment as F minus. You will have to complete and pass the UCP Remedial Trolling class before you are allowed to post again.

      Reply
        • Kang

          October 16th, 2020

          Brett: You may note that the definition of “rent seeking” on that Wiki page was from “public-choice theory” which came out of the whole neoliberal Chicago school of thought. So, hardly an undisputed definition. If you don’t like “rent seekers” surely you must agree that the Govt. of Ab., which owns almost all the Mineral Rights in the province should stop seeking rents and eliminate Royalty payments?

          I don’t recall if Premier Kenney’s mother took rent for his occupancy of her “virtual basement” while he was collecting a housing allowance from Ottawa. I can only assume that as the mother of such a good capitalist, she knew better than to fall into the moral quagmire of “rent seeking” from her boy.

          Reply
          • karl roth

            October 19th, 2020

            yet again thank you Kang and thank you Maximum for taking the trouble to rebut Bret Larson

            you know how conservatives are
            they don’t do facts but it’s good for them to face them from time to time

            not that it’ll make a stitch of difference

            “The problem is not what folks don’t know,” Mark Twain observed, “it’s what they know that just ain’t so.”

        • Maximum

          October 16th, 2020

          Better reread your own link, particularly the parts about income inequality and capture of regulatory agencies. Economic gains from the past 40 plus years have flowed up to the wealthy 1% not the average public or private employee, so it’s completely clear who the rent seekers really are. Anything else to add on the rest of your false claims, or are you waiting for new talking points from Ben?

          Reply
  12. Just Me

    October 15th, 2020

    It’s not so much a matter that, as the late Jim Prentiss put it to Rachel Notley, “Math is hard”, insofar as the UCP is concerned math is whatever you want it to be.

    Since the inception of this government, we have seen math turned, for the most part, into an occult art. There is no reason to believe that Shady Shandro wouldn’t apply the same pretzel logic to his announcement. Judging by the list of numbers Shandro provided, it appears that this is the same calculation that was applied the Harpo government’s last budget, the one that declared a $4 billion surplus, if they could get a private insurer to assume the liability of all those unclaimed sick days that federal employees had accumulated. The level of these shell game stunts is not only amateurish, but their execution is laughable.

    As for Premier Angry Midget, what exactly is he up to? Does he really believe that he can abuse and wreck the fabric of Alberta’s society because he is the only conservative left standing? Or does he have an ulterior motive?

    Since conspiracies are never far from my heart, and are the only things that bring me any joy, I submit that Ken-DOH! is breaking everything so he can return to federal politics without so much as a scratch. All he has to do is declare to Alberta’s population, which are the stupidest people alive, that the province’s trials are all Ottawa’s fault. He will announce that his return to Ottawa is the first step to restore Alberta’s rightful place as the bestest, most awesomest, superest province in Canada.

    Kenney returned to Alberta and spread the message that only he and he alone would restore Alberta’s greatness. Soon, Kenney will return to Ottawa with the message that only he and he alone will restore Alberta’s greatness.

    It’ll work again, Albertans have no equal in the moron-Olympics.

    Reply
    • Abs

      October 16th, 2020

      Please do not let the bears invade, lest the premier goes all Borat on them, and we have to see him in that godawful lime green mankini sling.

      Reply
  13. Scotty on Denman

    October 16th, 2020

    Smaller government and lower taxes is conservatism’s traditionally prudent ethos. However, the UCP’s plan to cut the public healthcare payroll during a pandemic, especially after a series of almost Biblical catastrophes that have weakened the corpus Alberta —political tumult, economic decline, wildfires and floods, and, of course, Covid—won’t really work as political ploy to get unpopular stuff done early in a mandate: it’s impossible to avail voters’ short memories when the foreseeable persistence of Covid will continually remind citizens that their government cut healthcare when it’s needed most. And of course a pandemic can’t be an excuse or reason for reducing capacity to deal with it.

    Older and rural voters should find less access to healthcare in the time of Covid worrisome: given most of them have always voted conservative, some of their UCP MLAs must be worried too. The only thing not mysterious about this drastic policy is that the UCP leader is praying for a bitumen-price miracle—well, at least not a mystery.

    The speculated list of rationales for what Kenney is up to has an other-worldly aspect, even mythological opportunities for heroics; yet the most earthly one, that Albertans may never abandon conservative politics so long’s the head cowpuncher keeps the herd together, might be a temporal UCP paradise if it were real and not merely disturbingly possible. It should be enough the UCP has a majority, but its partisan arrogance fantasizes unquestioning unanimity for the chosen and chauvinistic enmity for dissenters (any valuation of constructively contributive opposition is of course heretical). Alberta’s history of single-party dominations lends itself to handy, revisioned glory over the Crow Rate, resource sovereignty, trade unionism, the NEP, Quebec, and hitchhikers (especially from Quebec), but after a stint as self-proclaimed most-important-province-in-Canda, after the veteran PC party’s demise at the hands of the one-term socialists who performed well enough to retain the first sizeable loyal opposition in generations—and of course trending with the general demise of neoliberal-usurped conservative parties everywhere—now just doesn’t seem the right time to petition for an eternal UCP. True: Albertans tend to vote conservative, but lately they’ve proved capable of making and taking their pick of what kind of conservative.

    Provoking a healthcare crisis to distract from, or to look heroic in, some other or general issue doesn’t make sense except insofar it cultivates a culture of continual crisis and reaction, and, really, this has already been achieved in spades with constitutional and sovereignty crises on the order paper.

    Pursuing an ultra-ideological agenda to wreck the public enterprise or the federation might pretend to ultimate power and limitless, carefree wealth—that is, nihilism with impunity—is either to shore up a leader’s insecurities about loyalty, to show off power or, perhaps, some other more self-stimulating indulgence. But it seems a page from tRump’s playbook: he appealed to some voters’ frustrated revenge against a perceived loss of wealth, health and privilege that made them want him to throw a wrench into the cogs of government, to disable it as if it didn’t matter: it was “broken” anyway. Considering the brink of social unrest and violence tRump has nose-thumbed his country toward, Kenney might find the absurdist approach useful in achieving the provincial—or even national—autonomy and partisan purity he wants; but, considering the diversity of today’s Alberta and the dearth of separatist support from ordinary Albertans, the ploy has little chance of winning short of starting with 100% loyalty and unflinching commitment—the first possible rationale given for whatever Kenney is trying to do. Nixon called it the “madman strategy”, but Kenney isn’t president of the republic yet: he still has to defend his policies against the Canadian Constitution, the Charter of Rights, and the Canada Health Act.

    Ockham might agree that the best, simplest explanation for whatever Kenney’s doing is that he ain’t got nuthin but stupidly praying for a miracle, to stall, cajole, threaten and caterwaul in the meantime until Alberta becomes a world petroleum superpower that can afford cavalier self-indulgence and pay somebody else to clean up the mess—like Chjina.

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  14. jerrymacgp

    October 19th, 2020

    The disrespect shown by Min. Shandro towards those essential health care support workers is breathtaking. As a Registered Nurse with over 35 years in the profession — 20 of those in the acute-care hospital setting — let me tell you & your readers, the system could not function without them. Indeed, in some places, we need more, not less of them, especially on evening, night & weekend shifts when many smaller hospitals are skeleton-staffed. Do we really want to be paying RNs & LPNs to be portering patients, hunting down supplies, scrounging the corridors for night snacks for diabetic patients, or cleaning up spills and replacing burnt-out lightbulbs?

    Specifically referencing “environmental services” — what those of us in the system usually refer to as “housekeeping” (why do bureaucrats so love renaming services?) — in an era when hospital-acquired infections are a significant cause of excess mortality & morbidity https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/cihi_cpsi_hospital_harm_en.pdf (even leaving aside a global pandemic of a novel virus), high-quality, well-trained career cleaning staff are an essential component of an effective infection prevention & control programme. Contracting out housekeeping in patient-care settings to a third-party provider, with a low-wage, high-turnover work force, will jeopardize patient safety. (I should note here that many, if not most non-clinical work areas, like back-office services, are already cleaned by 3rd-Party providers, often in leased spaces where the building owners hire the contractor).

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  15. Cindy Bill

    October 19th, 2020

    Anyone who thinks that these “cuts” are anything but ideology driven needs to think again. This isn’t about saving money but monetizing all Social Safety Net activities. Teachers would have to seek approval of the government body to teach and if you don’t think like them, teach like them, love like them, pray like them you aren’t getting a job. And that is what they want for all of us. Work to Rule legislation which means that a union would have to represent you but if you didn’t to pay union dues you couldn’t be compelled to. This isn’t supposition this is the policy passed at the UCP 2020 Convention. Public Services should not interfere with free enterprise so you can’t stop doctors, nurses, police officers, teachers from setting out their shingle and collect money from unwary individuals. Don’t even have to be a trained member of that profession you can pay your business fee and go for it. Less than 1000 individuals were voting on these policies and they all passed. Privatize everything, and let the market determine the winners and losers. But move our CPP Contributions, Policing, Taxation to Alberta so you don’t have any options to get out when they inevitably transfer our money to private companies that use it in contradiction to Albertans best interest. Don’t kid yourself, the government that is not in the business of business has transferred much of Alberta public sector pension plan money into risky or outright private enterprises and lost over a billion dollars of money from these pension funds. So they just need to get their paws on more money. 1.5 billion on a pipeline, hundreds of millions on bailing out oil and gas industry without any direct tie in to hire Alberta workers. I think Kenney and his party of bilkers must be in the employ of big corp and Oil and Gas companies cause they sure aren’t working in the interest of Albertans. AHS buys a private surgical clinic, AHS purchases all the equipment and supplies to open that clinic, then AHS turns it over to a private company to run. So it cost Alberta Taxpayers a cool billion dollars, but then the private company pays nothing for that investment and they get to hire staff and charge what they wish. And they don’t have to report what they pay, staff levels, or profit because it is private enterprise. They have been playing this shell game with seniors care for almost a decade. Points West Living, an Ontario for profit Nursing Home, is the perfect example. They were given a building fully furnished, ready for occupancy. They hire staff with promises of training and accreditation, staffing levels etc. that don’t materialize. Staff decide to unionize and they are locked out. They complain about having 200 patients with 2 staff on in the night. While the staff was locked out they hired staff for double or triple their salary, put them up in hotels and paid their expenses. All this to try and break the union. They were out for 189 days before the dispute was ended. Meanwhile the labour friendly NDP refused to interfere at the time. Because Alberta NDP is really just UCP light.

    Albertans are going to be the only loser of these policies. Business in the province pay the lowest tax rate in Canada, they have the lowest regulatory policies, and they have the option to hire “Guest Workers” instead of Alberta Labour. So the bottom line is we have amongst the highest cost of living but the lowest salaries in the country. Now that the Oil and Gas sector has bottomed out, so too does all the companies that are supplying these companies. Rents in Calgary Head Office sectors have been decimated but Kenney and his ilk want the municipalities to go it alone and charge taxpayers the entire cost of city expenses without relying on the Federal or Provincial Governments. On and on it goes, they want to rake the individual taxpayer over the grater to rake off as much of their income as possible, but they don’t want to burden the wealthy or big corp with paying their fair share. And if he does succeed with all of their new policies and Alberta pay their taxes to Alberta we will find ourselves with huge debts owed to Ottawa. When all of this comes to pass Prime Minister Kenney will make sure that Alberta pays their way, just like he amended the existing Equalization Policy that favours Quebec and the Maritimes and makes it very unlikely Alberta could ever become subject to higher equalization. You know that Kenney is only here until memory fades in Ottawa and Ontario and he is returned as the triumphant Prime Minister of Canada. He is just playing with policies he hopes to implement in Canada. So we are really just a social experiment by a mad scientist played to the detriment of all Albertans, but as long as you have private insurance welcome to the future.

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